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The Open Curtain Paperback – October 1, 2008


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Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Evenson (Altmann's Tongue) explores some controversial Mormon history in this thoughtful thriller rooted in an actual century-old murder case. When Rudd, a disaffected, fatherless Mormon teenager living in an unspecified part of Utah, discovers he has a half-brother, Lael, in suburban Provo, the two meet and embark on a strange friendship. While researching a school project, Rudd learns from a series of stories in the New York Times about a murder committed by William Hooper Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, the Mormon pioneer. In 1902, William Young was tried for, and convicted of, the murder of Anna Pulitzer. The crime cast a dark shadow on the Church of the Latter-Day Saints by exposing such arcane, perhaps doctrinal concepts as "blood atonement," a disturbing idea about the saving of a Mormon soul by shedding someone else's blood. This macabre backstory, coupled with Rudd's increasingly fractured mental state, results in a contemporary gothic tale about the apocalyptic connection between religion and violence. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Evenson lost his teaching post at Brigham Young University because his writing was too implicitly critical of the Mormon Church. Continuing to mine the violent history of the religion, he makes a murder committed in 1902 by a grandson of Mormon prophet Brigham Young one of the central plot strands of his latest novel. Raised in a troubled but strict religious home, teenage misfit Rudd gradually pulls away from his oppressive mother, inventing a new family and new world for himself. When he is found at the scene of a double murder with little memory of the preceding events, he forms a unique bond with 19-year-old Lyndi, the daughter of the victims. The two, barely recovered from the gruesome events, start to lose track of time and to call each other by the names of the perpetrators of the 1902 murder. The Mormon angle is not what is most interesting about this uncompromising novel; instead, it's the convincing portrayal of a disturbed young man pushed to the breaking point by social isolation and religious extremism. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566891884
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566891882
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Driver9 on January 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Evenson takes us deep into the increasingly demented mind of young Rudd and into the inner workings of the Mormon Church. The passage regarding the marriage of Rudd and Lyndi was especially ghoulish, and, apparently too accurate for many Mormons. Carefully crafted and tautly written, we descend into madness with your Rudd as he unravels and lives out the nightmare of a historical murder that took place in the early 1900s. Very creepy at times, the novel is well worth reading and held the tension through the end.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John Domini on August 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
Evenson's latest novel was given me as a review assignment for a print venue, and I find I must also praise the book here. THE OPEN CURTAIN gave me goosebumps I've never shaken; it brought me terribly close to a razor of a choice -- on the one hand the halting dance of possible human connection, even love, and on the other disgust with our sinful bodies, mere spoiled meat.

The novel's protagonist, Rudd, is half an orphan, the son of a father who killed himself. An ordinary teenage loneliness is thus exacerbated, occasionally to the point of violence, and Rudd's also too bright and imaginative for the constrictions of the Latter Day Saints, his religion, as practiced in the mid-1960s in Provo, Utah. The book's opening chapters throw the boy together with the only companionship he can count on, another teen, Lael or Lyle. This young man may be the son, by another woman, of Rudd's own father. Both maybe-brothers grow obsessed with a controversial Mormon practice, repudiated in their own day, called "blood atonement." According to this notion, old sins are best washed away by spilling new blood.

After that -- as Lael or Lyle becomes more heLL-ish, less an actual person than a diabolic presence -- Rudd's tormented acting-out turns scarier, perhaps murderous. Yet before we're halfway through THE OPEN CURTAIN, the story develops a sunnier track, one parallel to that vicious business. Rudd finds himself drawn together with Lyndi, the college-age survivor of a family that has just been slaughtered.

So this horror show develops into a searing either-or. On one side there's madness, and on the other marriage. Much of the book's second half makes this struggle quite moving, even as its basic elements emerge more clearly: demon Lael versus angel Lyndi.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on October 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a "descent into madness" thriller, The Open Curtain stands out. Brian Evenson's commitment to detail makes the novel work. By interweaving the facts of an actual 1902 murder committed by the grandson of Brigham Young (perhaps with the assistance of an accomplice) and the modern ritualistic practices of the Mormon religion (some of which, as he notes in an afterward, have recently been abandoned), Evenson charts a credible path for his main character's detachment from reality. He gives that character (Rudd) a fully developed supporting cast: a cold mother; a tolerant friend-turned-wife who finds herself drawn to him despite her recognition of his growing isolation; the wife's judgmental and intrusive aunt; teachers and police officers and religious advisers who observe parts of his disintegrating personality but do nothing about it.

The Open Curtain allows the reader to experience the disjointed perceptions of a mind that increasingly fails to distinguish reality from delusion. It does that quite well. Some ambiguities are left unresolved (is Rudd's friend Lael/Lyle real or imagined?) but that makes sense given that the story is told from the perspective of a mind that doesn't know what's real. The novel falls short of five stars for me only because, giving the disturbing nature of its subject, the writing sometimes seemed to be a bit too low-key, not as vivid as the subject warranted. Still, I was engrossed by the story. I would give the novel 4 1/2 stars if that option were available and would recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers or horror fiction.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Just finished Brian Evenson's The Open Curtain and I can definitely say Evenson is one of my favorite writers period. This is the 5th book I've read by him and I can't really choose a favorite because I like them all. I have read Immobility, Last Days, Windeye, Baby Leg, and now The Open Curtain. I will say that if you want to read Evenson The Open Curtain would be a fine place to start. This book was apparently very personal to him and you can tell by how amazing the characters in this book are. Read Evenson!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have voraciously been reading Evenson's short fiction and have loved it. His strange dislocations of identity intrigues me greatly. He is the pinnacle of Weird Fiction for me. Very straight forward story set in an atmosphere of strangeness. In Open Curtain Evenson gives us a deep insight into Mormonism (a "truth" more bizarre than most fiction) through two central characters. It contains all the beautiful conflicts and confabulations of his play with identity as well as peculiar temporal dislocations. A highly entertaining and thought provoking read!
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By Hannah on April 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this novel. It gets hard to follow, but it picks you back up if you can get through the confusion. I think the confusion is necessary for the plot.
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