Fugue State

Take as your foundation stones the young and brash Ian McEwan who wrote that macabre classic, The Cement Garden. Add a superstructure of Guy de Maupassant and Franz Kafka. Roof the whole edifice with Rod Serling and paint the dwelling with Harlan Ellison day-glo. Success! You?ve just built yourself the lurid, stylish, gothpunk haunted house that we call Brian Evenson. Evenson?s hypnotic new collection, Fugue State, features a troupe of obsessive characters trapped in fiendish neuro-labyrinths of their own devising -- or in blandly malign and implacably insane bureaucratic mazes. But far from succumbing meekly to these traps, Evenson?s protagonists exhibit immense and quintessentially human energies: they may ultimately go down to defeat, but they do so without granting easy victories to their oppressors -- even if the tormentor proves to be one?s own dark doppelgänger. Like Kafka?s stories, Evenson?s conceal a droll sardonicism beneath each moment of horror. In "Pursuit," the haunted narrator finds himself stalked by his spectral ex-wives and thinks, "A man might be capable of standing up to one ex-wife, but two ex-wives is something no ex-husband wants to consider?." "Invisible Box" opens with this sentence: "In retrospect, it was easy for her to see that it had been a mistake to have sex with a mime." "There is, in every event, whether lived or told, always a hole or a gap, often more than one. 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." So observes the narrator of "Desire with Digressions." Evenson specializes in diving with mordant glee down such holes.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).