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Butterfly Storiesby William T. Vollmann
Synopses & Reviews
Heralded as "one of America's most intrepid fictional frontiersmen" (Publishers Weekly), William T. Vollmann has few equals on the literary landscape. Called a cross between William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon, he explores the dark margins of society with a rare and ferocious imagination. In his newest novel, he takes what may be his most daring tour of this world of harrowing, essential truths. Butterfly Stories follows a Henry Milleresque narrator in a dizzying cradle-to-grave hunt for love that takes him from the comfortable confines of suburban America to the blood-stained killing fields of modern Cambodia. The object of abuse and ridicule as a child, the "Butterfly boy" finds his only connection is with those outside of society, the untouchables. It is here that he meets up with Ulrich, the psychopathic son of a former S.S. officer; befriends a hedonistic photographer who travels with him to Southeast Asia; visits Thailand, where Benadryl and prostitutes with AIDS are his ever-present companions; and, finally, falls in love with Vanna, a waif-like hooker plying her wares in post-Khmer Rouge Phnom Penh. With Vanna he will engage in a monumental search for wisdom that will take him to the precipice of hell. Vollmann's most accessible work to date, this exotic, erotic, evocative tale will surely add to the legions of admirers who proclaim him as one of today's most arresting, provocative, and inventive writers.
"The prolific Vollmann weighs in with at least his third hyper-realized meditation on female prostitution. But whereas Whores for Gloria had an imaginative conceit worthy of Borges and Thirteen Stories and Thirteen Epitaphs teetered provocatively between a Baedeker and a Book of the Dead, his latest effort falls a bit flat. The 'Butterfly Boy' grows up as a nerdish American kid who is routinely abused by bullies at school. His adolescent trials, configured against a backdrop of American atrocities in Vietnam, are relieved only by the affections of a particularly plucky girl who then moves away. This sets the stage for the protagonist's adult explorations of love and violence in the Far East, where, as 'the journalist,' he pals with 'the photographer,' and together they insist on developing relationships with a series of prostitutes. As always, Vollmann's style gritty detail stirred with hallucinated fancy perfectly serves his investigation of the profane, which in this case includes the vile horrors exacted by the Khmer Rouge. However, the heart of this darkness is not convincingly evoked, and readers may begin to wonder if the exoticism of the Orient and its women is not just a handy occasion for Vollmann to act out a forbidden fantasy." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Shorter and more focused than the Seven Dreams sequence of novels, this title presents Vollmann's trademark obsessions in a new light." Library Journal
Butterfly Stories follows a dizzying cradle-to-grave hunt for love that takes the narrator from the comfortable confines of suburban America to the killing fields of Cambodia, where he falls in love with Vanna, a prostitute from Phnom Penh. Here, Vollmann's gritty style perfectly serves his examination of sex, violence, and corruption.
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