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Scorch Atlas Overhead the sky was melting, the cracked cream color rubbing off in cogs of brine The fields far ahead of me in endless pudding, studded here and there with what had been homes and houses, hair and heirlooms, habits, hallways, hauntings, hope p.124 I think I m starting to get what Blake Butler is up to here And up to in general And it s fantastic The first, immediate draw to his work, for me, was purely visceral his utter derangement of language into a singular blasted poetry of decay, Overhead the sky was melting, the cracked cream color rubbing off in cogs of brine The fields far ahead of me in endless pudding, studded here and there with what had been homes and houses, hair and heirlooms, habits, hallways, hauntings, hope p.124 I think I m starting to get what Blake Butler is up to here And up to in general And it s fantastic The first, immediate draw to his work, for me, was purely visceral his utter derangement of language into a singular blasted poetry of decay, coupled with his completely feverish visions of personal apocalypse, wild with unpredictable motion and grippingly told But that s not all.In Scorch Atlas, the context seems to be that the world is being obliterated by a series of thirteen plagues teeth static that make those of biblical renown seem altogether quaint But this isn t about how nations or social structures or science deals with upheaval and disaster No, that would be far too rational a take on a universe that seems given over entirely to irrationality The plagues frame the stories of this book, but are immediately backgrounded by extremely personal investigations of loss It s not the same at all, but consider how Anna Kavan s Ice all but ignores its global disaster in favor of a single obsessive search And so, the core of each of these stories lies not in end of the world adventures, but in a completely real and believable pain Isolation, the loss of children, the disintegration of family.So many doors forever There were never enough Each door had several locks One lock was combination Another required keys Another was a simple side latch Another was strictly ornamental Another you could open by whispering the right thing to it at the right time, which is the type of lock most humans have p.56 If Butler had lent these human tragedies just a few surreal or horrific details each, asmoderate writers might, they d probably come off as obvious symbols of the characters sorrow and torment Instead, he overwhelms the senses with a mad deluge of cataclysmic imagery, wheeling soot stained birds and disease swollen bodies and drained oceans molding over so hard and fast that the reader is left little choice but to take them at face value or drown in the interpretation And so we re simply told what happens And so we deal with it And then in these feverish worlds, we cling together, reader and characters, seeking some stable point of comprehensible ground, some point of earth on which to moor our hopes and fears and confusion But then there s nothing solid to be seen, anywhere.And so these stories seer their images directly onto the occipital lobe And then they stay there, smoldering.Incidentally, I think Blake Butler might be the best writer I can think of who seems easiest described as a horror writer Not that his writing is in any way typical of the genre Not that it could truly be said to belong to any genre Perhaps it s just what I want the genre to be, wise and lyrical through shuddering black folds of wonder.Meanwhile, by now, the cities lay covered in chrysalis, silken tents stretch across expressways, over homes Our front door sealed shut with hive building The cocoons crushed each time a thing moved We waited We blink eyed through the night In the end, the great unveiling ten billion butterflies humming in the sun, fluttering so loud you couldn t think pg.58 I enjoy dystopias and fiction set during and after the apocalypse I like to see the world being creatively remade, a new one entering into the place left empty by the old There s just something intensely appealing in the concept of having a largely empty earth, left alone to the few survivors who take upon themselves to establish some kind of order and society, struggling to survive and overcome the hardships Although many works have dealt with this concept, the fact that it gives the author I enjoy dystopias and fiction set during and after the apocalypse I like to see the world being creatively remade, a new one entering into the place left empty by the old There s just something intensely appealing in the concept of having a largely empty earth, left alone to the few survivors who take upon themselves to establish some kind of order and society, struggling to survive and overcome the hardships Although many works have dealt with this concept, the fact that it gives the author an almost completely blank canvas leaves enough room for many.Blake Butler s Scorch Atlas is just 152 pages long, and is marketed as a striking novel in stories but ultimately ends up being neither It s a collection of 13 pieces of text, which employ an ample amount of vocabulary describing decay, rot, devastation, death and physical degradation of surroundings and people Page to page, sentence by sentence, Scorch Atlas is a catalogue of weakening and subsequent crumbling down of pretty much everything.There s a sense of emptiness and futility hanging over this book, which is understandable for a work dealing with the end of the world, but there s also a larger problem the emptiness and futility are all to be found under the endless layers of dust, grime and rot There are no stories to be found here, and it seemed to me that as a whole it did not have anything to say Each story seemed to be just a prelude to the real thing which never happened The author is not without some skill, but in this effort he seemed to have caught up in creating bizarre and disturbing images instead of trying to actually do something with them.On the other hand the paper copy of the book is made as to make it look old and weathered, resembling a volume which survived an apocalypse Customers could even have their copy destroyed personally by the author why would anyone want to buy a destroyed book, I have no idea What I do know is this wheneffort and attention is given to packaging rather than content, something fishy is going on Butler speaks, and Perraultian vipers slither out, squirmudgeoning onto ink blotted grey pastiche paper and tranvesting into diamonds toads and diamonds, toads and diamonds how I love Perrault.inanisms Blake has language, but no meaning Words oscillate with a vested light and charge the plane of paper until they combust Apocalyptic prophet, Butler reams his world with doom embedded imagery lacking spatio temporal placement but suffused with emotion alienation, destruction, fragmentation I Butler speaks, and Perraultian vipers slither out, squirmudgeoning onto ink blotted grey pastiche paper and tranvesting into diamonds toads and diamonds, toads and diamonds how I love Perrault.inanisms Blake has language, but no meaning Words oscillate with a vested light and charge the plane of paper until they combust Apocalyptic prophet, Butler reams his world with doom embedded imagery lacking spatio temporal placement but suffused with emotion alienation, destruction, fragmentation I get this guy He s consumed by feeling, powered by sensation, but blind to any Vision in the grand sense Hallucinations there are many Plot lines succumb under pressure, any kind of outlines really, and language comes into its own glass pelting down, floods, gravel staccato of finite chunks, fizzling off into Spent Of mind, emotion, endurance.I know this guy I ve seen this before eloquent swansong of bleak going into oblique Oblivion Every other book I pick up belongs to a depressed existenz There are tones I recognise now which bely the bassuo continuo of a mind locked in a Munchian scream.I m going to check him out what demons inhabit wherewithal Insomniac 129 hours of wakefulness at a stretch Perhaps this explains the granularity of the structure short pieces fused into a whole Who can concentrate forwhen your nerve endings are electrified from so much uninterrupted Being Me, I count sheep when I m like that Some pop pills Others clean top to bottom Butler masturbates Hours on end, whole evenings, an eternity At least thats what he told the bookslut Faux gothic airbrushed precocious prose wallpaper No scene, all summary Occasional cute contortions of form because he can The discrepancy between reputation and actuality is startling. Less a collection of short stories than a litany of vignettes and lists that s right, a litany of lists of things crumbling, rotting, molding, falling from the sky, drowning, vomiting, dripping, disintegrating, breaking down, melting, bubbling, decaying, putrefying, stinking, degenerating, deteriorating, and dissolving This physical decrepitude of humans, animals, buildings, Earth, everything is mirrored in all of these stories by familial breakdowns between parents and sons there s a kind Less a collection of short stories than a litany of vignettes and lists that s right, a litany of lists of things crumbling, rotting, molding, falling from the sky, drowning, vomiting, dripping, disintegrating, breaking down, melting, bubbling, decaying, putrefying, stinking, degenerating, deteriorating, and dissolving This physical decrepitude of humans, animals, buildings, Earth, everything is mirrored in all of these stories by familial breakdowns between parents and sons there s a kind of daughter in one story, but the father is the protagonist in that one or siblings, which is a nice technique, but when it s the only technique present in every single storyThe language, further, veers wildly between lofty and poetic and oddly pedestrian This might be a conscious choice, but if it is, I hate it.With a lot of editing and condensing and combining, these 13 mediocre or worse stories could have been condensed down to like 2 3 really great ones The Ruined Child being, I think, the closest to a great work here as is There was a lot of potential under the grime and shit and mess of this book, but Butler got too caught up in well, the grime and shit and mess of this book, and never polished anything enough to really deliver on that potential I have been vocal about my admiration for Blake Butler s work before, but wow Is reading that guy a trip or what His writing is an otherworldly experience in itself How could I describe Scorch Atlas and give you an accurate portrait of what it feels like It s a series of portraits of families affected by an unnamed natural disaster and an inexplicable plague that seems to have followed There are few characters named They are referred to by their role in their respective families mother, f I have been vocal about my admiration for Blake Butler s work before, but wow Is reading that guy a trip or what His writing is an otherworldly experience in itself How could I describe Scorch Atlas and give you an accurate portrait of what it feels like It s a series of portraits of families affected by an unnamed natural disaster and an inexplicable plague that seems to have followed There are few characters named They are referred to by their role in their respective families mother, father, daughter, son, etc So, maybe the same family is featured in different stories, but there s no way to know and I believe that s by design Scorch Atlas is a book about the frailty of reality You spend all your life constructing this fragile existence for yourself and what is left of it once something you cannot control strikes That is what Scorch Atlas is about it s unnerving, it s alien and it s beautiful in a reckless way Elegiac snapshots of the apocalypse The first of these grim lullabies is a mind boggling masterpiece called The Disappeared that should be compulsory reading for pretty much everyone The rest of the book, alas, gets a bit samey and flat, like an album with a perfect opening track followed by a batch of songs just good enough to keep you from deleting the MP3s but not nearly good enough to get the melody of the first song out of your head Keep an eye on this guy, though he s got a novel d Elegiac snapshots of the apocalypse The first of these grim lullabies is a mind boggling masterpiece called The Disappeared that should be compulsory reading for pretty much everyone The rest of the book, alas, gets a bit samey and flat, like an album with a perfect opening track followed by a batch of songs just good enough to keep you from deleting the MP3s but not nearly good enough to get the melody of the first song out of your head Keep an eye on this guy, though he s got a novel due out next year, and if it even partially fulfills the promise of The Disappeared, then we ve got a major fucking writer on our hands Gotta give it up to the local boys at Featherproof Books for the beautiful packaging here, a book made to look like a found object amid the rubble of the ruins of society Also I will note that this is the 70th book I have read so far in 2010, which has gotta be a record for meand the year ain t over yet In This Striking Novel In Stories, A Series Of Strange Apocalypses Have Hit America Entire Neighborhoods Drown In Mud, Glass Rains From The Sky, Birds Speak Gibberish, And Parents Of Young Children Disappear Millions Starve While Others Grow Coats Of Mold But A Few Are Able To Survive And Find A Light In The Aftermath, Illuminating What We Ve Become In The Disappeared , A Father Is Arrested For Missing Free Throws, Leaving His Son To Search Alone For His Lost Mother A Boy Swells To Fill His Parents Ransacked Attic In The Ruined Child Rendered In A Variety Of Narrative Forms, From A Psychedelic Fable To A Skewed Insurance Claim Questionnaire, Blake Butler S Full Length Fiction Debut Paints A Gorgeously Grotesque Version Of America, Bringing To Mind Both Kelly Link And William H Gass, Yet Imbued With Butler S Own Vision Of The Apocalyptic And Bizarre It s hard to say anything positive about this book There s something very awkward about Butler s prose, something strained and forced that makes it very difficult to read It s simply not very good writing I can appreciate that he s trying to do something experimental, but even the best experimental writers Barthelme, Barth, Coover, Gass had an ear for the musicality of language They reinvented the notion of what a story could be, but did so in a way that was clear, lyrical, and even beauti It s hard to say anything positive about this book There s something very awkward about Butler s prose, something strained and forced that makes it very difficult to read It s simply not very good writing I can appreciate that he s trying to do something experimental, but even the best experimental writers Barthelme, Barth, Coover, Gass had an ear for the musicality of language They reinvented the notion of what a story could be, but did so in a way that was clear, lyrical, and even beautiful at times In contrast, Butler s prose is so dense and awkward that the reader has to stop every few sentences to take a break from it On the whole, a very unpleasant reading experience This is quite possibly the darkest novel I have ever, or will ever, read Yup It s THAT dark What makes it so incredibly dark is the complete absence of light Seriously There is nothing light hearted or hopeful The apocalypse has happened, death is inevitable, and all there is left to do is wait All is festering, foul, futile, bogged down in a slow, tortuous process of degradation, madness and utter despair Sigh It really is DARK.Scorch Atlas is a series of short stories and snippets chr This is quite possibly the darkest novel I have ever, or will ever, read Yup It s THAT dark What makes it so incredibly dark is the complete absence of light Seriously There is nothing light hearted or hopeful The apocalypse has happened, death is inevitable, and all there is left to do is wait All is festering, foul, futile, bogged down in a slow, tortuous process of degradation, madness and utter despair Sigh It really is DARK.Scorch Atlas is a series of short stories and snippets chronicling the end of the world through some catastrophic disaster or another which is never in any way explained Houses and cities are bombarded by earth, water, electricity, ash, glass, ink, human skin cells, even glitter, all while the inabitants ever so slowly starve, go insane and die You would be surprised what people will eat when they re starving and insane I won t be surprised ever again image error I ll admit, it was the striking book design that prompted me to hunt down a hardcopy Every page is the very image of decay in one way or another, each page different, and themed for the story written on it As it turns out, the writing is also beautiful, if self indulgent Read this book, but do it with a bottle of Prozac handy And hide the shotgun


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