After being introduced to Brian Evenson’s work by poet Katy Mongeau, I quickly consumed several of his books, though it felt like they, rather, had consumed me: First, The Open Curtain, in which a teenage boy finds himself entangled with a newly discovered half-brother and the century-old murder case involving the grandson of Brigham Young; and then, Last Days, about an amputee cult who captures an unwitting messiah. Evenson’s latest story collection, Song for the Unraveling of the World (Coffee House Press), contains twenty-two short stories of unexplained abduction, otherworldly murder, and monsterish things that slip in and out of skins.
Not quite horror, not quite science fiction, these stories exist somewhere else, somewhere more elliptical. Though compressed and concise, resolutely un-purple, Evenson’s language still bubbles with unnerving effects, like inscrutable ingredients in a soup you’re about to be force-fed. A willful excommunicant of the Mormon church, Evenson has written dozens of books and won many awards. He was chair of Brown University’s Literary Arts program and currently teaches writing and critical studies courses at CalArts. We spoke over the phone, he from his home patio in California.