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The Open Curtain

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  355 ratings  ·  70 reviews

When Rudd, a troubled teenager, embarks on a school project, he runs across a series of articles from the 1902 New York Times chronicling a vicious murder committed by the grandson of Brigham Young. Delving deeply into the Mormon ritual of blood sacrifice used in the murders, Rudd, along with his newly discovered half-brother, Lael, becomes swept up in the psychological an
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Paperback, 223 pages
Published October 1st 2008 by Coffee House Press (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 675)
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Stephen M
I had some ideas about this book that I was pretty convinced were correct. Or as correct as an interpretation can be. That was until I read the author's afterword and sort of had the book spoiled for me. It was interesting to read the author's take on his own work but I felt let down that my way of seeing this book was not the way the author intended at all. In fact, it was the exact opposite. With friends, I've often discussed the significance of authorial intent in analyzing a novel. For us, i ...more
Greg
Brian Evenson is a writer I've been meaning to read for quite some time but who I never got around to buying a book of until this past weekend's book fair. I don't think they are all like this one. By the back cover one might think this is a horror novel, or apocalyptic based on the blurbs by Peter Straub and George Saunders, but I think those are blurbs for Evenson in general and not for this novel. Although there is something kind of psychologically horror like in this book. Normally in my rev ...more
Maciek
Brian Evenson wrote the excellent Last Days which was my introduction to his work and became one of my favorite novels; I still think about it and will certainly re-read it. It's October, the time of the year to read spooky novels, and my first pick for the season had to be another of Evenson's novels, one which I haven't read yet - The Open Curtain.

Brian Evenson is not strictly a horror writer; his work defies categorization. Last Days is a detective novel, a story of religious obsession and a
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Kathryn
I am going to straight-up admit that after reading this book, the Mormon church kind of freaks me out, more than it already did. Honestly, all religions freak me out but the amount of secrecy surrounding the Mormon church provides that extra shiver factor which I could do without. Not that this book paints a negative picture of the LDS. I think it paints an accurate picture, an important distinction, especially considering the author's experience. Evenson states in his afterward that this book w ...more
Annet
Wew, this is a dark book. I mean, dark black....
I read some reader's reviews, 'read with the light on' and one about a bad dream... yeah, I can see that this book does this to you.
But the thing is, this book is very well written, and the story just gruesomely fascinating and you keep wondering, what's going on, who is who now... etc.. I got to know this writer, Brian Evenson, through his apocalytic book Immobility (highly recommended) and now I know this writer is good, though with its dark sid
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Amanda Davidson
Jul 21, 2007 Amanda Davidson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ex holy rollers
the writing is cold, plain, tense, clean, disturbing. a week after i read it, i had a bad dream. there is no bloat, nothing extra in the prose, nothing pretty. as i read it i felt that i was absorbing a lesson about how to write sparely.

i read the author's afterward, about how the novel investigates the integral relationship between mormonism and violence. this idea is dramatized in traumatizing detail. i'm interested in how evenson uses and questions religious symbolism on so many levels. mark
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Jeff Jackson
'The Open Curtain' is a strong suspense novel, but given the rapturous praise it's received I was expecting a bit more. For the first two sections, the prose is a bit pedestrian and plodding. Also it's hardly a Spoiler Alert to say that you realize Rudd is schizophrenic early on and everything that follows is predictably the result of this condition. Throughout there are a number of creepy moments, haunting narrative ellipses, insightful and indelible descriptions. But the book really burst to l ...more
Chris Cangiano
Brian Evenson crafts another excellent tale which chillingly combines the concepts of identity, possession, Mormonism, history, mental illness and murder. Rudd, a troubled Mormon teen, rediscovers, as part of a school research assignment, an early Twentieth Century murder committed by one of Brigham Young's grandsons. He quickly becomes obsessed with the crime and an enigmatic figure named Elling, who Young's grandson claimed was the actual killer. Simultaneously, Rudd also becomes obsessed with ...more
Paul Eckert
I think the best word to describe this book is...creepy. Throughout the entire story, I just had an uncomfortable feeling. Great writer that he is, Evenson draws you into it slowly, and at some point, you have to look back at what you've read to see where the insanity really began.

I don't want to say much about the premise so that nothing is given away. Here's the most spoiler-free blurb I can think of:

Rudd is a young Mormon boy living with his mother in Utah. His father is dead, and while he
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Vaughn Entwistle
It’s not often that I stumble upon a writer who blows me away not only with his/her storytelling, but also with his/her prose style. Recently, however, I discovered the short stories and novels of Brian Evenson.

I just finished the THE OPEN CURTAIN and am currently reading through two of Evenson’s short story collections: FUGUE STATE and WINDEYE. Evenson’s fiction is classified as Horror, but this is not the horror of shambling zombies with a bad case of the brain-munchies, or sparkly vampires w
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M.
Jul 26, 2009 M. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009, fiction
I had formerly only read a short Evenson story in an anthology & his translation of Claro's Electric Flesh (both of which I was underwhelmed by), but I've been craving some "experimental" literary horror lately and I've already read virtually everything that Ligotti has written, so I decided to give Evenson another shot.

I'm glad I did. The story here is what's important (and what found me finishing the whole book in a day), but the final third when the diegesis begins to question itself and
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Stan
The best part of this book was the author's afterword, in which he discussed his upbringing in Mormonism and his eventually breaking with that religious group. He mentions an undercurrent of violence that he feels characterizes Mormonism. The story centers on a Mormon teen who, after doing a research paper on an old murder possibly motivated by a Mormon "blood atonement", gradually loses touch with reality, probably as a part of a more general psychosis. The first third of the book was creepy, m ...more
Ryan
Mar 10, 2007 Ryan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mormons who kill
Mormon murder mystery. Evenson wrote the first two-thirds when he was a younger writer, and it shows. The thriller elements all fall into place and it's actually pretty predictable.

The last third, however, is out of control. You can tell it's more mature writer, who's interested in doing things wayyy differently. Totally makes the entire endeavor worth it. Go Mormon murderers.
Jessica
Evenson says that this is his last novel about Mormonism--we shall see. Very readable account of this world he knows so well--both in contemporary terms and in historical background. Not as wildly innovative perhaps as some of his other books but an excellent read, very well done.
Wu Ming
WM2: E' molto difficile parlare di questo libro senza rovinare ai lettori il piacere della scoperta. Non perché la trama sia un susseguirsi di colpi di scena, un meccanismo perfetto che non bisogna svelare. Il fatto è che il racconto cambia pelle almeno cinque volte nel corso di 280 pagine e ogni volta ti ritrovi a pensare che il romanzo non è più come lo immaginavi, che le tue aspettative erano sbagliate e che dovrai fare i conti con qualcosa di diverso. Eppure, mentre superi lo choc, capisci c ...more
Mariel
Not sure where to begin with this one. As other reviews have pointed it out, it has a much better set up than ending, but that's not where the real trouble is. It's too messy of a novel; messy in theme, content, and character. Predictable story, This book didn't capture me and take me away...it just made me want it to be over.

2 stars instead of 1 on this one because Evenson really is a fairly skilled writer. Better than Dan Brown and Stephenie Meyer certainly, so he deserves that credit. And li
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Jared Silvia
Rarely does an author achieve the type and extremity of tension displayed prominently in these pages. Evenson writes honestly and from experience about the challenges of young life within enclaved Mormon community, and deals frankly with extremely difficult subject matter. The psychological challenges of Rudd and Lael in this book are vivid and Evenson's approach to the topic is fresh and realistic. One might call his take on the concept an "inevitable" one. Although the plot of this book is nev ...more
Clumsy
Brian Evenson racconta nella postfazione che questo libro segna anche simbolicamente il suo reale allontanamento dalla Chiesa mormone. Ne La colpa vengono mischiate realtà e fantasia per raccontare la storia di Rudd, diciottenne della provincia dello Utah, il cui padre, uomo di chiesa, si è appena suicidato. il romanzo analizza in profondità la crescente ossessione di Rudd per un omicidio avvenuto in seno alla comunità mormone di New York a inizio Novecento, ma racconta anche il difficile rappor ...more
Brent Legault
Mar 12, 2008 Brent Legault rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Latter-Day athiests
This novel disturbed me. But not in a good way.

Perhaps it's because I grew up among a passel of Morman sociopaths. Perhaps it's because I used to hear them howling in the hills behind my house, all the Morman he-wolves and she-wolves of my childhood.

It creeps me out just to think about it, about them. I often wonder how I made it out alive. And this book brought all of that back to me.

Thanks, book.

I gave up horror novels years ago and The Open Curtain, whether it means to or not, reads like a
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Lynn
When I started reading this book (yesterday), I was immediately sucked in. It has a thriller quality about it, but with Evenson, I knew that couldn't last, and unfortunately it didn't. Of course, it being Evenson, it also had a dark element of Mormonism in it.
I really liked the main character and the plot, but the novel is in three sections, so I never really got closure on any of the strands. I guess I should expect that with Evenson. It also had a huge unreliable narrator kind of thing going,
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Brenna Brumfield
This is an odd book, and not one I would recommend for everyone. It's short but it quickly goes from being a strange novel about a boy to a novel where reality and madness start to mix until you do not know what is real. If you are going to attempt it pick a time you can read straight through. I don't think the last page will manage to fascinate you as much as it did me without the right straight through buildup.
The book is short, beautifully written and make sleep the next night difficult. I lo
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Maggie G.v.
The best way I think I could describe this book is Mormon Noir, and it is about as strange as that implies.
The Open Curtain is one of the most successfully creepy books I've read. The book revolves around the feeling of instability, which the characters are surrounded by and eventually so is the reader as the narrative becomes more and more fractured. I recommend it for anyone looking for a atypical crime thriller.
r Guevara
May 19, 2008 r Guevara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to r by: Larry
I wish I could give it 3 1/2 stars. The beginning is incredibly strong in writing and plot, but then it wanes in both. It's a page turner for 3/4's but the last 1/4 took me forever to finish. It's an eerie account of a young man who is misguided in his Mormon faith. It was interesting how I happened to pick it up right before the Polygamous compound scandal exploded. I think it's definitely worth a read and like I said, it's a page turner so for those of you who read faster than I do (that is ev ...more
David Bridges
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 ...more
Annie
This book really surprised me - I'd read a short story of Evenson's ("Two Brothers", if I remember right) in an anthology and while I could appreciate the writing, it was SO visceral and graphic my stomach turned and I really had to force myself to keep reading - so I was kind of expecting the same here. The creepiness in The Open Curtain is very psychological, which is so much more my cup of tea than just out-and-out gross. Definitely an intense and engrossing read. I'm glad I gave it a shot.
Drew Grauerholz


This took me about 100 pages to lock in. At first it reminded me of Greg Bottom's Fight Scenes. Really stark and brutal coming of age stuff. But then without even really noticing, I fell down Evenson's rabbit hole into a Lynchian nightmare and found I couldn't put it down. Even though there is definitely a plot, you end up floating through it much like the narrator, and believe me that gets really eerie. Not for the faint of heart. I look forward to reading his other work.
Frances Kelly
This was selected by my neighborhood book group a few years back and not one person, even the person who nominated it, liked it. We realize it is a highly-acclaimed title, but we either didn't get it or found the subject matter too remote or abhorrent to even care, I did not particularly warm to any of the characters, either. There are just too many books and so little time to spend it on this one. Not dreadful, it was readable, but I do not particularly recommend it.
shawn
uhm...somewhat heavy-handed in style and language. does a fair job of charting a man's descent into schizophrenia -- especially as the development thereof is quite suspenseful. succeeds in this matter by really tracking the confusion of the original persona in this individual's mind as more and more things break down in his psyche. the man is treated almost like the reader in that things only come clear to him at the end of the book. interesting treatment.
Julie
Worst book I've ever read. I would give it zero stars if I could. Or negative stars.
Totally not interested in an authors vendetta against his former religion. He uses this book to graphically reveal temple ordinances which would shock any Mormon reading the book and they would likely not finish it. For non-mormons it is totally pointless. Waste of time. Would never read anything else he wrote and would not recommend this to ANYONE.
Joseph
Very creepy read. Evenson's writing is so utilitarian, it made me wonder for a moment if it was "good." But after I stopped questioning it, it started working perfectly. Both main characters' psychosis is shown in either radical enablement and/or actions. The writing gets inside you and gets you inside a psychotic headspace without, for the most part, resorting to outlandish dream sequence and accompanying stylistic gilding.
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