John Warner, Chicago Tribune, 22-Aug-2014 “I fell in love with the book because it is one of a handful of books I will read in a given year that remind me of the potential of literature to mine our obsessions and share them with others. It is a novel that could only be written by one person, at one particular time…A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is the most alive book I’ve read this year.”
Lincoln Michel, Electric Literature’s 25 Best Novels of 2014 “Chancellor’s debut novel got rave reviews, but flew a little under the radar with readers. Hopefully, it’s inclusion on year-end lists will encourage readers to give this gorgeous novel a try.”
Flavorwire Staffers Best Books of 2014 “In a year filled with some wonderful fiction debuts, I loved the sheer ambitious energy and weirdness of this one, which also had the scope and heftiness of a dog-eared John Irving paperback. A young man, Owen, bound for the Olympics in water polo, loses his eye and runs away to Berlin. From there, the story takes off to tackle themes of fathers and sons and the very nature of art itself, as rich with intelligent allusions and references to heady, beautiful ideas as your average Gilmore Girls episode is laden with obscure pop culture references fit for a Catskills comedian.” –Elisabeth Donnelly
Isaac Fitzgerald, Buzzfeed, The 24 Best Fiction Books of 2014 “Will Chancellor makes a stunning literary debut in A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, chock full of ideas, energy, and indelible characters, that will have you eager for his next.”
Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed, The 22 Most Exciting Literary Debuts of 2014 “[A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall] is a spellbinding, epic novel about ambition, family, and the roles we play in our own destinies.”
Nicholas Mancusi, The Daily Beast, 21-July-2014 “To compare a debut novel to Infinite Jest is likely either too flippant or too generous, but consider the bona fides…”
Kenneth Champeon, Bookpage, 8-July-2014 “Chancellor writes in the established tradition of the American absurd, from Pynchon and Gaddis (who mocked Art in V and The Recognitions) to DeLillo and Foster Wallace (who mocked the ivory tower in White Noise and Infinite Jest). Chancellor may be swinging for the former pair, but lands firmly, and thereby accessibly, in the latter. His language is often bracing and his references to “late Heidegger” et al. will please aspiring or ashamed philosophy students. But he is rarely esoteric for esoterica’s sake, eschewing the obfuscating “cult of the difficult” he otherwise lampoons.”
Kirkus Reviews (STARRED) 17-May-2014 “The author maintains an almost thrillerlike pace while taking well-aimed shots at academic and art-market fads and helping two lost souls through essential transformations. It’s a bracingly rich mélange of a novel in which scholarship spotlights Al Pacino’s Scarface and plain exposition suddenly turns into prose that might be noirish or downright strange: “Everything of value stretched and shrapneled, lapping the circular walls in lethal vorticity.”
Jason Diamond, Flavorwire (Book of the Week), 10-July-2014 A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is a book about people who have had their hearts broken in different ways, and what becomes of them as they run away to deal with their grief. It’s an ambitious book, one filled with Greek myths and art-world jargon, the type of stylistic siren song that could lure a writer into dangerous waters, turning a great story into a pretentious bore. Chancellor never lets that happen; he shows great poise and command with this elegant and highly enjoyable first novel, which suggests that he has even more greatness to offer us.
Ethan Loewi, Ploughshares, 01-Aug-2014 “Two arcs of personal transformation shape Will Chancellor’s expansive and thought-provoking debut novel. One belongs to Owen Burr, six-foot-eight Olympian and star of Stanford’s water polo team, who is blinded in one eye during the book’s gripping opening scene, and the other to Owen’s father—a classics professor with a roaming intellect and a penchant for provocation. Throughout the novel, Chancellor elegantly intertwines the spiritual and geographical journeys that father and son take in pursuit of fulfillment. This fusion succeeds in enriching both characters, as their trials and aspirations often run parallel.
Chancellor has a wonderful ear for dialogue, and a keen understanding of how insecurity and ambition intersect. In one insightful moment near the beginning of his Bildungsroman, Owen asks “Which half of my life am I about to waste?”—a simple yet devastating question that captures the nagging uncertainty of young adulthood. Also worth mentioning is Chancellor’s playful, vigorous writing, which infuses both his physical and psychological descriptions with color. Take, for example, his depiction of Athens: “Chalk-white buildings, like the cirrus clouds wisping the bright sky, drifted together or drifted apart . . . Some buildings leaned in as if bowed by prayer.” Chancellor displays much technical ability in his sentences, and much philosophical depth in the evolution of his characters—making A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall a rewarding and substantive read.
Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal 18-July-2014 “Mighty deeds fill the rest of this delightfully bizarre and myth-drunk novel. Owen must exact revenge on Kurt in front of the pretentious contemporary art elite (in a Herculean feat of strength, he wields a decorative pedestal like a club to smash the exhibition), win the love of a good woman and reconnect with the gods. Oh yes, and, elude the police while escaping into the wilds of Iceland like some figure from the Norse sagas. Meanwhile, a parallel story maps the efforts of Owen’s father, a widowed classics professor, to locate his missing son. Posing as a fiery leftist radical on a barnstorming European lecture tour, he accidentally foments a student bombing on the Acropolis.
To be sure, this tall tale of valor and villainy in the art world and academia is a mish-mash…But the story’s unflagging energy and dramatic battiness make it irresistible. Mr. Chancellor would probably call it Dionysian, and I wouldn’t disagree.”
Beatriz Terrazas, Dallas Morning News, 02-Aug-2014 “The journey is so fast-paced and suspenseful that lapses into implausibility didn’t matter to me most of the time. And even the passages that stretched my believability were so entertaining I had no choice but to turn the page. It helps that Chancellor has a highly original voice, and his use of language can be quite beautiful. Dr. Burr’s memory of his wife’s skin for instance: “When the summer sun brought an archipelago of freckles to her nose and cheek, he named them the Caroline Islands and committed each one to memory: Ulithi, Tonoas, Oroluk, Pohnpei ….” Owen, emerging from a hospital disoriented and weak, becomes “a man of shifting sands, emptying every grain into one leg” until having enough “ballast to swing his other leg forward and repeat the process. Above the waist, he was as thin and empty as an expired hourglass, and just as easy to shatter.”
Derek Parsons, Tweed’s Magazine, 18-Aug-2014 Will Chancellor’s debut novel, A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, has already been aligned with William Gaddis’ masterpiece The Recognitions, as well as Thomas Pynchon’s V. But, while these comparisons are certainly flattering, they create insurmountable expectations. Chancellor shouldn’t fret, though.A Brave Man certainly shares ideas with these books: the relentless and manic appearance of coincidence, the skewering of the latest art scene and inevitable hanger-ons, and ultimately the questioning of what truly constitutes art. Above all else, these are the things that define A Brave Man, and which Chancellor appears most comfortable writing about.
Porochista Khakpour’s A Year in Reading, The Millions, 10-December-2014 “Out of the all the books I read for pleasure, the standout was Will Chancellor’s debut. He had the misfortune of becoming my friend or else I would have certainly tried to review A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall. This is what we writers call a BIG BOOK — the ambition here is matched by the talent and Chancellor’s storytelling abilities place him with the best. You’ve go water polo, academia, art world, and myth playing out in locations that span across the globe from Palo Alto to Iceland. And, well, I’m a sucker for father-son epics and novels that at least partially and unabashedly deal in ideas.”
David Gutowski, largeheartedboy, 11 Favorite Novels of 2014 “Will Chancellor’s A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall is an ambitious and powerful debut, simply one of the year’s finest books.”