The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories

3.0 1
by Ethan Rutherford
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Alternately funny, menacing, and deeply empathetic, the wildly inventive stories in Ethan Rutherford's The Peripatetic Coffin mark the debut of a powerful new voice in contemporary fiction

Worried about waning enrollment, the head counselor of the world's worst summer camp leads his campers on a series of increasingly dubious escapades in an effort

…  See more details below

Overview

Alternately funny, menacing, and deeply empathetic, the wildly inventive stories in Ethan Rutherford's The Peripatetic Coffin mark the debut of a powerful new voice in contemporary fiction

Worried about waning enrollment, the head counselor of the world's worst summer camp leads his campers on a series of increasingly dubious escapades in an effort to revive their esprit de corps. A young boy on a sailing vacation with his father comes face-to-face with a dangerous stranger, and witnesses a wrenching act of violence. Parents estranged from their disturbed son must gird themselves for his visit, even as they cannot face each other. And in the dazzling title story, the beleaguered crew of the first Confederate submarine embarks on their final, doomed mission during the closing days of the Civil War.

Whether set aboard a Czarist-era Russian ship locked in Arctic ice, on a futuristic whaling expedition whose depredations guarantee the environmental catastrophe that is their undoing, or in a suburban basement where two grade-school friends articulate their mutual obsessions, these strange, imaginative, and refreshingly original stories explore the ways in which we experience the world: as it is, as it could be, and the dark contours that lie between.

Read More

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.

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062203830
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/07/2013
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
226
Sales rank:
1,117,136
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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

Meet the Author

Ethan Rutherford's fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories. Born in Seattle, he now lives in Minneapolis with his wife and son.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
T-RadSR More than 1 year ago
Rutherford's collection of short stories are varied from a story about the H.L. Hunley during the civil war to a futuristic sci-fi yarn about the Halcyon a fictitious boat used for hunting giant whale like creatures that live under the sand of an enormous desert. The Peripatetic Coffin and Camp Winnesaka were my 2 favorite stories. The other stories such as A Mugging and The Broken Group were compelling. The Saint Anna story was also very good reminiscent of The Terror by Dan Simmons. My only complaint is I wish Rutherford tied up the endings to some of these stories a little better. Some of the stories build to climax that just never really happens and left me feeling a little cheated. None the less I still recommend this collection of short stories and I look forward to Rutherford's next work.