Blake Butler taps into suburbia's gothic undercurrents
There Is No Year:
by Blake Butler
$15.99 List Price
In an interview published in the winter 2010 issue of the Paris Review, Jonathan Franzen said to Stephen Burn, "I've never felt less self-consciously preoccupied with language than I did when I was writing Freedom. Over and over again, as I was producing chapters, I said to myself, 'This feels nothing like the writing I did for twenty years—this just feels transparent.'" Franzen added that this struck him as "a good sign"—an indication that he was "pressing language more completely into the service of providing transparent access to the stories I was telling and to the characters in those stories."
Blake Butler is the opposite of that. Editor of HTML Giant, "the internet literature magazine blog of the future," he published his first book, Ever (2009), with Calamari Press, and his second, Scorch Atlas (2010), with Featherproof Books—both tiny independent publishers that place a greater premium on formal innovation than the big houses. Butler's latest book, There Is No Year, is published by the decidedly nonindependent Harper Perennial, but his work hasn't changed much. Transparency, I feel safe in saying, was not his goal when writing, for instance, the following:
They purred secret sentences in silent rising spiral until the sky at last had drunk so much it sunk to night—the night not out of cycle but in insistence, demanded in the skin, the unseen smoke of body after body sewn surrounding until the mother, at least, could not see—could not feel the air even around her, or her other—could not feel anything at all—and in the dark the mother stuttered—and in