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Hell: A Novel Paperback – October 12, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Prolific Pulitzer–winner Butler features a colorful cast of underworld dwellers in his latest novel, and, as in Severance and Intercourse, captures stream-of-consciousness in delicious, unleashed rhythm. On the downside, Butler pushes his love for thematic concept to new levels of explicit puppetry (read: gimmick). Hatcher McCord, an anchorman on the Evening News from Hell, reports on hellishly banal traumas while real-life persons suffer hilarious punishment: Adolf Hitler is repeatedly executed, only to be reassembled gruesomely, his face like a stitched football. All are ruled by a smarmy, Armani-clad Satan who smells noxiously of Old Spice aftershave, is only reachable by voice mail and blames everything on his father issues. But when McCord discovers that Satan can't read his mind, McCord becomes a vehicle for free will. Newly empowered, he attempts sexual and emotional relations with the love of his afterlife, a headless Anne Boleyn who gives great (if terrifying) oral sex. Butler's lust for the tabloid romp and his stream of the never-ending punch line both irritates and illuminates. The reader's taste will have to be the final arbiters of worth. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"I'll never stop believing it: Robert Olen Butler is the best living American writer, period." -- Jeff Guinn
"The number of novels and short-story collections about the Vietnam War is now approaching five hundred. Were I to recommend a single volume that poignantly shows the magnitude and the humanity of the tragedy, it would be this one." -- John Clark Pratt
"The book has attracted such acclaim not simply because it is beautifully and powerfully written, but because it convincingly pulls off an immense imaginative risk.... Butler has not entered the significant and ever-growing canon of Vietnam-related fiction (he has long been a member)--he has changed its composition forever." -- Claire Messud
"No writer in America today can be said to surpass Butler in the eating-his-cake-and-having-it-too category: He's literary and entertaining, serious and funny. Within his clear and fluent narratives, there usually nestles complexity, if you care to look for it." -- Chauncey Mabe
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Hatcher lives with Anne Boleyn, whose beauty—when her head is attached to her body—instils within him an vehement arousal, a desire for a coupling that is never to be satiated—such is the nature of Robert Olen Butler's hell.
The inhabitants continually ponder the problem of why they are there, what they did to deserve their predicament, and why everyone, even the most pious of humanity, seemed to have been sentenced to an eternity in the pit. Hatcher begins to realise that Old Nick is not as omnipresent as he had thought, and investigates the rumour of a back-door. Hatcher's adventure leads him to encounter artists and philosophers, ex-presidents and ex-wives with ironic and humorous consequences. The story culminates in a wonderful twist, a realisation that is both gratifying and profound.
The protagonist is the nightly news guy for Hell. He is maneuvered through various situations to make him a better person which sort of works. In the end he comes to grips with a resolution to his deliema.
The book is well written, but it kind of left me with what's the point. Several interesting scenes (hunting with the Devil is a hoot), but the ending was disappointing. To be fair, a hard story to end in a satisfactory way.
You will be greatly entertained by each doomed soul's personal version of Hell...for example: William Shakespeare must learn to use a personal computer to type up all his plays only for the system to crash over and over again. That is just one small example in a hive of intertwined stories of lost souls paying their penance.