The Right William T Vollman Book Does Not Exist

As of this moment, the right William T Vollman book does not exist.

His uncompromisingness is obviously part of his appeal. And yet … his books are awfully long.

A creeping suspicion : Vollman goes too far with being uncompromising but not far enough with being unadulterated. The second part is significantly more worrying than the first, and I hope it isn’t true.

On First Looking into Vollman’s Wikipedia Page.

If I wanted to unveil the full heights of my snobbishness I would only have to list the places in which I can imagine seeing Vollman’s body (Trump rallies, History Channel Documentaries called things like ‘Alaskan Mud Men’ and the suchlike). This gives my desire to read him a moral dimension. I’d be getting my version of that self-administered confutation of one’s own predispositions that counts for so much in the field of modern-day readerly conscientiousness.

I want him a completely de-Francified Genet, or the kind of Genet that would look like Vollman. Let’s place Genet’s soul in Vollman’s body, then expose it to the vicissitudes of growing up in that body, of growing up in the body of that kind of a man, an ugly, hard-nosed, incredibly decent man, and then also hold in our minds the way any shred of decency and humanity in any soul, including Vollman’s, growing up in that body, the kind of body you’d expect to find in the crowd in an episode of ‘Storage Hunters’, would be magnified and enlarged to austere and magnificent dimensions by the contrast. I want to see the prose of that soul. I want to see it refute Genet, in some fantastic human calculus, with its combination of decency and besieged yet resilient American-ness.

Issues I have with his books:

  • Too dependent on a binding formal conceit.
  • Too Franzen-y / GenX
  • Too Fictional
  • Too Factual
  • Too Short
  • Too Philosophical

The otherwise very promising ‘Argall’, Volume 3 of the 7 Volume ‘Seven Dreams : A Book of North American landscapes’, is apparently written in Elizabethan English, which is sure to be tiresome. I’ve already been put off the otherwise promising ‘Mason and Dixon’ for the same reason.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

The ‘literal reading’ offered here (by the ‘SF Encyclopedia’ no less- I couldn’t imagine a less suitable audience for my Vollman than SF-enthusiasts!) devastated my budding conception of ‘Europe Central’, based on reading the contents and first 15 or so pages, as basically your standard superbly well-researched piece of non-academic historical reconstruction remixed into literary significance by an author willing to restrict the remit of their creative activity to the sequencing of information, the visceral re-staging of certain crux events and personalities, and the highly skilful embedding of analysis. To my despair I discovered that what I had assumed was just a blistering opening salvo about telephones was actually the first impressionistic rendering of ‘a self-conscious distributed network’ that would arise into greater and greater clarity in the following 800 or so pages as the galvanizing force in a mythologized, sci-fi version of the 20th Century’s European Tragedy.

His books on climate change and nuclear power are too much report and not enough reportage, and then when the first-hand, case study-ish stuff starts to come in around page 200 it comes in the form of a 300 page wander around Fukushima, which probably isn’t very dramatic.

The short story is a medium obviously unsuited to his tendencies towards maximalist surveyance and is probably the medium in which he is most liable to falter into Gen X wistfulness.

‘Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means’ proposes to offer the reader ‘a moral calculus’ for determining in what situations violence is justified, a Herculean task which I don’t really think Vollman is qualified to take on, but maybe I’m just overly deferential towards Analytic Philosophers.