Can You Keep a Guy Intrigued? An Interview with Blake Butler

by Andrew Ervin

Blake Butler is the author of the novella Ever (Calamari Press) and a novel-in-stories called Scorch Atlas (Featherproof Books). There’s no mistaking the singularity and utter strangeness of his texts—these are not “stories” any more than Gogol’s or the Brothers Grimm’s are. His sentences, as you’ll see even in this interview, don’t move in the ways we’re conditioned to expect, and he leaves no boundaries untransgressed. I should note that when Butler agreed to do this email interview, he didn’t know that I planned to ask only questions culled from Cosmopolitan magazine’s “Can You Keep a Guy Intrigued?” quiz.

Andrew Ervin: If you’re asked something personal in the first stages of dating, how do you respond?

Blake Butler: God, I have not dated in so long. I am a serial monogamist of sorts and have been with my girlfriend for almost four years. In imagining my brain back to worlds where I might be around someone other sexed in that way and not know them that well, speaking out loud almost seems like requiring of demon language, or money-spurting. I’m not good at talking very much. At a bar recently a friend was hitting on some women and wanted me to help him and demanded I come over and talk to them. When I came up the first thing this very drunk girl said to me was, “Are you gay? Do you want to make out?” I like smartasses, because I can be smartass back and rashy. The duality of her question messed me up. Am I gay, and do I want to make out with her? I said, “Does that you mean you are a man?” I was trying to joke back or something. Her and her friend’s faces went a mush. There was fire somewhere. I looked at my friend too, he looked like I’d taken a cat out of my ear and smashed it with both fists on the girl’s lap. I guess I had, by accident. After that I went behind the bar and called my girlfriend and talked about water.

AE: When a guy texts you the day after a great first date, you typically:

BB: If I still have the blood in my teeth, I’ll text him back and tell him his baby is indeed dead, and we no longer have to worry about it growing into a larger, grosser human, a human full of seeds or eggs that would have concurrently been used to make more humans, and more humans therein, and more therein, like a bunch of beans in a bag.

If there is no blood in my teeth by then, I tell the man to come back to my house because our date just got extended, and when he gets over we’ll put on a Kenneth Anger movie and I’ll start reading transcripts of the sound my neighbor makes in the evenings when she is making sex and the sounds the dog makes when his master leaves the house each morning to go somewhere to make the money to rent the room beside my room.

If I no longer have teeth it will have been the best possible of all dates and I will not respond because it will be time for me to sleep.

AE: When getting naked with a guy for the first time, you:

BB: It is important not to show too many inches at once. Give him the smell of you, a snatch of scar meat, then make him think. Let him go on about the room as if your butt is his butt. He should ideally have the helmet on, and the firing glasses by now. You will certainly have your firearm and best slacks. Once you’ve got him sniffing where the fold is, go ahead and start talking about something else entirely, like money, or the best sandwich you’d ever considered making and not made. Keep your mind off of your mother, and of his. We won’t need all this where and by how and with whom, as anybody could be doing that saying. Instead, make sure you stink. Make sure there is blood in those veins, and the dickslap will come soon. Have you counted your holes lately? There are so many. There are all those bugs in your bloodstream. And in his, too. The hives are wanting. Let them hum at one another through the clothes. The windows should be closed, or sometimes open, if someone outside wants to see in. They will likely have their firearm procured and steaming also. Good. Eat. Laugh a little. Teasing. Tell him what you hear inside his lungs. Breathe a lot in the right places. Friction. Candy. He’ll be ready to obey. He’ll say any name you can imagine. Once you’ve had him stripped and on all fours and wheezing, bleeding, say, "Excuse me, sorry, I have to take a shit." Go into the bathroom and lock the door. With both hands on the mirror, rehearse with yourself what the two of you have said between the two of you already, making his voice yours. Kiss yourself. Show you your dick and practice dancing.

AE: You have been dating two guys but want to move to the next level with one. You say to him:

BB: Ay, bitch. Put your pants on. Get the gloves out of the box. I am a sloppy, angry person often and my cheese-mind will be worn upon you as a ring. We are getting married, is what I’m saying. Here’s what you need to know: Leave me alone. Try not to talk much. The further gone you are the cleaner I will be. I will move away from you when there are white spots. My flesh is very thin, I think.

I will not gain weight, I swear, as time comes, but I might destroy our bed. Sleep will be difficult between us, as it always is in rooms where there is all of that light. My love is inside me where my fat was. I threw most of me away. The section of the fat that is still there seems more than most of time, to me, often, but in transit, to you, it might seem wet. I throw up a lot without opening my mouth. I hope you never see me blink.

Hey, can you cook? If not, we’ll be eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. I keep busy by not hearing or seeing anything for long periods. I might try to delete you with my eyes. Don’t bring beer into my house. Go outside. Go get the hammer I used against your spine, when you were not sleeping, so you will not grow. Please be the smallest part of any room.

AE: After the third date, you’re still not sure you want to sleep with him. When he makes a move, you:

BB: I always want to sleep on the third date. When he makes his move, I make my hands into a weapon, like a library or a light. I will make him lay down on the floor. I will remove his skin while he is crying, and fashion the skin into a suit. I will don the suit and walk into the next room dragging him behind me, and his money, and his hair. I will drag him through the exact path he has come on for his whole life but backwards, until we’re back to where his mother shat him out. There will still be the wet spot on the carpet, and we will sleep there.

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Rain Taxi Online Edition, Winter 2009/2010 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2009/2010