The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

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by Ethan Rutherford
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Rutherford’s 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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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)
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] fine debut collection. The stories serve as compass points on a map of desolation and isolation. . . . This is a beautiful book about human suffering, about human quandaries. It is also about bravery, history, love, longing, scientific and sexual exploration.”
Nylon Magazine
“Refreshingly raw . . . [Rutherford’s] powerful debut presents each scenario in a humorous, reality-based manner, exploring life’s various limitations and exposing the truth of its unpredictability... Rutherford reveals something painstakingly humane and beautiful in mistakes and misdirection.”
Booklist
“Rutherford’s mastery of setting and world building lends these stories tangible reality... compulsively readable plots... the sweetness and strength of his characters, who face up to loss, misfortune, and heartbreak with courage and a weird kind of humor... makes these stories both resonant and rereadable.”
Shelf Awareness
“The Peripatetic Coffin, Ethan Rutherford’s debut collection of short stories, is a keeper. His work creeps up on you when you’re not looking. . . . Eight masterful tales inject power, subtlety and emotion into an unforgettable cast of beleaguered, doomed characters.”
Alice Sebold
“Oh how I love these stories! Ethan Rutherford can slay you with humor and buoy you within the midst of tragedy. His range is amazing. Every story is 100% Grade-A storytelling. I bow down to The Peripatetic Coffin.”
Charles Baxter
“This is a flat-out beautiful book of stories... Not all books of stories are page-turners, but this one is.”
Ben Fountain
“Rutherford’s wildly inventive collection is nothing short of a revelation.... no experience is beyond this very fine writer’s ambitious grasp. He gives us the world with each story, with the world’s full measure of heartbreak and hilarity.”
Jim Shepard
“Funny and wrenching, featuring hapless fatalists who nonetheless never stop striving, even as they continue to squander opportunities. And yet they never let us forget that there’s always the possibility that they will learn—even if it’s the hard way—to see beyond themselves.”
Paul Yoon
“My desert island book. The one I will always carry with me... each story is a vessel of longing and possibility; collectively, they present a mosaic of our past and our future, reinvigorating the art of storytelling... a revelatory feat of the imagination... an incomparable, vital debut.”
Kevin Wilson
“Ethan Rutherford’s stories are absolutely perfect. He writes with such sensitivity and clarity about how and why things come undone and fall apart. I rarely feel this close to heartbreak, this strengthened by a writer clearly doing something special”
Patrick DeWitt
“A confident and winning collection, every story in The Peripatetic Coffin feels necessary and true. Ethan Rutherford gets it.”
Kirkus Reviews
A debut collection of eight stories that run the literary gamut, from seafaring parables to domestic realism, with the quality of the stories varying as well. The opening, title story relates the adventures of "the first underwater vessel commissioned for combat by the Confederate State of America," a Civil War submarine "that has failed--spectacularly--almost every meaningful test it has been given...the underwater equivalent of a bicycle strapped to a bomb with the intention of pedaling it four miles through hostile waters to engage an infinitely better equipped enemy…." "The Saint Anna" offers another unlikely seafaring tale about a ship ice-bound in the Arctic during the last gasps of czarist Russian rule, leaving those onboard split over whether to stay with the ship, where they've been trapped for a couple of years, or try to walk to wherever on the ice: "Each group is conscious of what abandonment means: they are leaving us to our death and we are letting them walk to theirs." Like a Beckett fable of nothingness and bleak faith, the story suggests that "[t]here's no explanation of what's happening to us except that it's happening." The final story, "Dirwhals!," replaces endless ice with endless sand, and unbearable cold with unbearable heat, in its diary of a man who has fled his family and abandoned his sister to serve on "a slow moving factory, an ungainly vessel that serves as both a hunting ship and a one-stop bio-processing plant," as if Melville's Ishmael has found himself sandlocked. Amid stories that inhabit parallel dimensions of history, in a geography of the imagination, many of the rest are contemporary family realism, often involving a boy of the same generation as the author undergoing some sort of rite of passage. In "Camp Winnesaka," a battle between rival summer camps escalates into rockets and casualties, with a subtext that evokes Weapons of Mass Destruction. The longest story, "John, For Christmas," is the most melodramatic, as a troubled adult son exposes the strains in his parents' seemingly strong marriage. The author seems well-read, and he aspires to the highest literary standards, but some of these stories seem more significant in their inspiration than their execution.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062203847
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
612,870
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

Patrick DeWitt

“A confident and winning collection, every story in The Peripatetic Coffin feels necessary and true. Ethan Rutherford gets it.”

Ben Fountain

“Rutherford’s wildly inventive collection is nothing short of a revelation.... no experience is beyond this very fine writer’s ambitious grasp. He gives us the world with each story, with the world’s full measure of heartbreak and hilarity.”

Jim Shepard

“Funny and wrenching, featuring hapless fatalists who nonetheless never stop striving, even as they continue to squander opportunities. And yet they never let us forget that there’s always the possibility that they will learn—even if it’s the hard way—to see beyond themselves.”

Paul Yoon

“My desert island book. The one I will always carry with me... each story is a vessel of longing and possibility; collectively, they present a mosaic of our past and our future, reinvigorating the art of storytelling... a revelatory feat of the imagination... an incomparable, vital debut.”

Charles Baxter

“This is a flat-out beautiful book of stories... Not all books of stories are page-turners, but this one is.”

Kevin Wilson

“Ethan Rutherford’s stories are absolutely perfect. He writes with such sensitivity and clarity about how and why things come undone and fall apart. I rarely feel this close to heartbreak, this strengthened by a writer clearly doing something special”

Alice Sebold

“Oh how I love these stories! Ethan Rutherford can slay you with humor and buoy you within the midst of tragedy. His range is amazing. Every story is 100% Grade-A storytelling. I bow down to The Peripatetic Coffin.”

Read More

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