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The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Storiesby Ethan Rutherford
Synopses & 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 de corps. A young boy on a sailing vacation with his father comes face-to-face with a dangerous stranger, and witnesses a wrenching act of violence. Parents estranged from their disturbed son must gird themselves for his visit, even as they cannot face each other. And in the dazzling title story, the beleaguered crew of the first Confederate submarine embarks on their final, doomed mission during the closing days of the Civil War.
Whether set aboard a Czarist-era Russian ship locked in Arctic ice, on a futuristic whaling expedition whose depredations guarantee the environmental catastrophe that is their undoing, or in a suburban basement where two grade-school friends articulate their mutual obsessions, these strange, imaginative, and refreshingly original stories explore the ways in which we experience the world: as it is, as it could be, and the dark contours that lie between.
"Rutherford's sharp, inspired debut collection runs the gamut of emotion and genre, blending laughter and misery, reality and fantasy, in eight tales that ponder the methods in which humans achieve isolation. While many of these methods take the form of physical vessels — the Civil War-era submarine in the title story, the Russian ship headed toward the North Pole in 'The Saint Anna,' a futuristic shipper-tank named Halcyon roaming the desert for dying prey in 'Dirwhals!' — the author also fashions narratives focusing on psychological, corporeal seclusion. In 'A Mugging,' a marriage slowly erodes after a violent robbery, and the nostalgically beautiful 'Summer Boys' recounts a devoted childhood friendship that unfolds over the long, meandering days of summer vacation. Children find themselves in a different kind of summer story in 'Camp Winnesaka,' a darkly comic, battle-ravaged tale of sleepover camp vs. sleepover camp that doubles as a sly commentary on the Iraq War. And though Rutherford (who appeared in Best American Short Stories 2009) dips into related thematic waters in nearly all of his narratives, the feeling of repetition never surfaces. These are robust, engaging stories. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The stories in The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories, a collection from Ethan Rutherford, map the surprising ways in which the world we think we know can unexpectedly reveal its darker contours.
In stories that are alternately funny, persuasive, and compelling, unforgettable characters are confronted with, and battle against, the limitations of their lives.
Rutherfords work has been selected by Alice Sebold for inclusion in the volume of The Best American Short Stories that she edited, and also published in Ploughshares, One Story, and American Short Fiction.
About the Author
Ethan Rutherford's fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories. Born in Seattle, he now lives in Minneapolis with his wife and son.
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