A few years ago a picked up the short story collection A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson because I’d heard a lot of good things about Evenson and I’d never read anything by him before. I really enjoyed the stories in the collection but never moved on to read any of his other work. About a year later I saw Last Days at a bookstore and I remembered how much I liked that first collection so I got it and read it in about two days. I was hooked and grabbed a few more of his novels. They were good, but with the exception of Last Days, nothing was as good to me as his short stories. When I found out he had a new collection coming out this year, I pre-ordered it and couldn’t wait to dive into it.
Song for the Unraveling of the World picks up right where Evenson left off in his last collection. The stories are short but intense. And his minimalistic writing style makes the reader hang on every single word because there is meaning and purpose behind each of them. Skipping even a single word would make you miss out on too much of the story, so you don’t. You read the story and you feel more and more uncomfortable as you try to figure out what is happening . There are some lighthearted moments sprinkled in the stories here and there, but they are all dark. For the most part all the stories fall in the horror, science fiction or fantasy realm, but Evenson also dabbles in crime here and there.
Evenson’s writing reminds me a lot of Poe and as someone who has read most Poe stories multiple times, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop when I finished Song for the Unraveling of the World. So I went ahead and ordered two more, Fugue State and Windeye. I read Fugue State with the same reckless abandon as I did Song for the Unraveling of the World. It’s also filled with the same minimalistic style of story that leaves you on the edge of your seat the entire time. By the end I needed to take a break and give my mind something a little lighter to digest but I honestly can’t wait to crack open Windeye and then move my way through the rest of Evenson’s bibliography.
I’m not going to discuss every story in both of these collections but just know that they are all very very good and it would be well worth for you to read them in order if you pick up one or both of these collections.
In Song for the Unraveling of the World, my favorites were:
The story for which the book was titled Song for the Unraveling of the World is my favorite in the book. This story starts off with a man who has lost his daughter and begins looking for her. However as more is revealed the story takes a much darker turn and what the reader believed at the beginning is not necessarily true. This story, more than any other in either of these collections is a masterclass in how to write a short story.
After the serious tone of the first part of the book, Evenson shifts gears with Sisters and gives a lighthearted, but still horrific, twist on the traditional ghost story. This is a much needed break after the heaviness of the early stories.
Finally, Room Tone is a short but intense story about a filmmaker trying to get the perfect shot and sound in the room of a house that has been sold since he originally shot his scene there. This one, like many others in the collection, takes a dark turn very quickly and sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading it.
Fugue State is noticeably shorter and has three less stories, but has great stories as well. Like Song for the Unraveling of the World, Evenson can get heavy at time and then is able to break it up with more lighthearted stories.
My favorite of this collection was Girls in Tents about a pair of sisters who love to make tents to hide and play inside at their mother’s house. The story takes place over a long period of time while the girls are still children and we see the father become more and more absent in the girls lives. It is a great story and a clever way to show how the girls see both of their parents.
Invisible Box, it’s about sex with a mime. You don’t need to know anything else.
Finally Mudder Tongue is about a man who is slowly losing his ability to speak coherently. He can think clearly and knows what words he wants to say, but when he opens his mouth to speak, different words come out. This story mixes lightheartedness and the fear of what it would be like to lose the ability to communicate splendidly.
I could write so much more on Evenson and his works and there is more coming when I give you a review of Windeye but for now my thoughts are for Fugue State a strong 4/5 and for Song for the Unraveling of the World a strong 5/5 and the best story collection I’ve read all year.
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