Have you been reading the fantastic commentary that Blake Butler has been providing as he goes story by story through Brian Evenson's Fugue State (Coffee House Press, July 2009)? You should be. First off, he's talking about Brian Evenson's work and second, he's digging deep into each story, how it fits into the collection, how it fits into Evenson's entire shelf full of titles. More later on where to find other posts. We're just excited that he considered the EWN for one of them!
Story by Story: Brian Evenson’s Fugue State (8) 'Wander"
Eighth in the order of stories in Brian Evenson’s Fugue State (forthcoming July 1 from Coffee House Press) is ‘Wander,’ which originally appeared in American Letters & Commentary.
Coming out of the collection’s previous story ‘Girls in Tents,’ thus far been the spare calm, more hopeful moment among the exquisite terror that is the book, comes ‘Wander,’ a story so black in its becoming that it can hardly even stand to contain itself.
The text begins with the words “And after many days of wandering…,” picking up midstride with an already forward moving evil, as if the light before now had been but a pause in the tape. We find here a group of men rummaging among a destroyed terrain populated with houses of the dead, a setting similar to the worlds of Evenson’s earlier books’ globes, as in Dark Property and Altmann’s Tongue, but the first iteration of such in this new collection.
Indeed, it seems, the safe haven of those lighter shores are already, so quickly, mercilessly, again gone--and perhaps even more gruesome than we’ve yet to touch, another testament to the masterful attention spent on the ordering of the stories here, creating not an assemblage, but a flesh.
Though clearly there are the softer, heartheld bones in Evenson’s body, they are only momentary, mirages maybe even. No punches will be pulled. The meat is black.
Again the men in this story are looking for something, anything, and finding only holes--here literally a hole, held in a house for some time to them thought to be safe, only to find, among arcane symbols and the image of an eye, that things are likely even worse than before.
And yet the men are drawn to this. Again, like each of those in the stories before now, they circle the pit, unable to fully draw from it, even knowing it will undo them. Here is a circling set deep down in the spiral, and yet still mannered with the same behavioral wedge. The center is the destroyer. Evenson’s bodies are obsessed, inexplicably drawn to their own holes.
What is wonderful here, as in many of Evenson’s texts is the cold will of the narration--the acknowledgement of interior logic mashed with the human want to propel in one’s own line. It is by removing the narration of what others would want to call a heart, a center, a human tone, that the truly human voice, what is there under the folds of layers that others use to excuse themselves from darkness, the sacrosanct, is made.
Whereas some might criticize the heavy, seemingly unwavering want for destruction and apparent lack of empathy as these characters move among the dead and see their own destroyed, etc., what emerges seems to me more human than any wrapped tale laden with explanation, empathy, or other wreaths of more ‘normative’ texts.
Evenson’s great gift to the reader, it seems, is that he does not tax you with his own authorial masking or methods of trying to overinterpret the unwavering blank. Like Beckett and Bernhard, the text is its own reflection. It is--and there is no mode in the text asking that you would believe something about it that is not there, or is assumed, or is anywhere but set right in the human heart. This, to me, is more forgiving, more hand to hand, than any text labored with judgment or other mediation. The human is the meat.
And in the way the text opens already running, it also ends in the midst. The door is left open. Nothing is solved here, named, coined. The text is the text. It holds what it holds. In that, it becomes a node, rather than a fixed point, and by that way seems to possess, outside the trappings of the defined, an infinite position, a vessel wielding black light so heavy it can only act as sieve.
That the book contains this container in its enfolding, and all that terror, god. God damn.
To read his other reviews of each story in Fugue State, visit