cover image Fugue State

Fugue State

Brian Evenson, , illus. by Zak Sally. . Coffee House, $14.95 (205pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-225-4

Evenson (The Open Curtain ) accesses dark, unusual facets of human frailty, powerlessness and fear in this collection, haunted by themes of amnesia, aphasia and creeping infirmity. Hecker, the protagonist of O’Henry Prize–winner “Mudder Tongue,” can’t control which words he says and is incapable of expressing even the nature of the problem to his daughter, who thinks he just needs to get out more. A similar terror informs the title story, in which a plague of amnesia afflicts the area where Arnaud lives. The stricken forget their own names, bleed from the eyes and mouth, then lapse into unconsciousness and death. Arnaud catches the illness, and as he makes his way through a landscape of quarantined apartments, looters and corpses, he interacts with the dead and soon-to-be-dead in an effort to try to remember what he is trying to accomplish. Other ailments make cameos—blindness in “Helpful,” insomnia in “Dread”—and the thematic anxiety is heightened by graphic novelist Sally’s foreboding black and white line illustrations. This intense, nightmarish collection captures the fear of night terrors, when one wakes in the middle of the night, unable to move. (July)