Kevin Brockmeier

All posts tagged Kevin Brockmeier

Short Stories Challenge 2017 – Part One

Published January 7, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Its a new year and time for some more short stories. I usually do short stories in three month blocks however I’ve been struggling to keep up with this so instead of calling this post January to March I shall call it Part One and see how I get on! This is what I’ll be reading in the first half of 2017:

The Raft by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

The Butcher Of Meena Creek by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

The Wishing Tree by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Faithful Lovers by Margaret Drabble from the collection The Story: Love Loss & The Lives Of Women

Double Room by Ramsey Campbell from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

The Adventure Of The Engineer’s Thumb by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Erase Me: Positron, Episode Three – Margaret Atwood (stand-alone)

On The Banks Of Table River: (Planet Lucina, Andromeda Galaxy, AD 2319) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

The Passenger by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Fleeing Complexity by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge – Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Published August 18, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Space all about?:

Space is told from the perspective of a widower who is not only struggling with his own grief but trying to deal with his son’s grief also.

What did I think?:

Well, this story was quite a welcome surprise after the horrors of the previous story in this collection – The Jesus Stories which I gave I believe, my lowest rating ever. Shocking! Space was a really sad little tale that left me feeling quite choked up and a little despondent, told from a male character’s point of view as he comes to terms with losing his wife. He narrates the story as if he is talking to his wife, Della, which you get the feeling he does quite a lot and gets some comfort from.

The couple have a son, Eric, of indeterminate age (but old enough to have stubble, as the author tells us) and this is where our narrator is struggling the most. Ever since the funeral, he hasn’t been able to communicate with Eric about his mother in the way he would like and often ends up angering him instead. It is not until one night, when they have a power cut and there is nothing left to do but talk, that father and son have an initially wary heart-to-heart that leads to tenuous bridges beginning to be built. Eric confides in his father that he likes to watch television as a bit of a distraction from what he is feeling inside and that it takes very little effort, whilst his father confides in him some things about his mother that he had previously not known.

Kevin Brockmeier’s beautiful way with prose sets an evocative scene of a house without electricity, where the two inhabitants are forced together to share their feelings and become closer as a result. It was painfully sad to read and quite heart-breaking at points, especially when our narrator becomes desperately worried that he will eventually forget things about his wife as time goes on. It’s definitely a return to form after the disaster that I found The Jesus Stories and I’m now eager to read the next story in the collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

 

 

Short Stories Challenge 2016 – April to June

Published April 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months in my Short Stories Challenge! The first few months of this year have whizzed by and I’ve found some great pieces of short fiction to add to my collection. Here’s the stories that will take me right through to the summer:

Week beginning 4th April

Elephants In Captivity (Part One) by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 11th April

Space by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 18th April

If It Keeps On Raining by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 25th April

The Lordly Ones by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 2nd May

Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 9th May

The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

Week beginning 16th May

The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 23rd May

Red Letter Day by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride And Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 30th May

Getting It Wrong by Ramsey Campbell from the collection A Book Of Horrors

Week beginning 6th June

The Haunter Of The Dark by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 13th June

Hogmanay Homicide by Edward Marston from the collection The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime Volume 7

Week beginning 20th June

What We Save by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 27th June

A Convalescent Ego by Richard Yates from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Short Stories Challenge – The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Published January 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Jesus Stories all about?:

This short story takes the form of a report about a religious group who are spreading the stories of Jesus in a bid to speed up his Second Coming.

What did I think?:

I have no idea where to start with this story. It is honestly the oddest short story I have ever read and I’ve been doing this challenge for quite a while now! I’m not really a religious person, I think of myself as more of an agnostic – I’m not completely denying anything but I haven’t made up my mind about what I believe. I do believe however that everyone has the right to believe whatever they want as long as they are not hurting other people. Anyway, this story felt like it was a bit more academically written and in that way, the style was interesting to me but I found it very dry and for some reason, it just didn’t hold my interest in the slightest.

The narrator of the story is writing a report about a religious group of people mentioned only as N. and he relates a bit of their historical background from when they were first converted to Christianity by missionaries who were spreading the Gospels of the Lord but it seems to be focused mainly on what they are doing in contemporary times. That is, retrieving new stories about Jesus that haven’t been heard previously like his transformation into a bear by the demons of Hell (??). The group strongly believe that by telling these stories (some 14,000 of them), it will lead to the Second Coming and Bible quotations from the Gospels appear to back up their claim. There is even one story that consists of only one word – Yea. Hmmm.

I apologise wholeheartedly to anyone who has read this story and “got” it or loved it but I really didn’t enjoy it at all. Having read the previous stories in this collection, I’m used to a bit of strangeness from the author and usually enjoy the quirks and peculiarities of his prose but this one was just strange… in a bad way. On a positive note, it’s obvious the author has put a lot of work into the writing and it does read beautifully – I was just bitterly disappointed by the content.

Would I recommend it?:

Not on your nelly.

Star rating (out of 5):

NEXT SHORT STORY: We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Published August 29, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Small Degrees all about?:

Small Degrees is about a man who works hard to develop his own typing face but risks losing his wife as a result.

What did I think?:

Kevin Brockmeier is such a beautiful writer, even if I’m not keen on the story he is trying to tell I always appreciate the dream-like quality of his writing with absolutely stunning sentences. Small Degrees starts almost like a fairy tale where we see a young child growing up staring at books in his parents library. His parents are desperate that he shouldn’t become a “fool” when they see him looking at blank pages, so decide that finding a trade is the best thing for him. He becomes apprentice at a typing foundry, a job which turns out to suit him very well as he loves staring at the letters that are being produced, much like when he was a child.

The story progresses quite smoothly, much like our characters life. He marries, has a few children, raises them to adulthood until they leave the family home. Throughout all this he works tirelessly at the foundry until he retires and stays at home. It seems that he cannot let this part of his life go as he suddenly decides that he should make a typeface of his own. Again from morning until night he works until his hands are black and stained from the ink to make the perfect letters for his new alphabet:

“He wanted to design a typeface that would recall his hours of childhood watching m’s and n’s and commas that read as fluidly as the swaying of long grass in the wind; b’s and d’s, p’s and q’s, like lampposts reflected in a pool of water. He was willing to work gradually, assembling and re-examining each stroke of each character, the hairline of a V or the wedded bowls of a lowercase g, over a period of several days.”

I love that paragraph, it’s a perfect example of Brockmeier’s lyrical prose, especially how he describes the letters i.e. g with the wedded bowls, it’s truly beautiful and I could read it over and over again. Meanwhile, while our narrator has been working his fingers to the bone, his poor wife is feeling rather neglected. She had always kept his house clean, looked after the children, cooked his dinner etc and had already been feeling pangs of loneliness since the children left when all the housework had been done and she had nothing to do but wait for her husband. She was hoping that when he retired they would spend some more time together and now he is spending all his time developing a new type face she feels pushed to the side and tells him so in no uncertain terms. In the end, exasperated by his lack of communication she leaves him. How our narrator deals with this and realises what he has lost is written with such subtlty by the author that it almost broke my heart. The house becomes dirty, our narrator does not look after himself properly but since his heart is only given away in “small degrees,” his loneliness and love for his wife comes out in his work. It might take a bit of magic to bring them both together again.

This is such a gorgeous story, I can’t rave on enough about the beautiful language – you get it, right? After I finished this story I immediately had to read it again just to read it a bit slower and appreciate every single word as it should be read. I liked it even more on the second reading as with other stories in this collection and believe the author has a real talent for poetic phrasing and word arranging, if that makes any sense? I can’t wait to read the next story in this collection.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

 

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew