Fugue State

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

At the heart of Brian Evenson’s brilliant new short-story collection there lies a crisis hinging on the capacity or failure of characters to assimilate the common predicaments of loss or change into their lives. A daughter fails to clearly explain her father’s bizarre suicide to authorities; an ex-husband thinks he’s being followed by all three of his ex-wives; a man wakes one morning to find that language is “starting to slip in his mouth, words substituting themselves for each other.” It is through the interpretation or articulation of these events that a deep-seated sickness is revealed, a mad internal logic. “There is, in every event...always a hole or gap,” says one narrator. “If we allow ourselves to get caught in it, we find it opening onto a void that, once we have slipped into it, we can never escape.”

Even when Evenson opts for the fantastically literal—in the funny and creepy “Invisible Box” a woman’s one-night stand with a mime leaves her trapped in, that’s right, an invisible box—there is the pervasive sense that these things could happen to any one of us, and that everything done to us is done by us. In “Helpful,” arguably the most disturbing story here, a man blinded in a freak accident attempts to get closer to his wife by turning their apartment into a space as dark as the one in which he alone now resides.

The pitfalls of writing about the nonsane are many, yet Evenson manages to capture madness with a masterful tone. The specific genius of Fugue State rests in subtlety, in Evenson’s ability to maintain suspense, dread and paranoia through utter linguistic control.—Kimberly King Parsons

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By Brian Evenson. Coffee House Press, $14.95 paperback.