Best author to befuddle the critics

Blake Butler

Staff Pick


When Atlanta author Blake Butler's surrealist domestic novel There Is No Year showed up in the New York Times Book Review earlier this year, critic Joseph Salvatore waxed equal parts ecstatic and befuddled. In his effort to describe the language-driven tale of a mother, father and son, he dropped names like William Faulkner, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. And then he declined to take a stab at interpreting what the book might be about. This is true in much of the criticism around Butler's work: Whether critics love him or hate him (and there are plenty of both) they seem to have no clue what to do with his work. That reaction speaks to There Is No Year's visceral power: It will run through your body as much as your mind and probably leave you mumbling to yourself for days.

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