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Fugue State Paperback – July 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press (July 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566892252
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566892254
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Evenson (The Open Curtain) accesses dark, unusual facets of human frailty, powerlessness and fear in this collection, haunted by themes of amnesia, aphasia and creeping infirmity. Hecker, the protagonist of O'Henry Prize–winner Mudder Tongue, can't control which words he says and is incapable of expressing even the nature of the problem to his daughter, who thinks he just needs to get out more. A similar terror informs the title story, in which a plague of amnesia afflicts the area where Arnaud lives. The stricken forget their own names, bleed from the eyes and mouth, then lapse into unconsciousness and death. Arnaud catches the illness, and as he makes his way through a landscape of quarantined apartments, looters and corpses, he interacts with the dead and soon-to-be-dead in an effort to try to remember what he is trying to accomplish. Other ailments make cameos—blindness in Helpful, insomnia in Dread—and the thematic anxiety is heightened by graphic novelist Sally's foreboding black and white line illustrations. This intense, nightmarish collection captures the fear of night terrors, when one wakes in the middle of the night, unable to move. (July)
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"Brian Evenson is the Donald Barthelme of psychological horror… he has birthed a distinctive, postmodern style for exploring his favorite macabre topics—amputation, post-apocalyptic landscapes, doppelgängers, 'creatures of darkness' and religious bloodshed. Yet the grimmest turns in Evenson's writing have always been connected to a singularly modern obsession with language."—Los Angeles Times

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
I found this book to be dark and interesting.
P. Duval
From the first sentence, he can grab the reader and pull them into a hypnotic world--which lingers after the story is done.
C. Manucy
If you are a fan of horror I highly recommend picking up this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. Manucy on July 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
Ever since I read "Mudder Tongue" in McSweeney's quarterly, which is included in this collection, Brian Evenson has been one of my favorite authors. I've since read the story collection Altman's Tongue, and two of his novels, The Open Curtain, and Last Days.

His stories are often grim or violent, yet not gratuitous, and leavened by a quirky sense of humor. From the first sentence, he can grab the reader and pull them into a hypnotic world--which lingers after the story is done. Evenson has an amazing ability to take a very good story and turn it into a great story within a paragraph at the end, as he does in "The Accounting". His collection, Fugue State, is highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Griffin on March 29, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first time I remember hearing the term "fugue state" was in association with the David Lynch film Lost Highway, in which a character detaches psychologically from life he knows, loses his very self. He drifts on through life, encountering strangers who are vaguely familiar, and tripping over circumstances which seem tenuously related to the life and self-hood he knew before.

I don't know how much Brian Evenson was inspired by Lynch's film, if at all. The characters in Fugue State encounter mysteries, and in most cases undergo some kind of shift or dislocation of personality. Sometimes the characters are lost, while the reader is allowed insight into the character's plight, and at other times the reader is equally mystified. This obliqueness is intentional, not a matter of poor craft, of stories lacking somehow. When an author gives the reader such a large helping of absurdity, of disconnection and illogic, the reader must determine whether the effects are in the service of a coherent artistic intention, or if the storyteller is himself lost, or just goofing around. Evenson's stories always convey not only willful intention, but consummate craft.

There may be no more than a thin line between the pointlessly nonsensical and the profoundly obscure, or resonantly absurd. Storytellers like Kafka and Borges, not to mention David Lynch, manage to test the limits of what their audience may consider meaningful without every straying over that aforementioned line.

These stories vary dramatically in length, from 2-page snippets to the 30-page title novella. Fugue State straddles the boundary between experimental literary fiction and genres such as weird fantasy, horror and slipstream.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Josh Mauthe on November 9, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've been a fan of Evenson's work ever since reading the surreal, nightmarish Last Days, and Fugue State is just another reminder why that fandom is justified. Describing Evenson's beautiful and oddly unsettling prose is hard to do - it's like some fusion of Cormac McCarthy and Edgar Allan Poe, with emphasis on Poe's unreliably fractured narration and the psychological turning of the screws he so enjoyed. Fugue State is, in some ways, the "easiest" of Evenson's collections I've read; the stories are generally more straightforward, but even so, reality is hard to come by in Evenson's work, and sanity even harder. The stories here take on everything from a reluctant post-apocalyptic cult leader (the pitch-black religious satire "An Accounting") to a plague of amnesia (the unsettling and surreal "Fugue State"), and whatever the subject, Evenson has a way of provoking responses from the reader you'll never expect. Look, for example, as "Invisible Box," a story about a woman whose one-night stand with a mime leaves her convinced that he's left his invisible box at her house. The story sounds like it should be funny (and, to be fair, parts of it made me laugh out loud), but Evenson manages to take the situation and craft a story of a woman losing her mind out of it, ending on a creepily ambiguous note that sucks all the whimsy from the situation. Others, like "Alfons Kuylers," feel like a Poe story he never wrote, all the way to the chilling slow burn as both the reader and the character start to understand exactly what's going on. With his perfect prose, psychological games, and unsettling imagery, Evenson is a literary horror writer like no other, and it saddens me that so much of his work goes without notice right now. It's unlikely you'll ever read much like Evenson; if you haven't started, jump in now.
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