MR. SPACEMAN by Robert Olen Butler


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A surprisingly sweet and droll first-person account of the vexed attempts of an alien to understand the bafflingly unpredictable human race. The Pulitzer Prize—winning Butler (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, 1993, etc.) has wandered far from his usual guilt-haunted terrain here, displaying a remarkably deft hand for gentle satire. A spaceman has been circling the earth for decades and—in an attempt to make sense of humans and their “complex and alien world”—gently abducting people, interviewing them, and returning them to their homes (after clearing their minds of any recollection of his presence). His mission: During the last minutes of 1999, he is to descend to the planet and inform its populace that they are not alone in the universe. But the project gets more and more unpredictably complicated. He’s fallen in love with Edna, a good-hearted beautician from Alabama whom he abducted from a WalMart parking lot. She’s named him Desi (his own name being unpronounceable), set up housekeeping aboard the spaceship, and doesn—t mind that he is short, thin, gray, and has eight fingers on each hand. Desi has abducted 12 people, on a bus trip to a casino, to have one last talk before his annunciation. Butler, not shy of controversy, has much fun with the religious overtones inevitably invoked. Some of the 12 insist, despite Desi’s denial, that he is a divine being. “We always knew there was someone bigger and better watching over us,” one says. “One era, it’s a carpenter. A whole other era, it’s a spaceman.” Desi goes down to earth as midnight nears, having chosen a suitably public place for his arrival. But he hasn’t counted on how accepting, even appreciative, humans can be of that which is odd and unsettling. His mission, he discovers, is really only beginning. Light, mischievous, satisfying entertainment. (First printing of 50,000; $50,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8021-1660-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1999


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