Friday, May 29, 2009

Story by Story: Brian Evenson's 'Fugue State' (1) 'Younger'

(Thanks to everyone who is spreading the word on the contest, prizes are insane and still getting added, please submit, more info and updates soon, but in the meantime, more new...)

In concurrence with sentence related posts on HTML Giant, I thought in the manner of reading/reviewing the new collection from Brian Evenson, 'Fugue State,' from Coffee House Press, instead of just writing about the book as a whole I would write on each story one by one, not breaking them down but discussing whatever elements of the story particularly struck me on a craft or creative level, beyond simple 'spoiler' style summation or expository review.

Having been effected so much by Evenson's work, particularly (if I had to pick just one) his last collection 'The Wavering Knife,' which to me is among the top 5 of all text art objects on a sentence and style level of all time, I realized it would likely do me a lot of good to savor each this time, thinking about each piece on its own, rather than tearing through books in my want, as I often do, which will be a good test of self control, and hopefully be worth reading here as I go along.

As a matter then, of this being a book that isn't out yet, I'll do my best to keep from giving away the stories in themselves, but more in the manner they reflect, and how they propel, and will hopefully let this reviewing stretch into the book's release in July, where others can join in as it comes.

To kick off the book, then, is 'Younger,' a 9 page story that originally appeared in Conjunctions.

The tone is immediately surprising, perhaps, if not totally, in the hemisphere of Evenson's past work, in that it does not utilize present action, and is more the reeling of a woman inside her body, looking for semblance in a defining moment of her life, a moment she can not figure out particularly why it is defining.

What is so amazing about this story is not what is said, perhaps, or even what is not said, but how things are said around other things, that then give illumination to both in the contrast, and by the leaping of implication and potential energy.

As in: in this story, moments loom. They are present, even given a frightening edge, but then allowed to bubble, to lock, and remain crystallized, beyond the idea of resolving, or even moving on from unresolved, a potent moment.

In a brilliant reflection of the actual propagation narrative of the piece, the woman attempting to figure out a moment in her childhood that she has not been able to move forward from even years and years later, the language of the story manages to trap the reader in that moment as well, gifting the reader not with the understanding of why that moment affected her, but how it felt to be affected in that way.

The result, then, is much more potent than the simple recreation of scarring childhood events, an awful thing that happened, etc., but a much more visceral and psychic kind of terror, which of course is the much more potent and everlasting kind, and in Evenson's crystalline and ultimately visercal to the point of being in-brain sentences, resounds so much more than it would have had it simply walked on the brunt of its imagistic impact or brutal feat. It is a psychological study akin to the subtle moments I love most in Lynch and Poe, and other brooding masters.

If this story is any kind of indicator of what we're in store for here with 'Fugue State,' which I am beyond 100% steel that it is, this book will prove to be another monolith in black, cerebral and yet ultimately wholly enthralling fiction, another change in the game of what text can do.

For my favorite sentence, or at least most representative sentence, from this text, check out my sentence-based counterpart in post at HTML Giant.

Next up, in a few days most likely, 'A Pursuit.'

In the meantime, more info on ‘Fugue State’ here.

Preorder ‘Fugue State’ here.


Dan Wickett said...

Great idea, Blake. I know I'll be back a few dozen times the next month or so.

christopher higgs said...

I agree with Dan Wickett, this is a great project.

I like your description of looming, of things being said around the events - makes me think of negative space. Certainly an interesting idea to utilize in literature.

I'm looking forward to future installments.


thanks dan and chris, i hope i can live up to it... there's a lot of stories in this book! but each worth a house of words.

peter markus said...

The house of Evenson is a house I'd like to live in. I'd even paint the doors and windows shut.


peter, many many layers of very dark paint