The Paris Review

I, a Novelist: An Interview with Halle Butler

Halle Butler (Photo: Jerzy Rose)

I, a novelist, met novelist Halle Butler in Chicago in May 2017. My girlfriend, also a novelist, was reading with Butler at a café in Logan Square. Halle was standing outside with her friend, a novelist, and they were smoking cigarettes. Butler had on a wrinkled button-down shirt from a thrift store, dirty sneakers, and jeans with holes in them. She seemed wry and friendly. At the time, I don’t think she was aware I was a novelist, but as we talked, I couldn’t stop myself from referring to my debut novel, which had come out a couple months earlier. She smiled in a conspiratorial way, then told me she would have trouble remembering the title because she was already drunk. My girlfriend and I were hungry, so we went inside and ordered gumbo. Halle got up to read an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, The New Me (Penguin). She burped a few times, then announced she was a Granta Best Young American Novelist. Everyone laughed when her narrator admits she is “afraid of the taste of water.” I wondered, who is this Halle Butler person?

I wanted to become her friend immediately. This would be a good place for me to describe, in summary, Butler’s new novel, The New Me, but I hesitate to say that it’s about loneliness, alienation, depression, and friendship. I will say that I experiencedThe New Me

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review3 min read
Redux: In Memoriam, Susannah Hunnewell
Susannah Hunnewell in 2017, at the magazine’s Spring Revel. Courtesy of The Paris Review. The Paris Review is mourning the loss of our publisher and friend, Susannah Hunnewell. Over the course of her long affiliation with the magazine—she began as an
The Paris Review4 min read
Susannah Hunnewell’s Joie de Vivre
The Paris Review is mourning the loss of our publisher Susannah Hunnewell, who died this past weekend at her home in New York at the age of fifty-two. Her contributions to the magazine were immeasurable. You can read our more formal obituary here, an
The Paris Review2 min read
Mystical, Squishy, Distinctly Unsettling
A list of words that could describe Hyman Bloom’s work: loud, abstract, mystical, colorful, squishy, fleshy, grotesque, distinctly unsettling. But Bloom aimed to communicate beyond language. When thirteen of his paintings appeared in a group show at