Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just Jennifer

There is No Year by Blake Butler (Harper Perennial, April 2011)

What begins as a deceptively simple novel turns into an allegory for the banality of everyday life. A family without names has moved into a house that often turns into a house of horrors with holes in the walls and a room filled with hair, and a copy family that torments father, mother and son. Everyday occurrences are brought down to their most basic and visceral elements in this novel and will be recognizable by all of us, even though we may not want to see them. Butler brings to life the secrets we hid from each other and ourselves and the mindlessness and inattentiveness we give to our daily tasks. The novel explores the things we discover about ourselves and others when we remember to stop and pay attention to the details, the things from our past that keep a hold on us, our longings and our hopes and how we recognize the best and worst in each other and ourselves.

The physical format of the book, pages in varied shades of grey remind us that nothing is black and white; the sparseness of words on the pages reminds us how we need others to fill our lives. Stark but elegant prose conveys the lack of connectivity we all feel from time to time, from our environment, families and from to ourselves. Blake is a clever writer and it often feels that he is playing a trick on the readers in this dystopic novel.

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