You can review or say something about the book on Amazon now, though they haven't started selling it, and is better as always to buy from Calamari direct. Brief reviews or ratings or comments there are more than appreciated.
Speaking of such, the benevolent and magically attentive Chris Higgs sent me a letter with notes he wrote down in his reading journal while or after reading, which were so in a way of speaking about the book that I haven't found a way quite to do, that I felt it too apt not to share.
It's funny when a friend who doesn't read that much fiction asks what the book is about, because I really have no idea how to say. Mostly I say 'titties,' unless my mom asks, then I say 'I don't know, why does it have to be about anything.' From now on, though, I may just fwd them this.
Friday, January 16, 2009, 6:47pm
I read Blake Butler's new novella Ever, while in the bathtub earlier today. I got it in the mail. Blake signed it, which was nice. He also included a compact disc labeled Ever that turned out to be a mixtape accompaniment to the book. I sampled the disc and found it pregnant with potential. When I go to read the book for a second time, I will do so while listening to the mix.
My overall reaction is one of pleasure. I really enjoyed reading it. Very rare is it that I read an entire anything in one sitting (point of reference: it took me one week to read Clarice Lipsector's 94 page novella The Hour of the Star).
The sentences kept pulling me. The sentences were Gordon Lish worthy sentences.
The artwork complimented the text, made it more than a story, made it an artifact.
Key elements, in no particular order: blood, skin, water, a bathtub, the sky, a house, doors, teeth, a mother, crawling, burping, mirrors, the yawning, sores, loneliness.
Brought to mind aspects of David Ohle's Motorman (in the way it evokes a strange world that is both alien and familiar), David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress (Made me imagine: what if the main character in WM had a sister who, instead of wandering the streets confined herself indoors?), Ellen Burstyn's character in Requiem for a Dream combined with the woman character in Alexander Payne's segment of Paris, je t'aime, Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves (made me think about teaching a course on representations of the home in late 20th/early 21st century literature – could use parts of Blanchot's The Poetics of Space, parts of Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space, could also use Kathryn Davis's Hell), certainly aspects of Ben Marcus (the linguistic oddity, the estrangement of language, the overall defamiliarization so characteristic of his work).
There is a part towards the beginning where some neighbor kids climb up on the roof of their house and touch the sky, there's another part where there's a button or a switch in the sky, then there's another part where the bathtub (or was it the fountain?) becomes the sky.
I loved what Blake was doing with the sky. This was certainly something "new" in the realm of literature – it made me scared of going outside, or at least, it made me scared of looking up at the sky. Which reminds me of the opening sentence in Gibson's Neuromancer about the sky looking like a television tuned to a dead channel.
Teeth are all over. Lots of teeth, lots of sores, too. Lots of bleeding. But the teeth thing. This contributed to the dream quality – for me at least, given that teeth often appear in my dreams, losing teeth, teeth cracking, etc.
It is mysterious. It is sad. It is very mysterious.
The brackets got me thinking. Typically, we use brackets to signify a passage of text that is being rewritten, filled in, paraphrased, or….
well, I just googled the phrase "how to use brackets" and this is what I found:
Br: use brackets for parentheses within parentheses or to indicate an addition to a quotation.
PARENTHESIS WITHIN PARENTHESIS: The Lord Byron who visited Hawaii in 1825 was a cousin (George Anson [1789-1868]) of the famous poet.
ADDITION TO A QUOTATION: Samuel Johnson observed, "he that tries to recommend him [Shakespeare] by select quotations will succeed like the pedant [. . .] who, when he offered his house to sale, carried a brick in his pocket as a specimen" (264).
Br X: use brackets sparingly. They make a page ugly. With a little imagination, you can find a better alternative:
UGLY: Emily Dickinson paradoxically claims, "I [she] taste[s] a liquor never brewed."
BETTER: Emily Dickinson paradoxically claims to "taste a liquor never brewed."
According to The Keables Guide to Writing by Harold Keables.
I would argue that Ever proves Keables's aesthetic assumption wrong. Brackets are not ugly. Brackets are interesting. They raise questions that would not be raised if they were absent. They add on. They multiply possibilities.
Hermeneutically speaking, brackets could signify the narrator's inability to own her thoughts, her personality, her selfhood. The brackets make the speaker conditional.
Time is nonlinear in Ever - that's the obvious, easy answer. But I would claim that the way Blake uses time is actually demonstrative of quantum wave function. By this I mean, time seems to pop in and out of existence in Ever, much like the experience of popping a quiff. One moment exists because it is being observed by the narrator, and then it disappears, only to be replaced by another observation, which could be considered "random" if it were not understood in terms of quantum physics. In terms of quantum physics, the notions of order and chaos are collapsed because every possibility exists simultaneously even though we only experience one possibility at a time – this seems to be a genuinely interesting analogy for Ever – all possibilities exist, all time exists, but what we as the reader experience are only those moments established by the author, non sequentially, non logically, as she pops the quiff of her reality.
[remember to return to this notion of interpreting quantum connections]
Thanks be to Higgs for such a thoughtful and flattering read.