Click through for a review of EVER, the eighth in this full-press review series of Calamari books.
This is my second time through Blake Butler’s debut novel(la) EVER, & I must admit that I felt more in-tune to the book during this re-reading.
Forgive my comparison, but for me, it is as if Butler has written a new (fucked) version of MY HAPPY LIFE by Lydia Millet. In Millet’s book, the narrator goes between descriptions of being locked away & forgotten in a psych ward room with no one left outside & memories of childhood, scenes that show us how horrible & amazingly brutal the life of the narrator was up until the room confinement.
& while Millet’s book dwells in the past, only stepping to the present five or so times in the duration of the book, Butler’s book only steps to the past four or five times – instead engaging the future of light and never-ending doors, the what-if or could-be or the perhaps of moving forward in a place where there is no forward:
“[ I dreamt there was a door inside my stomach. It was gray and had a curtained window. I could feel the doorbell on my tongue.[ Some nights in bed I’ll lay with my face pressed against the door lodged in my headboard and I will hold my breath and I will listen. [ Other nights I sleep. ]]].”
& it is this realm of the unknown that makes EVER such a brutal & lasting novel(la). Butler focuses us as readers on glowing light, on unending tunnels, on the doors that don’t open or that open into another room with more tunnels or doors or light. This is a conscious effort to drag us back & across the narrative, flesh across coals, & in EVER, it works beautifully.
“[ The voice came in perpendicular to my mother’s, at first clashing – the walls began to bend – then the two voices joined together. The two voices formed another voice, this one numbing, humming out.]] [ The room then took to turning inward. We all were also walking. We had to move out of my way. Another of me was speaking also. And another. Heads full of breath and cold lawnmowers. The house had walls and halls.[ And another voice. Another. We were we, where, we were one(s).]] [ The room had shook. The walls were nowhere. The walls erupted blisters from their sweat. There was this voice. There was this nowhere.] [ The voice was speaking louder.] [ The voice was speaking.] [Saying something.]”
If Millet’s character is searching for a past, a way to define the present, then Butler’s narrator is searching for a future, a way to eschew the past, a means to an end, especially if it is an end with definable light & house walls that protect instead of shrinking to us like skin:
“[ The room was many rooms I no longer could contain.[ This certain room was filled with liquid. In this liquid there was light – shone from the stubbled ceiling wrought with scratching – illegible, duressed. [ Deeper down the liquid’s thickness ate the glow and scrunched the space to gone. Perhaps still somewhere in there, drowned: my bed, my bedside table, my sleeping gown, my sleep itself, my head etched in the dresser mirror. [ Sometimes, in night, this room would boil. ]]”
EVER is important because it is a tremendous use of fragmented writing & because it comes from an author who has (SCORCH ATLAS) & will (two forthcoming titles from Harper Perennial) explode.
Check out EVER here.
Next up, LAND OF THE SNOW MEN.