Blake Butler: The Butler Does It

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Hometown: Atlanta
Next Book: Sky Saw (December 2012)
For Fans Of: David Foster Wallace, Dennis Cooper, Gordon Lish

When 33-year-old Georgia-born Blake Butler wakes in the morning, he never faces indecisiveness. He will be at his desk in 45 minutes to write for hours—usually at least eight. At some point after he closes the computer screens, he’ll go for a run to give the images in his imagination a chance to become something else. Ambience. The reality of fiction.

The author of four books—Ever, Calamari Press (2009); Scorch Atlas, Featherproof Books (2010); There Is No Year, Harper Perennial (2011); and Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia, Harper Perennial (2011)—Butler has several more novels waiting on his hard drive. In December, Tyrant Books will release the newest, Sky Saw.

Butler calls Sky Saw a “more chaotic” follow-up to the widely celebrated and well-reviewed Harper Perennial debut There Is No Year. A New York Times reviewer of that book wrote that it “… is a thing of such strange beauty that digging for answers of your own will yield the rewards that only well-made art can provide.” The plot offers strange beauty indeed: A move into a new home becomes tragic as doppelgangers greet a father, mother and son.

“Even though it seems amorphous, it’s a clear story, and a traditional story,” Butler explains in an interview at Atlanta’s historic writer hang-out Manuel’s Tavern, an occasional haunt. “The things it manipulates are traditional things.”

Butler finished There Is No Year in a jarring 10 days, and with the pace established, he found no reason to slow down. He completed Sky Saw in 30 days, suffusing it with his own physical wear and collapsing emotion.

That’s the essence of its being.

“In a lot of ways Sky Saw seems like it’s a much colder book,” Butler says. “I think the slightly more elongated period of first drafting was vital. The first book could not have been as it was without the immediacy. For Sky Saw, I think I’d snapped, and the further I got from snapping, the stranger it got.”

The two books reflect one another—families of three find themselves distraught in a house dragging decay upon them. But Butler explains the clear differences. “[There Is No Year] kind of digs into the personas of the people, and concerns itself specifically with death. Sky Saw is kind of more violent and unblinking as far as what the people go through in relation to the outside world.”

To Butler, rooms and objects have always held a fascination as characters. He sees them invested with force and emotion just like people…and much of the time, they hold more personality. Butler attributes this to spending his younger years painfully introverted. He tells of the time in his early teens when he checked out Stephen King’s Misery from a library. He found himself unexpectedly in terror of the book’s very presence; its physical existence brought on more trembling than the novel itself.

“I start having relationships with objects,” Butler laughs. “This thing’s sitting in the middle of where I walked from the desk to the bathroom … and it feels like it’s fucking with me.”

Butler’s prolific output doesn’t appear as if it will be quenched anytime soon; if anything, he shows more resolve than ever.

“I published all these books … and I wanted to go harder, so I went for it,” Butler says. “I feel like I want to go big or go home.”