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Brian Evenson

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 has accepted a new position to teach at CalArts starting in 2016. His fiction, often described as literary minimalism but also drawing inspiration from horror, detective fiction, science fiction and continental philosophy, 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.


Brian Evenson was born August 12, 1966 in Ames, Iowa.[3] His father, William Evenson, was a longtime professor of physics and later an administrator at BYU.[4] As a young man, Brian Evenson served a two-year mission for the LDS Church in France and Switzerland.[1] He received degrees from Brigham Young University (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

Formerly a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Evenson left a teaching position at LDS-owned Brigham Young University following controversy surrounding his first book Altmann's Tongue.[5]

A female student at BYU complained to school authorities about what she described as the "graphic, disgusting, pointless violence" of Evenson's fiction.[5] Evenson explained that by depicting violence without the characters or narrator passing moral judgement, his intention is to force the reader to reach his or her own conclusions about the morality of violence. This explanation did not satisfy BYU officials, and subsequent discussion became increasingly tense, eventually involving Evenson's ecclesiastical leaders. Ultimately, he received a warning that further fiction in the vein of Altmann's Tongue "would bring repercussions", as Evenson wrote.[6]

Evenson resigned from BYU, and subsequently resigned his membership in the LDS Church.[7] Evenson's case, and several others at BYU, were featured in a report by the American Association of University Professors which argued that academic freedom was stifled at BYU.[4]

Writing style and influences

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.[8]

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.[9]

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).[10] Evenson has expressed admiration for horror novelist Peter Straub,[9] and for crime fiction in the hardboiled genre, both past masters like Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson,[11] and contemporary practitioners like Andrew Vachss.[6] He has stated that one of his goals in writing is to "slightly defamiliarize English;"[8] 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]


  • 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]


Works of fiction

  • Altmann's Tongue (1994)
  • Din of Celestial Birds (1997)
  • Prophets and Brothers (1997)
  • Father of Lies (1998)
  • The Wavering Knife: Stories (2004)
  • The Open Curtain (2008)
  • Aliens: No Exit (2008) as B. K. Evenson
  • Last Days (2009, Underland Press' debut novel, expanded from The Brotherhood of Mutilation)
  • Fugue State (2009) (with illustrations by Zak Sally)
  • Dead Space: Martyr as B. K. Evenson (2010)
  • Immobility (April 2012, Tor Books)
  • Windeye: Stories (June 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 (forthcoming 2016)

Works of non-fiction

  • Understanding Robert Coover (2003)
  • Ed Vs. Yummy Fur (or, What Happens When a Serial Comic Becomes a Graphic Novel) (2014)

Works of translation

  • "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)


  • 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.


External links

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