Blake Butler is the author of EVER, Scorch Atlas, and two books forthcoming in 2011 and 2012 from Harper Perennial. He edits ‘the internet literature magazine blog of the future’ HTML Giant. His other writing have appeared in The Believer, Unsaid, Fence, Dzanc’s Best of the Web 2009. He lives in Atlanta.
Three Hundred Million
Blake Butler’s fiction has dazzled readers with its dystopian dreamscapes and swaggering command of language. Now, in his most topical and visceral novel yet, he ushers us into the consciousness of two men in the shadow of a bloodbath: Gretch Gravey, a cryptic psychopath with a small army of burnout followers, and E. N. Flood, the troubled police detective tasked with unpacking and understanding his mind.
A mingled simulacrum of Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Thomas Harris’s Buffalo Bill, Gravey is a sinister yet alluring God figure who enlists young metal head followers to kidnap neighboring women and bring them to his house—where he murders them and buries their bodies in a basement crypt. Through parallel narratives, Three Hundred Million lures readers into the cloven mind of Gravey—and Darrel, his sinister alter ego—even as Flood’s secret journal chronicles his own descent into his own, eerily similar psychosis.
A portrait of American violence that conjures the shadows of Ariel Castro, David Koresh, and Adam Lanza, Three Hundred Million is a brutal and mesmerizing masterwork, a portrait of contemporary America that is difficult to turn away from, or to forget.
In this striking novel-in-stories, a series of strange apocalypses have hit America. Entire neighborhoods drown in mud, glass rains from the sky, birds speak gibberish, and parents of young children disappear. Millions starve while others grow coats of mold. But a few are able to survive and find a light in the aftermath, illuminating what we’ve become. In “The Disappeared”, a father is arrested for missing free throws, leaving his son to search alone for his lost mother. A boy swells to fill his parents’ ransacked attic in “The Ruined Child”. Rendered in a variety of narrative forms, from a psychedelic fable to a skewed insurance claim questionnaire, Blake Butler’s full-length fiction debut paints a gorgeously grotesque version of America, bringing to mind both Kelly Link and William H. Gass, yet imbued with Butler’s own vision of the apocalyptic and bizarre.
I put the girl’s teeth shaped like my mother’s teeth into my own mouth and on her teeth I chewed until I heard my own teeth in my head breaking and I swallowed and I smiled.
Email servers learned to laugh.
Overhead the sky was melting, the cracked cream color rubbing off in cogs of brine.
The fields far ahead of me in endless pudding, studded here and there with what had been: homes and houses, hair and heirlooms, habits, hallways, hauntings, hope.
black beyond black
Blood helicopters chopped across my slim cerebrum like fresh diamonds, rings in screaming on small hands coming awake inside my linings, each after its own way to reach beyond me.