A portrait of the author as a seventh-grader who's a little more sensitive but otherwise not much different than most. In his acknowledgements, novelist Brockmeier (The Illumination, 2011, etc.) categorizes this as an "odd little memoir-novel-thing," which serves as an apt description. It is a coming-of-puberty account of the seventh-grade school year, one that finds friends turning to bullying, acquaintances becoming friends and girls remaining unattainable. "Kevin is good with stories and always has been," he writes of the protagonist of this narrative, the only character who is fully developed; he's as self-conscious as most adolescents are during a stage of such tumultuous change. He has spent the summer with his father and returns to the home he shares with his mother and brother to find that everything has changed: music, slang, activities, allegiances. Of course, that will all change and change again, and those he considered his friends will ridicule him the most, finding "the softest tools they can use to hurt him," a milder form of what would now be recognized as bullying. "He has always been the kid who cries too easily and laughs too easily," writes Brockmeier, but "he is trying hard not to be him anymore, that kid." The pivotal chapter takes the nonfictional form of magical realism, anticipating Kevin's future, putting his (then) present crises in perspective and offering him a choice that could change the course of his existence. Otherwise, it's a book about coming to terms, accepting that "it's too late for you to become a different person. You'll never be tall, and you'll never be strong." But he will become a writer, which is what he was even back then. Often charming, occasionally moving, but mainly a book about not much that hasn't happened to pretty much everyone and which pretty much everyone has survived.
“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-”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Beautifully written. . . . The books rings awfully true . . . Brockmeier’s potent, honest prose makes for a vivid, funny and achingly familiar read.”
"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