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A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall

3.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  490 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
A beautiful and compulsively readable literary debut that introduces Owen Burr—an Olympian whose dreams of greatness are dashed and then transformed by an epic journey—and his father, Professor Joseph Burr, who must travel the world to find his son. After his athletic career ends abruptly, Owen flees the country to become an artist. He lands in Berlin where he meets a grou ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 8th 2014 by Harper
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Feb 08, 2015 Elaine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Badly written, boring piffle. I don't know when I felt like plucking my eyeballs out more - during the extended druggy scenes when our picaresque hero becomes enmeshed in the hipper-than-thou art world in Berlin (I have commented before that reading interior fiction narrating people doing lots of drugs bores me to tears as almost no one has anything fresh to say about that experience) or the extended expositions of a new po-mo critical theory invented by our hero's dad called "liminalism." Yup, ...more
“You don't give a gift to shape someone into the person you want him to be. You give a gift because it's something you couldn't bear to be without, but it's even more unthinkable for the other person to be without it.”

Before I started A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, I read some reviews and comments - most of which seemed negative to me. Once again, I learned not to listen to other people. We all bring different life experiences to our reading and so we read different books.

I found Brave Man fas
I met this fella at a party and he was a total charmer, plus two friends who are very smart readers gave this just gushing reviews. And it's not like it was bad, I mean I definitely didn't hate it. It's just very long, and very stylish, and very clever—very much a book by a smart young white male writer.

It's not Will's fault really but I am just so exhausted by this sort of book.

Brave Man stars Owen, a college swimming champ who is on track to go to the Olympics, but then he gets his eye knocke
Jan 27, 2015 Marsha rated it did not like it
I abandoned this book because I found it pretentious, bloated, unbelievable, and a waste of my precious time. The story had great promise in the beginning. It could have been a great coming of age story about Owen, as he struggles to find a new purpose for his life after a tragic accident. He decides to become an artist with no apparent talent, to see what he can do or not do. Instead, this book tries to become a literary 'art monster'. Readers need a depth of understanding of Greco/Roman mythol ...more
I liked this book more and more as it went on. I loved both Owen and his dad's personalities, the way their ideas about philosophy and the theology of the Ancient Greeks are interwoven into their thoughts, the ideas about conceptual art, the way they both fall into things they weren't planning for...

There were some unlikely plot twists, but within the scope and ideas of this novel I had no problem rolling with them.

These two interviews (this one and this one) with the author are wildly entertain
Feb 07, 2015 Guenevere rated it it was ok
I found this book overwrought and frequently bloated, so lost in its own descriptions that it was like trying to follow a squirrel through a maze. Conceptually I thought it sounded brilliant and potentially a fascinating look at art and philosophy and what constitutes each. The reality proved different, in that the language is so dense as to make it difficult to penetrate through to the characters themselves. In many ways emotionless, I found it really challenging to view the characters as real ...more
Jan 18, 2015 Sherri rated it really liked it
Shelves: tob-2015
I gave this book 3 stars when I finished it because even though I enjoyed the story, there were a few things that bugged me about it. Two days later, this story keeps coming back to me and different parts of it really stand out. At this point, the things I thought bugged me seem so minor now that I can't even remember them. This is a terrific book, on the one hand based (sort of) on The Odyssey, but on the other hand so original and full of surprises.

One of the best things about The Morning News' annual Tournament of Books competition is that it introduces me to books that I was not aware of (and thus would have never read). Now this is not to say that I always love the books that are a part of this literary competition, but they are consistently interesting books -- and such is case with Will Chancellor's debut novel A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall.

With just an occasional lapse when it got too intellectual theory-y and art scene-y, the boo
Jan 12, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: tob-2015
I was torn between a 3 and 4 star reviews for this one. At first I was going to say three because the beginning was a little boring and pretentious and I was like ug, another book about annoying smart white people doing stupid things with no repercussions because they can. But WAIT. This book is better than that. The story of a senior at Stanford who plays water polo but gets into a tragic accident and loses an eye and sort of his direction in life because of it. He packs his bags, leaves a post ...more
Jan 22, 2015 Sam marked it as did-not-finish
At different points in the book, this story reminded me of a Wes Anderson film with its quirky characters, implausible set-up, and deadpan tone. But unlike those movies which I enjoy, the attempts here to evoke any feelings or sense that the stakes in the story mattered didn't seem to work on me. I didn't find the characters' motivations convincing, so couldn't get past that hurdle to empathize with them very much. Instead of being swept up by the story, I just kept wondering why these people we ...more
Aaron Franco
Feb 15, 2015 Aaron Franco rated it really liked it
Watch this guy. Globe-trekking plot w/ uncanny eye for places. A little David Foster Wallace-y in the beginning (young protagonist in an elite class of athletes is way too smart; obscure stuff researched like whoah) and Chancellor aims for extra difficulty points (set in 2004; weaves in a pseudo-philosophy called "liminalism" and a walking, talking Jean Buadrillard), but the balancing act pays off. The more I talk about this book, the more I like it.
B. Rule
Mar 12, 2015 B. Rule rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This may be one of the most wildly uneven novels I've ever read. I'm somewhat shocked I didn't like it more, as it treats many themes that are catnip to me: classical studies, critical theory, theories of art, and the relationship between fathers and sons. However, the characters are fundamentally unbelievable, and in a way that is not particularly illuminating of the themes of the novel. I'll accept cardboard characters if a book tells me something true in other ways. But I'm not sure this one ...more
Feb 16, 2015 Michael added it
Shelves: recent-fiction
How does one rate a book? Typically, I rate it on a level of enjoyment and/or meaning, whichever is higher.

That seems to fail this book, though, for me. First, the father is a Classicist, and there are myriad references to the Classics. And they're not just token references, they're references you only know if you've spent at least a couple years of grad school. I really like that. It also reveals a lot of insight into academic credentials.

There is a particularly clever and fun allusion to a Nor
AmberBug **
Feb 11, 2015 AmberBug ** rated it liked it
Shelves: tob2015 Review

“A Brave Man Seven Storeys Talls” is very pretentious, but is that the point? Did the Author write the characters that way or did the he want to show off with this writing? I can’t seem to tell. On the other hand, should I care? I found many things to be close to home with this book and the Author does an excellent job describing little things, like a caterpillar dancing, “He watched a caterpillar on the trunk lean back and scribble the air…”, I love that. If the Author
Mar 09, 2015 Drew rated it really liked it
Shelves: tob15
This book had appeared on my radar when the great John Warner wrote about it for the Chicago Tribune in his Biblioracle column but it wasn't until it made the ToB bracket (thanks in no small part to John's advocacy, I'd wager) that I actually picked it up - and it's a testament to how a good book can go unnoticed without a few important activists. For this book is not a groundbreaker, it is not going to change your life - but it is a damn good debut novel; it's like a more serious Where'd You Go ...more
Craig Barner
Oct 04, 2014 Craig Barner rated it liked it
3.5 Stars.

This is a superb debut by Will Chancellor, who is a young novelist with the story-telling and writing chops of a seasoned author. He must have dozens of books in him if "A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall" is his first work. Some of his sentences made me stop so that I could savor them.

I struggled with my rating. I could not give the novel four stars in part because of the way it ended, but also felt three stars was parsimonious.

Owen Burr, the center of the novel, has dreams of competing i
Mar 01, 2015 Gretchen rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
Another great find from the Tournament of Books.

Disclaimer: I'm required to like any book that portrays Stanford and its environs accurately. Start a book with the water polo team playing in Big Swim, and I'm in love. And I do love Owen - he's a 6'8" giant, struggling with a career ending injury and trying to find a new place in the world. He's got so many wonderful qualities, especially his views of color and gods, but he's also so naive as he embarks on his trip to Berlin. I cringed for him,
Mar 14, 2015 Victoria rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I read this as part of my survey of the Tournament of Books, aka: Rooster Reads Competition.
Where to begin? This is an epic of storytelling with two very well defined protagonists. The time we spend in the opening segments, getting to know the plot line which the father and son will anchor is delightful. Owen's time spent in Berlin feels like a heavily drugged dreamworld--weighty and surreal with thick ankles and brautwurst breath; here the cautionary tale unfolds while back at home.....Profess
Feb 07, 2015 Daryl rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one a lot and think Chancellor may be somebody to watch. Part of my enjoyment is no doubt because I'm a sucker for books about art, and this one ticks that box. I'm also a sucker for absurdity, paradoxes, and at least a fairly accessible veneer of erudition, and the book has those in varying degrees as well.

I think it could be an interesting book to do a proper study of sometime. There are enough recurring notions (paradoxes, the liminal, the monstrous, exploitation, memory and e
Feb 11, 2015 Meghan rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, tob15
Clever, very clever, and fun to describe to people. But not any developed women characters except a classic manic pixie dream girl type.

The book is about a talented college water polo player who is expected to be on the team for the Athens Olympics, but who loses an eye in an accident during a match and comes home deciding to be an artist. He moves to Berlin, leaving his father a note saying only that he's gone to Europe.

His father, a failing, obscure professor at a not-great California college,
Jan 27, 2015 Ohenrypacey rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit
This is a big book: a book of big ideas, big characters, big ambition, and, to be honest, big problems as well. It was a pleasure to read. The prose is weighty, the dialogue crisp and incisive, the themes are major themes: epic sagas, olympian ideals, mythic inspirations, artistic ambitions, philosphical conundrums, torture, betrayal, and revenge all wrapped up in a lively story of a man's quest to find his son, who is on a mission to find himself. Bildungsroman writ large.
I am certain that I am
Feb 16, 2015 Hilary rated it it was ok
If you loved The Flamethrowers, or just generally love bongwater-tinged grad student lectures by fictional post-modern conceptual artists about their fake art/riffs on a fictional body of thought by a classics professor called Liminalism, then you’re in luck, because this book exists just for the eighty-four of you. If you learn in the first 20 pages of a book that a character literally believes in the Greek gods, who appear before him and cast days in specifically colored hues, and you think, “ ...more
Feb 09, 2015 Huntleybrinkley rated it really liked it
Crap; beyond a little Socrates and Plato my philosophy knowledge is wanting; and psychiatric schools of thought? Really? Oh wait now we're into the world of modern art; I don't think we're talking Frazetta here. What a pretentious snob! Blah, blah, blah... Shut book. Open book, but wait the story still grabs hold; the writing can soar and then go clunk! Somehow someway it works and ends up being a satisfying read. This is a book that had I seen it in a bookstore and opened to the first page or s ...more
Joannemarie O'Donnell
Feb 26, 2015 Joannemarie O'Donnell rated it really liked it
Another harsh read for the 2015 Tournament of Books. Owen Burr's story (and that of his father, Joseph) are tough to read. Owen is a student at Stanford, being groomed to lead the US water polo team at the Athens Olympics when he loses an eye, ending his sporting career forever. His father is a professor at Mission University who has spent his life in the scholarly pursuit of what appears to be a dead end philosophy.

When Owen packs up and takes off, leaving only a post-it note telling his fathe
Apr 20, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it
Although this book had numerous flaws, I was pretty interested in where it was going. To first address the flaws, some ugly things happen in the plot, the beginning was hard to get into, and I'm getting sick of books where the protagonist is a fish out of water in a big city art scene. Add in a whiff of the book taking itself too seriously at times (mostly in the writing, in other ways it absolutely does not however,) and I almost put this book down during the first third.

I'm glad I stuck with i
Feb 01, 2015 Rose rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steph Post
Jul 22, 2014 Steph Post rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, absorbing, epic and all-encompassing.

There are myriad layers to A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, but at the outermost is the story of Owen Burrs. Twenty-one, poised for the Olympics and near unstoppable, Owen loses an eye in a water polo match and is forced to reconsider and reimagine his future. He goes on to do what any intelligent, reasonable, Stanford student would do: cast off his father, run away to Europe, become immersed in the art world, meet people whom he can’t stand to see
Jul 13, 2014 Jo rated it really liked it
Reading the first few chapters or so of ‘A Brave Man’, I began to worry that I was about to get entrenched in a deeply intellectual novel that would require a great deal of brain power to fully enjoy. As we are introduced to Owen Burr and his father, there is some esoteric allusion to Owen’s particular way of looking at the world involving the schema of the Greek Gods while his Father is a proponent of Liminality or Liminalism which I had to look up and am still not much clearer on. It was evide ...more
Jan 29, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it
A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall was another slow burn, but I ultimately ended up really enjoying it. Somewhere around bedtime 2 nights ago, this book hooked me and I even lost sleep over it... though it's not really one of those high stakes page-turners.

This book is very philosophical. It is about 2 characters going on an Odyssey (the book that Owen carries with him at all times). Some of the writing was truly beautiful.

I found myself extremely sympathetic for both main characters and their uni
Jan 25, 2015 Emily rated it really liked it
A strong 4 stars on this one. Really, really, really good. This book is full of gems, made me think, made me feel, entertained me. A few things annoyed me: the middle kind of dragged, the love story between Owen and Stevie was weirdly underdeveloped, and so many of the situations were so far-fetched and left me wondering "why?" Despite some flaws, this is a really impressive debut, and I'm glad to have read it.
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“—As you get older, you lose the wonder of youth. And when you find even a flicker of that old light, you’re very nearly brought to tears—not by the beauty of what you see, it’s more selfish than that, but by the fact that you can still see beauty. You aren’t this rheumy broken thing. You have the capacity for wonder and beauty and light and are not yet dead.” 4 likes
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