Book Cover

Echo's Fugue

Desirae Matherly

5.5 x 8.5, 288 pp.

Pub Date: September, 2019

Subjects: Creative Nonfiction

Series: 21st Century Essays

Imprint: Mad Creek Books

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Echo’s Fugue transforms the personal essay into a listening essay, a fugue-flight, a ‘covert correspondence,’ and an interactive diagram of the heart. Marked by the signature attunement that is the hallmark of her art, Desirae Matherly’s wide-ranging experiments with form and vantage achieve a self-betraying clarity that is unsurpassed.” —Mary Cappello

Echo’s Fugue is heartbreaking, precise, and wild. Matherly’s book is the work of a master.” —Julija Šukys

Through a series of variations on the theme of love—unrequited, polyamorous, monogomous, scandalous, adulterous—Desirae Matherly’s Echo’s Fugue explores love in all its failures and delusions. Patterned on the unfinished The Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach which has been a mystery for centuries, Echo’s Fugue undertakes Bach’s project in prose—the tantalizing numerical correspondences throughout, the repetition of a single theme, the unfinished final piece.

Matherly’s essays appear as letters, indexes, narrative, or sentence diagrams, each defying the rules of the blank page. Song lyrics, obsession, Greek mythology, psychology, game theory, and human sexuality form a fragmented narrative about loss and unhealthy attachments. Mimicry of Bach’s fugues leads the author to questions about love, sex, desire, the “Bach or Stravinsky” paradigm in game theory, and relationships considered taboo by mainstream standards.

What authority speaks clearest with regard to love, sex, and desire—and is objectivity even possible? The final essay attempts to resolve this question while echoing the puzzle of Bach’s final unfinished fugue.

Author Photo

Desirae Matherly is Chair of the English and Fine Arts Department at Tusculum University. She is a featured writer for the Ninth Letter websiteHer writing has appeared in Fourth Genre, The Essay Review, Hotel Amerika, Descent, and Pleiades, as well as in After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays and Best Creative Nonfiction.


Introduction     Tunings
Contrapunctus I      Blueprint
Contrapunctus II     Echo III, II, I, [null]
Contrapunctus III     Mimesis
Contrapunctus IV     B-Sides
         Canon One     Fugue Year
Contrapunctus V     Fragments toward an Index of Birds
Contrapunctus VI      Muses and Magpies
Contrapunctus VII     Spectator at a Train Wreck
         Canon Two     Metronome
Contrapunctus VIII     Tensity
Contrapunctus IX     Solo
Contrapunctus X     Circle of Fifths: Lessons in Syntax
Contrapunctus XI     Intervals
         Canon Three     Game Theory
Contrapunctus XII     Rite of Mirrors
Contrapunctus XIII     An Interview with Composer Igor Stravinsky
         Canon Four      Echo’s Fugue
Contrapunctus XIV     Endgame: On Some Versions of Venery


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