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About William T. Vollmann
Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Øystein Vidnes (http://www.flickr.com/photos/oysteinv/160077312/) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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In this magnificent work of fiction, acclaimed author William T. Vollmann turns his trenchant eye on the authoritarian cultures of Germany and the USSR in the twentieth century to render a mesmerizing perspective on human experience during wartime. Through interwoven narratives that paint a composite portrait of these two battling leviathans and the monstrous age they defined, Europe Central captures a chorus of voices both real and fictional— a young German who joins the SS to fight its crimes, two generals who collaborate with the enemy for different reasons, the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the Stalinist assaults upon his work and life.
In such earlier works of fiction as The Rainbow Stories and The Royal Family, William T. Vollmann wrote of pimps, prostitutes, addicts and homeless dreamers in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. In this new novel, Vollmann returns there with a story that centers around a woman with magical powers whom everyone loves, and who has to love them all back.
After being initiated into a coven of island witches, Neva begins to fulfill her fate in a Tenderloin dive bar. Her worshippers include Richard, the introverted, alcoholic, occasionally omniscient narrator; a profane, aggressive transgender sex worker named Shantelle; the brisk but motherly barmaid Francine; and the former Frank, who has renamed herself after her idol Judy Garland. When Judy starts to love Neva too much, Judy's retired policeman boyfriend embarks on a mission of exposure and destruction.
Crafted out of language by turns spiritual and sexually graphic, The Lucky Star aches with compassion as it explores celebrity culture, gender identity, incest, Christian sacrifice and, most of all, the quotidian and sometimes faltering heroism of marginalized people who in the face of humiliation and outright violence seek to love in their own way, and stand up for who they are.
“The Infinite Jest of climate books.” —The Baffler
An eye-opening look at the consequences of coal mining and oil and natural gas production—the second of a two volume work by award-winning author William T. Vollmann on the ideologies of energy production and the causes of climate change
The second volume of William T. Vollmann's epic book about the factors and human actions that have led to global warming begins in the coal fields of West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, where "America's best friend" is not merely a fuel, but a "heritage." Over the course of four years Vollmann finds hollowed out towns with coal-polluted streams and acidified drinking water; makes covert visits to mountaintop removal mines; and offers documented accounts of unpaid fines for federal health and safety violations and of miners who died because their bosses cut corners to make more money.
To write about natural gas, Vollmann journeys to Greeley, Colorado, where he interviews anti-fracking activists, a city planner, and a homeowner with serious health issues from fracking. Turning to oil production, he speaks with, among others, the former CEO of Conoco and a vice president of the Bank of Oklahoma in charge of energy loans, and conducts furtive roadside interviews of guest workers performing oil-related contract labor in the United Arab Emirates.
As with its predecessor, No Immediate Danger, this volume seeks to understand and listen, not to lay blame--except in a few corporate and political cases where outrage is clearly due. Vollmann is a carbon burner just like the rest of us; he describes and quantifies his own power use, then looks around him, trying to explain to the future why it was that we went against scientific consensus, continually increasing the demand for electric power and insisting that we had no good alternative.
“The Infinite Jest of climate books.” —The Baffler
A timely, eye-opening book about climate change and energy generation that focuses on the consequences of nuclear power production, from award-winning author William T. Vollmann
In his nonfiction, William T. Vollmann has won acclaim as a singular voice tackling some of the most important issues of our age, from poverty to violence to the dark soul of American imperialism as it has played out on the U.S./Mexico border. Now, Vollmann turns to a topic that will define the generations to come--the factors and human actions that have led to global warming. Vollmann begins No Immediate Danger, the first volume of Carbon Ideologies, by examining and quantifying the many causes of climate change, from industrial manufacturing and agricultural practices to fossil fuel extraction, economic demand for electric power, and the justifiable yearning of people all over the world to live in comfort. Turning to nuclear power first, Vollmann then recounts multiple visits that he made at significant personal risk over the course of seven years to the contaminated no-go zones and sad ghost towns of Fukushima, Japan, beginning shortly after the tsunami and reactor meltdowns of 2011. Equipped first only with a dosimeter and then with a scintillation counter, he measured radiation and interviewed tsunami victims, nuclear evacuees, anti-nuclear organizers and pro-nuclear utility workers.
Featuring Vollmann's signature wide learning, sardonic wit, and encyclopedic research, No Immediate Danger, whose title co-opts the reassuring mantra of official Japanese energy experts, builds up a powerful, sobering picture of the ongoing nightmare of Fukushima.
For generations of migrant workers, Imperial Country has held the promise of paradise and the reality of hell. It sprawls across a stirring accidental sea, across the deserts, date groves and labor camps of Southeastern California, right across the border into Mexico. In this eye-opening book, William T. Vollmann takes us deep into the heart of this haunted region, exploring polluted rivers and guarded factories and talking with everyone from Mexican migrant workers to border patrolmen. Teeming with patterns, facts, stories, people and hope, this is an epic study of an emblematic region.
The National Book Award winner takes readers inside the epic fighting retreat of the Nez Perce Indians
In this new installment in his acclaimed series of novels examining the collisions between Native Americans and European colonizers, William T. Vollmann tells the story of the Nez Perce War, with flashbacks to the Civil War. Defrauded and intimidated at every turn, the Nez Perces finally went on the warpath in 1877, subjecting the U.S. Army to its greatest defeat since Little Big Horn as they fled from northeast Oregon across Montana to the Canadian border. Vollmann’s main character is not the legendary Chief Joseph, but his pursuer, General Oliver Otis Howard, the brave, shy, tormented, devoutly Christian Civil War veteran. In this novel, we see him as commander, father, son, husband, friend, and killer.
Teeming with many vivid characters on both sides of the conflict, and written in an original style in which the printed page works as a stage with multiple layers of foreground and background, The Dying Grass is another mesmerizing achievement from one of the most ambitious writers of our time.
That was the simple yet groundbreaking question William T. Vollmann asked in cities and villages around the globe. The result of Vollmann's fearless inquiry is a view of poverty unlike any previously offered.
Poor People struggles to confront poverty in all its hopelessness and brutality, its pride and abject fear, its fierce misery and quiet resignation, allowing the poor to explain the causes and consequences of their impoverishment in their own cultural, social, and religious terms. With intense compassion and a scrupulously unpatronizing eye, Vollmann invites his readers to recognize in our fellow human beings their full dignity, fallibility, pride, and pain, and the power of their hard-fought resilience.
Some images that appeared in the print edition of this book are unavailable in the electronic edition due to rights reasons.
His new novel is the story of Jimmy, who has been deserted by his lover, a prostitute by the name of Gloria. In the despair of his loneliness, and his drunken grief, he reassembles Gloria’s presence out of whatever he can buy from the hookers on the street—the fragments of their lives and dreams, and locks of hair they are willing to share for a price. In his search for these snatches of intimacy he meets the hustlers, drunks, and prostitutes of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district: Candy, who beats her customers when they ask for it but refuses to let them call her a bitch; Snake, who pimps his wife; Nicole, whose job it is to give men AIDS; Jack, who shoots his woman’s earnings into his arm but still likes Chopin even though he doesn’t have a record player; and Gloria, who may or may not be a figment of Jimmy’s imagination.
Vollmann writes with explosive power of the inner city, unflinching in the way he confronts the solitude of the homeless and unloved, the insulted and the injured of skid-row America. His exhilarating, high-voltage style and lyric language touch the heart and retrieve a jubilant integrity from the harsh struggles of his characters. Here is a world of harrowing truth, beautifully expressed by a writer of prodigious gifts.
In this magnificent new work of fiction, his first in nine years, celebrated author William T. Vollmann offers a collection of ghost stories linked by themes of love, death, and the erotic.
A Bohemian farmer’s dead wife returns to him, and their love endures, but at a gruesome price. A geisha prolongs her life by turning into a cherry tree. A journalist, haunted by the half-forgotten killing of a Bosnian couple, watches their story, and his own wartime tragedy, slip away from him. A dying American romances the ghost of his high school sweetheart while a homeless salaryman in Tokyo animates paper cutouts of ancient heroes.
Are ghosts memories, fantasies, or monsters? Is there life in death? Vollmann has always operated in the shadowy borderland between categories, and these eerie tales, however far-flung their settings, all focus on the attempts of the living to avoid, control, or even seduce death. Vollmann’s stories will transport readers to a fantastical world where love and lust make anything possible.
Vollmann is a relentlessly curious, endlessly sensitive, and unequivocally adventurous examiner of human existence. He has investigated the causes and symptoms of humanity's obsession with violence (Rising Up and Rising Down), taken a personal look into the hearts and minds of the world's poorest inhabitants (Poor People), and now turns his attentions to America itself, to our romanticizing of "freedom" and the ways in which we restrict the very freedoms we profess to admire.
For Riding Toward Everywhere, Vollmann himself takes to the rails. His main accomplice is Steve, a captivating fellow trainhopper who expertly accompanies him through the secretive waters of this particular way of life. Vollmann describes the thrill and terror of lying in a trainyard in the dark, avoiding the flickering flashlights of the railroad bulls; the shockingly, gorgeously wild scenery of the American West as seen from a grainer platform; the complicated considerations involved in trying to hop on and off a moving train. It's a dangerous, thrilling, evocative examination of this underground lifestyle, and it is, without a doubt, one of Vollmann's most hauntingly beautiful narratives.
Questioning anything and everything, subjecting both our national romance and our skepticism about hobo life to his finely tuned, analytical eye and the reality of what he actually sees, Vollmann carries on in the tradition of Huckleberry Finn, providing a moving portrait of this strikingly modern vision of the American dream.
“Intrepid journalist and novelist William T. Vollman’s colossal body of work stands unsurpassed for its range, moral imperative, and artistry.”
William T. Vollmann, the National Book Award–winning author of Europe Central, offers a charming, evocative, and piercing examination of the ancient Japanese tradition of Noh theatre and the keys it holds to our modern understanding of beauty. Kissing the Mask is the first major book on Noh by an American writer since the 1916 publication the classic study Pisan Cantos and the Noh by Ezra Pound. But Kissing the Mask is pure Vollman—illustrated with photos by the author with provocative related side-discussions on femininity, transgender, kabuki, pornography, geishas, and more.