A review of

The Open Curtain

by Brian Evenson

Central question: Do we write history or does history write us instead?
Format: 224 pp., paperback; Size: 6" x 9"; Price: $14.95; Publisher: Coffee House Press; Editor: Chris Fischbach; Print run: 5,000; Book designer: Linda Koutsky; Typeface: Garamond; Afterword by: Brian Evenson; Number of years author spent writing novel: seven; Author’s relationship to the Mormon church: excommunicated; Number of extra-fine rolling-ball pens gone through in writing the novel: 16.5; Representative sentence: “Later still, he could not remember how he had reached a point where he had begun to see some value—strictly theoretical, of course—in blood sacrifice.”

The final fifty pages of Brian Evenson’s new novel, The Open Curtain, contain some of the most stunning and virtuosic fiction I have ever read. Seriously. The ending is so perfectly executed that I’m not even going to review it for you for fear of compromising your enjoyment of unforgettable artistic achievement. Instead, I’m going to limit my discussion to the first part of the novel, before the grand finale. Trust me on this, OK? After you’ve read the book, send me an email and we can talk about it then.

Our hero is teenager Rudd Theurer, a troubled only child whose father has committed suicide and whose mother is a strict Mormon and a nutcase:

The car was gone, his mother already at church. She had left his black leather-bound scriptures on the kitchen table. Next to them was a crudely drawn map to the church, with just two squares indicated, one marked “House,” the other marked “Church.” An arrow pointed from the first to the second. “In case you forgot the way,” was written on the bottom. On the table she had also spelled out the word hell in white grains that he took for salt but which, tasting, he found to be sugar. As if the chief torture of hell were tooth decay.

No wonder this kid has problems. While rifling through the basement one day, Rudd finds evidence of his father’s extramarital activities or, perhaps, of the existence of a polygamous arrangement that produced a heretofore unheard of half-brother, Lael. Rudd goes looking for him, but he turns out to be a terrible influence who delights in accelerating Rudd’s descent into madness.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please contact us to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Andrew Ervin

Andrew Ervin’s story “Yin & Yang,” cowritten with Ricardo Cortez Cruz, is pending with Fiction International. Other stories have turned up in Chicago Noir (Akashic Books), the Prague Literary Review, and elsewhere. He’s an M.F.A. student in Champaign, Illinois, and reachable at [email protected]

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