Magazine created by students of the Department of English and American Studies at Masaryk University.

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February 2016

Robert Olen Butler: Severance

in Reviews

By Lucie Horáková

Severance 1
Book designed by Brooke Johnson for Chronicle Books; Photo by Dominika Sirná

Butler’s Severance is an unexpected take on the format of a short story collection. It contains sixty one very short texts that all adhere to some rather specific rules. Each short story has exactly 240 words. Why? Because Butler used some interesting facts as his starting point. First, “After decapitation, the human head is believed to remain in a state of consciousness for one and one-half minutes.” And second: “In a heightened state of emotion, people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute.” This suggests that a decapitated head should be able to deliver a 240-word-long inner soliloquy and this is the content of Butler’s short story collection – sixty one 240-word-long inner monologues inside various severed heads. Keep Reading

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