Severance: New by Robert Olen Butler Severance: Stories: Books: Robert Olen Butler
One of my favorite writers is Robert Olen Butler. I’ve read everything of his I can get my hands on, and when when I heard him interviewed on NPR this week about his new collection of stories, I knew I must obtain this one also.

I’ve always used Butler’s story, “Good Scent from a Strange Mountain” in the ENG 102 class I taught at the university here–that is, until the new edition of Kennedy saw fit to not include it. I was appalled that a Pulitzer Prize winner’s story could be so quickly removed from an anthology. And he wasn’t even dead yet! Not only was it a good story the publishers deleted, it was an important story that provides valuable insights into a now significant portion of the American, especially Louisianian, population.

I read the whole collection sometime ago. Through the years, I’ve encouraged my students to read Butler’s collection of short stories in Good Scent from a Strange Mountain in hopes they can see the things Butler sees.

Butler’s new collection, Severance is thematic, telling of 62 individuals who lost their heads (from the past and from recent news). The collection consists of 62 stories, with each story being exactly 240 words. In the NPR interview I mentioned, Butler explained his math: he quoted a French Doctor who theorized that a human retains consciousness that many seconds after decapitation and that when agitated a human can utter 160 words per minute.

It sounds like a fine read, and in typical Butler style, one that will be remembered.