Odds are good you’ve read William T. Vollmann only in short form, in periodicals; if you head down to your nearest bookstore and look, between Voltaire and Vonnegut, for any of the Sacramento-based scribe’s big fat tomes, you’d be lucky to dig even a single one up. Yet Vollmann is pretty much the most prolific writer around these days. Since the age of 28 (he’s 45), the man has churned (absolutely churned) out works left and right. Thick slabs of historical fiction (an as-yet unfinished septology called Seven Dreams, which takes to task contemporary notions of the inevitability of progress). Short stories. Travel writing. Vast novels about San Francisco’s seedy Tenderloin district (The Royal Family – an uncompromisingly bleak, Burroughs-esque vision). A six-volume, 3300-page history of violence (Rising Up, Rising Down)
Not to say that quantity = quality, viz. any writer dubbed S. King, but Vollmann’s belletristic fecundity is very much a reflection of his apparently endless fascination with his usual subject matter: the world’s not inconsiderably large, dark underbelly.
Rising Up, Rising Down may be the most cogent example of this fascination, and it’s the new abridged version of this text that Vollmann will be visiting Toronto next Monday (the 22nd) to flog. It’s free. 7.30 pm, Old Victoria College Chapel: Second floor, 91 Charles St. West.