|A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall
"-I'm gonna close with a quote from Dr. Johnson: "The certainty that life cannot be long, and the probability that it will be much shorter than nature allows, ought to awaken every man to the active prosecution of whatever he is desirous to perform."
A triumphant literary debut with notes of both The Art of Fielding and The Flamethrowers, which introduces the striking figure of Owen Burr, a gifted Olympics-bound athlete whose dreams of greatness are deferred and then transformed by an unlikely journey from California to Berlin, Athens, Iceland, and back again.
Owen Burr, a towering athlete at Stanford University, son of renowned classicist Professor Joseph Burr, was destined to compete in the Athens Olympic Games of 2004. But in his final match at Stanford, he is blinded in one eye. The wound shatters his identity and any prospects he had as an athlete.
Determined to make a new name for himself, Owen flees the country and lands in Berlin, where he meets a group of wildly successful artists living in the Teutonic equivalent of Warhol’s Factory. An irresistible sight—nearly seven-feet-tall, wearing an eye patch and a corduroy suit—Owen is quickly welcomed by the group’s leader, who schemes to appropriate Owen’s image and sell the results at Art Basel. With his warped and tortured image on the auction block, Owen seeks revenge.
Professor Burr has never been the father he wants to be. Owen’s disappearance triggers a call to action. He dusts off his more speculative theory, Liminalism, to embark on a speaking tour, pushing theory to its radical extreme—at his own peril and with Jean Baudrillard’s help—in order to send up flares for his son in Athens, Berlin, and Iceland.
A compulsively readable novel of ideas, action, and intrigue, A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall offers a persuasive vision of personal agency, art, family, and the narratives we build for ourselves.
A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is very pretentious, but is that the point? Did the Author write the characters that way or did the he want to show off with this writing? I can’t seem to tell. On the other hand, should I care? I found many things to be close to home with this book and the Author does an excellent job describing little things, like a caterpillar dancing, “He watched a caterpillar on the trunk lean back and scribble the air…”, I love that. If the Author didn’t have talent, I wouldn’t have finished this book. I pretty much hated the sections that featured Owen’s father and felt myself wanting to skip them to get back to the art world. I’m not sure if this is subjective since I’m an artist or if this is common amongst all readers.
This one scene really had me though, when Owen was describing a shopping excursion when he was little where he would “hide” within the racks of clothes. This was something I did all the time and it was pretty magical, I loved that the Author captured that moment and brought me back to my own childhood. Another scene that brought this close to home was when Owen was told about how pirates use eye patches to keep one eye acclimated to the dark. I’ve used to great little tidbit fact during my work at Nature’s Classroom. We used to tell the kids that in order for a pirate to hop over to another ship and steal all the gold, they’d have to switch the eye patch to the other eye while under the dark deck (where the treasure is located) so they won’t be discovered. I’ve always loved that, and I love that the Author included it.
So many questions about art, the artist and the community brought up. I had fun delving into these questions and trying to figure out what side I stood on. For example, someone brings up the idea that “talent is a myth” and that “no one makes it in the art world without a platform.” While I can understand the second statement more than likely being true… does that completely reflect on TALENT? Someone can still be talented but not “make it” in the art world. However, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it… could be similar, if you aren’t discovered…
This was another book I read because of the Tournament of Books, which everyone should check out and follow. I’ll leave you with this quote that I really loved, “…life, a blur of birth and death – both and death being the only two moments of life in which we don’t exist.”
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