A Year in Reading: Blake Butler

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I had a dream I was locked in a cage earlier this year, a dream that went on for several years inside the sleep itself. In the dream, I was given no food or water, nor did I interact with any person or other sort of entity; the walls of the cage were flat and had no bars and no door for entry or exit. It was clear in the dream that I was sleeping, but that the time inside the cage was real, that the world was going on without me despite the illusion I would be presented with upon my return that no more than a night had passed.

The only thing besides my body in the cage was a book, which had been left there almost incidentally, as if by someone previously installed in the cage before I appeared there. The book was bound with leather that in this world would be called white, but in the dream was actually transparent to the point that seeing through it meant you were seeing through the actual cells of the world of the cell; like the texture of gasoline spread on the ground, but looking through it onto another planet. Though it was a very thin book in my hands, when it was opened it was as thick as a set of encyclopedias. It was written in a language I understood in my sleep but knew even while reading that when I woke not only would I not be able to remember what I’d read, but that I’d read it at all; that is, the text I remembered would be remembered as plates of color instead of words.

So each page of the book was a color, full and flat, and I read it. It expressed emotions I remember not feeling aware of ever before in waking, but that had always been through and through me, and underneath me, in my blood, in the dirt of the earth, in the wires of the computer, in the faces of the people. These emotions held us together as fibers and we didn’t know it and couldn’t read them in anyone else either except in passing moments that felt like pain or terror, and sometimes love, but actually in this book appeared as passages you could read and reread, could even memorize.

I was only able to read a few pages of the book over the several years the dream went on. I was aware of what was happening in my other life the whole time, the people I loved aging without me, changing without me. The book changed with them, too, reacting to me as the colors I had never before witnessed reflected the future of every person every inch, which included every book already created or to be created, as well as every film and painting, and every person. Each page was like death and like dying, where the meaning of that allowed transmission of the fractions of me remaining were transported not into blackness, but into a world between the two kinds of remaining worlds, between sleep and waking, and between aging and a sense of eternal time.

The dream ended like a movie cut off by someone remotely pressing a button on a film you were watching and did not know someone else had control over the experience of. There was a brief period of transition in which I could feel the smoke coming off of me from the transference from the state of the cage, where the book had touched me, and the body I had returned to, as well as the gap between the times of point of entry and return, and what has been changed in my absence, feeling like no change at all.

This is the state I have been reading in since the dream, which subsequently has caused all books I’ve read in that time to feel bound in the same edition, in the way that one pupil might be the same as any other pupil, for its blackness, more than what the blackness has absorbed.

Recently, I have begun reading with my eyes closed.

Image Credit: pixabay.

More from A Year in Reading 2014

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

The good stuff: The Millions’ Notable articles

The motherlode: The Millions’ Books and Reviews

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