Kevin Brockmeier first caught my attention with Illumination, his beautiful novel that uses a dash of magical realism to trace the seam of empathy and visibility in a world where we so often fail to see one another. Illumination stands out in the way that it is expansive and far reaching. So, I was curious to see what Brockmeier would do with a memoir that is so focused and concise—a memoir whose entire focus is on one year: Brockmeier’s experience of seventh grade. Brockmeier tells the story of his twelve-year old self in third person, he is Kevin, a kid “who cries too easily and laughs too easily” but “he is trying hard not to be him anymore, that kid.” What comes next is a chronicle of awareness, of awkward first kisses, and friends that turn enemies, and creativity squashed and encouraged and squashed again. Kevin is the kind of kid that knows awkwardness and loneliness and small victories while they are happening. His 12-year-old self is astute and awake enough to grasp exactly how harrowing growing up can be. So in the end, Brockmeier offers us in non-fiction what he does in fiction: universality. We share the feeling of frailty and of hope—of a life experienced in all its brave triumphs of faltering, humor, falling, landing, and holding on.
The entire focus of this memoir is the author’s experience of seventh grade. Brockmeier tells the story of his twelve-year old self in third person: He is Kevin, a kid “who cries too easily and laughs too easily” but “he is trying hard not to be him anymore, that kid.” What comes next is a chronicle of awareness, of awkward first kisses, and friends that turn enemies, and creativity squashed and encouraged and squashed again. Kevin is the kind of kid that knows awkwardness and loneliness and small victories while they are happening. His 12-year-old self is astute and awake enough to grasp exactly how harrowing growing up can be.
At age twelve, Kevin Brockmeier is ready to become a different person: not the boy he has always been—the one who cries too easily and laughs too easily, who lives in an otherland of sparkling daydreams and imaginary catastrophes—but someone else altogether.
Over the course of one school year—seventh grade—he sets out in search of himself. Along the way, he happens into his first kiss at a church party, struggles to understand why his old friends tease him at the lunch table, becomes the talk of the entire school thanks to his Halloween costume, and booby-traps his lunch to deter a thief.
With the same deep feeling and oddly dreamlike precision that are the hallmarks of his fiction, the acclaimed novelist now explores the dream of his own past and recovers the person he used to be.
About the Author
In addition to A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip,KEVIN BROCKMEIER is the author of the novels The Illumination, The Brief History of the Dead, and The Truth About Celia; the story collections 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 has published his stories in such venues as The New Yorker, The Georgia Review, McSweeney’s, Zoetrope, Tin House, The Oxford American, The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and New Stories from the South. He has recieved the Borders Original Voices Award, three O. Henry Awards (one, a first prize), the PEN USA Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an NEA Grant. In 2007, he was named one of Granta magazine’s Best Young American Novelists. He teaches frequently at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and he lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was raised.
“Filmstrip is a funny, poignant oddity. . . . There's something here for you as long as you remember being 12, having disloyal friends, and wondering when the opposite sex was going to discover how cool you were. . . . The prose is always a pleasure, and our little underdog hero is so likable that you're relieved just to be holding the book in your hands: It's proof that he turned out okay. A-” —Entertainment Weekly
“Brockmeier’s evocative, gracefully written memoir so beautifully captures a slice of our lives many may be tempted to write about, but few want to remember. . . . Brockmeier also does an excellent job anchoring his memoir in time without limiting its appeal only to those who came of age in that decade. In his fiction, Brockmeier has shown he’s a versatile prose stylist, and he makes the transition to memoir without sacrificing that quality. . . . Lovely.” —Bookreporter
“Masterful. . . . This is painful stuff—and important and beautifully written stuff, in Brockmeier’s hands—worthy of your time and attention. It’s insightful, relayed at a propulsive clip, and captures the complicated inner life of a seventh grader with more unflinching precision than anything you’ll read on the subject. This book will help you.” —Biographile
“A delicately rendered memoir that bathes the invariably painful past in a kind of gold-glowing tenderness. . . . There are plenty of memoirs that recount extraordinary circumstances and adventures, but I cannot think of one that so magically involves us in an exploration of the commonplace. A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip is a look back—not in vengeance, anger or even gloating—but in wonder at the miraculous variety of experience, and the ways we come to be ourselves.” —Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
“Beautifully written. . . . The books rings awfully true . . . Brockmeier’s potent, honest prose makes for a vivid, funny and achingly familiar read.” —Arkansas Times
"Funny, gripping, and heartbreaking." —Rain Taxi Review of Books
“Every book by Kevin Brockmeier is unsettling, strange, and impossible to forget. . . . He challenges the way we see the world. His latest, A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, catapults us all back to middle school with time-machine perfection. . . . Heartbreakingly honest.” —Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
“In three acclaimed novels and two story collections, Brockmeier earned his reputation as a literary virtuoso attuned to the illusory facets of everyday life. His rollicking first memoir, centered on his formative year in the seventh grade, affirms his talents and explores their foundations. . . . In a hilariously vivid, novelistic chronicle of the mid-1980s, Brockmeier nails the awkward triumphs and life-affirming disasters of teenagedom, revealing the creative significance of what might otherwise seem banal.” —Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
“A truly stunning hybrid—a memoir told with the imaginative vibrancy and the uncanny precision of the best fiction. This book will floor you, and flood you with a torrent of your own memories from the terrifying, electric threshold between childhood and adulthood. If you're new to his work, this is a phenomenal place to start.” —Karen Russell, bestselling author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove
“Brockmeier is surely one of our great writers. Here seventh grade is rendered in such lovingly vivid detail—the year is so perfectly remembered—that you feel, after reading it, that the memory in fact belongs to you. I loved it.” —Ethan Rutherford, author of The Peripatetic Coffin