We Are Ghost Lit
Place Published: Pittsburgh, PA
Publisher: Braddock Avenue Books
Date Published: June 2023
Described as a “...tender postmodern meditation [on] …the human heart itself” (Ron A. Austin), James Brubaker’s new novel employs a constellation of narrative possibilities in its quest to understand how we can live with loneliness and grief. For some time, the narrator, a writer named James Brubaker, has looked for a way to understand what happened to his childhood friend who died in potentially mysterious circumstances. Knowing that the friend was often troubled by a deep existential loneliness, the obvious answer is that he took his own life. But something in Brubaker won’t be satisfied with this—not, at least, until other possibilities have been exhausted. The result is an invigorating metafictional mélange of narrators who explore—or invent—the possible circumstances leading to his friend’s death.
In each variation, there appears a figure the reader comes to know as Starman. They are an entity created, perhaps, out of stardust and the imagination of the Universe. The reader watches as Starman develops consciousness and then, much like a human being, stretches their mind to comprehend what lies at the limits of their existence. The lonely Starman evenutally finds themselves attracted to these tiny, insignificant-seeming creatures living on a blue planet, in a solar system, in the Milky Way Galaxy. Will the relationships Starman makes on Earth help to reveal the answers they so desperately seek? And for James Brubaker, can following Starman’s story help him make peace with his friend’s death?
Enlivened by references to contemporary popular culture, and by turns laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly sad, this is James Brubaker writing at his very best.
Praise for We Are Ghost Lit
—Ron A. Austin, author of Avery Colt is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar
A mesmerizing galaxy of imagination, elegy, epistolary, fiction, speculation, sci-fi, metawriting, and memoir. Bewildered by grief, James Brubaker constructs real and imagined narrators who orbit one another as each tries to tell an alternative story from the real one: the loss of a good friend to suicide. In a Borgesian twist, Brubaker, the one called the real James Brubaker, sets out to write a novel, believing the pages might save him. A stunning work about friendship, time, grief, and going on.
—Jill Talbot, author of The Way We Weren’t
Mourning is the process of learning to mourn. In We Are Ghost Lit, James Brubaker reveals that process by enacting it, inviting the reader to join him in a search for a procedure by which his novel may proceed. The result is a playful, reflective, and heartbreaking story that must inevitably end at the precise moment that it learns to be itself.
—Mike Meginnis, Drowning Practice
James Brubaker is the author of Pilot Season, Liner Notes, and Black Magic Death Sphere: (science) fictions. His work has appeared in Zoetrope: All Story, Michigan Quarterly Review, Hobart, Booth, and The Collagist, among other venues. He lives in Missouri with his wife and cat, and teaches writing there.