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Hell

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3.40  ·  Rating details ·  1,488 ratings  ·  258 reviews
The new novel from one of American literature's brightest stars, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler's uproarious new novel is set in the underworld. Its main character, Hatcher McCord, is an evening news presenter who has found himself in Hell and is struggling to explain his bad fortune. He's not the only one to s ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Grove Press
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Average rating 3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,488 ratings  ·  258 reviews


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Ryan Hibbett
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'm only giving it 2 stars for the idea and themes. Really, it deserves 1 for being written so poorly. This guy won a Pulitzer Prize? I'm surprised he has even made as a writer. Let me give you a tip, Mr. Butler: never write in the passive voice! "He is thinking" should never be written. Every other page had something written in the passive voice and it drove me nuts. It was hard to concentrate. I also get what he's trying to do with the thought process being run-on sentences, but when it goes o ...more
Tim
Apr 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
Someone once said that the problem with sensational journalism is not that it is not journalism, but rather that it is not sensational. Reading through this book, I thought of a new way of phrasing the idea: the problem with experimental novelists is not that they are not novelists, but that they are not experimental.

This could have been a truly imaginative piece of work. When I picked it up, I was looking forward to all the grossness, horror, and enslavement of Dante's Inferno, but updated with
...more
Marlena
May 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
If Hell were a 79¢ microwavable burrito it would come in the green wrapper and it's flavor would be mild.

I bought this book when it first came out, having excited myself over the synopsis. A snarky, adult, pop-culture referencing trip through Hell? That's so up my alley. I had started it immediately but according to the old receipt-turned-bookmark I only made it to page 40. What had happened?

Probably not by coincidence, it was around page 40 on the reread that I realized why I dropped Hell the f
...more
Amy Wilder
Nov 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
New Yorker capsule review got my attention. The premise alone is great - a newscaster in hell does a series of celebrity interviews - just one question: "Why Do You Think You're Here?"
Perversely profound, though we are lured into the novel at the prospect of being a voyeur of someone else's eternal damnation, Butler leads the reader quickly to contemplate the source of all suffering.

In the opening scene Hatcher McCord, the narrator and anchorman of the Evening News from Hell, describes a televis
...more
Jordan
First off, thanks to the good people at ARCycling and to Mariela O. for getting me this book. Free books are always a cause for thanks, regardless of what I end up thinking of the book itself. In this case....well, my reaction was just incredibly ambivalent. Robert Olen Butler is apparently a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, but at least in this case I didn't see what all the fuss was about. There are a few laughs throughout this work of satire, but on the whole its cynical view of human nature ju ...more
Jeremy
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Hatcher McCord was a world-famous broadcast journalist, known for his sharply discerning eye for the news and his interviews with the dirtiest dictators and celebrities alike, while dealing with asshole producers and a bevy of bitchy ex-wives. And then he died and went to Hell, where his eternal punishment turned out to be exactly the same as his life on earth, only with even worse traffic and bouts of acid rain. And his producer isn't just an asshole, he's Beelzebub. You see, Hatcher isn't just ...more
Geo
Apr 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I'll summarize. This was an excellent book. The premise is awesome. I don't want to share too much to avoid spoilers.

The basic idea is that the main character is a journalist who has died and gone to hell, and is now a Evening News in Hell anchorman. Oh yeah, and he's co-habitating with Anne Boleyn. Right, the Henry the 8th Anne Boleyn. The author has cooked up some seriously demented "punishments" for the various denizens. You may consider this a modernized Dante's Inferno if you wish, but that
...more
David
Jan 18, 2010 rated it liked it
If you look at most of what I enjoy reading, you’ll understand that every now and then I need a dose of comedy, and this ingenious satiric three ring circus fit the bill well. As with Dante’s Inferno, there’s precious little plot: this one’s mostly about the sightseeing, and much of the entertainment of this book actually stems from the seemingly endless variety and ingenuity of such special punishments, which make Dante look like an amateur. William Randolph Hearst blogs without recourse to the ...more
Elizabeth
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 52-in-2010
Hell by Robert Olen Butler (pp. 232)

Hands down, one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. A surreal comedy set literally in Hell with deceased fictional journalist, Hatcher McCord as our tortured, philosophical tour guide who happens to be the current anchor for Evening Nightly News of Hell.

Based on Dante’s Inferno with pieces of Jean Paul Satre, Waiting for Godot, Picasso at Lapin Agile, Dennis Miller, CNN, Entertainment Weekly and your high school history books all beautifully merged in
...more
Mary Overton
Butler is funny as Hell while asking the Big Serious Questions. The more familiar you are with Dante, the better this novel. I knew right away, on page 2, I was going to like the book when one of the first denizens introduced was "George Clemens, inventor of the electric hand dryer for public restrooms."

Actually, everyone seems to be there, all the best people. The protagonist, Hatcher McCord, died a big-shot TV news anchor and now headlines "The Evening News from Hell." He lives with Anne Bole
...more
Jeff Rowe
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
You know the old joke: if you go to hell then you'll be so busy shaking hands with all your friends that you won't have time to worry? That pretty much sums up this story. But of course being dead in hell in this story is probably just a metaphor for life as we know it. This slim book was surprisingly difficult to get through. All the famous denizens: J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Anne Boleyn, etc., were cliches of the popular versions of these characters. Snore. Their individual tortures were ...more
Travis Cherry
Nov 16, 2009 rated it liked it
I wasn't quite sure what to make of this at first. From the jacket it appeared to be a comical romp through hell with all your favorite characters from history, and while the humor exists it is more subtle that the synopsis had me believing. It read more, to my thinking, as a commentary on the fallacy of religious idealism where even the most holy men on the planet live through hell. But happiness is in the struggle or so they say and perhaps that's the point. Worthwhile reading, but easy to set ...more
Audrey
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm so happy to have discovered Robert Olen Butler. I'm not sure what made me pick up this book (the title? the cover illustration?). Butler takes readers on an enjoyable literary romp through Hell with his protagonist, a TV anchorman who has found himself in that place below and sets out to find out why he is there--along with all manner of other famous and not-so-famous people. But there's a deeper message about humanity that's both satisfying and poignant. I'll be picking up more of Butler's ...more
Lauren
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Don't be turned off by the number of lower reviews of this book. Most people don't like it cause its "depressing." I have to say that most literature is depressing and if you don't want to read about reality stick to reading Romance novels are the stuff that scruffs by these days as "bestsellers." This novel is inventive and fascinating. A quick read and definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time. This is number 75 for the year so that should say something.
Meredith
Feb 28, 2011 rated it did not like it
holy crap this was terrible

note to literary world: Pulitzer winners still need editors to tell them when their work sucks balls. note to Pulitzer winners: don't waste our time (or, hell, your own time), not to mention the bajillions of trees it took to print the book, with self-indulgent, idiotic work like this. note to R.O.B.: your sense of humor is downright embarrassing, yo


(had to read this for class)
Carole B
Jul 10, 2016 rated it liked it
This is the first Butler novel I've read, and I'm impressed. His take on hell was lively and thoroughly imagined, and filled with the one-off satiric comments that I love. His characters were well-drawn, and I was particularly impressed with the independence he gave to his female characters. The contemporary comments have already made this book a snapshot of its time, but its willingness to embrace this time-sensitive satire makes it more valuable.
Deborah
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
I had some issues with this book at first, mainly because its themes were a bit heavy given the personal hell I was going through. But it picks up very well once it gets past the initial fascination with itself and the idea of all these famous people in hell. I loved the ending and found it unexpected and remarkably sweet.
Aaron
Jun 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Not impressed. As a matter of fact, several times throughout the book, I was reminded of the title whenever I considered how many pages were left. I only stuck with it because Mr. Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winner (although, not by the standards of this book, in my opinion) and the premise is interesting, just not well done. Anyway, I can't recommend it at all as I barely finished it myself.
Trudi
Not what I was expecting AT ALL. It had its moments in the first 50 pages, then it just went downhill for me after that. I skimmed and jumped around and was never genuinely engaged. I guess I just missed the point.
Morgan
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Lives up to the intriguing premise. I found the novel to be strangely satisfying despite the fact that all of the characters are languishing in Hell. Would make a nice companion read to Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman.
Fred
May 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spinebreakers
Almost 5 stars. Great book, creatively set in a vivid underworld, with a great list of famous (infamous?) cameos. Read with a search engine nearby, looking up unfamiliar names is almost a must.
Kate
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have no clue how this book got onto my reading list. I think I’m glad it got there but, as often with satires, it is sometimes hard to be sure. Julien du Casse (1682 – 1715) was a French arms dealer whose last words are reported to be, “May the hell you find be the fruit of your carelessness.” This quote came to mind during my reading of In Hell.

Robert Olen Butler’s protagonist is Hatcher McCord, an famous evening news anchorman whose job now is to present hell’s evening news program. His is a
...more
Jennifer
Sep 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club
One of the members of my book club suggested we read Hell. In many ways, it sounded like an excellent companion to our previous book, A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. I had expected that, in spite of the dark subject matter, I would see much of the same humor and quirkiness that defines Moore's writing. Based on the back cover and summary, this book sounds more like a comedy. However, I found that it didn't deliver on that at all.

Hatcher McCord presents the evening (or is it the evening? Time p
...more
Doctor Moss
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is a good book. It's rare -- a provocative book that raises serious questions but is very entertaining, and even a fast read.

Robert Olen Butler won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier book, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. He's an excellent writer who writes almost breezily about serious subjects. Here the subject is self-absorption, conscience, guilt, and redemption. The lead character is Hatcher McCord, anchorman for the Evening News from Hell. If that sounds odd, it's representative of
...more
Lucie Jones
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deniz
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, 2019
Things I liked:

1)The humor. I honestly laughed out loud a couple of times while I was reading this. The situations the characters were put in and the tortures they had to go through were at times hilarious. The conversations between the characters were at time so absurd, I was cackling.

2)The writing style. It fit the premise so well. From the conversations to the inner monologue of the characters, everything was exquisite. Also so creative, amazingly creative.

3)The questions it asked. Hatcher wa
...more
Lauren Volpone
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I did not enjoy reading this novel. I tend to read more comedic fare, but I came across this cover in a bookstore, and I was drawn in by its premise. It has been a few years since I finished it. However, moments from it keep coming back to me--the scene when the acid rain falls down, and the main character merges with the other people on the street; when Hillary Clinton shares a tender moment with her husband, even though she knows she will be punished for it later; the feeling of isolation that ...more
Ace McGee
Winner of a Pulitzer Prize! Splashed all over the book’s jacket, inside and out. But not for this book. An interesting concept of hell, where everyone, even Jerry Seinfeld’s Aunt Ruthie apparently ends up. Mostly over populated, cheap, dingy, & hot, (except that continuously sinking Titanic, where it is damp). Where memories of life and death rise & fade quickly.
Our hero is an anchorman on nightly news from hell, where the only sure thing is that unpleasant things will happen. Everyone will be
...more
Jason Lesher
Jul 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
I absolutely loved Butler's collection of short stories "A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain," but nothing in "Hell" led me to believe it was written by a man of the same capabilities.
The main character was dull, which seemed appropriate for a TV anchor in Hell, but I didn't find any other reason to care about the book. Some parts were mildly funny. There didn't seem to be any point to the book, other than creating a lengthy list of Hellians, ranging Judas Iscariot to Mother Teresa. The lack o
...more
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“I’ll never stop believing it: Robert Olen Butler is the best living American writer, period.”
– Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram


Robert Olen Butler has published sixteen novels—The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, Hell, A Small Hotel, The Hot Country, The Star of Istanbul, The Empir
...more

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