Stevens, Brooke 1957-
Stevens, Brooke 1957-
Born May 21, 1957, in New York, NY; son of Leonard A. (a writer of nonfiction) and Carla (a children's book writer) Stevens; married; wife's name Karen Z. (a graphic artist); children: one son, one daughter. Education: Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1991. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Writing and editing children's books.
Home—Kent, CT. Agent—Kim Witherspoon, Witherspoon Associates, 235 E. 31st St., New York, NY 10016.
Writer and educator. Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY, writing instructor. Also worked as a horse and tiger groom for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, railroad engineer, bartender, fisherman, taxi driver, and movie programmer.
Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award finalist, 1994, for The Circus of the Earth and the Air; World Fantasy Award finalist, 1995.
The Circus of the Earth and the Air, Harcourt, Brace & Company (San Diego, CA), 1994.
Tattoo Girl, St. Martin's Griffin (New York, NY), 2001.
Kissing Your Ex, NAL Accent (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of short stories to journals, including Quarterly and Story Quarterly.
With his first two novels, author Brooke Stevens has been compared to director David Lynch for his surreal imagery and his focus on the cruel and deformed in human nature. His first novel, The Circus of the Earth and the Air, draws its inspiration from the author's year spent traveling with the circus after high school graduation. It follows the quest of Alex Burton, whose wife, Iris, literally disappears while a volunteer in a circus magic act. His search leads him to a secret island of circus performers, where he must undergo a variety of trials, including physical and mental torture and training in the circus arts, in order to recover his lost wife. Throughout, Stevens raises and addresses larger mysteries about what is real; writing for Booklist, Eloise Kinney remarked that The Circus of the Earth and the Air "strikes repeatedly at the core of the notion of the performer, the performance, and the unknown." In the strange world of the circus, according to Chicago Tribune reviewer Andy Solomon, "Stevens captures and traverses the porous border separating thrill from terror." Some reviewers found flaws in the book, but generally considered it a strong first novel. George Packer, writing for the Washington Post Book World, concluded that Stevens's novel is "ambitious, richly imagined and awkwardly crafted … full of passionate concerns that don't all belong in the same book. There ought to be others."
Stevens's second novel, Tattoo Girl, also uses images of circus freaks and hints of disturbing secrets to propel the story. In it, a young girl named Emma is discovered at a local mall; she is the tattoo girl of the title, covered in markings drawn to look like fish scales. She is adopted by a sympathetic former circus fat lady, Lucy, whose efforts to discover Emma's violent past may do more harm than good. Lucy is compelled to return to a very dark and dangerous circus world to help both herself and Emma, and in doing so she opens several old wounds from her past life. A critic for Kirkus Reviews suggested that Tattoo Girl demonstrates the further development of Stevens's talent, noting that the new novel features a "more cohesive, tightly drawn story," while still containing the "violent" and "atmospheric" elements of his earlier work. Novelist Carrie Brown, reviewing the book for the Washington Post Book World, wrote: "Tattoo Girl is as much about being sad as it is about being terrified, and there Stevens has worked a charm that will keep you in your seat and reading, even when you'd rather not."
With Kissing Your Ex, Stevens moves into territory more defined by realism with a story of the rigors of relationships and the bonds that connect and separate couples. Thirty-seven-year-old Maddie Green is two years past her divorce from Jack, a rugged neo-hippie who was nonetheless a wonderful husband. Whether it was her own misbehavior or her realization of Jack's all-too-real imperfections that ended the marriage, she cannot say, but their relationship did at least end on friendly terms. Now, Maddie is resettled in Atlanta, working as an art director at an advertising agency, and is in love with her boss, Andrew. Her carefully reconstructed life begins to fray, however, when Jack begins sending small gifts, notes, and other indications that he has changed and is interested in reestablishing their relationship. Maddie finds herself reflecting on the nature of relationships while nurturing both her new love for Andrew and her still-strong passion for Jack. Stevens "deepens what could have been a formulaic story with sharp insights into marital intimacy and independence," observed Gillian Engberg in Booklist. The author "has a sure take on the foibles of relationships," commented a Kirkus Reviews critic.
Stevens once told CA: "I am attempting to write fiction that is as rich in metaphor, symbolism, and character development as any good literary fiction while also employing a story line that is no less compelling than a good thriller. I've received numerous letters from readers stating that they've read my novels in one or two days."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October, 1993, Eloise Kinney, review of The Circus of the Earth and the Air, p. 419; July, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of Kissing Your Ex, p. 1823.
Chicago Tribune, February, 1994, Andy Solomon, review of The Circus of the Earth and the Air, sec. 14, p. 1.
Kirkus Reviews, March, 2001, review of Tattoo Girl, p. 143; May 15, 2004, review of Kissing Your Ex, p. 468.
People, April, 1994, Louisa Ermelino, review of The Circus of the Earth and the Air, pp. 30-31.
Publishers Weekly, October, 1993, review of The Circus of the Earth and the Air, p. 69.
Washington Post Book World, March, 1994, George Packer, review of The Circus of the Earth and the Air, p. 9; March, 2001, Carrie Brown, "Marked for Life," p. 8.
Brooke Stevens Home Page,http://www.brookestevens.com (September 6, 2001).