The Shapes of Life; The Life of Words: Short Stories by Ethan Rutherford

The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories-Ethan Rutherford

How is it that certain artists come to us with the ability to look squarely at life and shape- from this raw, amazing and terrible aggregate -a thing of beauty and power?  Ethan Rutherford often displays his genius by including two or more of life’s infinitely paradoxical qualities in the same paragraph.  Take as Peripateticexample the opening lines from the title story; a little bit of artistry in which Rutherford tells the story of the doomed Confederate submarine, the C.S.S Hunley, through the voice of one of it’s unforgettable crew members:

“The sound of iron walls adjusting to the underwater pressure around you was like the sound of improbability announcing itself: a broad,deep, awake-you-from-your-stupor kind of salvo.  The first time we heard it, we thought we were dead; the second time we heard it, we realized we were.  The third time wiped clean away any concern we had concerning our well-being and we whooped like madmen in our sealed iron tub, hands at the crank, hunched at our stations like crippled industrial workers.  Frank yelled like a siren without  taking a breath.  Augustus hooted like a screech owl.  The walls pinged and groaned, but held their seams.  We screamed for more.”

There’s a story about a boy who witnesses an act of violence while on a boating trip with his father.  There’s a story about a truly awful  head counselor who leads his campers on to increasingly questionable activities in order to increase their morale. There’s a futuristic landscape wherein a plundering “whaling” vessel guarantees it’s own undoing.  And each story is different from the one before.  Each story is a jewel of the art form; a demonstration of heartbreak and strength and the possibilities inherent in the range between these conditions.

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