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The Wavering Knife

4.11  ·  Rating Details ·  349 Ratings  ·  36 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 ...more
Paperback, 205 pages
Published March 15th 2004 by Fiction Collective 2
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Benoit Lelièvre
Apr 06, 2017 Benoit Lelièvre rated it really liked it
I am unsure how to quantify my appreciation of this book.

THE WAVERING KNIFE is a short story collection, so there were stories that were intriguing and mind-bending in a way only Brian Evenson is capable of. There was no bad story to speak of here, but there are some I didn't understand. Stories like MORAN'S MEXICO : A REFUTATION, BY C. STELZMANN or BODY for example. But some of these stories, man. They're special. WHITE SQUARE is as much of a challenge to the reader than it is to its protagoni
Nov 25, 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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Nov 14, 2015 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis marked it as i-want-money

"44) Brian Evenson —- The Wavering Knife (contains “Barcode Jesus,” one of the finest American short stories of the last sixty years)" --Samuel R. Delany, his 50 literary pillars
Apr 25, 2009 Forrest rated it it was amazing
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.
Roy Kesey
Jun 19, 2013 Roy Kesey rated it it was amazing
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

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
Jan 22, 2008 Peter rated it it was amazing
(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
Ray Nessly
Mar 21, 2017 Ray Nessly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
Having read Brian Evenson's 2016 novella, 'The Warren' and his latest story collection, 'A Collapse of Horses", and being totally floored by both, I next went to his 2004 collection, 'The Wavering Knife.' The verdict? This is another must-read, oozing with black humor, intelligence, and reveals Evenson's willingness to troll the murky depths of humanity for stories that at times recall masters of horror such as Poe, and other times (reminds me, anyway) of "literary, southern gothic" writers, esp ...more
Oct 31, 2016 Taylortbush rated it really liked it
An excellent collection of short stories dealing with themes of obsession, horror and other miscellaneous oddities, tied together by Brian Evenson's malignant preoccupation with the theme of human distortion. Just like the title suggests, Brian Evenson loves creating a wavering effect between the grit of humanity and the illusions that often come to define us. He gives us chaos, and characters thrown into that chaos on some kind of quest to uncover the truth. Characters become art, objects or un ...more
Graham P
Dec 07, 2012 Graham P rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2013 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: stories, 2014
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
Feb 03, 2010 Schuyler rated it liked it
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',
Marc Nash
Feb 14, 2014 Marc Nash rated it liked it
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
Dylan Suher
Sep 29, 2010 Dylan Suher rated it really liked it
"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
Krok Zero
Nov 10, 2008 Krok Zero rated it it was ok
Shelves: fall-2009
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
G. Brown
Dec 11, 2012 G. Brown rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best collections I've ever read. Evenson's strengths and range are showcased here. This is certainly a less accessible collection than Fugue State, so if that's your first exposure be warned. But there is a brilliant mix here of satire, meta-whimsy, twisted visions, bizarre surrealism, brutality, minimalism, Lovecraftian fantasyscapes, and overdoses of the human condition that should satisfy even the more jaded readers of fringe lit. "House Rules" will break your brain. "The I ...more
Ryan Bradford
Jan 02, 2014 Ryan Bradford rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2008 Tara rated it really liked it
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
Bridget Brewer
This motherfucker is bringing genre up out of the literary basement where it's been relegated for too many years, and into the "high" fiction parlor where it belongs. I especially love this collection of his - his toying with format/structure is really intriguing from a writer's perspective, and each piece - though linked by horror - finds new ways to make you cry. "The Ex-Father" is a piece of genius. I've never read anyone with the balls to end a story that way. Read him now. Don't waste any m ...more
Feb 19, 2012 Reacher rated it it was ok
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.
Kaushik Viswanath
May 14, 2013 Kaushik Viswanath rated it liked it
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.
Feb 15, 2009 Annie rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, ffbg
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.
Miguel Morales
Dec 08, 2011 Miguel Morales rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 04, 2015 Yasmine rated it liked it
Great writing, some disturbingly good short stories yet others are way too disturbing for my taste and I didn't even comprehend a couple of them (but maybe it's my English comprehension which is to blame, who knows..). Still, nice contemporary Gothic short stories for those who like such type of literature.
Dec 13, 2007 M. rated it liked it
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.
Apr 08, 2009 Taylor rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009, short-stories
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.
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.
May 16, 2013 Amy rated it liked it
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
Mar 23, 2011 Tamarafriedman Friedman rated it it was amazing
One of the wonderful short stories in this amazing collection reminded me of Borges, except Evenson is infinitely more twisted.
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.
Nov 12, 2008 Pamster rated it really liked it
Inaugural Fancy Family Book Group Book.
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