Ethan Rutherford is a fiction writer who lives in Minneapolis and teaches writing and literature at Macalester College. His short story, “Peripatetic Coffin,” was included in the 2009 Best American Short Stories collection.
The subject of the story, Ward Lumpkin, is a confederate soldier serving on the H.L. Hunley, the infamous Civil War-era submarine deployed by the rebels to break the Union blockade of Charleston.
“The question I struggled with, the question that kept me interested, was what gets someone–voluntarily–aboard an invention like this? Another friend told me about the bombardment of the city, and it was the relentlessness of this bombardment that allowed me into the story,” Rutherford writes about his story.
What makes “Peripatetic Coffin” equally compelling and jarring is the modern tone with which Rutherford writes the story. The dialogue feels right at home in a collection of stories from 2009 yet provides a strange counterpoint to the era during which the story takes place. Somehow, Rutherford makes it work.
The collection is edited by author Alice Sebold and includes stories from authors such as Alice Fulton, Richard Powers, and Annie Proulx.
All in all, they were a great read.