Monday, October 02, 2006

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

The Brief History of the Dead

by Kevin Brockmeier

1. The Brief History of the Dead is prefaced with a quote describing African societies that believe humans pass from being alive to living-dead, to dead. How does the author explore this idea throughout the novel?

2. The novel begins with a description of crossings to the city of the dead. What sense do you get of the city from the first chapter? What is the emotion created by opening with varied stories of the crossings, and particularly with the first story of the blind man? What is the significance of beginning and ending with the blind man, and how are he and Laura connected or separate from each other in their relationship to their respective worlds?

3. "The city was not heaven, and it was not hell, and it was certainly not the world." How does the city operate and expand or contract? What is the thumping noise and how does it affect the characters? How is the city different from the world of the living, both in physical and emotional ways?

4. Much of The Brief History of the Dead is structured around memory and its role in Laura's survival and in the lives of those in the city. Are the memories of the living and the living-dead different? How do they function in the characters' lives, and do they change how each character experiences the world he or she exists in? What do you imagine the author is suggesting about the role of memory and the role of storytelling?

5. In many ways, Luka is the voice of the city of the dead. What does his character suggest about the role of the media in creating a world?

6. In many ways, the end of The Brief History of the Dead functions as the opening to new world of stories. What do you think comes after the city of the dead?


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