“And it seemed to Ryan that He viewed their bodies as a doctor would — so many sorry aging structures of blood and tissue, each displaying its own particular debility. Their wounds were majestic to Him, their tumors and lacerations. And perhaps it had always been that way. Perhaps the light He had brought to their injuries, or allowed the world to bring, was simply a new kind of ornamentation. The jewelry with which He decorated His lovers. The oil with which He anointed His sons.”
And I think this is a very interesting point in an excellent book — but also the point at which the book breaks down. Because there’s a little much going on: it’s a book with a half-dozen narrators, who pass the story from one to the next (and then disappear, or are just briefly glimpsed in the subsequent narrator’s eye at handoff), a broad unexplained conceit in the Illumination, and a McGuffin that gets exchanged in the form of a dead character’s diary.
But here, at this point, Brockmeier reaches a climax. Ryan lives a life of faith without having faith, does good without the love or fear of God, so can speculate about a God who values pain for its aesthetics. And Brockmeier gives him a fitting story, one which tapers out over a long life; in doing this, though, he passes the McGuffin early and invisibly (breaking the plot of the novel-of-exchange) and he extends the narrator’s story far beyond where we see any change in the conceit, any movement in other people. The story that follows, compact and mythic, is at least as good, in an entirely different way — but this is when Brockmeier casts off the scaffolding holding this book together, and abandons its structure to one of successive short stories.
February 22, 2011, 2:07pm Comments