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The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  433 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Alternately funny, menacing, and deeply empathetic, the wildly inventive stories in Ethan Rutherford's The Peripatetic Coffin mark the debut of a powerful new voice in contemporary fiction.

Worried about waning enrollment, the head counselor of the world's worst summer camp leads his campers on a series of increasingly dubious escapades in an effort to revive their esprit d
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Ecco
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Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rutherford offers up a collection of manly, MANLY tales, dripping with sweat, testosterone and Old Spice.

We have men on the edge, men pushed to the brink, men struggling to survive.

There are men on ships, dealing with danger and the elements in the title story, 'Saint Anna,' 'The Broken Group,' and 'Dirwhals.

In 'A Mugging,' one man becomes unhinged to Charles Bronson/Bernard Goetz levels after a violent attack.

And danger comes in the form of men, both strangers AND loved ones in 'Broken Group'
Bonnie Brody
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a joy it is to come across this wonderful book of short stories. Each one is a gem in its own right. The stories vary greatly and several have to do with seafaring or land faring boats or machines. All the stories are wonderfully written with great characterizations and terrific themes.

The title story is about The Hunley, a Confederate submarine that has had two unsuccessful missions killing thirteen men due to malfunction. This is the story of its third mission and what kind of man signs u
Paul Blaschko
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's the best part about reading this collection: the recognition that grips you from page one that Ethan Rutherford's talent is raw and enormous. These stories display the author's wide technical range, and a confident ability to identify and relate precise emotional situations with an empathy that is palpable. None of these stories lack shape or dramatic tension, and the combination of all of this propelled me straight through to the end of the collection.

The stories in this collection that
Sep 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is easily the best collection of stories - and really, the best book - I've read in some time. Rutherford's range is impressive; in spite of the recurring nautical theme, every story is comfortably unique, to the point that it's easy to imagine any one of them being fleshed out into an entire novel. The language is somehow both simple and original, and I love that it's used to enhance the story rather than show off the author's skill. The characters are sarcastic and terse but manage to say ...more
Larry H
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'd rate this story collection 4.5 stars.

I stumbled upon Ethan Rutherford's amazingly powerful story collection in a bookstore. How can you resist a book with a title like this?

After reading these stories, I realized this collection has far more to offer than an intriguing title. Some of the stories in Rutherford's debut collection pack a tremendous punch; in fact, I'd wager to say a few of these stories are some of the most powerful I've read in quite some time.

The title story is based on the m
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
To read Ethan Rutherford’s The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories is to give oneself over to an improbable series of events which are immensely absorbing. At the same time that these stories are unbelievable, several are based on truth. In these particular stories, Rutherford has written in a sense, a modern history book—timeless depictions of the struggle of survival—and he’s done it with the sort of care we reserve for tragedy victims. His stories not only shed light on our past, but span th ...more
Sep 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Perhaps it's just me, but while reading this I mostly couldn't wait for it to be over. There were some good stories, for instance, I think "The Broken Group" and "John, For Christmas" stand out, but I was really disappointed in some of the endings (actually both of those stories had unsatisfactory endings, for me at least). Don't get me wrong, I understand theme-wise what the author is trying to do, but I felt that both of those stories deserved better wrap-ups than we got. I'm not saying I want ...more
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories, boats
The Peripatetic Coffin!! What could possibly live up to that name. I kept chanting it to myself while reading.

A pretty decent collection of stories. I didn't love it, but in terms of reactions, I think this falls more in the category "it's not you, it's me." Everything is a bit too bleak and boat-related to really be in my wheelhouse. Also, Rutherford's dialogue really bothered me, most especially in the opening story. It's meant to be set in Confederate times, in one of the first submarine atta
John Pappas
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rutherford's collection is disturbing, elliptical at times and infused with a tension wrought from a close examination of masculinity. Many of these stories are excellent. While some seem a bit derivative (Rutherford's historically set stories lean a bit on Jim Shepard, and there's more than a bit of George Saunders in "Camp Winnesaka" and "Dirwhals"), others are well-crafted studies of male disillusionment and innocence lost ("Summer Boys", "The Broken Group") or men struggling to be men in the ...more
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times hilariously demented; at others, hauntingly poignant (and every other cliched descriptor in between). This collection of unconnected stories manages to build surreptitiously in power to a thundering conclusion more effectively than many novels do. Rutherford has some serious chops. I'll be on constant watch for new output from him from now on.
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really good collection. Probably could have garnered all 5 stars if he had stuck to the stories imagining events from historical incidences. Not that the other stories weren't good, but the historic ones were great. Also, the last story was straight out of Dune, but was excellent.
Apr 22, 2013 rated it liked it
A variety of short stories that made you feel for the characters, even laugh at times.
An enjoyable quick read. The stories would make you feel for these characters.
The ending just comes and you have to think about it.
Aaron Koelker
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Solid collection of short stories. There was only 1 of the 9 that I found a little underwhelming. For most of the stories there seems to be a theme of characters being trapped in one form or another - some more literally than others. Tone is all over the place, ranging from sad and morose, to comically absurd. In a good way.

The opening title story and the closer bookend with a neat contrast - the former being a historical fiction and the latter a sort of sci-fi, desert whale wars - yet they are
Scott Pomfret
An odd collection of just otherworldly stories often set in historical eras. The emotional content was somewhat limited, but the stories were well-crafted, if occasionally too long and on that account in need of editing and slightly indulgent. The author makes excellent use of the historical content, however, particularly in the title story.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great collection of short stories!
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
The first confederate submarine (a.k.a. the peripatetic coffin) is such a memorable story as is the one where parents ready themselves for their mentally ill son's visit.
Christina Gagliano
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Several misses, several hits, all disturbing.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Trinity professor! Great short stories.
Winna King
Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Some deeply unsettling stories.
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great writing, great dialogue.
Angie Fehl
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
2.5 Stars

I came across this short story collection a few months back. After reading the inside flap synopsis, seeing that there seemed to be a solid nautical theme -- life at sea, that sort of thing -- I was a little leery to get into this book because me + anything referencing deep water = anxiety central. BUT... reading bits of some of the stories, I was intrigued by the writing style. A run down of the stories themselves:

* The title story, "The Peripatetic Coffin" (FYI for those who don't kno
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I believe I read a review of this short story collection in one of the many trade journals I look through for work, an exercise which has become so rote and rather overwhelming that whenever something sticks out at all, I have to be sure to read it. I can't remember exactly what the review said about the writing of "The Peripatetic Coffin" but I remember thinking "What a fantastic title." Technically this might fall under "judging a book by its cover" but let's accept that and move on with the k ...more
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed-books
Short story authors have to use their scant space judiciously in order to carve out characters and images that are just as memorable as the ones readers find in an epic novel. Although that level of quality is sometimes a lofty standard to uphold, it's one to which almost every tale in Ethan Rutherford's collection, “The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories,” does justice.

“The Peripatetic Coffin” is Rutherford's flagship fable and arguably his most accomplished work in this collection. It is an
Apr 08, 2013 marked it as to-read
Shelves: first-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
Usually my reviews are brief, but I thought this collection of stories was so terrible I'm going to grade each and every one of them. The Peripatetic Coffin is a mostly factual recounting of the the short but important story of the Confederate submarine the Hunley. Great jumping off point for a short story but all that it produces is one of the worst endings ever. On par with the protagonist waking up and it was all a dream. Grade: D. Summer Boys may be the author recapturing his childhood in th ...more
Susan Cushman
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This winner of the 2014 Minnesota Book Award offers eight stories about male folly that are perfect to take in, night by night, in the 15-30 minutes before bedtime that is all some people can devote to reading for pleasure. Each story is powerful enough that a reader needs a mental gap between them—like a night's sleep.

All are about males grappling with responsibility. Several include women in the position of relying on men, seeing up close how men make (and justify making) mistakes.

As a fathe
James (JD) Dittes
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, cool-writings
In the title story, Rutherford raises the CSS Hunley and illumines its dark interior almost as vividly as the expedition that raised the real hulk from the floor of Charleston Harbor ten or so years ago.

I laughed six times in the first half of the story, and then I settled into the horror of the craft's doomed, one-way trip to sink the USS Housatonic.

Rutherford is great at shifting from funny to horrified. At one point, characters joke about pirates, then they're running from them. The levity, t
Joe Stack
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
8 short stories in an easygoing writing style. "Camp Winnesaka" stands out for its humor and shaggy dog story style. "The Perpatetic Coffin," "John, For Christmas," and "The Saint Anna" are superb. "Coffin" is a story of a Conderate submarine by one of the crew members, "Saint" is about a Russian ship stuck in the artic ice, and "John" is story of a couple reflecting on their adult son. Very real people. The stories are mini novels. "The Broken Group" is a stand out story of a family dealing wit ...more
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
The Peripatetic Coffin: A morbid name for a story that seems almost chronically light hearted until the bitter end. It tells the story of seven confederate soldiers in a submarine that's already killed 13 fellow soldiers before them.

Fart jokes in the face of certain doom:
""As long as this is inspirational story hour," Arnold says from his bunk and cuts wind."

The gruesome realities of the civil war:
"Through the night We hear the screams of the newly wounded. Outside the makeshift hospital, amput
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Has the winter made you too cheerful? Have the sunless days and cold winds left you too chipper and joyful? Well here's the book for you! The stories are well written but as I was going through them I kept thinking, "Damn! When are things going to start looking up?!" I FINALLY had that aha moment halfway through - all of these stories are about hopelessness. I'm not sure why but it took me forever to recognize the hopelessness theme. And though the stories are done well I'm just not willing to t ...more
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A page turner, brilliant, and beautiful 2 12 Feb 19, 2013 10:45AM  
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Ethan Rutherford’s fiction has been published in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories. He was a 2011 McKnight Artist Fellow and has taught creative writing at Macalester, the University of Minnesota, and at the Loft Literary Center. His first book, The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories, is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection ...more
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