I don’t believe that I have ever heard a critic or a reader accuse William T. Vollmann of writing tight, exacting prose. Fact is, most of Vollmann’s work is a little shaggy. But it’s still good, fleas and all. If you are interested in a gritty representation of the world of sex, drugs, and hobos riding the rails, then I recommend Vollmann’s novel Royal Family. This big, hairy novel is the third text in Vollmann’s Prostitution Series which started with Whores For Gloria, followed by Butterfly Stories. In these novels the author deals with sex trade, street drugs, violence, social hierarchy, spiritual awakening, death, Lady Boys, and the best way to hop a train to Barstow. I don’t believe there is a strong requirement to read the novels in order but since they go from shorter to longer, it might be a good idea.
I’m always excited when I see that a new book by William Vollmann is being published. This article in the Times, however, is a jaw-dropper:
As far as writers go, William T. Vollmann is a man’s man. In pursuit of a story, he has roughed it with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and survived a land mine explosion in Bosnia. He singed his eyebrows off and nearly froze to death exploring the magnetic North Pole. In Thailand, he rescued a teenage girl from sex slavery by kidnapping her from a pimp.
So it may be surprising that Mr. Vollmann, the absurdly prolific author and National Book Award winner, is also a devoted cross-dresser. He has developed a female alter ego named Dolores, whom he refers to in the third person.
Having withstood the shock and awe of many book groups through the years by steadfastly refusing to read, much less admire, anything written by Stephen King, I was pleased to run across an editorial on the same subject in the LA Review of Books: My Stephen King Problem: A Snob’s Notes by Dwight Allen. My one complaint is that Allen refers to his essay as a “Snob’s Notes.” I prefer to think of the situation as an observant, thinking individual against the King bigots. Be sure to read all the knee-jerk negative comments on Allen’s essay for an overview of the fans of SK.
Why do people read Stephen King? Beats the poop out of me. King is a less than stellar writer and unnecessarily wordy. I have attempted to read King on three occasions, generally to show King lovers that I will give the author an honest opportunity to overcome my inability to see anything redeeming in his novels. Unfortunately, the results are all about the same and involve an open window. I have had readers meekly suggest that they read King for escape and because he is easy to read. This I find unbelievable: King’s writing, for me, is a terrible mishmash that is not worth the effort it takes to make it understandable, and this doesn’t even consider the less than brilliant and highly repetitious narratives that King’s imagination regurgitates on a regular basis.