Talking with Furniture: Blake Butler

Blake Butler is from Atlanta.


UF Review: You’re often categorized as an experimental author. Do you agree? How would you describe your writing?


Butler: I don’t think of myself as experimental or as a writer. I think of myself as gone and as a person who likes to press buttons and has nothing else I’ll do.


UF Review: Your novels (Scorch Atlas) are told in stories. What’s the motivation behind this approach?


Butler: I don’t think of the parts of the book as stories, I think of them as parts of the book. There isn’t really a motivation; it is how it came out, how it occurred.


UF Review: What’s it like to lose yourself in fiction? Have you explored other forms? Nonfiction? Poetry? For you, what’s the difference between genres?


Butler: I haven’t lost myself yet unfortunately in it because I still have to eat every day and I still can see my face when I try to see it. I also still take a lot of showers and think about what the shape of my body is. I don’t believe in genres. I just don’t.


UF Review: Your plots and characters are so wild and yet your writing is so true to life. Where do you find inspiration?


Butler: I like to be asleep sometimes and I like to eat ham sandwiches when those occur around me which they rarely do. I like diet ginger ale and finding little nooks between hours of confused signals and things coming on and on and talking. I like my hands sometimes.


UF Review: A related question, where do your ideas come from? In talking to a few people about your writing, the consensus is that you’re so imaginative, writing at breakneck speed, yet your work seems so planned out and methodical. What kind of writer are you — the brain-stormer and outliner or the one who is open to improvisation?


Butler: I think the only way to say anything is to blurt it out and see if it sticks. I also think the only way to say anything is to be quiet.


UF Review: Does writing inform your life or does life inform your writing?


Butler: At this point all day everyday I am pretty much looking into the machine or I am eating; I don’t think either one of them is informing each other more than the other, they are just keeping going because it’s like this body that isn’t there and I can’t get out of it like I can’t get out of anything I want to get out of without just chopping it off at the arm. That’s what my writing is I guess to me: the quickest way I can chop off all my arms and face and leave just this skein of language that isn’t me and is more of me than me.


UF Review: Why have you dedicated yourself to writing?


Butler: I haven’t dedicated myself to anything; I hope tomorrow something else happens; it won’t.


UF Review: How does being an editor of HTMLGIANT, along with several other magazines, help you as a writer?


Butler: Some days it helps me by making me furious and wanting to stab the life out of a thing that does not exist and so I just start typing and all the keystrokes are little defunct shitty stabs at the body over all; other days it makes me really glad I know so many rad, brilliant people; other days I try as hard as I can to forget which is how not to forget.


UF Review: How does being an editor help you as a reader? Any favorite authors? Favorite Books?


Butler: I don’t think of myself as an editor, I think of myself as a person looking. My favorite author is my mother; not a lie. I have very many favorite books; I don’t know where to start; I have no memory.


UF Review: Your writing is so distinguishable, I think, because every sentence is on the razor’s edge. Each sentence carries so much weight. I’m not sure if you’re style would be called minimalist, but it’s definitely stunning in its ability to convey meaning in depth despite simple sentence structure. For you, is this style natural? Describe your revision process.


Butler: Thanks for saying so. A lot of it just comes out. No matter how fast it comes out I always go through it over and over again until I can read through without wanting to change anything; this can only be successful in the short term, I think, as after some amount of time you have changed enough as a person that you will want to change the part of the person that you were then when you made that, and you either can or can’t, which is why publishing should be the last thing on any person’s mind. So I try to revise over a period of time in which I am me of that time; sometimes I end up coming back down the road and things are changed again, but I really like the idea of parcels of a person being distributed, images. Um, so sometimes I can reread through a thing and find it has come out almost exactly as I imagine it should be; more often it takes at least a dozen go throughs and frequently several dozen or even more, again and again back to back before it is there or nearly there; some things never make it there; some things want their own life; they are infernal. I want those things the most.


UF Review: How do you like book tours? Is there a difference between reading & promoting your work and readers taking, say, Ever, off the shelf and reading to themselves?


Butler: I like hanging out with nice people and hearing about things; it takes a lot out though. I need a lot of time alone. Reading is okay, but you have to be open to it; it is easy to close off and say fuck all. I try. I like certain people’s voices and certain moments. I like my desk.


UF Review: Your forthcoming novel, There is No Year, is being described as a crosspollination of House of Leaves and the films of David Lynch. What do you think of that comparison?


Butler: I imagine it could be compared to any book. I imagine it is any book. It has a lot of strange rooms, like any book. It uses space a lot and malformation a lot, like any book. But ultimately it is not like either of those things at all.


UF Review: If you could be compared to any author or artist, who would you choose? Do you like comparisons or are they false advertising?


Butler: I’d like to be compared to Nothing: the action.


UF Review: What are you currently working on?


Butler: A nonfiction book about sleep; a novel about a mirror house and the end of motherhood and murder; a collaboration with my sister’s photography on the state of my father’s brain; a novel about 300,000 kinds of drugs.


UF Review: Please share anything else you would like to say.


Butler: Thanks.

More interviews at Used Furniture.



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