Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fugue + State: Brian Evenson

There are musical fugues and psychological fugues. Brian Evenson's polyphonic new book of psychological short stories, Fugue State, adds the literary fugue to the list.

The psychological fugue state is characterized by a loss of identity, by a wandering away from who one was into another, amnesic state. The musical fugue states a theme and then revoices it contrapuntally. Evenson's stories take the psychological meaning ("I had, Bentham claimed, fallen into a sort of fugue state, in which the world moved past me more and more rapidly, a kind of blur englobing me at every instant. And yet he had never, so he confided to Arnaud, felt either disoriented or confused. Yes, admittedly, during this period he had no clear idea of his own name. . . ." -- from the title story), and over the course of nineteen variations play with and examine the theme in various voices, voices disjunct from themselves as early as the first sentence of the story:

"Years later, she was still calling her sister, trying to understand what exactly had happened."

"For some days now, I have felt myself to be pursued by my second ex-wife."

"There came a certain point, in his speech, in his confrontation with others, in his smattering with the world, that Hecker realized something was wrong"

"I have been ordered to write an honest accounting of how I became a Midwestern Jesus and the subsequent disastrous events thereby accruing, events for which, I am willing to admit, I am at least partly to blame."

"In the end, suffering and not knowing what else to do, I left her abruptly and without warning, taking only the clothes on my back."

"I'd read once, in what book I no longer recall, a phrase that for no apparent reason came to haunt me."

"In retrospect, it was easy for her to see it had been a mistake to have sex with a mime."

"Clearly the method of elucidation I employed in my report did not satisfy the administration, and thus I am at a loss as to know how to proceed."

"Late in the year, during a trip to the Tyrol, the sky so gray throughout the day that he felt himself to be living in a perpetual twilight, Bauer lost confidence in his ability to work with plaster."

"It was a freak accident, a wire snapping off the load and whipping back to slash across his face, breaking his nose, tearing open both his eyes."

"On the night of 12 October, I was compelled for reasons I still find quite difficult to explain to kill one Alfons Kuylers, esteemed dealer in imported goods of a specialty nature, my mentor, my master in the art of philosophical paradox, my tutor in all things theological."

"Toward evening, well before Traub expected it, came a notable transformation in the face."

Traub and Bauer are characters in a similar story. Several of the stories are set in post-apocalyptic times. The loss of language or family or resemblance ("He no longer resembled me") is common to all the stories. In short, voices reporting from fugue states make up a literary fugue the likes of which I have never read or heard.

Art by Zak Sally, including an illustration for each story and a full graphic "illustration"/depiction/visual thinking of the story "Dread," add another eyevoice to the polyphony.


Jack W. said...

Sounds intriguing. Is it available locally, or must I find it online?

Scott Abbott said...

It's published by coffee house press and should be available. Take a look at Brian's website; and if you're really looking around, at my earlier post on his recent novel "Last Days."