The living dead: Brockmeier to speak at Porter House Sept. 7

In Kevin Brockmeier’s “The Brief History of the Dead,” the author intertwines two stories of human connection, self-preservation and the future of mankind

by KIM HILSENBECK

Visiting writer Kevin Brockmeier, author of “The Brief History of the Dead,” will be the featured speaker on Sept. 7 at the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center in Kyle.

Brockmeier intertwines two stories of human connection, self-preservation and the future of mankind in “The Brief History of the Dead;” in the odd numbered chapters, Brockmeier writes about The City. This otherworldly place is inhabited by the recently departed, who reside there only as long as they remain in the memories of the living. It’s the afterlife, but The City has parks and streets, stores and restaurants, garbage and homelessness – all the pleasures of modern life.

The even numbered chapters take place on Earth in the world of the living. Laura Byrd is trapped in Antarctica at a research station, alone and unconnected to the outside world, most of which has been decimated by a deadly virus.

Brockmeier said he wanted to isolate one character from the rest of humankind and a research facility in the South Pole seemed ideal.

Asked why he used “The” Brief History instead of “A Brief History in the novel’s title, Brockmeier said it was deliberate because it could point to the content of the novel and gesture toward a deeper concern. He said he hoped readers would ask themselves “What is the brief history of the dead?”

“The answer, as I see it, is their lives,” Brockmeier said.

Other books by Brockmeier include “The Truth About Celia, Things That Fall from the Sky” and two children’s novels. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Georgia Review and multiple editions of the “O. Henry Prize Stories” anthology.

Brockmeier is the recipient of the Nelson Algren Award, a James Michener-Paul Engle Fellowship, three O. Henry Awards, including a first prize, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Some of his literary influences are William Maxwell, Marilynne Robinson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip Pullman and J. G. Ballard. He said these writers’ books have all shaped his sense of how a story ought to be told and how a sentence should be constructed.

Brockmeier will speak at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 6 at the Texas State University library’s Wittliff Collections. He will speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center. Both events are free and open to the public.

If you go

What: Author Kevin Brockmeier is scheduled to read from his latest work, “The Brief History of the Dead”

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 7

Where: The Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, 508 Center St., Kyle.

More: He will also give a presentation at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Wittliff Collections, on the seventh floor of Alkek Library on the Texas State University campus.

Cost: Both events are free and open to the public.

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