** In case you missed it, my post on FS's 8th story 'Wander' appeared at EWN.
The ninth story in Brian Evenson’s Fugue State, ‘In the Greenhouse,’ is interestingly, and perhaps pointedly, the only previously unpublished story in the book.
The text begins with an author who is attempting to write a study of another author, who in the first paragraph gives up on the project 170 manuscript pages in, burning them. The remainder of the story then is follows an author named Sindt’s subsequent interactions with the would-have-been subject, Craven.
What is perhaps most haunting about ‘In the Greenhouse,’ then, besides that it is a truly gripping and aura-ed story, and particularly with its placement in the order of texts here, is Evenson’s seeming bent to open the text beyond the text, to pull the doors that have so far been crowding his subjects’ lives into the direct meat of the reader/author relationship. We’ve already come through a rather heavy line of identity-blurring and psychic terror, and yet here we are sunk deeper, in the actual meat of what is being made⎯as, this is a book after all, not an actual flesh and blood nightmare (right?)⎯and so what further ways can the text therein claim our heads?
In writing about writing about writing, Evenson further opens the clearly constructed ontology of circling and encasement⎯here, perhaps, is the book within the book within the book.
Clearly, and by the example of the weight of the other works before it in the way even weeks after having read them I still feel pressed against my back, ‘In the Greenhouse’ (the title itself a seeming metaphor for the overgrown hotbox of what must be plumbed in creation), the pages are riddled with the indication that the reading itself, as well as the writing, has as much, if not more, power to enter and alter the flesh and mind.
“The imaginative process could ruin a good house in a matter of days,” Craven says in passing to the protagonist, in touring his strangely sparse and abstrusely described home (77). Later, this thought will be echoed by the protagonist in the midst of his own self blurry, a turn of page so horrifying I should not to even talk about it. “The imaginative process can ruin a good head…”
Via Craven, we are offered glimpses of strangely and provocatively titled texts such as Knife Diet and Box of Sky, which begin to worm their worm into the narrator’s perception both of the strange subject-author, and the protagonist’s own otherwise entirely shaded existence, which in their expounding in Sindt’s head begin to enter his ideas, his waking, and perhaps further on, become.
At another point, as Sindt attempts to more closely examine the Greenhouse by using the only eyeglass sort of piece in the house that he can find: a glass tumbler, which “while it admittedly magnified things, severely distorted them at the same time.” Like the text, then, and the text’s creation, and its induction, all which in concert both act as a portal and a creator of the hole. A systematic method of simultaneous creation and destruction, resulting in a wholly other state.
Exactly what Evenson’s rooms and minds and modes here are aiming at is not the message. Instead, it is the incitement of those passages, and the passages within passages, as by now the book itself has become so riddled with the worming mazeways that we can not wholly regard it as a sequence of associated texts, but as something asking something us, in. As well, the circlings are circled, the doors have doors, the halls further halls, as we, like the people in the book, worm. The circling in ‘In the Greenhouse’ operates more as spirals than as the simple recitation of obsessions found earlier in Fugue State⎯here the text’s two lone men (author and reader), to the point that Sindt begins to imagine that Craven is several people, infused around him, locked in a book inside a book, etc, wherein “they spent their days circling one another, excessively formal (he realized this was a description as well of Jansen and Jansen’s interactions in Craven’s Moody Mouths).”
The result is perhaps the deepest elucidation of the hole state we’ve had here yet, and perhaps more personal, direct, stroked into the ravenous, gluing hemispheres Fugue State has already been fluent in, an ultimate realization of encircling and obsession, circling of self. “…it seemed that the syntax of Craven’s sentences was rewiring his head,” perhaps somehow also in the way that the texts surrounding ‘In the Greenhouse’ seem to be piling up, building a shell around the reader, building, perhaps, an entrance to an even deeper hole within a hole, an exit.