John's Reviews > EVER

EVER by Blake Butler
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's review
Jun 01, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: fun-fanatasy-sf, novellas-edgy-magnificent, thorny
Recommended to John by: Dan Wickett, I think
Recommended for: readers who like a bent meditation, a spacey claustrophobia, & incomprehensible stimulation
Read in April, 2009 , read count: 2

Blake Butler brings off sentences that at once estrange & seduce, their phrasing & pacing like some 21st-Century resurrection of the Middle English, constructed w/ an ear to assonance & buried rhymes. From the second page of EVER: "In the light my skin was see-through -- my veins an atlas spanned in tissue." Not much later, more pugnaciously: "Streams of night might gleam like glass. The dirt would swim with foam." Appreciation of this small, scary miracle depends on appreciation of such beveled gems, the bits & pieces of which it's composed. Myself, I might as well've been knocked from my horse on the road to Damascus, & what floored me is also a miracle of compression. EVER contains only occasional full pages of prose, indeed it features a central sequence on which there are no more than a few lines per page, & it has interstititial designs to boot, faint gray hints of Gorey, breaking up the novella still further. Yet I find gleanings of story enough to sustain me. EVER tracks a soiled Alice (unnamed, actually) through the looking-glass & way beyond, drawn on by a force she can't understand, & that may eventually destroy her. But first she travels through room after room of a phantasmagoric home. Sample: "The next room was made of wobble. Magnetic tape streaming from the rafters, bifurcating blonde split-ends. Cashed." (& the rest of the page runs blank... inviting meditation, perhaps?) Strange as EVER's house-tour is, though, it nonetheless recalls a classic turn of the mind, the psychological phenomenon sometimes called "the dream of rooms." Such dreams can occur at any age, but they're most common near the end of life, as a person revisits all the arenas of experience. Garcia Marquez makes brilliant use of this phenomenon, for instance, when he anticipates the death of Jose Arcadio Buendia in 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE. A more compatible figure for Butler's well-paced nightmare, however, would be Beckett's Malone, since if this girl too is dying, it's of some illness or wound she can never understand, in a place she can't say how she reached, & yet it's these very same gaps of self or soul that help her achieve a perverse assumption to heaven -- & the reader's along with her.
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