Brian Evenson

Brian Evenson

Brian Evenson is the author of six books of fiction: Altmann’s Tongue (Knopf 1994, reprinted by Bison Books 2002), The Din of Celestial Birds (Wordcraft 1997), Prophets and Brothers (Rodent 1997), Father of Lies (Four Walls Eight Windows 1998), Contagion (Wordcraft 2000), and Dark Property (Black Square/Hammer Books/Four Walls Eight Windows 2002). He received an O. Henry Award for his story “Two Brothers” and has twice received O. Henry honorable mentions.

In 1995 he received an NEA Fellowship; that same year he was told by Brigham Young University that if he continued to continue to write fiction in the same vein as his first book, he would be fired (discussed in the afterword to the reissued version of Altmann’s Tongue). Instead, Evenson chose to leave of his own free will to teach at Oklahoma State University where he taught for four years. In 1999 he moved to University of Denver, where he was the Director of Creative Writing. He now teaches in the creative writing program at Brown University.

The Wavering Knife: Stories

Interview (2004)


There is not a more intense, prolific, or apocalyptic writer of fiction in America than Brian Evenson.

George Saunders

The Wavering Knife: Stories

Brian Evenson

The Wavering Knife: Stories, by Brian Evenson (FC2, 2004)

Quality Paper
ISBN 978-1-57366-113-3


Winner of the International Horror Guild Award for a Short Fiction Collection

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 obsessional consciousness folds back on itself, creating a vertiginous melange of Poe and Borges, both horrific and metaphysical. Here, as in “Moran’s Mexico,” and “Greenhouse,” the solitary nature of reading and writing leads characters beyond human limits, making the act of putting words to paper a monstrous violation opening onto madness. Evenson’s enigmatic names — Thurm, Bein, Hatcher, Burl — unplaceable landscapes, and barren rooms all combine to create a semblance of conceptual abstraction, as though the material universe had come to exist inside someone’s head.

Small wonder that Evenson’s work has attracted so much attention among philosophers, literary critics, and other speculative intelligences, for it continuously projects a tantalizing absence, as though there were some key or code that, if only we knew it, would illuminate everything. However, the blade of discernment wavers, and we are left to our own groping interpretations. This is a collection to be read and reread.


These tales by a modern Poe occur under an immense pressure of language, insight, and observation. Harrowing (Evenson makes us want to check the word’s literal meaning) as they are, they take place just beyond the numbed moment where cruelty and craziness grow banal. Like Poe’s, Evenson’s stories range from horror to humor; a similarly high critical intelligence is always in control. It’s moot, sometimes, which tale falls into which camp. But we read them with care, with our guard up, only to find they have already slipped inside and gotten to work, refining the feelings, the vision, the life.

Samuel R. Delany


Brian Evenson, one of America’s darkest and most pungent comic writers, prods with the tip of his verbal knife at all our assumptions … He finds the alien in the archetypal, marrying strangeness to intimacy and creating, via syntax, an ever-imploding universe of consciousness. Insidiously and elegantly, Evenson’s language claims its prey: the reader’s seduced psyche.

Mary Caponegro


The prose is thuddingly sad and inexplicably, weirdly comic, full of Evenson’s allegiance to the unpleasant, the true.

The Stranger


As you might expect of any book that provides no simple explanations for its characters’ behaviors and contains figures who attempt to find metaphysical meaning in everyday images and acts, the back cover … calls up comparisons with the European visions of Kafka and Beckett … however, I am more comfortable placing Evenson’s work within the long tradition of the American grotesque, beginning with Edgar Allan Poe and continuing with modern and contemporary figures such as Flannery O’Connor, Stacey Levine, and Gilbert Sorrentino.

Rain Taxi