"The words he typed weren't words. Or, more so, the words had more words in them, collapsing, like flame laid into flame. The words inside the words kept the son from sleeping, even while sleeping." — There Is No Year, by Blake Butler
The House Where Blake Butler Writes
Blake Butler sits down in front of a computer in Marietta, the room dark except for a beam of afternoon light cracking between thick curtains. Staring into the glowing screen, he taps out a line into Twitter: "i want a computer i can hurt & not destroy, want my laptop to have feelings so i can pinch it, have it hear me when i call it piece of shit."
The door from that dark room leads to a hallway lined with quilts, bright fabrics patched into complicated patterns, sewn by Butler's mother and great-grandmother. The hallway leads to the kitchen, where Butler's father, L.D., sits at the table with a few pens and markers at his side, writing in a spiral notebook: "JA cuth slep. P – cords P P P P P P P P P." The letter P is twisting, turning, stretching across the page, the lines.
"What are you working on, Dad?" Butler asks.
"What I'm working on," his father says.
Blake Butler Had A Happy Childhood
The 32-year-old Butler grew up in this house. On weekday mornings as a child he would leave the manicured lawn, the swimming pool, the basketball court, and walk a couple blocks to public school. In the afternoons, his friends would walk back to the house with him to shoot pool, play video games or watch TV in the game room. Despite moving out almost 15 years ago, Butler returns to this house most days to be Blake Butler on the Internet.
Blake Butler Is An Author On The Internet
The Internet Blake Butler is a hyper-prolific author of discomforting, domestic fiction, whose always-fascinating, occasionally incomprehensible stories are littered throughout dozens of tiny literary journals; whose first two books — the story collection Scorch Atlas and novella Ever — were published by small, independent presses and blurbed as "a strange, visionary ontological dismemberment" and "a massive obliteration"; whose Twitter feed reads like a collaboration between William S. Burroughs and Shaquille O'Neal; who edits HTMLGiant.com, a blog claiming to be "the Internet literature magazine blog of the future"; who also edits or co-edits a string of other projects; and whose first book for a major publisher, the novel There Is No Year published April 5 by Harper Collins, seems both hopelessly out of step with commercial publishing and like a smoke signal on the horizon of the American literary landscape. There is something unwieldy about the Internet Blake Butler.
Some Differences Between Blake Butler and Blake Butler
Standing here in the kitchen, it's difficult to distinguish between the human Blake Butler and the Internet Blake Butler. Butler is boyish-looking for his age, with sandy-blond hair and stubble on his well-defined jaw. He appears this way on the Internet, too, though his looks are often obscured in shadowy digital photographs, dimly lit by the glow of his computer screen.
But then the human Blake Butler asks if anyone would like a glass of Diet Arizona Green Tea and his voice is just sweet and friendly in a way that doesn't much resemble the Internet Blake Butler who tweets "fed all my Frederick Barthelme novels to a white dog living in my kitchen Disposall & it shit out a single novel called Snazzy Erection" and "Forgot to get drunk as fuck before i ate this taco bell, tastes like sadness."
There Is No Year is set in a suburban home in unnamed suburbs, occupied by an unnamed father, unnamed mother and unnamed son. The setting resembles the house where Butler is now drinking Diet Arizona Green Tea with his mother and father, except there are no swarms of insects or oozing tunnels or curtains made of hair. None visible, at least.
"In a thirteenth dream the father woke and found himself above himself and inside his mouth he saw himself and inside that self's mouth he saw himself and inside that self's mouth he saw a window, and through the window the father saw another window, and through the window the father saw mountains, fountains, fortunes, beaches, gazebos, grease, disease, and the father found that he was laughing and the father crawled inside himself and turned around." — There Is No Year
A Few Words About L.D.
Butler's father, L.D., fell off a ladder while working on the house in 2001, which may or may not be related to the dementia he has developed in the years since. He does not recognize his wife or son. He talks to his sturdy, bearded reflection in windows. When introduced to a newspaper reporter, he said, inexplicably, "Yeah, I remember him." His ability to speak was lost entirely at one point, though he's relearned it through rehabilitation. Butler's soft-spoken mother, who gets a break from taking care of L.D. when her son is home, explains that she tries not to take the symptoms of L.D.'s condition personally. "He's still in there somewhere," she says, her eyes washing over, watery.