The Wavering Knife
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The Wavering Knife

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  283 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Brian Evenson's fifth story collection constructs a human landscape as unearthly as it is mundane. Replete with the brutality, primordial waste, and savage blankness familiar to readers of his earlier works, Evenson's Kafkaesque allegories entice the mind while stubbornly disordering it. In the title story an obsessive consciousness folds back on itself, creating a vertigi
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Paperback, 205 pages
Published March 15th 2004 by Fiction Collective 2
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Alta
Nov 27, 2011 Alta added it
The Wavering Knife by Brian Evenson

Among the writers we read there are some who entertain us, some we can appreciate but don’t feel any particular affinity with, some we intensely dislike, and some we admire so much we’d like to be them. And then, there is a small category that transcends all the categories above: the writers we are simply in awe of. I had such a feeling when I read Th. Mann, or Maurice Blanchot. And now—reading Brian Evenson’s The Wavering Knife.

I should say that I didn’t “lik...more
Peter
(this review originally appeared in Art Voice)

Brian Evenson observes violence. He is the man behind the counter selling pins to boys who will push them through butterfly brains. But it's not so much "Does the butterfly die?" Or, "Why does the butterfly die?" Or even, "How does the butterfly die?" Evenson is all about dissecting the painstakingly generic transactions that brought the pin to the butterfly brain. He is also about why, in the end, the boy and the butterfly are exactly the same. Or t...more
Roy Kesey
This "review" first appeared in issue 6.2 of The Cincinnati Review. It's maybe the most fun I've had thinking about a book.




Regarding Fleshknives


1.
This is the paragraph in which I overlay the subject of this review―the finest book I have read in the past twelve months, Brian Evenson’s The Wavering Knife, and, yes, less review of than documentation of experience with or through―with doilies crocheted by other-than-fictionists. By historians, say. Or musicologists. Or phenomenologists: Husserl or...more
Marc Nash
The first story in this collection blew me away it was so imaginative, conceptual and metaphorical. But then none of the ensuing tales hit that high mark. The second last called "The Installation" came closest, a husband and his dying wife collaborate on making a work of art out oh her condition. And yes there's a lot about insurgent bodies, bodies in distress and captivity in this book. But none quite gripped or amazed me. There's a couple of tales that recalled Bolano's literary games, while t...more
Forrest
I wish I had written this book. Dark, methodical, these stories wiggle their way into your brain and stay there for a long, long time like little cerebro-literary worms.
Rachel
This book contains what I consider the creepiest damn story I have ever read. No matter how many times I return to it, "The Wavering Knife" genuinely spooks me. It is masterful, disturbing, and eerie; probably the best example of literary horror since "The Yellow Wallpaper." I also loved "Moran's Mexico" just for its glancing moments of real derangement. "One Over Twelve" makes the hallucination scene in Trainspotting look like a kids' movie. And hell if I can actually understand it, but "The Pr...more
Douglas P
Along with Dan Chaon and George Saunders, Brian Evenson rounds out the contemporary trio of short-story authors treading the genre lines between horror, comedy and the literary. Compared to Chaon and Saunders though, Evenson overpowers the reader with stories heavy with bleakness, no matter how suggestive they read at times; and his scenarios where characters pass over into landscapes (both cerebral and tangible) and barely come back the same are as uniquely bizarre as they are carefully constru...more
Schuyler
What a strange, dark, original, little collection. Surreal at times, all-too-real at others (see what I did there?). I don't remember exactly where I first came across Evenson's name but he comes with much acclaim. Everyone seems to agree that the story 'Promise Keepers' is far and away the best (and one of the most disturbing) of the collection. It's also pretty darn funny.

Some other noteworthy stories are 'White Squares', 'The Intricacies of Post-Shooting Etiqutte', 'Virtual', 'Barcode Jesus',...more
Dylan Suher
"And then, as if suddenly, their mother was dead by her own hand, the two young girls inherited by the ex-husband, their father, the ex-father."

The precision and brilliance of craft of that sentence (particularly, "as if suddenly") is typical of Evenson's work as a whole. Reading an Evenson story is like being temporarily blinded by darkness, grasping an object between thumb and forefinger, and rolling it over your fingers until the shape of the thing you are holding slowly becomes clear. I pref...more
Ryan Bradford
I would love to have Brian Evanson's brain. There are few other writers who can move from dense, complex experimentalism to accessible/funny/dark/genre writing so effortlessly.

However, it's difficult to read a lot of these stories without seeing some semblance of spite toward the LDS Church/religion. And perhaps that's unfair. Not that it's a bad thing, but it makes for a painful read. Even as fucked up/hilarious it is to having a story about digging up former LDS president Ezra T. Benson, ther...more
Krok Zero
The typeface in this book is the ugliest shit I've ever seen. Yes, that impeded my enjoyment. I did like about six of these nineteen stories, but that's not a very good ratio. I got a pretty heavy Paul Auster vibe off this guy (granted I've only read the New York Trilogy but I feel like that's enough to get an Auster vibe off another author) in that these aren't really stories, they're more like ideas of stories. I'm reminded of what Dave Kehr said about A Woman is a Woman: "Godard's idea of a m...more
Tara
I think Evenson is quite brilliant. I only gave the book 4 stars but perhaps I will return to this collection and try again at a later date. I think some of the darkness and violence and uncertainty in these stories unnerved me at a bit. Yet they are very well written, unusual, original, and interesting. I loved the Intricacies of Post-Shooting Etiquette and Promisekeepers. I think there was a lightness of tone and a sense of humor in these stories that helped with the sombre nature of the subje...more
Miguel Morales
Haunting as hell, lingering, sears. Evenson tackles a lot of genres in this short story collection, but somehow his voice, fierce and unflinching, never falters. Standouts include the title story and that one with the electrical crucifix, oh and the one with the room's walls all lined with teeth. Yeah, if that doesn't pique your interest I don't know what will
Kaushik Viswanath
Evenson's stories are superbly constructed, but I felt this collection grow a little repetitive. When you grow accustomed to the grotesque, it ceases to be shocking. There's a lot more going on here, of course, but towards the end of the collection I started to find it tiresome. The characters are pretty much al religious nuts or regular nuts.
Annie
i'm torn between two and three stars. after reading 2/3 of the book in one day, putting it down for over a month, and then finishing it up just now i can say that the stories are more interesting and (oddly) less jarring when read only a couple at a time. not sure i would read anything else by him but it made for good book group discush.
Megan
Dec 13, 2007 Megan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: i dunno
some incredible, some mediocre stories in here. very macabre. the occasional mockery of southernness and religious fundamentalism is a bit tired, but the more surreal stories ("The Ex-Father" esp.) are rocking.
True story: I was reading this on the Metro in DC when a woman barfed all over me; my copy has the vomit stains to prove it.
Reacher
i didn't enjoy this collection as much as Fugue State, probably because for me at least, several of the stories were on the verge of inaccessible because of their form. in other words, they were difficult to read to the point where i got nothing out of them. but the more more accessible stories were decent.
Garett
My favorite Evenson collection. There is no way of describing the thrilling, horrific, and indelibly well-crafted terrains this book presents to its readers. 'Avant-gothic' is a fitting phrase. Evenson is a modern master of incredible intelligence and ability. A great starting point to his work, I think.
Donald Armfield
To much GOD stuff for me, but some of the stories are very interesting. My Favorites.

The Ex-Father 3 stars
Virtual 5 stars
The Wavering Knife 3 stars

The Installation had an interesting concept of what the grey squares repersent but the story didnt move me.
Taylor
The collection is a little uneven: certain stories are shot with humour and darkness, and some are just all darkness. Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed several of the stories, enough to look out for more of Evenson's work, despite the hit-or-miss quality.
Adam
The Wavering Knife is a collection of much more abstract collection of stories by Evenson. It does much to confirm him as a post-modern Poe but is probably not the best intro to his writings.
Amy
I really liked the second story "the Ex-Father" and there were other good (if gruesome) entries among this collection, but overall I thought it was medium.
Tamarafriedman Friedman
One of the wonderful short stories in this amazing collection reminded me of Borges, except Evenson is infinitely more twisted.
Khaliah Williams
I enjoyed some of the stories--there is no doubt he is brilliant, just not my cup of tea.
Ida
Jul 29, 2008 Ida rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: most
very interesting so far. super dark, ironic and succinct. Evanson teaches at Brown.
Jonathan
One of my favorite short story collections.
Pamster
Inaugural Fancy Family Book Group Book.
Fwank
Fwank marked it as to-read
Aug 25, 2014
Sarah
Sarah marked it as to-read
Aug 24, 2014
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