Sky Saw

By Blake Butler


Tyrant Books
December 2012

Reviewed by Michael J. Seidlinger


I'm not here to show you the way; rather, I'm here to show you a piece. I'm here to remind you to blink as you sift through the sentences Sky Saw sculpts, the guidelines for the survival of cataclysm as well as the guts of all those destined to die untagged, better numbered than named.

You see, when you read Blake Butler's Sky Saw, the book is not only being read but also speaking back to you. It's telling you to stop, take a break; don't keep turning the pages so quickly:

The truth is I am tired... I've spent enough years with my face arranged in books. I've read enough to crush my sternum. In each of the books are people talking, saying the same thing, their tongues slim and white and speckled with words.

Understand what you choose to understand but what Butler suggests is more important than what he's trying to say: Plenty of books will outlive us; plenty of books already have. Books upon books conceal the personalities of the people that wrote them. These books become dangerous, spouting apocalyptic disgust and the acrid stench of death. Butler reveals the hidden depths of Sky Saw's personality and makes it part of the book's cadence. We see the book as entity, the dominant force in a world of people known less by name and more by number (e.g., Person 1180, 811, 2030).

"All the light was perforation." So be it: Perforate through the light and look into the disgust contained between the covers: We see a child's veins bloat and stiffen; a war on war itself, anything to be battled made to be already fought; a city where ex-felons are punished by being forced to share their own blood; a woman giving birth dozens and dozens of times, the result of each child being less important than the birth itself; a man that has visited every single house and stolen one important thing; a Cone that isn't a cone at all but rather something sinister, something sincere—the passage of time, aging; replications of the same likeness, plenty of numbers; a woman picking through a wound only to open a new realm; children inside of children; men inside of men; woman again and again fraught with affliction.

I am getting tired of myself, the mother thought.
I am tired also, the son replied from a far room.
I am also very tired.
I would feel okay if you did not turn the page.

We're just getting started:


Pages of perforation and mending, travel through names made of numbers and of a sky that is doomed to be thought of as forever on the verge of falling into our laps like the book, Blake Butler's book, resting in our laps, not minding us as long as the warning is made clear.  The more I read the more I felt this intense mounting tension that could bring down the very house I'm sheltered in. In his use of grouped paragraphs, occasional lists, the thinning out of sentences into near-stanzas, and an entire section where page numbers are omitted, Butler exhibits the perfect pitch of Nothing, while exploring new methods of experimenting with language.

Why did you do that?
I told you I was tired.
You know how you and I are getting sicker.


Blake Butler's Sky Saw is a synthesis of the textural uses of language made to glamorize the absolute found in calamity and apocalyptic rot. It warns us of an end which we will all one day experience. It can only be the Cone, aging, the point in which life is swept from the path to make room for the rolling out of the red carpet for the one, the only, the finality of death. We glamorize chaos and carnage because it isn't the end but rather because it is indicative of the end, the apocalypse as fashion. Death, on the other hand is as Butler's writes, "All hours pressed in an instant."  There is nothing to bargain, nothing but the beauty of death's finality.

The colors screwed across the sky
They screwed into the sky and through the sky and there before it.
The flesh from all holes fell.
It fell into the holes and through holes and held them.
Where there were no holes, more holes were made.
The film was blinking.
The space was blinking.
There was the sound.
There was the face
The eye behind the face came open.
Now it was everything, the eye.

Sky Saw is a reverie of lives in flux. Collected like eroded suffering, the exhaustion that can be seen in a woman's ruptured body, the bodies of those numbered people, coalesced and changing; a woman recurring like someone worth meeting but somehow is someone you'll never really meet, spitting coins from her mouth, teeth being pulled. Sky Saw accounts for these feverish episodes, scenes that work like dead memories revived just after senility kicked in. Blake Butler has written a book that speaks to those memories, just daring you to BLINK to see if they'll be there long after it takes your breath away.