Implausible Literary Halloween Costumes No One Will Recognize

By Blake Butler


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Gertrude Stein

Cut your hair down to just fistfuls with a pair of safety scissors and without looking in the mirror. A pretty white scarf around your neck would be very nice, or maybe even one patterned like the American flag. Then put on a dark blue dress and find a stairwell and throw yourself down it. Repeat until you’re no longer sure where you are. When you go out, get up close in people’s faces and breathe hard with your eyes big in your face, not saying anything except when others speak first, then repeating back exactly what they said in a slightly different tone. Maybe carry a gun in your panties but don’t tell anybody or ever get it out. Keep putting on extra lipstick and laughing to yourself. For extra elocutionary damage, bring a little flask full of homemade corn whiskey and take a mouthful every time someone says the word egg, why, water, time, dinner, kindness, more, or what.

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Jonathan Franzen

Acquire a small loan from a local bank or a rich friend and use the money to buy the most expensive pair of black-rimmed glasses you can find. Maybe use a little hair gel or something, but only just enough so that you feel like you look cool but didn’t mean to. Wear a white oxford shirt and Duck Head pants with a braided belt and some penny loafers, maybe. If you want to be “edgy Jonathan Franzen” you could get a jean jacket rather than a blazer, but make sure it’s one of those jean jackets that costs as much as a blazer. You should smell a little musty, like a library mixed with birdshit, covered up with Annick Goutal’s Easu D’Hadrien cologne. I recommend practicing your disinterested-and-scornful-but-internally-knitting-suburban-majesty face in the mirror while blasting Michael Bolton. Make sure that throughout the night, when surrounded by people, this expression never changes. Maybe keep surreptitiously farting without gesture, always looking elsewhere while standing against the wall nearest to the exit, pretending to be reading an email from your agent instead of lurking through the profiles of single young women who’ve mentioned you on Twitter.

A Literary Agent

Dress like you did for Jonathan Franzen, but this time actually talk to other people, making sure to laugh more loudly than is necessary at jokes that aren’t funny. Don’t say anything yourself, just kind of stand there, awkwardly hovering near wherever the most active part of the room seems to be. Don’t be afraid to end an awkward or boring conversation by simply turning away from whoever’s taking up your time in mid-sentence and joining in with someone else. Make sure you spill some of your food on your shirt, but pretend not to notice. When it’s time to leave, accidentally walk into the coat closet. Then stay there.

Tyrone Slothrop, from Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

I can’t specifically remember any passages from Gravity’s Rainbow that described what its most central character, Slothrop, looked like, but I think you could pretty much get away with dressing up half like a cowboy, half like a pirate, then shitting your pants. Shit is almost as central a character as any of the 400 others stuffed in the novel, as is the necessity of your character having a perpetual hard-on—try stuffing a fruit or vegetable of whatever desired size down your drawers. Rig up a way to have a tape recording of the sound of exploding bombs following your around, from which you should suddenly scream and take cover in the party at random intervals, looking like a total douche. If you’re the sort who’s into recreational drug use, trade out your usual fare for Irish whiskey and sodium amytal. Is that a thing? Truth serum abuse? Seems like it should be. If all of this just sounds like a pain in the ass, which pretty much any Halloween costume mostly is, you could alternatively dress just like a normal guy and crash a party where you don’t know anybody and just stand there looking like you don’t know where you are, drinking the free liquor until somebody asks who you are and you say “Thomas Pynchon.”

The Judge, from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

One cool thing to do on Halloween is to act like a total dick to everybody and pretend it’s just part of your costume. Considering that the Judge is one of the biggest loudmouth brutes in all of literature, why not use the opportunity as an excuse to get drunk and go psychologically HAM? All you need, I guess, is an all black outlaw suit covered in dust and smoke stink, a black Stetson or something, and some fake guns. Since most people will assume you’re either the Undertaker from WWE or Johnny Cash risen from the dead, you can use the disparity of who you are for further reason to make an ass of yourself shouting and setting shit on fire at the party. Maybe at some point in the night say, in the voice you can imagine coming out of someone named the Judge: “The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I’d have them all in zoos.” Or, you know, just talk a lot of shit about god all night.

A Housewife Reading Fifty Shades of Grey

Get some yoga pants and a blouse and a house robe. Wet the crotch area of the pants and keep it wet there throughout the evening, sometimes gently humping the cushion of the sofa without realizing that you’re doing it. Carry a baby monitor that you’ve turned off. Occasionally shoot disapproving looks at young ladies who have dressed up as “a sexy [something].” If you’re a couple, have the other person bring a laptop and sit across the room watching sports documentaries on Netflix and drinking beer until he passes out on the sofa like always.

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William Faulkner’s Grave

I don’t know, go as fucking Bill Faulkner’s grave. Fasten some loose sheets of sod around your neck to wear like a gown and paint your face gray and write FAULKNER across your upper lip. Then gather up like seven drunk grad students to follow you around carrying flowers and copies of Light In August and Barry Hannah’s Airships. When you get to the party, lie down on the floor and don’t move or talk or breathe at all. Stay there until sunrise.

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Emily Dickinson

Stay home. Don’t dress up. Don’t move. Fuck everybody.

Previously by Blake Butler - Learning How to Haunt Yourself

@blakebutler

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