Blake Butler
  • Morgan Kendall
  • Blake Butler
Blake Butler, who read from his new novel There Is No Year at University Book Store last night, is sharply handsome, like a Bret Easton Ellis character. He's tall and blond and the phrase "well-bred" comes to mind. I'm not sure what I expected from him as a reader—I guess I thought everything would be safely couched inside a layer of thick ironic quotation marks—but he surprised me with his passionate, energetic reading style. Ultimately, if you dig below the clever construction, Year is a haunted-house story, and Butler read a surrealistic passage—faces opening up into elaborate puzzles, floors spreading out for miles—in a staccato voice that gradually built into something that was almost a scream. In the Q&A following the readings, someone asked Butler whether he researched surrealists for Year. "I don't believe in surrealism," Butler said, "I think everything is real," as real as "going to the grocery store."

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Butler was followed by his friend and fellow HTMLGiant blogger Justin Taylor, who was reading from his debut novel, The Gospel of Anarchy. Anarchy is more traditional than Year—it's about a group of (mostly) Christian anarchists trying to get along in a collective in Gainesville Florida in 1999—and his reading style was more traditional, too. Taylor lovingly described the anarchist lifestyle—dumpster-diving and shoplifting—and appeared to respect the stitched-together spirituality of his characters; he wasn't the strongest reader I've ever seen, but his admiration for his characters was intriguing. I went in knowing very little about the book, and I left wanting to read the whole thing.

The Q&A for both men centered on blogging and how it related to their novel-writing process. Taylor said he retired from HTMLGiant because while he enjoyed blogging, he was tired of "putting an idea into its idea box," and he wanted to sit with ideas for a while, allowing them to fester and "grow in weird ways." Butler was a little more succinct about blogging, describing the process like this: "I have this idea, so I'm going to fart it out and let other people fart on top of it in this big machine of gas." There was no way to top that image, so the reading ended.

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