The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

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Rutherford is clearly a history buff and in the last story—an imagined future where Americans hunt an almost-extinct species called dirwhals that live in the sand, for energy—his true environmentalism and perspective on our place in history is not to be mistaken. Building a hunk of metal and submerging it in the sea is gonna lead to death.

Sailing a ship into the freezing Arctic is hopeless. Killing the last of a rare species whose meat can be turned into valuable energy does not propel us further into the future, it shortens our existence on this planet, and only serves us in the present. I raced through them to find out the inevitable conclusions whose inevitability made them no less devastating. Lindsey Silken April 14, am. FB Twitter ellipsis More.

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The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories : Ethan Rutherford :

He writes with such sensitivity and clarity about how and why things come undone and fall apart. Ethan Rutherford can slay you with humor and buoy you within the midst of tragedy. His range is amazing.

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

I bow down to The Peripatetic Coffin. Although, full disclosure, I had to look up what peripatetic means. There's a question here, I promise.

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So you're a musician. And the experience of reading these stories as a collection, from the first story all the way through to the last, is like listening to the kind of record where you can just put it on and press play. So are there similarities there, between structuring an album and putting together a collection?

How do you order the stories? Did you ever lay them all out and realize you needed to write a certain kind of story to fill a gap or provide some kind of glue? Ethan Rutherford: Well, that's really nice of you, and you'll be happy to know you're in good company with "peripatetic" heck: I had to look it up. I promise, though: it's not just me being fancy. L Hunley , the first Confederate submarine, during the Civil War. The first story in the collection is set aboard that ill-fated and unlucky though ultimately successful?

And so: voila!

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The point is to keep people interested in moving from one story to the next, and to build toward something without repeating yourself. So you know you have to start with a hook, an ear-bug, to get the whole thing off the ground with some momentum. You know that there's some weird mystical pressure on track 3 and track 7. So they go first, middle, last, and I think of them as sort of propping up the collection. The process of putting the collection together, for me, was the process of deciding which stories to leave out.

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MB: I know we're both Raymond Carver fans, and he always said he wanted to keep things moving in his stories. Go on. The Peripatetic Coffin is full of killer beginnings and endings. One of the real pleasures of reading a story collection like this is how all the last lines made the hairs on my arms stand up, which can only happen once in a novel.

How do you get readers in the door? And then once you got them inside, how long do you want to hold onto them? When and how do you toss them out the window? ER: That's an interesting question, and not one I think I can really answer, though I'm glad you liked the last lines.

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories (Paperback)

I am, somewhat shamefully, a last line reader. If I'm unsure about whether I'm going to read a book or not, I'll take a look at the last page, and if that's interesting enough, I know I'll go ahead and read the whole thing. One of the things that Carver often did was end his stories mid-gesture, and it had a way of opening up his stories right there at the end, just as they should be winding down. The result is that each story feels larger than it, in fact, is: suddenly in looking at one small and definitive moment, you understand that you are looking at many moments in this character's life, and the result is that as a reader you feel as if you've arrived at some sort of revelation, or, less heavily, some sort of understanding regarding what the story has been about all along.


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  • The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories (Paperback)?

So, if and when I pull back on a scene, that's the idea there. To let some light in.

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories (Paperback)

To give a sense of finality without being final about it. MB: There's a great balance in the collection between contemporary and historical stories. What sort of research did you for both? ER: Oh the research! I'd say the research was equivalent for the historical and contemporary stories, which is to say that for as much time as I spent researching Civil War submersibles I spent even more time reading up on Brian Bosworth's football career. Reading is the real pleasure for me.

But research tends to work slantwise in my stories. I think I'm writing a story about one thing, then I do some research, and that new information grabs the wheel for a bit, and then the story comes out very differently than I'd expected. This is a beautiful book about human suffering, about human quandaries. It is also about bravery, history, love, longing, scientific and sexual exploration.

Rutherford reveals something painstakingly humane and beautiful in mistakes and misdirection. Eight masterful tales inject power, subtlety and emotion into an unforgettable cast of beleaguered, doomed characters.

Ethan Rutherford can slay you with humor and buoy you within the midst of tragedy. His range is amazing.