Butler's inventive third book is dedicated "For no one" and begins with an eerie prologue about the saturation of the world with a damaging light. Suitably forewarned, the reader is introduced to an unexceptional no-name family. All should be idyllic in their newly purchased home, but they are shadowed by an unwelcome "copy family." In the face of the copy mother, the mother sees her heretofore unrealized deterioration. Things only get worse as the father forgets how to get home from work; the mother starts hiding in the closet, plagued by an omnipresent egg; while the son gets a female "special friend" and receives a mysterious package containing photos of dead celebrities. The territory of domestic disillusion and postmodern dystopia is familiar from other tales, but Butler's an endlessly surprising, funny, and subversive writer. This subversion extends to the book's design: very short titled chapters with an abundance of white space. Not so much a novel as a literary tapestry, the book's eight parts are separated by blank gray pages. To Butler (Scorch Atlas), everything in the world, even the physical world, is gray and ever-changing, and potentially menacing. (Apr.)
“There is no novel like There Is No Year.…Butler’s prose is persistent and perfected....His sense of humanity bleeds through the jagged edges, and by the end you’ve fallen for this nameless, deteriorating family, hoping it will survive.…Unexpectedly riveting, totally original, and frequently funny.”
“[An] innovative masterpiece…a haunting glimpse into a parallel universe.”
“An acid burn of a lucid nightmare . . . accessible, rewarding, and engaging . . . There Is No Year can be hard as hell to read, but it’s also undeniably worth the effort.”
“If there’s a more thoroughly brilliant and exciting new writer than Blake Butler, . . . well, there just isn’t. I’ve literally lost sleep imagining the fallout when There Is No Year drops and American fiction shifts its axis.”
“Blake Butler, mastermind and visionary, has sneaked up and drugged the American novel. What stumbles awake in the aftermath is feral and awesome in its power, a fairy tale of an ordinary family subjected to the strange, lonesome agony known as daily life.”
Globe & Mail (Toronto)
"If the distortion and feedback of Butler’s intense riffing is too loud, you may very well be too boring."
“An entirely original work that does what the best art should do: challenge the reader.…Like a 4G version of fiction[,] a metaphor for our new digital age. And like the best of dreams, There Is No Year also sticks in the brain long after the book is set down.”
Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“If the distortion and feedback of Butler’s intense riffing is too loud, you may very well be too boring.”
“Dystopian and sinister. . . . In There Is No Year, Butler subverts our understanding of family relations, rendering domestic tragedy as both familiar and strange.”
Time Out New York
“A wild, poetic work.”
Time Out Chicago
“Butler’s sentences are frequently dizzying and poetic, and gathered in engrossing vignette-like sections.… A challenging, Dalí-esque spin on the horror genre, a postmodern playground …There Is No Year is also often funny and insightful, further proof of Butler’s impressive and innovative talents.”
New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
“Deeply honest and emotional, a family drama that by its end brings on feelings as complex and satisfying as those summoned by Faulkner’s simple sentence ‘They endured.’…This novel is a thing of such strange beauty [that it yields] the rewards that only well-made art can provide.”
(Editor's Choice) - New York Times Book Review
"Deeply honest and emotional, a family drama that by its end brings on feelings as complex and satisfying as those summoned by Faulkner’s simple sentence ‘They endured.’…This novel is a thing of such strange beauty [that it yields] the rewards that only well-made art can provide."
Butler (Scorch Atlas; Ever) keeps the reader guessing in his latest novel. A family moves into a house where another family lives—a lifeless, unseeing copy of the family. The family goes through individual psychological and paranormal experiences that make one wonder about the origins of the family's demise—Is it the son's carefully mentioned past disease? Some metaphysical demon in the son's subconscious? Or does the newly purchased house cloak discontented poltergeists? Whatever the cause, each family member endures a private psychological hell that is disturbing in its authenticity. VERDICT This artfully crafted, stunning piece of nontraditional literature is recommended for contemporary literature fans looking for something out of the ordinary. Butler integrates unusual elements into his novel, such as interview-style monologs and in later chapters poetry-like stanzas. Also recommended for students of literature, psychology, and philosophy, as the distinctive writing style and creative insight into the minds of one family deserve analysis. [Eight-city tour.]—Jennifer Funk, Southwestern Illinois Coll. Lib., Belleville
A family lives in a house in which strange things start to happen (or—it's a new novel by Blake Butler).
Love him, hate him or feign indifference: There's really no other way to react to the work of writer/postmodernist/multi-hyphenate Butler (Ever, 2009, etc). For those who like their prose fresh out of a cleaner and more traditional wellspring, Blake's writing can prove tedious at best and arduous at worst. But for those who lean toward writing that is more visceral, taxing or outright demanding of the reader, this might be the right cup of tea—see Mark Z. Danielewski'sHouse of Leaves(2000),to which this novelowes some debt. The book concerns a family of doppelgängers so featureless that Butler doesn't bother to give them names (or more accurately, likely purposefully washes them out to their elementary characteristics). So, the father, the mother and the son live in a house, just like the carbon copy father, mother and son had done before them. The father stares at a computer screen. The mother stares at her lined face in mirrors and thinks protective thoughts about her son, who suffers from a disease that nearly ended his life. The son goes to school, makes a friend and watches television with his family. It's all presented in hushed, monochrome language that gives the whole enterprise a sense of menace from the beginning, even before Butler introduces the father's paranoia that things in the house are changing without his knowledge. And then things do start changing.
A gruesome slice of familial oddity that demonstrates its author's versatility.
…underneath its surface challenges, There Is No Year turns out to be deeply honest and emotional, a family drama that by its end brings on feelings as complex and satisfying as those summoned by Faulkner's simple sentence "They endured"…This novel is a thing of such strange beauty that digging for answers of your own will yield the rewards that only well-made art can provide.
The New York Times