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There is No Blake Butler: a copy brother's response (a vestigial vermiformed appendix)

«For years the air above the earth had begun sagging, suffused by a nameless ageless eye of light.»—so begins the book, There Is No Year, by Blake Butler. «This light had swelled above the buildings. It caked on any object underneath

This light caked into the eyes of this copy brother as he began to read, coming off in fleshy bits & chunks. The light formed gristled text that oozed off the page & reformed into a cesspool of mushy matter in this copy brother's head.

The copy brother was just now reading this book even though virtually everyone else in the world had already read it the year before. Everything that happened to the copy brother was on a one year lag from everyone else in the world, including his acclaimed brother, Blake Butler.

Blake had tried to mail his copy brother a copy of his book but it was returned undelivered since the copy brother lived in some remote dysfunctional place. The copy brother didn't even have a mailbox—not even a mailbox cocooned with caterpillars. He only had a slot in his door where people on the street could look in all they wanted but he couldn't see out. In a sense, the whole house was a mailbox, but the slot wasn't big enough to fit There is No Year since the book was as big as a house.

In fact, the book was a house, but the copy brother didn't know this yet. And the time-delayed opinions of the copy brother couldn't be trusted.


One day the copy brother travelled to a remote country where they spoke the same language as Blake Butler & purchased the book. As he was buying There is No Year, the cashier told him the book was the best book he had read in the last year. The copy brother felt out of it, lagging behind the times, but felt happy that strangers knew who his brother was—it made the world not seem so overwhelmingly big & disconnected.

The copy brother took the book home but then he wandered around some more away from home. He didn't feel There is No Year was the type of book to read in a hotel or on a plane, but should be read inside a house in 10 uninterrupted days.

Whenever he was home, the copy brother would look at the spine & cover of the book. The title was written like a fortune cookie, only there was no cookie to go with it—at least judging by the cover, which the copy brother knew you weren't supposed to do but couldn't help himself from doing anyway. The copy brother couldn't make the connection between the book cover & what he knew about his estranged brother, though it said Blake Butler's name on another cookie fortune & stated it was a ‘novel’ on yet another, in case Blake Butler was a stranger & the stranger he was strange to didn’t know what kind of book this was. It also said on the cover that he was the author of Scorch Atlas, which was another book Blake Butler wrote between this one & the book his copy brother published, what seemed like years ago.

Justin Dodd

image from There is No Year by Justin Dodd

Sometimes if the copy brother was home for a few days, he would flip through the pages of There is No Year, glossing over the texture of the words. The pages of the book were various shades of gray & sometimes there were blurry interstitial images by the artist Justin Dodd, who also designed the book object. Even before reading the words it gave the copy brother the sensation that the book would breathe as you read it—that there was a layered rhythm to it, like his brother Blake had breathed into it & if & when the copy brother read it it would breathe in & out within him, like it was stacked with layer upon layer of crushing light. The book seemed to the copy brother not like a thing written, but something architected, like a house, or a living organism, a species of nesting bird—each page a cross-section, a snapshot in time. If the book had 365 pages then the copy brother might have guessed it was Blake Butler's intention to have each page stand for 1 day/night, but the book was actually 365 + 36.5 pages.


The copy brother remembered back 3 years to 2008 when the book came pouring out of Blake Butler in 10 days & he even had the presence of mind to blog about it while it was happening to him & the copy brother read his blogging about it. He also had to coordinate with FEMA while this was all happening because his home had just been wiped out by a tornado & Blake Butler had to relocate the possessions of his destroyed home. And he had lost 6 pounds in the first 5 days of writing the first draft of this yearless book—bringing to the copy brother's mind before & after images he once saw of a mother seal & her pup, being weighed at daily intervals, wherein as the mother lost weight, the baby gained the same amount (since the mother had given up eating there was no external forces acting on this closed system).

The copy brother pictured Blake Butler as a mother seal nursing his book to happy fatness with his own milk. Milk leaked from it's off-white pages even as it sat on the copy brother's shelf.

One day, 10 days ago, the copy brother was home alone for a stretch so he cracked the spine & began to read. Everything that was said in the book started happening to the copy brother—which is how all books are supposed to work but most don't, thought the copy brother. Most books just say things, but this book was something else.


When the copy brother read this passage, it happened to him:

«When she arrived in or at some small exact place, the mother set the copy son's soft copy body down. In the mud, the light around his copy body began bending—the mother basking briefly in that fold—the son set underneath her old and getting older, his copy skin turned mirrored, bright. The son's holes among the bending gave off a thick dark smoke—smoke arose in bursts toward the sky—it rushed in rising as if to bend that surface also, wanting, only soon to disappear there somewhere high above, the tendrils birthed and blown away to unseen, sunken—diffused through holes in holes in holes—rips the sky had hidden in its years on years and days on days

When the copy brother read these words he gained 0.34 ounces & a funny feeling came over him not unlike the sensation he got when he witnessed the birds in the evening sky above this remote place he lived—something he himself could never put into words but now was finding someone, something that could come close.

not Blake Butler

the evening sky as seen by the copy brother, as if to coincide with the reading



This, these words, are the copy brother's experiencing of There is No Year.

Not that the copy brother could ever put his own ideas into words like Blake Butler could. The copy brother got hung up on words—he would hit a snag thinking of all the a priori accumulation of junk that had collected & gunked on the words—of all the people in the world misusing & abusing these words & he didn't want to contribute to this janky desanctification of language. While the copy brother escaped to places where they spoke other languages to get away from the noise, Blake Butler embraced the noise & janky desanctification & he took it & called it his own & retreated into his house to do magic with these words.


The copy brother hit the same snags when he read others books with big words, or things that professed themselves to be 'poetry'—he'd just assume watch the birds & not understand nor care. But it was different with the words that Blake Butler wrote. There was no telling what the intention was, except for the claim on the cover that it was 'a novel'. Beneath this, though it was not explicitly stated, the copy brother sensed there was an intent to communicate, to capture light on pages.

Blake Butler's words weren't words that were written, like how normal people set out to 'write' a book, but these were words that came milking out of Blake. And they weren't fancy words but everyday words that most people had given up for dead— words that others didn't think too much about but just used them because they were necessary for negotiating & saying everyday things.



Blake Butler took these used words & recycled them, reshaped & shifted them, restrung them, put them under a different light—a light bright enough to flood even the idea of a room in a blueprint, enough to make it become real. He took prepositional words that normally were used like connective tissue & turned them into organs of their own, leaving space in their absence to regenerate new connections, new sense organs.

He took detritus & clutter & built phantasmagoric colonies.

To illustrate his point, the copy brother flipped ahead to a random page in There is No Year & read out loud: «They did not seem to smell the smell of something musty coming from the vents there, the mold loosening all through the house, suddenly warm.» Even though this was written to be something that happened to this family—a family he was not privy to—the copy brother could smell it too, in his own living room.




The copy brother searched for his estranged brother in There is No Year. Being that Blake Butler wrote it, he expected him to be in the book somewhere. There was a father & a mother & a son, but no sign of Blake Butler. Or if there was, he was the trinity of all three.


The copy brother had seen his brother do this before, like Blake Butler was a shape-shifter—a holy ghost that could embody other bodies. In his first book Blake took the form of a mother that was not a mother. This hermit mother told the story like it was her story & you believed her. That book also took place within the confines of a house. There is No Year was told from an omnipresent point of view, from someone that was in all three bodies & at the same time outside watching, knowing, hovering all the way up into the stratosphere.

The copy brother didn't feel as claustrophobic reading this new yearless book like he did with the one about the mother that was not a mother trapped in a home.

Not that there wasn't a place for feeling claustrophobic.

Justin Dodd

another image from the book by Justin Dodd



There was also a copy family in the book—a copy mother, a copy father & a copy son. The copy son was not directly related to this copy brother, but the copy son
could be considered a copy brother to this copy brother. This copy family did everything the father, mother & son did.

By writing from the point of view of someone there but not directly a part of the family, he absolved himself of tendencies to project himself, the real Blake Butler, as the one doing the talking. At first this led to some confusion & questions about accountability—the copy brother didn't understand how his brother Blake could be in all these people/places at the same time... until he realized
this wasn't a narrative book-object book but a film disguised as a book. And in the spirit of a certain movie director he was apparently under the influence of, the film-object book explored fractured identities so it made sense that it needed to be written in this way—to be told from the p.o.v. of someone omnipresent, reliable. And in the spirit of this certain director, the yearless film-object book effectively revealed the macabre in the mundane, in a terse versal way.

Despite the fissuring & rhizomic identities, there was no overarching identity to be mistaken for when told in such a way. There is No Year was pure language with no external ego attached. There was some sort of inherited language speaking, perhaps that his/her grandmother had passed on to him/her, that he/she was channeling through the body we knew as Blake Butler. And there could be no claims as to the unreliability of the narrator when there was no narrator.

It was in this distance that the light traveled.

Mostly the copy brother recognized Blake in the son, at least initially. In There is No Year, the son was writing a book. The description of the book & how the son writes the book within the yearless book sounded an awful lot like the very yearless book the copy brother held in his hands:


«The son's book contained the sound of wing meat contained in birds once thought extinct, and that meat's aging worn to none—»



But then later in the yearless book, the copy brother saw more Blake in the mother. When the power went off in the house the mother woke up & told the father that «the light had gone off inside her sleeping also. She said she'd been talking to someone in there and they were looking at one another and happy and things were good and then the light went off and she could not find this person no matter how loud she called into the dark

When the mother said such things you got the idea that everything was created in her head.

Justin  Dodd


Further along in the yearless year it was written that «The mother's mind designed itself.»—which became the copy brother's favorite line, though he wasn't sure why. He didn't feel a need to know why. Although in a holographic sense every word encapsulated every sentence & every sentence contained every paragraph & every paragraph contained every page & every page contained the book self-contained within it, more than any other, this sentence, the mother's mind designed itself, seemed to encapsulate the book as a whole—spontaneously self-organizing & self-replicating the language that created it in the first place.

It was up there with the sentence: «My mother is a fish

The father seemed to be the most lucid of the trinity—a grounding force as you might expect, though he became increasingly detached, his daily commute to his job stretching longer & longer into unknown dimensions, and a sort of sickness infected him that inevitably spilt over into the mother & the son.

«In the hall, along the wall, someone had made a mural of, the father surmised, the sun being crushed into the moon? It was hard to say what was there exactly, but something bright and muddy. Words were written in the pigment's ridges that the father could not read, or else the words were numbers, small directions. Some seemed to shift when he turned from them. The small door that had before opened into the hair closet was no longer there. The father's nose began to bleed

The weakness & unreliability that seemed apparent to the copy brother became more of a function of what was expected of the father by the world—to be the strong reliable father.

More than anything, the yearless book was about a family—a nuclear unit self-contained within an enclosure. There were external forces—a couple that wanted to buy the house—but the family absorbed everything in it's path, granted the path was constrained to the threshold of the house.

                                               The family was a black hole that absorbed all light.

And Blake Butler was not a writer but an architect, using layers of language to build, to reassemble this sense of home & family as he remembered it coming into the world. He built in hidden mazes & Escher-esque rooms with rooms, escape hatches, storm shelters. Blake Butler parceled his guts & gunk into practical building materials you might find at Home Depot, that he then used to build layered shelters to house his exposed & vulnerable heirloomed organs. The language was direct—when written it extinguished the ideas from Blake's head & then a year later, upon reading, like a transference of milk, it regenerated these same thoughts in the head of the copy brother. The language spoke in this way:

«The curled pain resembled larvae, and so that's what they were

Like a species of obsessive
Bower bird—

Blake Butler
built this nest
from lingual building blocks—
a lexicon
of twigs & pieces
of string
all strung


with precision & grace
every word ever
in the
right place
the familiar nesting elements
copy brother had a sneaking

Blake Butler was building
something else entirely
besides something to attract a mate

but an ode
to the processes that got him here—
to his parental beings

 feed himself
the nest

would inevitably decay
in time
with the elements
by the end of the season

it was more about the obsessive

of building the pulpy object



the historic archaeology

the space in the rooms (within rooms).


in layers

In There is No Year
there were
even holes dug inside holes
pages imploded & exploded  
simultaneously & impossibly
& Blake Butler did not just build
in three dimensions but made
ample use of the fourth


of time.

When the copy brother studied physics (in another life) he never understood how time could be a fourth dimension. No one could really explain it to him—they just shrugged their shoulders & said it worked, so use it.

Just like how people use & abuse language.

In Butler's yearless world, rooms took on new dimensions determined by the time spent in them—

«The rooms not rooms but years.».


And although such talk of holes in holes & things musty & bleeding
might come off as warped & perverse—
& even though there were no displays or words of affection to speak of (in an ordinary sense)—
there was a sincere familial love that shined through the layers of grime.

Blake Butler meant it.

He also knew just where to draw the line, in not drawing any—except in the em-dashes & lines within the typeface. Nothing gratuitous. No animals were harmed in the making of the book.


If a not-brother stranger only knew Blake Butler via the internet or his books they might think him a sick & crass individual,
when in truth he is the sweet southern-boy son of a real mother & father, with a love for his family & home,
that he couldn't hide if he tried & it shows, though not told—
this all festered lovingly at the rhizomic root of There is No Year:

«The son's forehead wormed with flexing meat. He laughed and laughed. He love the bags. He loved his bag, and the skin of its inseam. He loved this house and all the people and the walls that held them in. The son loved the couple who'd come to see and touch the walls inside the other house, their replication, the couple carrying his want.»

And this strange way of showing this was what made Blake Butler Blake Butler. The copy brother wanted to say his estranged brother's kindness shone through in his words even when he was talking about gruesome gooey things, but when the copy brother tried to say it it didn't gush or gel like Blake Butler's words, but came off as corny. The copy brother wasn't given the knack for gushing kindness. He was not really a Butler. But he tried, in this, his own strange way, to show his understanding & appreciation for the light his estranged brother shone on the world.


There's a butler in the book—a sort of mini-me to the son. But no real resemblance to Blake Butler. Only a trinity. A reassemblance in all 3.


There is no mention of a brother or copy brother in There is No Year. Blake Butler is an only child & the son is an only child in the yearless book. Blake Butler is a cuckoo bird that pushed all the other eggs out of the nest so he could have the father & mother all to himself. So he could give the egg to his mother, an egg she called Bill. An egg that «seemed to fit the nodule where the bulb went just exactly.» & «In the morning the lamp was on. The mother carried the lamp and egg into the bathroom and used the light to read while in a bath.» And then «She dream she ate it. She dream it had a job that paid for all. She dreamt it became a full-grown boy who sat beside the son and kept him clean

The copy brother was the copy brother's invention. The textual crud herein designed itself in order to regurgitate, from the copy brother's cynical craw, the experience of reading the yearless book, but in no way can replicate the experience of being for yourself inside the yearless book, a book that accepts you in as family, that embraces you even if you're dead already, sharing the immortality Blake gained in the writing of it:

«When the light of each of all the sides was gone again in spinning, the light remained there still—it hung in gristle, caked in bones and teeth, in the ceiling of the nothing far above—in distance and in hours, doorways—reflecting air back at the earth—in all the dirt, and all the wonder—days in hours—years in days.

Justin Dodd



'Blake Butler' became just words—a cuckoo's egg planted in the nesting head of the copy brother. The idea of Blake Butler infected the mind of the copy brother, cluttering his thoughts. When the egg first hatched, the copy brother thought the bird inside was a brother bird of the same species. They chattered a lot at some pont, around the time the idea for the yearless book hatched in Blake Butler's head. But this bird Blake became bigger & bigger & it became apparent he was no ordinary bird—at least not of the same species as the copy brother bird.

They splintered off & chattered less & less but the idea of this giant bird still occupied the mind of the copy bird. The giant Blake bird got bigger & bigger, becoming a juggernautic accumulation of all his words. 'Blake Butler' became the name behind his books, behind the accumulation of his words, behind the HTML Giant, where he continues to incubate & cross-pollinate to this day.


The copy brother had a sense that Blake Butler had been writing all along to extinguish himself, in self-preservation—a sort of therapeutic purging to free himself to better be himself around himself without the need to be something other than he was.

The more words of himself he put into books & magazines & on the internet, and the more people ate these words, the less of Blake Butler (the grown man behind the name) there was to go around. This made sense to the copy brother in the natural scheme of things. There was little bits of coded flesh embossed into every word, after all, in every sentence. His gristle & guts were on the page for all to see.

The time between chatterings stretched out longer & longer, like the father's commute, until the time it took 'Blake Butler' to return a fraternal chattering became infinite & the copy brother became simply one of his followers.

This is not to say there is nothing left of Blake Butler—he has just necessarily retreated into the shell of his home to preserve what's left of his real self—perhaps a post-traumatic response to being uprooted by a tornado. What remains is Blake Butler, the author. As Michael Focault said:

«One can say that the author is an ideological product, since we represent him as the opposite of his historically real function. (When a historically given function is represented in a figure that inverts it, one has an ideological production.) The author is therefore the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning

Blake Butler has become an ideological figure, this proliferation—someone who generously transformed himself into language for our consumption.

The more people read him the more we become him & the more Blake Butler becomes us & no longer a public, private copy of himself.


Justin Dodd


This is all in the experience of the copy brother—hence why it is written in past tense—like something that happened to him in the reading of it.

The copy brother didn't know if other copy brothers had had this same experience in reading There is No Year. The copy brother had become increasingly estranged from other copy brothers, so suspects he was at the root of the disconnect. The copy brother blamed the internet for this, for creating the allusion of false 'friends'. For the unbridled proliferation of generosity, with the mistaken belief that the generosity of words is something that can be replicated & simultaneously distributed to hundreds, thousands of 'friends' at once, as personal communication, and still be genuine. While the copy brother didn't understand this new paradigm, others adapted readily to exploit these loopholes in the social fabric to further their intent to communicate. They'd learned to proliferate words under arbitrary constraints, to limit their messages to 140 characters, to form links between text objects, to use the right keywords & hashtags, to monetize, to optimize for the giant, ever-searching engine. The likes of the copy brother were destined for extinction.


The copy brother became increasingly remote, detached.   Blake Butler became increasingly virtual, engaged.

The copy brother had a real
honest to goodness brother
resembling Blake Butler


the copy brother,                   or in ways otherwise
reminded the copy brother


his real brother,
who in reality had died.
This led to confusion & bias as to
what he read into the yearless book.
The copy brother wasn't attached to any home or architecture.
The copy brother left home & lived in a trailer. Was perhaps trash.
The copy brother was so close to

words that often he couldn't read
in the way they were written.
The copy brother didn't feel a part of any nuclear family.
The copy brother was a hermit.    
The copy brother didn't have   insomnia, to the contrary—
until he read
the yearless book
& 10 days of sleeplessness were
induced in the copy brother.
The copy brother likes tacos still.  

The copy brother was also a writer, but was a writer that had forsaken the language he was born with, whereas Blake Butler celebrated & embraced his mother tongue. Language poured out of him generously like light. The copy brother embraced darkness.

In the reading of There is No Year, the copy brother's thoughts became fissured, fractured with this light.


The way the son described how he got lost in video games made the copy brother understand, much as he didn't understand the games himself, that it was just another form of language to the new generation—dangerous code that had the ability to physically rewire brains. This language was not unlike Blake Butler's language—deliberate & programmatic, using words as functions to call sub-routines. And although there was not much of a progression towards any outcome in particular in the yearless book, it wasn't the language's job to tell you what would happen, but it was up to the user what direction the game took.


The yearless book punched the copy brother in the gut, crushed him, killed a year of his life, even though it took only 10 days to read it & digest it & now regurgitate it on a page like a copy bird emptying it's craw, exorcising what had been exorcised of him. He feels better now, himself.




And if the copy brother did not do a good job of regurgitating the experience of reading Blake Butler's yearless book, then here's another sentence from towards the end of There Is No Year that could serve to sum up the book as a whole, as could any other taken at random:

«And then the son was in the son's room looking at all the clear gel spilling from the closet, the closet where the son had spent so many hours typing still unknown, and the son saw what he made, he saw the texture of the ejection, of the words burped from several selves he'd held in hives, layers wished and crushed and in him, and he felt the words spread through the room expanding, felt the words burst back into him and through and through and of the room, words worn on paper, wet and endless, a flooding ocean at his knees, at his chest, his neck, his head, gel gumming up his nostrils and in the air vents, in the air itself—and then the son again could not breath—and the words slushed and slammed around the son as massive slivers, blubbing up, and the son rose off the floor inside the rising, and the son tried to swim and kick as best he could, the language welling in his head and stomach, stretching his legs and muscles, and therein the son gushed on, and the son slid down through the hallway, wide as ever, and the son warbled down the stairs, down through the the house where all was runny and one color, and the son gushed on through the front door—»

Blake Butler has left the house, a grown artist. He has turned himself into words & put them on paper & into a book & now he is the book—his milk bled all over & into the pages. He has disappeared into the light where we shall remain in his skin.


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