Robert Olen Butler, Hell (2009)

robert-olen-butler-hell“The fresh hell described by Robert Olen Butler’s new novel is crammed with random celebrities. . . Patrolled by Satan’s minions (among them, two of the Bee Gees) dressed in powder-blue jumpsuits, it’s filled with bookstores that optimistically open with new owners at every sunrise — only to go out of business by the end of each day. If the books they can’t sell in hell are maddeningly uneven, ever bouncing between passable wit and sophomoric giggles. Mr. Butler’s slapdash Hell deserves shelf space there. . .
Somehow, in the course of Mr. Butler’s fever dream of a plot, Hell also includes Dante’s Beatrice, now a film noir dame contending with Humphrey Bogart, who pines for Lauren Bacall; a chorus of singing cockroaches enamored of the phrase ‘poopy butt’; Michael Jackson, doing a woefully inadequate job of singing Wagner and consigned to ‘Everland, the densely populated molester estate on the edge of the city’; Bobby Fischer, playing chess with a computer from Hadassah; Jerry Seinfeld, whose jokes all bomb; and Celine Dion, who just won’t quit singing that damn ‘Titanic’ song.” [. . .]    –Janet Maslin, The New York Times, September 6, 2009