By Robert Olen Butler
(Chronicle Books, Hardcover, 9780811856140, 264pp.)
Publication Date: August 1, 2006
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The human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one-half minutes after decapitation. In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute. Inspired by the intersection of these two seemingly unrelated concepts, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler wrote sixty-two stories, each exactly 240 words in length, capturing the flow of thoughts and feelings that go through a person's mind after their head has been severed. The characters are both real and imaginedMedusa (beheaded by Perseus, 2000 BC), Anne Boleyn (beheaded at the behest of Henry VIII, 1536), a chicken (beheaded for Sunday dinner, Alabama, 1958), and the author (decapitated, on the job, 2008). Told with the intensity of a poet and the wit of a great storyteller, these final thoughts illuminate and crystallize more about the characters' own lives and the worlds they inhabit than many writers manage to convey in full-length biographies or novels. The stories, which have appeared in literary magazines across the country, are a delightful and intriguing creative feat from one of today's most inventive writers.
Robert Olen Butler, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his short-story collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, is the author of many acclaimed works of fiction. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, and many other magazines. He lives and teaches in Tallahassee, Florida.