Brian Evenson

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Brian Evenson (born August 12, 1966) is an American academic and writer of both literary fiction and popular fiction, some of the latter being published under B.K. Evenson.[1]

From 2003 to 2015, Evenson was Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University,[2] but from 2016 on he has taught in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts, both in the Creative Writing MFA program and in the Aesthetics and Politics MA Program. His fiction is often described as literary minimalism, but also draws inspiration from horror, detective fiction, science fiction and continental philosophy. Evenson makes frequent use of dark humor and often features characters struggling with the limits and consequences of knowledge. He has also written non-fiction, and translated several books by French-language writers into English.

Biography[edit]

Brian Evenson was born August 12, 1966 in Ames, Iowa.[3] His father, William Evenson, was a longtime professor of physics at Brigham Young University (BYU) and later an administrator at the same school.[4] As a young man, Brian Evenson served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in France and Switzerland.[1]

He received degrees from BYU (BA) and the University of Washington (MA and PhD). After leaving a teaching position at BYU, he held positions at Oklahoma State University, Syracuse University and University of Denver before being hired at Brown University.

BYU controversy[edit]

While teaching at BYU, Evenson was involved in a controversy surrounding his first book Altmann's Tongue (1994).[5] While a new professor of creative writing at Brigham Young University (BYU), Brian Evenson published Altmann's Tongue, which included horrific violence such as characters who are forced to eat mutilated tongues and who attempt to cut off their own limbs.[6] Evenson stated that his book contract was a "significant factor" in his being hired, and he included some stories from the collection in his application.[4] A graduate student complained anonymously to church leaders that the work promoted the "enjoyment" of violence, while Evenson argued that his fiction accentuated violence to show its horror and "thus allow it to be condemned."[6] A senior faculty member planned to tell church authorities that Evenson knew that future, similar publications would "bring repercussions," even though Evenson had not said this.[4] Evenson resigned from BYU in 1995, and left the church formally in 2000.[6] His case, along with others, was included in a report by the American Association of University Professors, which argued that academic freedom was stifled at BYU..[4]

Writing style and influences[edit]

Evenson's Ph.D is in both literature and critical theory, and his work is subtly philosophical, particularly influenced by continental philosophy. Many of Evenson's recurrent themes of virtuality and "sensation" being traceable to Deleuze & Guattari's Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Altmann's Tongue opened with an epigraph by Julia Kristeva; Dark Property featured quotes in untranslated German from Martin Heidegger; and several of Evenson's books have epigraphs from philosopher Alphonso Lingis. However, Evenson has stated that he intends any philosophical elements to be fully integrated into his fiction rather than promoting any particular viewpoint, and has argued that reading philosophical works directly is more rewarding than reading philosophy that is veiled as fiction.[7]

Some of Evenson's work explores his Mormon heritage, often from a critical perspective or examining controversial subject matter. For example, the main character of The Open Curtain (2006) becomes preoccupied with a murder committed in the early 1900s by William Hooper Young, a grandson of 19th century Mormon leader Brigham Young, while Immobility (2012) takes place in a post-apocalyptic Utah and features some esoteric elements of LDS theology. Nonetheless, Evenson has asserted that he maintains a measure of respect for devout believers in the LDS Church and does not intend to casually offend or provoke them.[8]

Evenson's work has been compared to that of J. G. Ballard, Jorge Luis Borges, Paul Bowles, Franz Kafka, William S. Burroughs, Cormac McCarthy, Robert Coover and Edgar Allan Poe (among others).[9] Evenson has expressed admiration for horror novelist Peter Straub,[8] and for crime fiction in the hardboiled genre, both past masters like Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson,[10] and contemporary practitioners like Andrew Vachss.[11] He has stated that one of his goals in writing is to "slightly defamiliarize English;"[7] he thus sometimes uses odd sentence structures, obscure words, and character names that cannot be easily identified as part of any particular language or culture. Reviewing Immobility for National Public Radio, Michael Schaub describes Evenson's writing as "intelligent but unpretentious".[12]

Awards[edit]

  • In 1995, Evenson received a Creative Writer's Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
  • In 1998, he received an O. Henry Award for his story "Two Brothers".
  • In 2007, The Open Curtain was also a finalist for an Edgar Award[13] and an International Horror Guild Award.
  • In 2009, his novel Last Days was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award [14]
  • In 2010, his novel Last Days won the ALA/RUSA prize for Best Horror novel of 2009.[15]
  • In 2010, his short story collection Fugue State was a finalist for the 2009 World Fantasy Award.[16]
  • In 2017, his novella "The Warren"" was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award [17]
  • In 2017, Evenson received a Guggenheim Fellowship.[18]

Bibliography[edit]

Works of fiction[edit]

  • Altmann's Tongue (1994, Knopf; Bison Books reprint 2002)
  • Din of Celestial Birds (1997)
  • Prophets and Brothers (1997)
  • Father of Lies (1998)
  • Contagion (2000)
  • Dark Property (2002)
  • The Wavering Knife: Stories (2004)
  • The Open Curtain (2008; Coffee House Press reprint 2016)
  • Aliens: No Exit (2008) as B. K. Evenson
  • BABY LEG (2009) New York Tyrant Press
  • Last Days (2009, Underland Press' debut novel, expanded from The Brotherhood of Mutilation; Coffee House Books reprint 2016)
  • Fugue State: Stories (2009, Coffee House Press; with illustrations by Zak Sally)
  • Dead Space: Martyr as B. K. Evenson (2010, Tor)
  • Immobility (2012, Tor Books)
  • Windeye: Stories (2012)
  • Dead Space: Catalyst as B. K. Evenson (October 2012)
  • The Lords of Salem as B. K. Evenson, with Rob Zombie (March 2013)
  • A Collapse of Horses: Stories (2016)
  • The Warren (2016, Tor)
  • Feral, as B.K. Evenson, with James Demonaco (2017, Anchor)
  • The Deaths of Henry King, with Jesse Ball and Lilli Carré (2017, Uncivilized Books)
  • Song for the Unraveling of the World (2019, Coffee House Press)

Works of non-fiction[edit]

  • Understanding Robert Coover (2003)
  • Ed Vs. Yummy Fur (or, What Happens When a Serial Comic Becomes a Graphic Novel) (2014)
  • Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (2018)
  • Reports (Chapbook, 2018)

Works of translation[edit]

  • "Painting" by Jean Frémon (1999)
  • The Passion of Martin Fissel Brandt by Christian Gailly (2002)
  • Giacometti: Three Essays by Jacques Dupin (2003)
  • Mountain R by Jacques Jouet (2004)
  • Red Haze by Christian Gailly [co-translated with David Beus] (2005)
  • Electric Flesh by Christophe Claro (2006)
  • "The Paradoxes of Robert Ryman" by Jean Frémon (2008)
  • Donogoo-Tonka, or the Miracles of Science by Jules Romain (2009)
  • Bunker Anatomy by Christophe Claro (2010)
  • In the Time of the Blue Ball by Manuela Draeger [co-translated with Valerie Evenson] (2011)
  • The Last of the Egyptians by Gerard Macé (2011)
  • The Botanical Garden by Jean Frémon (2012)
  • Incidents in the Night by David B. [co-translated with Sarah Evenson] (2014)
  • Prisoner of the Vampires of Mars by Gustave Le Rouge [co-translated with David Beus] (2015)

Recordings[edit]

  • Altmann's Tongue by Brian Evenson with Xingu Hill & Tamarin (2005). Currently available from many legal mp3 sites (Amie Street, Emusic, iTunes, Amazon etc.). Also, available as a CD.

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]