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The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories (Hardcover)
The phrase 'ghost story' conjures up a certain set of images: rattling chains, cold wind, hair standing up on the back of your neck, the spectres that haunted our childhood dreams. The Ghost Variations is a collection of 100 ghost stories, none of them surpassing two pages in length, and none of them scary. Instead, these vignettes are ruminations on life, living, and, to a lesser extent, dying. The ghosts are sometimes obvious and sometimes you reach the end of the story and realize you're not sure who, or what, was the ghost in the story.
The book is divided into thematic sections -- memory, time, nature, belief -- yet each story is so distinct from its neighbors that it stands out; there is no sense of repetition or even familiarity. Every story begins with an absolutely fantastic first sentence. Whether it is a long meandering phrase filled with clauses and punctuation or just a two- or three-word declaration, there is no turning back.
Due to the brevity of the tales, this is a perfect book to dip in and out of, to grab when you want to read but are pressed for time, or when you feel like taking on an entire section. If you don't consider yourself a 'ghost story person' don't worry, this collection is for anyone. After all, one needn't be a 'ghost story person' to enjoy Macbeth. And like Shakespeare's great tragedy, while The Ghost Variations is centered on the idea of an apparition, it is so much more about what humanity does with the knowledge offered by the apparition."
--Lucinda, Longfellow Books— From Lucinda Recommends!
Ghost stories tap into our most primal emotions as they encourage us to confront the timeless question: What comes after death? Here, in tales that are by turn scary, funny, philosophic, and touching, you’ll find that question sharpened, split, reconsidered—and met with a multitude of answers.
A spirit who is fated to spend eternity reliving the exact moment she lost her chance at love, ghostly trees that haunt the occupant of a wooden house, specters that snatch anyone who steps into the shadows, and parakeets that serve as mouthpieces for the dead: these are just a few of the characters in this extraordinary compendium of one hundred ghost stories. Kevin Brockmeier’s fiction has always explored the space between the fantastical and the everyday with profundity and poignancy. As in his previous books, The Ghost Variations discovers new ways of looking at who we are and what matters to us, exploring how mysterious, sad, strange, and comical it is to be alive—or, as it happens, not to be.
About the Author
KEVIN BROCKMEIER is the author of the memoir A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip; the novels The Illumination, The Brief History of the Dead, and The Truth About Celia; the story collections The Ghost Variations, Things That Fall from the Sky and The View from the Seventh Layer; and the children’s novels City of Names and Grooves: A Kind of Mystery. His work has been translated into seventeen languages. He teaches frequently at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was raised.
“By turns scary, funny, touching, troubling and sad.”
“Those who enjoyed Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead . . . will no doubt rejoice to read more poignant stories. . . . Ranges from funny to scary, checking all the boxes for those who love ghost stories in various forms and styles.”
“Brockmeier's 100 extremely short ghost stories present a range in tone from unsettling to terrifying, and pack a fearful punch with an economy of language, even for readers primed to feel uneasy. . . . The tales themselves are gems: modern, haunted treasures to be discovered.”
“Brockmeier's world has a perpetual hum of oddity, a numinous glow. He's a master of defamiliarizing the everyday, of what the Russians call "making strange." . . . Varied, inventive, uncanny, and playful: a gifted fabulist's cabinet of curiosities, his book-length memento mori.”
“Sonorous. . . . Brockmeier’s luminous sentences and potent metaphors animate the phantasmagorical material. These eloquent dispatches show the writer’s remarkable range.”
“A teeming throng of stories in miniature in my favorite mode by one of my favorite writers. Brockmeier's ghosts range from the wistful to the terrifying—I could only wish that there were one hundred more.”
—Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble
“The Ghost Variations is pure Kevin Brockmeier—lush and playful and devastating and brilliant; a haunted hotel with a hundred rooms and a hundred doors, behind which lie a hundred perfect and terrifying dioramas. It's been ages since I've been this profoundly sated by a story collection, and I loved every minute of it.”
—Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties
“The Ghost Variations is a haunted jukebox sparkling in the shadows, built to house a hundred voices, a hundred gorgeous songs. Each one is a masterpiece in miniature from one of our greatest writers, by turns funny and philosophical, chilling and warm. Like a palmful of smelling salts, these very short stories will wake you up. Only Kevin Brockmeier could write ghost stories that make a reader feel so alive.”
—Karen Russell, author of Orange World and Other Stories
“In Kevin Brockmeier’s The Ghost Variations, the familiar poetry of life gives way to uncanny wonder and startling discoveries, leaving the reader constantly unsettled, as if we found a room in a house where none had been before or woke in the night to a figure standing at the bottom of the bed. There might be a hundred stories in this collection, but there are a million reasons to love Brockmeier, one of literature’s greatest living talents, who writes sentences like spells and who elegantly phases between the walls of literary and genre fiction.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon