Do you like stories about the theater? If so, “Brief Lives” may be a novel for you. It tells about the production of a new play that a small company puts on in the 1950’s. Each of the chapters gives a brief account of the experience of someone involved in the production or is interested in it. Two interludes look at the subject of the play from different angles from the main narrative. Do you like American history? If so, “Brief Lives” may be for you. The play tells the story of a man with a few talents — for comedy, magic songwriting — who performs in carnivals and fairs in the American Midwest in the middle of the 19th century. He gets into serious trouble after he strays from his calling and becomes involved with a criminal cartel who present themselves as forward-looking businessmen. Can he find redemption? Do experiments with narrative suit your fancy? If so, you may enjoy the way this novel is put together, not a straight-ahead narrative, but from different points of view of people who encounter the 19th century showman and his wife. Other motifs prominent in the novel are city life and creativity. The purpose of the novel is to show that we often compensate for everyday troubles and the brevity of life by our creativity, which ranges from ordinary inventiveness to works of surprising originality.
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