I think there has been a huge shift among younger women in the last half-decade, comparable maybe to the change in public opinion about legalised marijuana. This shift has occurred across the culture, from the ground up, online, from the great expanses of blog-land, in entertainment media, and in New York publishing and media circles. Like the illogic of soft-drug prohibition, certain conditions of patriarchy are simply no longer tolerable.
There is a great energy that comes with this shift, which can be seen in various start-ups at all levels: Sarah Nicole Prickett’s Adult, the first feminist sex magazine that is both feminist and sexy; Jane Pratt’s xoJane; Jezebel and the Hairpin; Gawker and the Awl’s female subsidiaries. Younger women like Dayna Tortoricci have enacted huge editorial changes at n+1, which serves as a kind of high-culture feeder into mainstream New York publishing. The culturally-current online magazine the New Inquiry was founded by three female editors.
I’m not really interested in second best things or not writing, so it’s hard for me to even conceive of such a thing. I would have to imagine a different part of a multiverse, a part of the multiverse where I no longer feel the need to write, and what would I be doing? The thing about your questions is they posit that writing has to be the best thing and then there are second best things, and that is not true. Everything I want in my life are the best things, the best people, the best…fuck, that sounds so horrifyingly middle-class aspirational, doesn’t it? But I do, I do want everything to be the best, and everyone, but not according to some sort of an imaginary criteria developed via judgment, but through feeling, through the tactility of seeing with the heart wide open, the way one would open up a ribcage with their own hands in order to allow the actual organ to meet the same organ of another person, heart on heart becoming a much more sexually charged situation yet at the same time that is only a part of it, because what if the hearts thumping against each other only bring out kindness and stillness? In other words, I have no idea.
I maintain that in order to live fully I have to be willing to shed any idea of a normal or firm or ideal schedule at a moment’s notice, and thankfully I am able to do so, but nevertheless I do find deep joy in having a schedule, and the variation that is currently emerging as the leading one is by far my most favorite.
I wake up around 5-6 am, ideally in the same bed as Fifi. I stay in bed for a little bit, maybe ten minutes, maybe two, reflecting upon being alive, or what being alive is supposed to be, because how do I know I am alive, how do I know this is not just a dream of a brain that died and is now replaying its entire life? This, of course, is one of the theories that explain déjà vu.
But the first thing I tend to do is hug (for the first time in the day consciously, as we usually wake up unconsciously intertwined) and kiss Fiona, and then do that again, here and there, while doing the above.
I get up, ideally remembering my dreams, and write them into my dream diary, which I have kept updated for over a year now. I wash my face with cold water and prepare rolled oats and the first mug of Earl Grey. The trick to the oats is to throw in raisins, pour some hemp milk over them, cut strawberries and throw them in, hemp seeds, coconut oil, then pour boiling water over them, mix and let sit for five minutes, then add cinnamon, throw walnuts and sometimes pecans on top. Everything used has to be organic, high quality produce, because my food is my fuel and the cleaner the fuel the cleaner the energy derived from it, my perception, my body, and such.
I sit down, read an essay or an interview or a few articles while eating, spending no more than 10-15 minutes on this. I sip the tea. I dive into writing.
Four hours later I am done writing. At this point it’s somewhere between 10-11:30 am. I work out, prepare lunch and protein shake, eat my vitamins. After that — whatever I fancy.
Henry Giroux on neoliberalism — see full interview.
An Interview with Blake Butler
Wherever and whatever “the line” may be, the power of transgressive fiction comes from finding and crossing it. Plenty of books get there, but Blake Butler’s immense 300,000,000 begins on the far side and only goes farther, into a zone not meant for humans but still somehow perceptible to us, or to what will be left of us once what’s going to happen happens.
Opening as a prolonged rant, we’re thrown right away into the consciousness of a maniac called Gretch Gravey who, possessed by someone or something called Darrel, musters an army of lost boys to kill everyone in America (the 300,000,000 of the title is our former population). Into the wormhole opened by this devastation plunges Flood, a detective who serves as the reader’s shaky interpreter until he’s so overcome by the terrain that all sense is drained out of him. Then, in a place devoid of life but richly haunted by emergent, bastard forms of perception, the rest of the novel plays out in a state that I’ve never before felt a text induce in me.
The America of 300,000,000 is beyond collapse, over the brink that ours feels like it’s approaching. Threading its ultraviolence through suburbs, outlet malls, and a kind of normalcy wrapped around animal terror—“Outside, in the mash surrounding the house with cash and unending television…My skin around me did a slither”—its response to the spate of shootings of recent years does more than those events ever could to expose the black heart that both animates and threatens to annihilate everyone currently alive in this country.
Butler’s books have always been minds to sync up with and wander through, rather than guided tours of pre-existing places, but never before has he deformed the shape of his reader’s consciousness to this degree.
I spoke with Blake by phone in August. I was in New York and he was in Atlanta.
I. BLOW MYSELF OUT OF THE WATER
THE BELIEVER: 300,000,000 makes an extreme demand on the reader’s attention. It’s a book that says, “Fuck you, sit down, and listen.” It almost feels like bondage, another kind of violence beyond the violence of the subject matter.
BLAKE BUTLER: I’m glad that that comes through, because it was also violent to write. When I started it, I was probably in the worst emotional state of my life. I was like, “If I’m going to do this, I just have to explode. There’s nothing to hold back this time.” I feel like books are marginalized at this point too, so if I’m going to get your attention to make you even open the book, I’m going to take you by the fucking coat collar. I’m not trying to be macabre, but I was thinking, “This is going to be the last book I ever write.”
BLVR: A lot of your work has a pre-apocalyptic quality. Like the world’s in the process of ending. But in this book it feels like even that mindset is blowing up, like it was the terminus of some trajectory for you.
BB: It was definitely a transition point for me. I didn’t know what else to do, and I felt like I was pacing the same places again in everything I tried to write. That, coupled with being beside my dad dying over a slow four-year period, and I was also going through a really bad breakup—everything felt like shit to me. And I write all day every day, so when I feel unproductive, it magnifies everything else. It was just this collision of factors where I was like, “I’m gonna do everything I can to make this have every trick in my mind on paper, and then I don’t give a fuck what happens after that.” My main goal was to blow myself out of the water.