I made a terrible mistake whilst reading Charlie Kaufman’s debut novel. I had received it the same day as Blake Butler’s latest, Alice Knott. Amazon had supplied my Covid relief package, my portal away from pandemic paranoia. Butler has long been a favourite, but the Kaufman had me overwhelmingly curious – a first novel by the guy who brought us Being John Malkovich? It was Antkind first. However, as others have noted, Antkind is a long (705 pages) and unwieldy tome and, at times, laborious and repetitious. At around the 350-page mark, and after what felt like the 100th falling-down-a-manhole (sorry, a ‘personhole’ as Kauffman’s would be politically correct narrator continually reminds us) joke, Alice Knott seemed to beckon with increased urgency. Just have a taste of the first page, I thought, and whoosh, like falling into a Malkovich portal, Butler’s book utterly subsumed me. I returned to Antkind, shaken and somewhat bloodied, a week later, but it had been a terrible mistake to make – Alice Knott was an adrenalin rush laced with cocaine. Antkind is another beast altogether. Intriguingly both books are about displacement, mind-slippage, memory distortion and alienation – all too apt in this day and age (and versions of Trump-phobia and pandemics creep into both). But where Butler’s 304-page juggernaut gets to the point with urgency, Kaufman’s does so with innumerable zigs and zags, moments of true pathos and sparkling doses of Pynchonesque humour. And, like Pynchon, or even at his best, Philip K. Dick, Antkind is awash in multitudinous ideas and plot twists and bizarre characters. As a first novel, Antkind is truly something – exactly what I have yet to quantify – just don’t do what I did, which was unfair to Kaufman. Read both books most certainly, but keep them at separate ends of the house.