I hate when people say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I decided to draw a bunch of pictures that aren’t worth a thousandth of the words they were based on. Fortunately, I’m a perpetual eight-year-old at drawing, so this came naturally. I drew the pictures based on some scenes from books I remembered while seated on the floor at my coffee table drinking whiskey and apple juice, which means they might not be anything like the scenes at all, but only how they are now forever damaged in my brain.
Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H.
This scene is pretty much the only one in the whole book: a woman standing in her bedroom by a wardrobe from which a cockroach has just emerged. Lispector is able to maintain this scene for 173 pages, requiring little to no action and only the depth of her inborn disorientation and horror of several seconds to maintain a rigorous, insane monologue that floats behind my face like the color green.
Thomas Bernhard’s Correction
Correction is pretty much one long flatlined monologue featuring a guy talking about his friend Roithamer who has killed himself just after building a cone-shaped monolith in the backyard in memory of his dead sister. It's fucked. The idea of the cone is one of my favorite images ever to appear in a book. Unfortunately, right now I can only picture the inside of it, which I could never draw, so this is the outside of it.
Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian
I love so many of the scenes in Blood Meridian, but the one that stands out most is this one, where the child has laid down against the ground to hide from the Judge, a mean motherfucker, and waits watching while the Judge paces off into the desert looking for him. The child is supposed to be the mangled red thing. I fucked up the sky the first time so I just kept drawing more skies on top of it till it looked like a blob, which seems right.
Normance by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
This book is also pretty much an extended take of a single scene. Here we have the Nazis air bombing France, while the narrator—a dude stuck out on a burning tower swinging around dodging the bombs and the fires—watches. It’s full of chaotic shit talk and the author’s run-on mania that somehow turns into way more colors than I could fit here. Yeah, those things in the upper-left are supposed to be planes.
The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson
Near the end of Brian Evenson’s novel about a guy who may or may not have dissociative disorder and killed a bunch of people in the woods, it turns into this weird space where they are in a house and the house is covered with hundreds of little Post-it notes, pushing the novel deep into the brain damage arena, and totally shifting the possibility of worlds on paper. The door, when opened, leads to a different year. In an interview, Evenson said he had to write like 50 different endings until he got to this one and decided it was right. This drawing particularly fails.
Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons
I cheated on this one, because it’s not a scene. Also, I didn’t remember any of the words as they were listed. Still, the food section of Tender Buttons sticks out in my mind so hard I couldn’t help but want to beat its brain in laughing, like it does me.
Donald Barthelme’s “The Balloon”
This is like a five-page story about a balloon that inflates over a city, forcing everyone in the town to work and live around it. It’s a great idea for a story, which usually means its not going to work at all as an actual story, but Barthelme was the king of that shit. I tried to remain very calm this time, like him.
Samuel Beckett’s Molloy
This novel has the most deceitfully chill opening of all time, “I am in my mother’s room.” From there it goes pretty much everywhere and beyond everywhere over and over again. I think of this sentence pretty often, whether I am actually in my mother’s room or at the grocery or getting in or out of my car or something. It seems like death.
Eugene Marten’s In the Blind
This is a book about a guy who can break locks. But this drawing is of a scene in the book where the guy goes onto a docked ship and walks down into this big room and moves around the room, unsure of what is there. It’s nothing. And the way Marten tells it, I haven’t been able to forget the tone ever since. He puts the locks in the dark somehow and you walk through them. I love how much it does without having to do anything. Doing anything is lesser, like this drawing.
David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest
I got into a shouting argument one time with a friend who said that the Eschaton scene from Infinite Jest should have been cut out. I think it’s the centerpiece of the whole book. The mechanisms of the language and all the rigorous ordered logic and chaos over an intense game invented by children has all the fury and intensity of anything else you could ask for, delivered in something like a 60-page onslaught of continuously disrupted analytical mathlike language that fits exactly nowhere and that is exactly why it fits. I threw three other versions of this same drawing away. They are in my trashcan with the wrappers of the food and the mail I didn’t open.
Previously by Blake Butler - Anne Carson Vs. George Saunders