Thursday, September 24, 2009

Severance: Morbidly Poetic

“After decapitation, the human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one half minutes.”

“In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute.”

Using these two concepts, Butler writes a short story for each decapitated victim using only 240 words. Little to no punctuation was used, which made it slightly uncomfortable for me to read. The language, however, is very descriptive and poetic.

I was impressed at the cast of characters, fictional and factual, that Butler chose to write about. These characters included a dragon, Marie Antoinette, Medusa, a chicken, and even the author himself. Some of the characters were beheaded by accident, like John Martin, a boy who was “decapitated by subway after lifting sidewalk grate and falling onto the tracks below.” Others were beheaded as punishment, most notably from the French Revolution. Each of these mini-narratives had an individual voice, unique to each character. Just by the language, you could tell what their education was, their place in history, and their culture.

My favorite passage was that narrative of Pierre-François Lacenaire, “criminal and memoirist, guillotined for murder, 1836.” He described the guillotine as his fiancée, very eloquently. “…all her thin body is rouged for me, all but her bosom which is naked and unadorned, polished bright…” This unlikely juxtaposition was the most poetic and descriptive of all the stories.

Overall, this compilation of short stories was well written and strangely compelling. It was a very short, yet enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone with a morbid streak.



Zombie Girrrl said...

I'm intrigued.

Misty said...

This is the craziest concept for a book that I've heard in a while. I, too, am intrigued.