A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall (Harper)
A triumphant literary debut with notes of both The Art of Fielding and The Flamethrowers, which introduces the striking figure of Owen Burr, a gifted Olympics-bound athlete whose dreams of greatness are deferred and then transformed by an unlikely journey from California to Berlin, Athens, Iceland, and back again.
Owen Burr, a towering athlete at Stanford University, son of renowned classicist Professor Joseph Burr, was destined to compete in the Athens Olympic Games of 2004. But in his final match at Stanford, he is blinded in one eye. The wound shatters his identity and any prospects he had as an athlete.
Determined to make a new name for himself, Owen flees the country and lands in Berlin, where he meets a group of wildly successful artists living in the Teutonic equivalent of Warhol's Factory. An irresistible sight--nearly seven-feet-tall, wearing an eye patch and a corduroy suit--Owen is quickly welcomed by the group's leader, who schemes to appropriate Owen's image and sell the results at Art Basel. With his warped and tortured image on the auction block, Owen seeks revenge.
Professor Burr has never been the father he wants to be. Owen's disappearance triggers a call to action. He dusts off his more speculative theory, Liminalism, to embark on a speaking tour, pushing theory to its radical extreme--at his own peril and with Jean Baudrillard's help--in order to send up flares for his son in Athens, Berlin, and Iceland.
A compulsively readable novel of ideas, action, and intrigue, A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall offers a persuasive vision of personal agency, art, family, and the narratives we build for ourselves.
Praise for A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall
"Wry, smart, tender, huge-hearted, Will Chancellor strides onto the page in the spirit of Bellow with writing poised like poetry. A dauntless debut."--Paul Lynch
"Owen Burr is a character unlike any you're likely to meet in contemporary literature. Watching him move through the world, and negotiate with his own dreams, is both powerful and revelatory."--Daniel Alarcon
"A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is an erudite, ambitious, and entertaining work wherein postmodern gods and monsters alike flit into the lives of father and son during the Bush administration of the the early aughts. The book's academic scenes occasionally give the reader a tongue-in-cheek wink reminiscent of DeLillo's White Noise, while the ex-pat atmosphere possesses the same variety of political tension that fueled recent hits such as The Flamethrowers. In short, Chancellor belongs to that rare camp of young writers who successfully blend a sense of high-minded intellectualism into a darn good story."--Suzanne Rindell
Will Chancellor grew up in Hawaii and in Texas. He made it to the finals of the high school National debate championship at age 15 and was a nationally ranked golfer. At Stanford, Chancellor studied political theory and environmental policy, and after graduation lived in Paris and Prague before ending up at UT Austin for post-grad work in Physics and Ancient Greek. All along he knew he wanted to write books and eventually ended up in his mother’s childhood home, in the bustling metropolis of Pittsburg, TX, with just a manual typewriter to keep him company.
During the eight months that he spent there writing, Chancellor interacted with other people just three times and ate pasta at every meal. But if you’re picturing a reclusive, wild eyed, long haired madman (I sure was when he told me this story), think again. Chancellor was fastidious about his appearance, often wearing a dress shirt and tie while he feverishly typed away on one 300ft roll of vellum tracing paper. And this is all before he moved to New York and lived in the Chelsea Hotel. During his three years in the storied hotel, he paid his $800/month rent with a credit card and fell into the cliché of starving artist.
To research the book beyond the first draft, Chancellor collaborated on a large-scale sculpture for the New Museum, impersonated a world-renowned painter at Art Basel, and completed a solo traverse of Iceland from the westernmost to easternmost tip.
Photo by Atisha Paulson