Short Take: A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall – Will Chancellor

Rife with literary allusion, romance and comedy, this is a coming of age story of among the academics. 6’8” Owen Burr was bound for the Olympics until he was blinded in one eye. Seeking to redesign his destiny, he moves to Berlin intending to become an artist. That the only book he carries in The Odyssey is no coincidence. Sinister conceptual artists, the search for true love and a hilarious shadow plot about Owen’s classics professor father make for an engaging and energetic debut.

What Owen finds [in Berlin] is a monster as terrible as any encountered by Odysseus. Kurt Wagener is a wheelchair-bound shock artist who proposes to guide Owen toward celebrity. ‘Talent is a myth,’ he seductively counsels. ‘You have to have a brand before you have skill. First presence, then an audience, then change your skill set if you’re still not selling.’ In fact, Kurt is exploiting Owen for a grotesque photography project that he plans to unveil at Art Basel.

“Mighty deeds fill the rest of this delightfully bizarre and myth-drunk novel….Meanwhile, a parallel story maps the efforts of Owen’s father, a widowed classics professor, to locate his missing son. Posing as a fiery leftist radical on a barnstorming European lecture tour, he accidentally foments a student bombing on the Acropolis….

“[T]he story’s unflagging energy and dramatic battiness make it irresistible. Mr. Chancellor would probably call it Dionysian, and I wouldn’t disagree.”

“[A] ambitious book, one filled with Greek myths and art-world jargon, the type of stylistic siren song that could lure a writer into dangerous waters…. Chancellor never lets that happen; he shows great poise and command with this elegant and highly enjoyable first novel, which suggests that he has even more greatness to offer us.”

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (9780062280008) by Will Chancellor. $25.99 hardcover. 7/8/14 on sale.

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