For his inaugural Trinity reading on Thursday, November 20, Ethan Rutherford, assistant professor of English, was greeted by a capacity crowd in Mather Hall’s Rittenberg Lounge. The dozens of students, faculty, staff, and visitors were not disappointed. Rutherford read “Camp Winnesaka,” a short story from his award-winning 2013 book, The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories.
“Camp Winnesaka” is told from the perspective of a camp counselor, the Head Eagle, whose summer camp is struggling with low enrollment. After the disappearance of Moosey, a stuffed and mounted moose head that serves as Camp Winnesaka’s unofficial mascot, the Head Eagle tries to boost morale by leading his campers to war with neighboring Camp Chickapony. Essentially, everything that can go wrong does, as Rutherford’s introductory comments suggested.
“I know that I tell you guys to keep the death count low in your stories,” he told the students in the room before he started reading. “But do as I say, not as I do.”
“Camp Winnesaka” is one of eight short stories in The Peripatetic Coffin, Rutherford’s debut book. The anthology was named a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, a “Best Book of the Summer” by Publishers Weekly, and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award. It was also a finalist for the both the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and the Los Angeles Times’ Art Seidenbaum Award, received an honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and won a Minnesota Book Award.
Rutherford’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, American Short Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories. He is currently working on a novel set in the wilderness of Alaska.