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"The destiny of the white race in America is to eat up the red men, and in this rising tide of population that rolls toward the setting sun there is no one who is backward in taking his bite -- no one except the government that temporizes and buys peace, to avoid doing the duty that the individual is doing from choice or from necessity."
-- Phillippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand (1867)
Pynchon Vollmann Analogy
Gravity's Rainbow:Europe Central::Mason&Dixon:The Dying Grass
This might not be my favorite novel of the last several years, but it is one of the best. And I can't easily grasp a novel that I liked more. I just don't know. My brain is fried. My emotions are fried. My ability to look objectively at this book, and history, and the United States is fried.
One of the best compliments I can give to the best historical fiction is that it doesn't break history, but fills in the gaps and bends it. Hillary Mantel does this very well. So too does Robert Graves, John Williams, and Patrick O'Brian. These other authors seem content to carve prose castles to tell their stories of leaders, kings, and periods. Vollmann just drops a volcano on the reader. There is just so much.
I was trying to describe the feeling of reading Vollmann (I've only read three Vollmann, the other two were Europe Central and Whores for Gloria) to my wife. To me it is equivalent of reading a strange cut-up method combination of Mantel, Pynchon, and Burroughs WHILE tripping on mushrooms. But that still doesn't do it justice. There is no easy metaphor for Vollmann. There is no way to explain Vollmann without using Vollmann. What is the only way to understand Vollmann? You have to grab the biggest Vollmann you can find and jump in without fear and without looking back. He is big, vicious, kind, detailed, warm, clinical. He just doesn't stop. He is exhausting and frustrating. He is the literary equivalent of Hieronymus Bosch. He is the hardest working hypergraphic around.
I can't imagine Vollmann is very profitable to Viking. There are just NOT that many people jostling in the age of Twitter (where the demands of reading and writing are limited to 140 characters) to read 1376 pages of digressive, experimental, inner/outer stream of consciousness narrative fiction. However, I know why they keep him on their Viking reservation: the guy WILL win the Nobel prize someday. Guaranteed. This dude has a long, harsh tail.
"It is all the same. Let us kill, die or ride away."
28 of 29 people found this review helpful
It took a couple of hours to get accustomed to the writing style but Henry Strozier's performance soon brought it all together. the research and subtexts were very well done and their incorporation into the novel was seamless.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful