Monday, June 1, 2009

Story by Story: Brian Evenson's 'Fugue State' (2) 'A Pursuit'

Spent a nice two day weekend driving to Florida and back, during which much of the time, in my silences, I found I could not stop thinking about 'Younger,' and its infections. My notes of ideas birthed in thinking about it fills a whole page I wrote while driving at high speed, or typing into text messages to myself. 'Fugue State,' one story in, is already the kind of book that reminds me why I love to read: not only for the pleasure of sentences and the stories themselves, but for what they stir out of me, light my mind.

The second story in Brian Evenson's 'Fugue State' is 'A Pursuit,' which previously appeared in Ninth Letter.

This story is one of the handful collected here that I had read before reading in the book itself, and yet in revisiting it, particularly as a story following the lead-off, 'Younger,' found it even more surly and disturbing in its pitch, as now that I knew the tale's outcome (which is surprisingly surprising in its relay, particularly for Evenson's work, and in its pointing).

In a story with such tension as this, in which, like his 'The Installation,' it easy to allow the pacing and weird folds of the story's mystery to overtake the sentences and the patterns of logic that herein are so strong, and so definitive to Evenson's tone: it almost demands an immediate reread to find the many loops and curlings that are hidden in the unfurl.

One of the things that Evenson is so amazing at, in these kinds of fictions where 'questionable' narrators are quite common, is that the voices he constructs are not only questionable, but also pleasing, almost pleading, in a way that you want to believe the narrator as if he is a person much like yourself (and therefore, of course, not so sick as all that, because you aren't sick are you?), and therefore become invested, and then in some way trapped, in siding with ill, left with some of the blood (what blood?) on your hands as well, beaming.

The effect, then, becomes not only that much more pervasive in the reader's mind, investing them, but also leaves those amazing holes and doors open for the pervading mind to continue to weave in the space the fiction creates, and again, as before, the spaces the fiction intentionally circles but does not enter. The doors are wide and dark and many here: reigned not only in the slowly locomoting force of the main narration, but the many asides of the narrator: his dreams, his delusions (are they delusions?), and in this story in particular, scenes which could be exploited as incrimination, but instead are left, nearly literally, with the blood on the hands.

I think it's important here to note Evenson's odd mix of high (a mash up of the discursive and suddenly creepy texts of Thomas Bernhard and Robbe-Grillet) and the supposed low (detective pulp novels, Hitchcock-isms, noir), which in their combination are often a great part of what makes Evenson's work so singular, and so simultanesouly disorienting and powerful. This mash of style is particularly rampant in 'A Pursuit,' mixing French jargon and bluntly familiar and defamiliar coins like 'multitude of irrititations' and 'trinity of ex-wives,' and at the same time pushing the meat of the story forward with indirect and quite abstract chains of thought, (i.e. 'Days shaded into weeks at some point, but I could not say when.') here delivered by a narrator, which in weaker hands could amount to rattling on.

In Evenson's, though, as always, the layering of odd phraseologies against the common, the slow and subtle build up of memory-dirging musings on the behalf of a narrator becoming more and more lost inside himself, against the wall of the definitive puzzle image on which the story centers, and the endless circling of the narrator around it (literally driving his car in circles where the landscape seems to shift, as does his pursuer): all of it utilizes to its maximal point the effect of latent energy, the intoned, the non-consummation of countless doors inside a puzzle where you are just as sunk in the narrator as he is in himself, and so on, to the point that the whir of the story's lines themselves are just the doorjamb, the precursor, to the real meat of the eating, left to stay at large, which is yet another reason Evenson's texts and situations end up seated so hard in my mind and in my head (both, two).

I would be lax to not mention also the way this story, coming out of the immediately prior 'Younger,' sets up a kind of amazing parallel of mental strobing. Interesting again to see the central image of the story in both cases a thing only mentioned, and then intentionally skirted by the narrator, using that massive blip in the rug to act not as a plot crux, but as a dark needle in a whole suit made of such needles. More...

See also my selected sentence from this story at my post on htmlgiant

Next up, the third track, 'Mudder Tongue.'


Ken Baumann said...

Damn, son. This is a hell of a bleeding. I really look forward to the book, and all the more so because of these words. You're on fire.

Also, I think you'll really like this:


thanks ken

that article looks nice, reading now...

christian said...

This is a great series and a great reading of the story. Thanks. I'm jealous you already have a copy.


thanks christian, i appreciate it...

yeah, i was jealous of others till i got it. it's a book worth being jealous over


this was actually about 'A Pursuit' in Ninth Letter, not about 'An Accounting': i whoops the titles in the original post, but is fixed now

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