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Last Stories and Other Storiesby William T. Vollmann
Synopses & Reviews
Supernaturally tinged stories from William T. Vollmann, author of the National Book Award winner Europe Central
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 farmers 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.
"In the note to the reader that opens this huge collection, Vollmann (Europe Central) states, 'This is my final book. Any subsequent productions bearing my name will have been composed by a ghost.' Vollmann's fiction has always defied easy categorization. Here, he straddles, twists, and morphs action-adventure, horror, political thriller, fantasy, and literary fiction. What gives the book coherence is his singular style: elaborate and picaresque, with a rich vocabulary, an abundance of long and loopy sentences, and an irresistible energy. He's a yarn spinner, in the tradition of Lovecraft and Dinesin, and his subplots and digressions are woven elegantly into the main narratives. The 32 stories are grouped geographically for the most part. The three set in Bosnia and Herzegovina depict the horrors and insanity of war. The novella, 'The Treasure of Jovo Cirtovich,' set in Trieste, combines religion, myth, and romance into an 18th-century high seas adventure. Mainstays of horror and the supernatural figure prominently, and it's especially exciting to read these pop-fiction conventions treated with Vollmann's narrative richness. Related stories 'The Faithful Wife' and 'Doroteja,' both set in Bohemia, feature a ghost and a vampire, respectively. The longest piece in the book, 'When We Were Seventeen,' is set in the U.S.; it's a sweeping and sensuous tale of lust and longing, featuring a witch. Here's hoping that Vollmann changes his mind about this being the end. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Transporting [and] bizarrely beautiful...[these stories] call to mind no living writers, summoning instead Calvino, Marquez, Kafka....So mysterious are Vollmann's motivations, so sweeping his interests, so prodigious is his production, so vastly different is the thing he does from the thing that everyone else does that he may actually be a visitor from another dimension come to report comprehensively back to his home planet." Esquire
"A phantasmagoric book, blending bits of Lovecraft and Dreiser, David Foster Wallace and Scheherazade, Poe and the Brothers Grimm...builds to a suite of love stories, intended not to shock the unshockable but to trace the far reaches of this author's obsessions with sex and death." The New York Times
"Every story leaves someone behind, and so loss in itself, whether violent or beautiful, becomes an unrelenting thematic constant. In another writer's hands this would seem like a gloomy trudge, but Vollmann invigorates the subject with folkloric swashbuckling bluster...at best, the stories are odd, transportive, and of the blackest humor." The Los Angeles Times
"Don't be afraid of the bricklike mass of this collection, or of Vollmann's forbidding reputation. Fear only the spectres and vampires that invest these 32 stories with highbrow goth." New York Magazine
"There are ghost and horror stories here, parables, tales, and tender, more memoiristic stories, all enriched by Vollmann's travels to the Balkans, Scandinavia, Japan, Trieste, Bohemia, Buenos Aires, Mexico. It's less a story collection than a dozen interrelated mini-novels wrapped around various continents." The New Republic
"A sprawling, enchanting casket of curiosities...these stories range from novella-length to just a single paragraph. In their elegant, elegiac meditations on death and the afterlife, we cross broad terrain, including geishas in ancient Japan, vampires in preindustrial Bohemia, and bombings in modern-day Sarajevo." Atlantic.com
"Creatively sourced, boldly imagined, and incandescently written supernatural stories....Throughout this ingeniously fabulist, erotic, musing, and satirical treasury, Vollmann gives monstrous and alluring form to the forces that haunt us, from desire and love to regret and loss, as he contemplates with ardor, sorrow, bemusement, and wonder the beauty and terror of life and death and the vast mystery of the hereafter." ALA Booklist
About the Author
William T. Vollmann has written nine novels, three collections of stories, six works of nonfiction, and a memoir. He has won the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction, a Whiting Writers Award, and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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