Late City by Robert Olen Butler [7/10]

I thought I had read some Robert Olen Butler back in the eighties but none of his huge list of works chimes with me, so “Late City,” written at age 70, could be a first for me. And I’m delighted. A decidedly literary novel, written from a hazy but erudite viewpoint of a dying 115-year-old man on the eve of Trump, it posits a final earthly dialogue with God (a decidedly jaded deity), which then sashays through our hero’s life. A country boy, a soldier, a newsman, a husband, an old person’s home resident … all these phases of his life are recalled, reflected upon, and synthesized. Butler is a poetic stylist and his dreamlike scenes are a pleasure to read. A final mild plot twist failed to excite me, and somehow a century of recollections about America did not amount to much more than broad opinions on war and race, but overall, Late City is a minor readerly pleasure.

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