Butler’s work ranges from hallucinatory nihilism (There Is No Year) to his polymathic memoir Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia. In his most recent offering, the title and the five-part structure both recall and (feebly) parody Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. The novel begins as the notebook of a mass killer, Gretch Nathaniel Gravey, who believes himself possessed by an entity known as Darrel, and we’re immersed from the first pages in unspeakable crimes. Assisted by an army of dissolute boys, Gravey commits and carefully records his murders, even as he dreams of a city called Sod that he longs to recreate on earth. Through footnotes and case files, we follow the detective assigned to Gravey’s case, E.N. Flood, who is drawn deeper and deeper into a madness that threatens to claim him as he explores the ruins of Gravey’s house and seeks the truth behind Darrel and Sod. Butler suggests that the real killer may be America—or rather, the American psyche of waste and noise—and that the killing may never stop. Unfortunately, this promising setup gives way to embarrassing lists, clichés, automatic writing, and virtually no payoff. Seldom has a descent into insanity felt so inconsequential and ponderous. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/11/2014 Release date: 10/01/2014 Genre: Fiction
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