Grove Press, 9780802145093, 232pp.
Publication Date: October 12, 2010
List Price: 14.00*
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The new novel from one of American literature's brightest stars, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, Robert Olen Butler's uproarious new novel is set in the underworld. Its main character, Hatcher McCord, is an evening news presenter who has found himself in Hell and is struggling to explain his bad fortune. He's not the only one to suffer this fate--in fact, he's surrounded by an outrageous cast of characters, including Humphrey Bogart, William Shakespeare, and almost all of the popes and most of the U.S. presidents. The question may be not who is in Hell but who isn't. McCord is living with Anne Boleyn in the afterlife but their happiness is, of course, constantly derailed by her obsession with Henry VIII (and the removal of her head at rather inopportune moments). Butler's Hell isn't as much a boiling lake of fire--although there is that--as it is a Sisyphean trial tailored to each inhabitant, whether it's the average Joes who die and are reconstituted many times a day to do it all again, or the legendary newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, doomed to obscurity as a blogger mocked by his fellows because he can't figure out Caps Lock. One day McCord meets Dante's Beatrice, who believes there is a way out of Hell, and the next morning, during an exclusive on-camera interview with Satan, McCord realizes that Satan's omniscience, which he has always credited for the perfection of Hell's torments, may be a mirage--and Butler is off on a madcap romp about good, evil, free will, and the possibility of escape. Butler's depiction of Hell is original, intelligent, and fiercely comic, a book Dante might have celebrated.
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