SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoking With Blake Butler

(Read the Story) June 15, 2008

Blake Butler

Blake Butler

“Disease Relics.” What a great title. What do you think that title means/evokes? And how is it the perfect fit for this remarkable piece?

I usually get titles without thinking much at all. I prefer intuitive labeling, titles that add rather than echo. This title I think is more literal than most of what I tend toward. I liked the idea, though, of the mother, having seen her son through some long disease that was supposed to have ended him, not being able to get over the experience. Reveling. Caring for the sick tends to evoke new kinds of employment in a person, a purpose maybe. A certain kind of person could find they miss it after, particularly when that person is otherwise devoid.

That fast food paragraph generated a lot of discussion among the editors. What role do you think it plays in this piece? What else can you tell us about that paragraph, both within the process of writing “Disease Relics” and within the context of its final form?

Comforting a person is hard. Most time when I try to comfort someone who is upset I end up making them more upset. Thinking that there is anything you could say to someone that will click something inside them is a strange proposition. Often I just find myself talking without knowing why I am or who is making the words come out. America is full of stuff. Sometimes stuff makes people feel better. People spend money. When I was 13-17 I would often eat so much in the evening that there was nothing left for me to think. Eating is the only cure I have found for insomnia.

You are the editor of Lamination Colony. We’d love to hear more about that gig—and how editing has influenced, changed, and/or directed your own writing.

I started Lamination Colony more than five years ago (!?!?!) because I was often bored with what I saw in magazines, though also inspired by the nooks I’d found in places I most frequented back then (and often still do), such as Eyeshot, Pindeldyboz, Haypenny, Monkeybicycle, The Glut. I felt like a lot of places were having the same people say the same things over and over. I wanted to make some new. I wanted more sludge and babble and nausea and bizarre in my life. I made babies. As time’s gone on I’ve gotten more and more interested in stretching the form as far as possible, and I am constantly bowled over by what people come up with to send in. It really makes me happy and excited and ready to knock shit over. I like to stir and sneeze. More strange. More soon. More fairy porno filth.

Word on the street is that you wrote a novel in ten days. Tell us all you can about that experience—and how it turned out.

After I finished my story collection Scorch Atlas, I was trying to figure out what to do. I went to the mountains one weekend and in the car on the way up I had an image occur to me. Not even a strange image. Just a man and a woman sitting beside one another in a sofa in a room not touching. I wrote a sentence down and when I got home I started writing. I wrote about 5000 words a day for 10 days straight, sitting 10-15 hours at a time writing off coffee and not letting myself break. I didn’t eat much, and did not sleep more than in fits. I entered a state of full hypnosis, I think. The book started making me sick. I had a great evil in me that wanted out or something. After the 10 days I finished a draft and felt a lot better, but then immediately spent the next 10 days editing at about the same rate, but I tried to keep as much of the original intact as I could and more so just add and layer. I’m very happy with the result. I think I wrote the thing I’ve been trying to write for 10 years, and it came out almost exactly as I wanted. As if it’d just been inside somewhere waiting for me to get my mind together. Now I feel mostly cleared. DISEASE RELICS is from somewhere in the first 20 pages of the book. If I could somehow get David Lynch to blurb the book, I would shit my knickers daily henceforth until death

This issue marks SmokeLong‘s fifth anniversary, which has me thinking about longevity and growth. There’s no denying the literary arena is a fickle one, with journals coming and going, writers shooting onto the scene then falling into a long hiatus, editors changing houses, agents merging, and the trends! Don’t even get me started! How do you, as a writer, endure the ups and downs? Have you experienced any setbacks? What measures have you taken to grow?

Congrats to Smokelong, for sure. It is good to see journals that can last and keep producing on a schedule. BOOYAH.

I just do my shit, mainly. I keep writing. The internet is my mother.

About the Author

Blake Butler is the editor of Lamination Colony. He has been published or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Fence, Willow Springs, LIT, etc. He lives in Atlanta.

This interview appeared in Issue Twenty-One of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-One

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