Inside the Mind of a Killer

51bFeD6U3yLI’ve always been fascinated by abstraction in writing. Obviously one of the masters of such thing would be Joyce, Finnegans Wake is the ultimate abstraction. However, letting your imagination, creativity and shitposting skills unfurl has many dimensions. 300.000.000 by Blake Butler is a story of Gravey, a serial killer and more or less involuntary cult leader and Flood, a police officer investigating his case. From the fragments of Scorch Atlas which I’ve read earlier, I knew already that this reading would be a rather extreme experience. Creepy, sick and highly addictive at the same time:

It was hard in the first hours under Darrel to figure out how to make the voice come out of my lungs the way the blood in those lungs meant to barf the syllables rejected from the vocabularies of common man. Gravey had not spoken so well in so long and I newly here inside him burned like burning books searching for the locks to keyless ways. I had to breathe way hard deep inside me like I was to be going under water; then I would close my eyes and listen hard, and through the phone over the rolling of the water I could hear the things we meant to verbalize in bone.

And that’s pretty much how the narrative works. It’s written in the form of notes or commentary; written by Gravey, Flood, other policemen or people involved in the crimes. It gets distorted a little bit in the later parts of the plot but I’m not going to delve too much into that.

Why do I find this book important? Writing in a maniacal, mystical and abstract way is not easy; pretentiousness is not very far away, IMHO Butler’s novel manages to avoid that thin border. We have fragments about sucking one’s eyeballs out, the spirit/ego/whatever-you-want-to-call-that leaving the body, police officer’s distressed reflections and many more. All of that seem to be interspersed in such a way that a certain atmospheric harmony is preserved.

Beside stylistics, the novel evokes a beautiful (if your sense of beauty is as fucked up as mine) image of apocalypse in America. The title refers to the rough number of people who live in the country and who are to be doomed. The closer the plot gets to the apocalypse, the more surreal/abstract it becomes. It also gets harder to get through the narration, that’s why ultimately I think it’s not a book for less experienced readers. The apocalypse is not the end though; I’m still struggling a little bit with interpreting the subsequent part. Nevertheless, it’s a book which left me in a weird, but kinda purgatory state. At the end of an interview from 2014 Butler was asked what is he working on now, to which he replied “I am trying to be calm.” So do I.

Books by Women which Shaped Me into the Man I Am, Pt. 1

mrs dallowayIt might be possible, Septimus thought, looking at England from the train window, as they left Newhaven; it might be possible that the world itself is without meaning.

Firstly I have to say that I’ve never liked comparing Mrs Dalloway to Ulysses. Usually this results in calling Woolf’s novel something like a “feminist” version of Joyce. This is unfair as Joyce’s relation with women’s issues and feminism is rather complicated, whereas Woolf’s work may be seen as less diverse and not so “overwhelming” in some kind of a structuralist sense as Joyce; which is also not the case.

Mrs Dalloway was one of the first books which put my attention to beauty in writing. When I started to write prose, it was a total nightmare for me as I was not able to produce at least one more elaborate description of anything. And then I read a passage like this:

She took a seat on top. The impetuous creature – a pirate – started forward, sprang away; she had to hold the rail to steady herself, for a pirate it was, reckless, unscrupulous, bearing down ruthlessly, circumventing dangerously, boldly snatching a passenger, or ignoring a passenger, squeezing eel-like and arrogant in between, and then rushing insolently all sails spread up Whitehall. And did Elizabeth give one thought to poor Miss Kilman who loved her without jealousy, to whom she had been a fawn in the open, a moon in a glade? She was delighted to be free. The fresh air was so delicious. It had been so stuffy in the Army and Navy Stores. And now it was like riding, to be rushing up Whitehall; and to each movement of the omnibus the beautiful body in the fawn-coloured coat responded freely like a rider, like the figure-head of a ship, for the breeze slightly disarrayed her (…)

It’s like poetry. The whole novel is refreshing, vivid and sad in some kind of a purgatory way. Unlike Ulysses, which is a bit more abstract and otherworldly, Mrs Dalloway makes a clear point about deeper reflections on life hidden in simple, daily activities. It certainly taught me that everything matters: time, sounds, flowers, gloves, memories, associations, death and so on. Later on I’ve read books which extended my interest in such theme, like White Noise, but that particular novel was a kind of a starting point for me. And though I’m still struggling with writing in a more descriptive manner, I believe that authors like Woolf are a great source of inspiration for that.