Anatomy Courses, a combo effort by gifted young writers Blake Butler and Sean Kilpatrick, is unlike anything I’ve read. Published by one of the best publishing houses you’ve probably never heard of, Lazy Fascist Press, this small book is a one-stop destination for readers wondering where modern literature is and where it’s heading.
The cover design is gorgeous, conjuring up a sixties-style look. The vintage, well-worn trade paperback, almost textbook, look is a refreshing change to the current fad of either over-the-top imagery dominating the cover or mismatching texts strewn about haphazardly. It’s as subtly captivating as the text within, something that’s become synonymous with the press.
A disclaimer is in order: I’ve never read anything by Kilpatrick before, but I’m a huge fan of Butler, devouring each new work as soon as it’s released. My expectations were high going in, but the idea of co-authorship concerened me. The last, and really only, book I can remember enjoying that was written by two authors was And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, the long-lost treasure pulled from the archives of William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.
But I worry too much. This book f*cked me up. In a good, nervous, maybe-literature-isn’t-dead kind of way. I hit the book back. Gave it my best shot. I made copious notations on almost every page. The text required a rereading of lines, a dissection of sentences, and the emotions that bubbled up as a result of them. I read it in one sitting, put it down and went on with my life. But then, words, phrases started repeating themselves in my head. I came back to the book for a second time in as many days. That’s the strength of the writing:
“The father spent the next decade stitched into the underbelly of all laughter, sucking the pulp out of a picture of the glitched child I’d most wanted in me always and could not phrase.”
The book never lets up, never relents. It didn’t allow me a chance to collect my thoughts, or theirs. The methodical madness that is these artfully constructed sentences left me in a hypnotic haze. It challenged me to reimagine what fiction could do, what it was capable of. This book will stay with me for awhile, haunting me, challenging me to find another of its equal. Chances are I won’t.
The mother slowdanced through the kitchen with my last precious end-the-baby hanger flexed to ribcage my winter coat —the coat I wore to prom the year the DJ licked the vinyl, then my hand, and lashed together we watched the men snort baby powder of the popped condoms of our songs. You could count the hard-ons with a mallet.
You don’t need a clever teaser or a well written plot synopsis for this book. You just need to read it. With this work, Butler has reaffirmed his status as one of the most talented writers in the game. It also gave me a surprising look into the mind of another burgeoning star in Sean Kilpatrick. I came into this book with one favorite writer, someone who I automatically bought their newest release. I left with two.—Patrick Trotti