Laura van den Berg interviews Blake Butler

Your story Landlord appeared in Memorious 10. Can you tell us a little about how that story came to be?

If I recall correctly, and I may not, as that was one of those stories that kind of fell out of me in the dark, I think I had this first sentence typed into a word file on my hard drive for a long while waiting, then one day sat down and wrote the remainder some time later, when it hit. I have several folders full of bits like that, a sentence or a string of them, or some words, kind of hiding or barfed up around there often never to get their bodies. When I am bored or feel weird I will pick around the files, and sometimes something, like this one, sparks. I like a minefield and a bunch of darts, the idea of coming back to something that struck you as a door but then never went beyond that. Some of my favorite things I’ve written have come this way. As for the rest of it, I think it all burst out of that sound when I returned and understood it differently however long later. If there hadn’t been that gap it would have been something wholly else I’m sure. I think I wrote the remainder on my mother’s computer one day late in the evening after having run several miles and was all wet.

This is perhaps an impossible question, but I’m going to ask anyway: what’s your favorite image from a work of fiction? Or your favorite at this moment?

Jesus, yeah, that’s something. But in letting my brain move to the first thing that wells up in asking, rather than a favorite–one of the images that’s been sitting on me since I read it back whenever is that of the man crawling up the building’s face in David Foster Wallace’s ‘Mister Squishy.’ A guy inside an apparatus, and he begins to shift his shape as he gets to a certain height, and the crowd below him watching. That’s one of the those stories that I have no idea what is going on or why inside it, but the energy it contains and the way it suspends this kind of other energy inside it, and develops that energy into a body that could exist nowhere but on paper, and then leaves it in mid-boom, as he does there. Now that I think about it, that interruption of the image, in its mid-moving, and that drop out, the big blank, works a lot like the ending of René Daumal’s very short uncompleted novel, Mount Analogue, which he literally died while writing, leaving it open in midsentence. He, like Wallace, was very young when he passed. He, like Wallace, went somewhere else and left a space inside some words.

I’m a big fan of HTML Giant. It’s one of the few “literary” blogs that I read daily. How did you first come to blogging?

I think I started blogging personally before it was blogging–I had a personal website around age 18 where I would post regular interviews, reviews, poems, musings about bullshit. I’ve always had some weird tendency to spill some garbage in online air, as if speaking through another person. As for actual ‘blogging’ in the realm that has become a kind of separate, public, linked up rhizome, I think actually Tao Lin, whose blog around 2006 I refreshed constantly, told me that I should start a blog, that he would link me if I did. Once I got in the middle of that mode, it became a wholly different thing than what I’d been doing website hiding. It’s really become something else. Though I don’t personally blog as much as I used to, it doesn’t come to me as much anymore in quite the way it did, I really can’t imagine a better kind of advice to give someone that wants to interact with other people of an interest. My daily life, I imagine, would be very different now had I never gotten involved–for better or for worse.

What are you reading now?

Just tonight I finished Wayne Koestenbaum’s biography of Andy Warhol, called Andy Warhol. It was very good, more a critical study and poetic synthesis of his life and work than a traditional biography. I’ve been slowly digesting Brian Massumi’s Parables for the Virtual and Deleuze’s Cinema 1 and Cinema 2 since the beginning of the year, and will likely continue though the year. On my desk to read next is Joshua Cohen’s Witz, a 900 page novel from Dalkey I am supposed to review for the Believer in 550 words, as well as a galley of Eugene Marten’s Firework from Tyrant Press and hopefully somewhere in there Agota Kristof’s volume of three novels, The Notebook, The Proof, and The Third Lie. I’m a dog. I read a lot.

What are you working on now?

I’m in the final stages of editing my novel that will come out probably near the end of this year from Harper Perennial, tentatively titled The Black Gazebo. Tinkering in little ways is actually changing the book a lot for me in really nice ways, so I feel excited about the last few drafts, and then getting it in final form. I’ve also been in the middle for about six months now of working on a first draft of a nonfiction book about sleep and insomnia that will come out in 2011, that is certainly unlike anything I’ve done, and has been welling in me since I was 4.


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