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The History of Luminou...
Scott Bradfield
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The History of Luminous Motion

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  337 ratings  ·  62 reviews
An astonishing debut novel--Blue Velvet meets Oedipus Rex-- about an eight-year-old psychopath in (where else?) Southern California.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 11th 1990 by Vintage (first published July 1st 1989)
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Simultaneously, some of the most beautiful, frustrating prose I've ever read. There's no doubt that Bradfield is a master craftsmen when it comes to narration. This work is ethereal, smart, and evocative of some of my favorite writers (Brian Evenson, Rikki Ducornet, etc). But when Mary Gaitskill blurbs that the work is "Painfully beautiful writing," she is speaking more truth than she knows.

The narrator, Phillip, travels through a sort of dreamscape seeking the "History of Luminous Motion". We'r
Krok Zero
Imagine if Don DeLillo and Oliver Stone collaborated on a remake of Bugsy Malone, except instead of kids-as-harmless-gangsters, you've got kids-as-philosophical-psychopaths. At its best, this novel achieves that wonderful effect I get from guys like Barry Hannah—the sense that every sentence is so thrillingly non-ordinary that I don't even have a context or a frame of reference for it. At its worst, this is an assortment of highly pretentious ideas about—oh, I don't know, "history" and "motion" ...more
herocious herocious
I read this book after Mary Miller highly recommended it on Facebook.

I liked it a lot. Really couldn't put it down for too long.

There was a part, though, motivated by Black Magic that struck me as graphic and almost unnecessary, but not out of character. I wouldn't like watching this part in a movie.

Having said that, this novel absorbs and shocks and disgusts and leaves you suspended in a very familiar house that is no longer yours.
Mike Polizzi
For a time, Philip Guston's work ran parallel to the abstract expressionists. He painted what some called abstract impressionism. It seems here that Scott Bradfield created the impressionist book of post-modern hyper-realism, collapsing the psychological novel, the bildungsroman, the novel of ideas, the road novel and the meta-novel into one exquisite, heartbreaking and unsettling paradox. It probes into the problems of postmodernity with high lucidity and intelligence, but reads, nearly, as a s ...more
Nicolas Shump
For several years before and during my undergraduate years at KU, I worked at the Town Crier in downtown Lawrence. It no longer exists, but it was a bookstore, pipe shop, and Hallmark card store. We sold magazines too. I worked there mostly for the books and the employee discount.
For me, one of the first things that attracts me to a book is its cover. Often with the books displayed with only the spine visible, I am drawn to titles. This was the case with Scott Bradfield's first novel, The Histo
Lyrical, sharp, beautiful writing in the service of a disturbing story. Bradfield takes the risk of stretching the voice of his eight-year-old point of view character, Phillip Davis, and Phillip's adolescent friends--none of them sound like any kids you ever heard, I don't care how precocious. He pulls it off; he pulls off this dialogue because it's spoken by kids, not in spite of. It was a great risk to take, and he nailed it.

The language is amazing, and all in the service of the story and Brad
Mari Gee
I stumbled upon this in a used bookstore for a dollar or so in the very early 90s. It was before internet access was a house-hold thing, and for some bizarre reason I never read the jacket cover, so I had no preconceived notions. I miss that sometimes... knowing too much about a book before reading it is a bit like watching a million trailers for a movie... by the time you see it you've pretty much seen the best parts already. Which is mainly why most of my reviews don't give an outline synopsis ...more
Matthew Pritchard
I'm not really sure I bought the whole 8 year old narrator angle. It's a tricky thing to pull off. I was waiting for a twist, like it was one of his hallucinations, or maybe he was the dad, but it never came.

I'm also not sure what the book was trying to tell me. I didn't feel much affinity with the poor little mite and he didn't seem to have a transformation to offer me. He started off twisted and stayed the same.

The prose was rabid in a pre-millenial kind of way. You could put that down to the
I found The History of Luminous Motion at a second-hand bookstore and picked it up knowing nothing about it, or the author. I'm so glad I did. I love this book. It's one of the best I've read in years, actually. I'm not quite sure how he managed to get away with this insanely brilliant eight-year-old narrator, but it only made it more interesting. I'm definitely going to reread it at some point.
Sep 12, 2009 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who truly believe age is only a number
Shelves: 2009
phillip is 8 years old and when you read this book you might be like me and have to keep remembering that. a precocious little boy living in the fast lane on the way to mayhem. everything about this book is interesting with a streak of chilling running through it. phillip's inner dialogue and ability to understand adults is beyond his years. job well done!
Brent Legault
Where are you, Scott? And more importantly, why don't you write? I miss you. I miss the little things you used to say. In your novels, I mean. The novels you used to write. Back in the good old 1990's. You were fast-tracked for Boy Wonderism but now you're not here anymore. Why don't you write? Where are you, Scott?

You're not dead, are you?
One of the odder books I have ever loved, but reading Justin Torres' WE THE ANIMALS made me pick this up again, as something is Torres' storytelling reminded me of Bradfield's. I am pleased to say it held up twenty years later. Give this to people who liked Emma Donohoe's ROOM, though that is by far the superior book.

The mental life of a precociously brilliant eight-year-old who departs from family and convention and along the way makes stops at fantasy, delusion, substance abuse, devil-worship and delinquency. Making sense of a world without a moral center. Chilling and sad.

I have read this book over 50 times. I think I first read in in '95.

It's poetry. Some of the most lyrical writing I've come across in modern fiction.

Haven't been impressed with the rest of Bradfield's oevre, unfortunately.

Will post more about this book soon.
I read this without knowing anything about it. As a result I experienced most of the story in a state of fascinated confusion and anxiety without expectation. This book was a huge influence on any efforts I've made to write something evocative.
Jonathan Rimorin
I read this book back when everyone was reading it, in 1992 or 1993. The hardback had that glazed frosted cover, probably designed by Chip Kidd, the same sort of cover design that everyone would be raving a year or so later when it was done for Donna Tartt's "The Secret History." As for the book itself, I remember a little bit of it: primarily this one hilarious conversation between these three ten year kids when one of them resorts to Althusser's ideological state apparatus to bolster his argum ...more
I read this book 4 times, each time loving it more and more...until this 'friend' borrowed it and bitched about the over use of similes... and now that is all I can see, but my memory of it is solid, so I won't read it again
Scottie's got his fastball going in this one. I personally like his short stuff a bit better than his novels, but his dreamy, luminous tone works well here even in a much longer story.
Another endless road trip novel, this one involving a boy and his mom and the Oedipal issues that emerge when mom decides to settle down with a man. The ending feels a bit forced.
Aug 02, 2007 Kevin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone.
Wonderful, poetic and dreamy story of a young boy's journey. Reminds me of the novel "When We Get There". Bradfield nails it with this novel. A fast read and a satisfying one.
Aaron Levinson
This is a STUNNING work. If you have not read this book waste no time and do so immediately. One of the major new voices in American letters.
Dec 30, 2007 Hannah rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: of course
the writing pulls you in time and time again, its pretty dark and a little hard to shake the ending (if your sensitive to psychological stuff)
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite, books ever. Gorgeous prose, weirdly surreal narrative, love, love, love.
Lyric Powers
this has been my favorite book since i first read it when i was 13. it's absolutely beautiful.
Julia Clinger
Darkly beautiful. Creates its own insane rules and lives by them. Funny AND die.
This is a strange and lyrical book about a dark little boy who lives in an unreal world. He speaks to a man no one else can see; a man he may or may not have killed. He robs houses, smokes and drinks, and talks to dark forces during seances, or at least he imagines that he does those things. And he's only eight years old. The writing is often beautiful and poetic (although it somehow feels very dated), and Philip has a lot of potential to be an interesting character, but I felt that in total the ...more
Sara cunningham
thrilling, twisted, and fantastic.
Richard Chiem
one of my favorite novels
What is the difference between childhood and delusional fantasy? In-the-moment it would seem nothing! When a human has no experience of a world on which to base reality other than the schizophrenic world of a drifter, the psychic outcome of children forced to experience a world such as this might find something akin to a rabbit-hole tale that does not have a happy ending. Not to give a moral point to the History of Luminous Motion that otherwise may not exist, but certainly this is a notion that ...more
I knew she had her own secret life to live, just as all mothers live fair portions of their lives down there in dark secure rooms and hidden gardens filled with strange plants and trees.

I'm so glad I came to The History of Luminous Motion knowing next to nothing about the book beyond loving its title. There's no point in describing the plot — Scott Bradfield will articulate it for you far more capably. But here's the thing: This is the most mesmerizing, unsettling tale I've read since The Was
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