Hell: A Novel

Hell: A Novel

Robert Olen Butler

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 0802145094

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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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the penis fly off to join the reassembling of the exploded man. George’s smirk fades, and Hatcher knows the former president is realizing at last where he is. Then, after a long moment, George clears his throat. His voice is barely a whisper. “So this is where I am?” “That’s right.” George nods. “Have you seen my dad?” “Yes.” “And my mom?” “I haven’t seen her.” George nods again. “She’s probably in the other place.” Hatcher holds his tongue. “If she is here,” George says, “she’s going to

touching Hatcher’s crotch and initiating what will be an irreconcilable priapismic erection lasting way more than four hours. At last he drags the phone out of his pocket, and the vibrating instantly ends, and he sees from the missed call list that it’s Anne. His Anne. She’s hysterical still, he knows. He also knows he will never get a signal to call her back. Yet his hands move on their own, trying and trying to return the call, though he has never been able to get through to anyone. And still

reexposing him, he has a new respect for Satan’s insight. Joe and Adolf tote Hatcher across the drive and up the steps and through the front door, and striding toward them, framed in the light from enormous veranda doors behind him, is Satan, wearing a red-and-blue-plaid flannel shirt, Armani jeans, and a RUTTIN BUCK camouflage hunting cap with tied-up fleece earflaps. Against his chest he carries a Ruger Deerfield 44 Magnum autoloading carbine with a smoking muzzle. Hatcher expected that

use the car to find another one, Deborah, who is nearby. And now he’s back on air and he’s introducing the Clinton piece, and his mind is so thoroughly his own again that he can exercise a talent from his mortal professional life: he can roll out the appropriate broadcast-ready words from his mouth while his mind is somewhere else entirely. So as he does his introduction flawlessly, his thoughts slide back to how pathetic he is trying to do a thing or two to qualify himself to be taken out of

street would chase cars. Aunt Sophie is in Hell, of course. Too bad her dog isn’t. I saw her out on the Parkway last week. She was on all fours running alongside Stephen Hawking and barking at his wheels. But Aunt Rachel—who also had hairs growing out of her chin, come to think of it—so chin hairs are either irrelevant in Hell or really really crucial—but chin hairs notwithstanding, Aunt Rachel was sweet as can be. I’d go to her house for lunch and I’d try to leave the end crust of my hot dog

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