Review of Brian Evenson’s Baby Leg

Here’s an excerpt of my review of Evenson’s latest book:

Brian Evenson’s work carefully navigates abundant, layered, cumulative sentences, sentences filled with recursive explorations, dynamic repetitions, and playful symmetries, with a kind of Spartan restraint on description and exposition, what Samuel Delany describes as “the stark economy of the tuned ear, the fixed eye.” There is nothing arbitrary in Evenson’s narratives, every detail is carefully chosen as if he were quietly building a bomb in some dark closet. This is not to say his stories are in any way mechanical but that every aspect works together so that it will explode in your hands at the intended time and place. And while the explicit potentialities are certainly interesting and gripping enough, it is the various subtexts, that is, the probing of murky psychologies, of spiraling contradictions, and its unresolved ends that keep me engaged.

Baby Leg, published in a limited edition by Tyrant Books, is another one of Evenson’s sinister nested boxes: Kraus, disturbed by nightmares of a woman who “clomped about on [an] adult-sized knee and [a] baby leg, wielding an axe,” finds himself locked within a game of Sisyphean proportions. Much like that unfortunate king, Kraus’s life here is on infinite repeat. But the repetitions, unsettling as they are, result in no greater insight, no greater awareness: Baby Leg’s circumference, like Finnegan’s Wake’s and Dhalgren’s famous loops, is one that never closes.

2 responses to “Review of Brian Evenson’s Baby Leg

  1. Baby Leg has some really compelling parts. I particularly like the doubt that Evenson creates in it. Parts of it remind me of a story he wrote in CONTAGION, which is one of my favorite books he’s done. I guess a press is doing a limited hardback edition of CONTAGION as part of a fund raising campaign.

    • thechapbookreview

      Hi Ryan,

      Yes, I agree that the swirl of uncertainty that Evenson thrusts the protagonist within is one of Baby Leg’s most powerful parts. And then there’s the anxiety that it produces in both the Kraus and the reader.

      Wow, I didn’t know about the re-release of Contagion. Thanks for the heads-up!

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