Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Brief History of The Brief History of the Dead

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier (2005)
  1. A vague third-hand understanding of various ancestor-worshipping cultures' understanding of the idea that there are two levels of the after-life, one where we go as long as somebody on earth remembers us and which resembles this world, the other completely unknown.
  2. An even vaguer understanding of the paradoxes of modern scientific cosmology which hold that consciousness itself actually really does direct certain aspects of reality.
  3. A classic dualism of two stories seemingly unrelated, one of the "first" afterworld as it quickly empties out following the mass extinction of the human species from a modern pandemic pathogen, the other of the one surviving human on earth who is the common link between all those who 'survive' in the first afterworld.
  4. An incredibly spunky female protagonist as the last-person-on-earth, fighting for survival in the antarctic winter while she fights to discover what's happened to the world.
  5. Borrowing some of the structures of science fiction (global warming, genetic revolutions, near-future internet, etc.) to give it that certain sense of future-surreal near-truthiness; mixing in satiric references to the poisonous influence of corporate culture instantiated in the Coca-Cola Corporation.
  6. Structurally predictable unfolding of the interconnectedness of humans through the lens of this one person, as seen through the discovery by the Undead Dead of the single thread holding them together -- in existence -- in the spunky heroine.
  7. Narrative which finally gives away to two chapters of imagistic writing, of course encompassing the death of the heroine and the end of life and consciousness as we know it. This brave choice precludes this book from ever being made into a mainstream Hollywood movie, and thus earns the respect of respected respectable literary critics everywhere.
  8. A Magritte-esque front cover which seems to be profound but actually could've been on the cover of a 45 RPM new wave record if the aspect had been square and not rectangular.
  9. 251 pages plus one paragraph, close to the publisher's ideal of 250, to ensure said respectable respected persons will actually read to the end.

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