by Halle Butler
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Pub Date 16 Jul 2024 | Archive Date 31 Oct 2024
Random House Publishing Group - Random House, Random House
“Butler has crafted a novel in which every character proves to be completely, uniquely crazy. Her perverse sense of humor should be studied and celebrated.”—David Sedaris
Margaret Anne “Moddie” Yance had just returned to her native land in the Midwestern town of X, to mingle with the friends of her youth, to get back in touch with her roots, and to recover from a stressful decade of living in the city in a small apartment with a man she now believed to be a megalomaniac or perhaps a covert narcissist.
So begins Halle Butler’s sadistically precise and hilarious Banal Nightmare, which follows Moddie as she abruptly ends her long-term relationship and moves back to her hometown, throwing herself at the mercy of her old friends as they, all suddenly tipping toward middle age, go to parties, size each other up, obsess over past slights, dream of wild triumphs, and indulge in elaborate revenge fantasies. When her friend Pam invites a mysterious East Coast artist to take up a winter residency at the local university, Moddie has no choice but to confront the demons of her past and grapple with the reality of what her life has become. As the day of reckoning approaches, friends will become enemies, enemies will become mortal enemies, and old loyalties will be tested to their extreme.
Banal Nightmare is filled with complicated characters who will dazzle you in their rendering just as often as they will infuriate you with their decisions. Halle Butler singularly captures the volatile, angry, aggrieved, surreal, and entirely disorienting atmosphere of the modern era.
“Butler has crafted a novel in which every character proves to be completely, uniquely crazy. Her sense of humor should be studied and celebrated.”
"In Halle Butler's world, everyone hates each other, every day is excruciating in its mundanity, every thought is the beginning of an Escherian journey round and round in hell, and somehow the whole thing is unbelievably funny. With the force of an episode of marijuana psychosis and the extreme detail of a hyperrealistic work of art, Banal Nightmare attempts transcendence through anxiety and dissociation, nailing a series of contemporary characters—better pray you're not one of them—to the wall."
—Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror
"Halle Butler's Banal Nightmare is a masterpiece, her best book yet. It burns with a wild, unforgiving fire, making most other novels seem vague and ho-hum in comparison. This novel exhibits an eerily spot-on understanding of the private mind as it delves deep into an array of lives, revealing harrowing experiences of loneliness, love, heartbreak, abuse, malaise, depression, obsession, hatred, and revenge. No feeling is skipped over. No thought is simplified. No idea is dumbed-down. Like a knife dancing through air, it's a manic, nerve-wracking read, painful and so weirdly funny, I felt gripped by it from beginning to end. An unapologetic, totally original, modern marvel."
—Rachel B Glaser, author of Paulina & Fran
"Oh man, this book! Halle Butler's new novel is a blistering assault on contemporary pieties about art and love, an epic Woolfian tapestry of perfect comic rants, terrifying panic attacks, and, most gratifying of all, sincere attempts at human connection. This the best, most ambitious book yet by one of my favorite writers."
—Andrew Martin, author of Early Work
"Brilliantly observed and unsparing, Banal Nightmare is an intense, exhilarating, often-hilarious kaleidoscopic inquiry into contemporary relationships. With the comprehensive social gaze of Balzac and the cold logic of Renata Adler, Halle Butler conjures a latticework structure of life, rage, dark humor, and incalculable grace."
—Patrick Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace