Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Scenes from My Octavia Butler Book, Part 2: Parable of the Trickster

with 9 comments

Last December I had the improbable privilege to be the very first scholar to open the boxes at the Huntington that contain what Butler had written of Trickster before her death.What I found were dozens upon dozens of false starts for the novel, some petering out after twenty or thirty pages, others after just two or three; this cycle of narrative failure is recorded over hundreds of pages of discarded drafts. Frustrated by writer’s block, frustrated by blood pressure medication that she felt inhibited her creativity and vitality, and frustrated by the sense that she had no story for Trickster, only a “situation,” Butler started and stopped the novel over and over again from 1989 until her death, never getting far from the beginning…

The second part of my Octavia Butler piece is up at Los Angeles Review of Books, all about Parable of the Trickster!


9 Responses

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  1. Both fabulous articles. Makes me look all the more forward to your Butler book.

    Stephen Frug

    June 9, 2014 at 10:09 am

  2. Incidentally, there are a lot worse ways that you could spend your life than shepherding all of Butler’s half-finished work into print in some form. Just sayin’.

    (Personally, I’d love to read a book that is exactly what you describe: Parable of the Unfinished Trickster, the series of half-starts, excerpts, etc, contradictions and all.)

    Stephen Frug

    June 9, 2014 at 10:11 am

  3. Gerry, did the drafts include additional verses from the “Book of the Living”?

    John Halstead

    January 22, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    • Yes they do! She even made some progress towards a stand-alone version of Olamina’s book.


      January 22, 2016 at 4:32 pm

      • Oh, wow! I would love to see that. Are there any plans for publication?

        John Halstead

        January 23, 2016 at 7:49 am

      • Right now, they seem to be going a bit slow, though I hope a lot of it comes out eventually…


        January 23, 2016 at 9:09 am

  4. Two great pieces that tug on some of the threads that run through her work while also mapping out a kind of creative cartology that brings the writer herself closer

    Jason Graff

    August 27, 2016 at 2:10 pm

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