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Nothing: A Memoir of Insomnia
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Nothing: A Memoir of Insomnia

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  204 ratings  ·  29 reviews
One of the most acclaimed young voices of his generation, Blake Butler now offers his first work of nonfiction: a deeply candid and wildly original look at the phenomenon of insomnia.

Invoking scientific data, historical anecdote, Internet obsession, and figures as diverse as Andy Warhol, Gilles Deleuze, John Cage, Anton LaVey, Jorge Luis Borges, Brian Eno, and Stephen King
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 921)
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Nate D
Sep 26, 2012 Nate D rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ambian-streaked memories, piling up, seething awake
Recommended to Nate D by: The voice that entered my head through every forgotten phone call at once
So Blake Butler wrote a Memoir. A Non-Fiction. Whether it is either of those things, reading it as such may lead to frustration. Reading it as A Blake Butler Book may lead to delight. That is not to say that this strange personal account of insomnia, writing, the mysteries and treacheries of home and self, things half seen under near-sealed lids, things dreamed while awake and staring down the dissolution of those you've loved -- that is not to say that this is not filled with information, both ...more
Aug 12, 2014 Carmen rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: non-fiction
I checked this book out because it looked amazing. Unfortunately, it is a bunch of crap. He teaches you nothing and keeps waxing poetic. Example: “And therefore, Light: in each phase of those nightly nighted hours, there looms the premonition that the sun will not come back – that, in its burning, it will burn up at last, those last hours therein unknown for how the light still travels across such time – and thereafter leave the breadths and widths of our sunk cities therein forever under, wadde ...more
Philip Bardach
Apr 08, 2012 Philip Bardach marked it as unfinished-abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Broke my winning streak of reading fucking awesome shit by cracking open this migraine of a book. Maybe it's a tumour. I couldn't go on so I didn't.
Honestly speaking I have to give this book a 0.5 rating if such a thing would exist on GR.
I could not stand the book. I've been trying to read it all day. But I just can't go beyond page 34. I tried. I tried really hard. But every time I went to read it, I couldn't understand what he was harping on about. His thought process is all over the place. Sometimes he uses words that don't make sense to me, and are repetitive. Though its a nice style of writing, I just hoped that he would at least make
Blake Butler suffers from insomnia and in this book, he highlights every aspect of the affliction. He discusses a lot about his youth, about insomnia when he was young, but also many other topics from his youth.

There is some reference to research on insomnia, and on all the external and internal stimuli that keep him from sleeping. He also talks about the time he was awake for 129 hours consecutively.

He discusses internet obsession, the use of sleeping pills, the thoughts he may have when in bed
Ashley Crawford
I am looking forward to the upcoming collaboration between Blake Butler and David Lynch. They're made for each other, after all - both are masters at concocting strange rooms illuminated with stranger light. Both are masters at stalking the somnambulistic side of life and reporting back with terrifying accuracy.

OK, the collaboration is a fantasy, at least thus far. But it most certainly doesn't seem inconceivable. There is something cinematic about Butler's ability to describe his bizarre mis en
I’m of two minds about this book (waking/sleeping). On the one hand, it wasn’t really what I wanted it to be. I was hoping for more of an insight into my own insomnia and instead it turned out to be a highly personal, idiosyncratic memoir of one person’s struggle with insomnia. Of course “not living up to preconceived notions” is hardly a fair criticism, and once I adjusted my expectations, I found things of interest here.

A clue as to what Butler is up to can be found in the books subtitle “A P
I had to force myself to finish this. I absolutely hated the run-on, stream-of-consciousness narrative style. It works for some books, or excerpts of books, but it just made the entirety of the book seem delusional and unhinged, and devalued the parts of the book I did enjoy, namely some of the timelines of historical discoveries and inventions, especially regarding the development of insomnia and the associated treatments/pharmaceuticals.
I actually didn't read more than 52 pages of this book....wasn't what I expected at all. The writing style was too poetic and stream of consciousness for me. If you like that kind of writing, you may love this book. If it drives you a little crazy to read (as it does me), skip this one.
Jeremy Ward
A beautifully written book that goes nowhere. I enjoyed the researched parts about the history of sleep, a few anecdotes from Butler's personal life, and accounts of the worsening dementia of his father, but throughout reading this book I just couldn't wait for it to be over.
Butler accurately captures the feeling of insomnia. This is not necessarily a good thing.
Why can't Blake Butler sleep? Because he's way way way way way WAY too self-involved.
Bobby Dixon
I have always been kind of averse to writing anything about Blake Butler's writing because [a] his sentences are mean like an older smart kid who listened to metal before you and seems beyond and [b] although I have always enjoyed reading his books, I cannot remember a fucking thing I have read after I have finished the book, even though weird corners and ditches of my memory wave dark hands when I remember these books, and I like it. About all that I can remember are textures like mud and blood ...more
Peter Landau
Insomnia is nothing with which I have experience. Sleep is as simple as closing my eyes -- in bed, seated, while driving. If I don't nod off immediately upon closing my eyes all I have to do is compose a story in my head. I must be very bad at composing stories, because before the setup is set up I'm out.

Blake Butler is good at composing stories. He has a bunch of them that I've wanted to read, but when I've opened some the words have slid off the page, often literally. I thought, then, because
Raül De Tena
Hace ahora unos cuatro o cinco años, el principal debate en torno a la producción cinematográfica más inquieta giraba en torno a la permeabilidad de fronteras entre ficción y no ficción: en aquellos tiempos, surgieron todo un conjunto de cintas inclasificables que pusieron a prueba la clasificación genérica clásica que diferenciaba entre documental y película de ficción. El abanico era tan amplio como para acoger en su seno propuestas de autor como “Vals con Bashir” a la vez que esa querencia po ...more
Melanie Page
I'd give it a solid 2.5--I really liked some parts (when he describes moments from his life in beautiful wording: the balloon, going to the clinic, his father, his dreams about the boulder and the man in the white car), but a lot of the book moves away from memoir and delves into fantasy (page after page of using words like air, self, meat, holes, and lick in uncommon form, leaving me a bit lost as to what he means and falling down the rabbit hole without a flashlight). They may be Butler's fant ...more
Matt Briggs
This is a great memoir that provides one of the pleasures of a really, to my taste, well done memoir. It is conversational and I feel as if the Butler has no axes to grind and is mostly interested in somehow capturing and preserving his mind in action around a subject. In this case he is trying to capture the world and his brain while not sleeping or being unable to sleep. Thinking about it now while typing this I can't really think of a many memoirs (a kind of inaccurate term of this book since ...more
Felicitas Träumer
Nothing. Well, there would be a lot to say about this book, but you better read for yourself to fully understand.

I found this read disturbing and at the same time disturbingly interesting. I could not stop reading until I was so tired I simply had to go to bed. Which is, in itself, paradox when reading about insomnia. Blake's mixture of theories about insomnia, its causes and its cures, and his very own experiences involving himself writing and his family history makes this book rather special.
Josh Friedlander
Part memoir and part history of insomnia, this surprising and exciting book reads emphatically like neither. Blake Butler's trademark prose coheres the parts into a different being altogether, pulling from the Critical Theorists he obviously reveres (Deleuze especially, but also Sartre, Levinas, Nancy and too many others to list) to make his own memories synecdochal of America's. Sentences stretch out, often over pages, filled with original constructions and myriad pop culture references. Someti ...more
Sep 25, 2014 Tracey marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommended-idm
Interest in topic - saw in Bookperk newsletter 9/25/14
"THE SOUND OUR DOGS UNDERSTOOD ABOUT US, SEEING. SLEEPING IN THOSE ROOMS; THE WORDS WRITTEN ON THEIR RIBS." I'm not sure why or whether I was expecting something different. Sure, the backflapcopy says "nonfiction," says "memoir"; I found this book (a practical joke?) in Health and Medicine--Sleep at Powell's. Someone coming upon it there would, I think, react violently. But this is a Blake Butler book.
Incredible account of insomnia, but not just insomnia. As Butler calls it, "the architecture of the unconscious" is very much addressed. His ability to fuse prose and poetry lend a great deal of insight and authenticity to this piece. I loved it. As far as I've looked, there really isn't anything else out there like it.
Carolyn DeCarlo
Blake is brilliant, I just couldn't find my way into this one. Some bits were really haunting, like the Lynch-esque boulder he saw on his ceiling as a child. My rating probably reflects more on my attention span / lack of focus than on Blake. Really wish I'd found a sustainable point of access here.
What a miracle that Blake Butler could sustain the rhythm and syntax of that elusive pre-sleep/over-tired state for 300 pages! Lovely: form marries content! But the trick got old after awhile of going nowhere interesting.
I talked a bit about my thoughts on NOTHING about halfway down the page here:
I hold back on rating certain books, feeling that only some kind of long response is worth it. It's been over a year since I read this one--oh well. I have a feeling I'll end up reading it again.
Shannon Barber
I really enjoyed this book. I found the structure and writing beautiful. As a fellow lifelong insomniac I saw a lot of my own experiences and commiserated,
Too wordy and lacks substance.

It was written in memory of David Foster Wallace. A bit pretentious, no?
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Is this title incorrect? 1 11 Oct 15, 2011 06:56PM  
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Blake Butler is the author of EVER, Scorch Atlas, and two books forthcoming in 2011 and 2012 from Harper Perennial. He edits 'the internet literature magazine blog of the future' HTML Giant. His other writing have appeared in The Believer, Unsaid, Fence, Dzanc's Best of the Web 2009. He lives in Atlanta.
More about Blake Butler...
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