Monday, June 6, 2011

The Illumination

Have you ever been surprised by stumbling across a writer that you unexpectedly love? That's how I feel about Kevin Brockmeier. After reading two of his books, he's officially become one of my current favorites.

I first came across his work when I read The Brief History of the Dead. I picked it up ambivalently enough, but ended up being completely enthralled by the story and the writing. It tells the tale of a purgatory city where the dead remain for only as long as someone who knew and remembers them is left on Earth.

His latest book, The Illumination, covers a similar territory of mystical realism. One day, all of the pain in the world is suddenly illuminated, from the small pulsing light of a blistered heel to the bright burst of a gunshot wound to the steady, dull glow of a broken heart. In the midst of all this, a journal of one-line love letters from a husband to his wife passes through the hands of various characters in a series of linked vignettes. I'm probably making this sound a bit obscure, and maybe a bit too supernatural, but it's grounded in well drawn characters and moving, insightful writing.

I'd recommend giving either one of these a try, even if you're skeptically thinking that they don't sound like your thing. You may be just as pleasantly surprised as I was.

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