Of each writer that I have interviewed I have asked the same question: "How has the internet affected you as a writer?" I have received a number of varied responses, and I was never sure what I was really looking for with that question. However, Atlanta writer Blake Butler, has giving me a reason to continue to ask that question. In his response to a different question he states the following: "I also love flash because I love online publishing, and I think it's hard to read things longer than 1000 words or so on a computer". It seems that the internet has possibly created, and completely and lovingly developed flash fiction. It is the immediacy of our society that has demanded flash fiction, shorter chapters in novels, and much more tightly edited and compact poetry. These new styles allow the reader to sample many different writers in a short amount of time without feeling like they are missing something. Flash fiction has many of the same qualities of longer prose, but it is much more concise.
Blake Butler not only creates extremely interesting pieces of flash fiction, he has recently started writing a series of lists entitled "2500". His goal is to create 50 lists of 50 items each, and these lists are wonderful to read and could be considered a form of poetry. It is the topics and the humor that make these lists a must read. He has already had a few of these lists published in Juked, Hobart, MiPOesias, and forthcoming in Diagram, Noo Journal, and Copper Nickel.
Recently, Blake, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions on flash fiction, music, and more.
Orange Alert (OA): "Fake Fire and Rescue" is one of the most captivating pieces of short fiction that I have ever read. Where did the idea for this piece come from?
Blake Butler (BB): Thanks for saying so. If I remember right, the whole thing came out of the title. I was driving and saw this old-style fire truck on the street, and it said 'Fire & Rescue' on the side. I'd forgotten how half of a firefighter's job is the 'rescue' part. I like the way it sounded. Besides that, the truck looked pretty jacked and old, almost like a replica, so the idea of building a copy of it seemed feasible. The rest kind of burgeoned out from there. One of the best ways I've found to make stories off of an idea like that is lists, part of which showed up in the story itself. Nothing beats a good list.
OA: Who are your biggest literary influences?
BB: David Foster Wallace was the one who made me want to become a writer. Before him I hadn't gotten into a lot of contemporary fiction. I read 'Infinite Jest' and thought, oh wow, people are allowed to say these kind of things in fiction. That book opened up world upon world, both as a reader and a writer. You can include me in the DFW fanboy allegiance. I was similarly obsessed with Cormac McCarthy, particularly the Appalachian novels. I read everything he'd written in the span of a week after stumbling on 'Blood Meridian.' Other people I'd call big influences would be Stephen Dixon, Nicholson Baker, Donald Barthelme, Roald Dahl, George Saunders, Barry Hannah. I also consider the work of David Lynch to be just as much of an influence on my writing as any book. The way he thinks about and uses imagery is so volatile and stays with you, and I guess that's what I strive for. I like more than an average touch of the ridiculous and/or grotesque.
OA: What is it about Flash or short fiction that is most appealing to you? Have you perceived a blurring of the distinction between fiction and poetry?
BB: Flash is great for the ADD five-year old in me, who wants a big bolt of gratification in a hurry. I've been finding I want things I read or write to ideally be 800 words or less or 500 pages and up. That 2000-6000 word area for some reason just doesn't do it for me as much. I want a moment or an epic, and less of what falls in between. I also love flash because I love online publishing, and I think it's hard to read things longer than 1000 words or so on a computer.
I've always thought prose and poetry went hand in hand. Poetry is about attention to detail, about rhythm, sound in the mouth. The best prose has that about it. The best poetry, too, I think, has narrative. Often it seems that the only thing separating great poetry from fiction is the way its chopped up on the page.
OA: How has the Internet (websites, webzines, blogs, etc) affected you as a writer?
BB: Of everything I've published, I've gotten way more readers and feedback from the stuff online because I honestly believe more people read it there. Not to discredit print publications because there's certainly something wonderful about the tactile feeling of holding a story in print, but I feel like online publishing is a thing that's only going to get more and more vital to newer writers like myself, in terms of having an audience. I also feel more connected to some kind of literary community (if you'll excuse me for such cheeseball terminology) in that I e-Meet a lot of wonderful writers and read a lot of awesome work I'd never find otherwise. I've also done a lot of work reviewing and interviewing both music and lit online, so that's helped me get my name out there a bit, I guess. Everyone likes the internet. Significantly less people like books. That's how it is.
OA: Who are some of your favorite musicians currently? Does their music affect your work in any way?
BB: I tend to listen to less and less these days. I'm selling my 2500 CD record collection on ebay right now, piece by piece. Now I just tend to listen to one thing over and over for months at a time. I've become obsessing with Talking Heads in the past year or so. David Byrne is a mastermind. I really like the new Battles record, and they're even better live. I like shitty thug rap for giggles. I like the latest Subtle record and the latest Liars. Other than that a lot of Ennio Morricone. Not the spaghetti western stuff he's known for, but the 60's and 70's Italian horror soundtracks, which is what he should be known for.
OA: What is next for Blake Butler?
BB: Right now I'm working on 60 things at once. A novel about an accused pedophile. A series of 50 lists of 50 (more lists!), which borderlines on poetry. And a slew of short things, some related. And on and on and on.
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite spot?
BB: I always thought I only liked candy coffee. I'm a sugar head, for sure. Though now I like the darkest roast they have, just black as hell. I'm realizing good coffee is sweet by itself. Americanos are where it's at. There's a place called Inman Perk down the street from where I live. It's nice but I've only been there once. Usually I just stop wherever I see when I'm driving and think about it, which could be one of 15 places.
OA: What is the last great book that you have read?
BB: I just finished reading Tao Lin's novel 'EEEEE EEE EEEE' and story collection 'BED', which are going to be released together next month via Melville House, and they are both fantastic. I have a review of one in the next Bookslut. Everyone should buy them.
For information and for links to more his work you can visit Blake at Dead Winter or myspace or his blog.