The stories in Kevin Brockmeier's debut collection require, test, try, exhaust, and--just often enough--reward the reader's patience. In Things That Fall from the Sky
, Brockmeier writes in painstaking prose that's long on exposition and short on action. Many of these stories concern children. In "These Hands," a thirtysomething man, possibly with Nabokovian intentions, baby-sits an 18-month-old girl. In the title story, a depressive librarian finds relief, and even guidance, in the company of her small granddaughter. And in "The House at the End of the World," 4-year-old Holly describes her isolated life in a shack in the woods with her father: "This was during the collapse of civilization, and I believed we were the only people in the world." Here Brockmeier's expository style pays off, as he describes in detail father and daughter setting traps, lighting lanterns, and tracking streams. It's a kind of end-of-days Little House in the Big Woods
, except, of course, the father is crazy, and civilization has not collapsed. In the end, Holly's mother comes to take her away, and Brockmeier doesn't shy for a moment from Holly's pain as she is carried "from the house and the bed and the world which were mine." At his best, Brockmeier writes with excruciatingly thorough imagination. --Claire Dederer
From Publishers Weekly
Twenty-eight-year-old Brockmeier won inclusion in the 1997 O. Henry Prize anthology for "These Hands," a delicate and risky story about a male nanny who may be unhealthily attached to the young girl in his care. Lewis, the nanny, tells the reader in a voice rich with wit, compassion and longing about his brief time caring for Caroline, a girl who seems ordinary in every way except to him, to whom each of her movements is precious: "Caroline lay on the silver-gray carpet, winking each eye in turn as she scrutinized her thumb." As the first story in this debut collection, it strikes an impressive note, but it also sets a standard only intermittently met in the remaining 10 stories. Brockmeier assembles the collection loosely around the theme of fairy tales, aiming for a sense of wonder and enchantment, though sometimes settling for the familiar and earthbound or drifting into weightless whimsy. The title story features a librarian whose grown children are inattentive and whose supervisor shows little sense of humor. When she encounters the village eccentric among the library stacks, it comes as no surprise that he's destined to rescue her from her prosaic existence. In "The Light Through the Window," a window cleaner swoops across the facade of the huge building where he lives and works, dreaming about his past. Most amusing is the clever "A Day in the Life of Half of Rumpelstiltskin," which brings the betrayed dwarf of Grimm legend (or more accurately, half of him) into the present day. The highlight is a hilarious letter only half-finished from the dwarf's missing half. Brockmeier's hallmark is the fineness of his prose, and in the tender sweep of his best stories he proves himself a formidable young writer. Agent, Kyung Cho.
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