Synopses & Reviews
Since the publication of his first book in 1987, William T. Vollmann has established himself as one of the most fascinating and unconventional literary figures on the scene today. Named one of the twenty best writers under forty by The New Yorker
in 1999, Vollmann received the best reviews of his career for The Royal Family
, a searing fictional trip through a San Francisco underworld populated by prostitutes, drug addicts, and urban spiritual seekers.
Henry Tyler is a failing private detective in San Francisco. When the woman he loves, a Korean American named Irene -- who happens to be married to his brother John -- commits suicide, Henry clings despairingly to her ghost. Struggling to turn grief and guilt into something precious, he employs his professional skills to track down the "Queen of the Prostitutes" and her royal court of streetwalkers and addicts, who accept him readily into their fold. While Henry follows a new path to nightmare beauty and degradation, John defends himself against Irene's memory with stoic blindness. Driven by his obsessive ambition as a contract lawyer, John focuses on one very lucrative project -- drawing up the paperwork for a mysterious establishment in Las Vegas, called Feminine Circus, whose proprietor just happens to be hunting for the Queen.
Crafted out of language by turns eloquent, terse, humorous, sensual, and obscene, The Royal Family offers a haunting series of parallels between the lives of the dispossessed and the anxious middle class. Part biblical allegory and part skewed postmodern crime novel, it is a vivid and unforgettable novel by one of today's most daring writers.
"Vollmann's funky, salivary, spermatic, bloody, tearful novel successfully illustrates his total artistic commitment to embracing raunchy, sacred life in all its holy infamy." The Washington Post Book World
"Nothing Vollmann has ever done before approaches the wild ambition of this book....This is exactly the kind of storytelling the novel was invented for." The San Francisco Chronicle
"His most harrowing and fully developed work of fiction yet...a unique and essential voice in American letters." The Boston Globe
"An immense literary talent is on display in The Royal Family....Not for nothing has this author...been declared a leading member of a new wave of hip, darkly sexual novelists who appeal mainly to a jaded, gilded youth....All along, Mr. Vollmann bears us aloft on the swelling currents of his prose, which is psychedelic, hallucinatory, slyly self-referential, and confiding....His novel is in many ways extraordinary, and I will always be interested in knowing what is stewing in Mr. Vollmann's furious imagination." The New York Times
"Vollmann floods his scenes with torrents of prose...but he never lets style outstrip substance. The Royal Family, with its unforgettable characters (not just the human inhabitants but the city itself), is his most accomplished work to date." The New Yorker
"The descriptive power and emotional force of Mr. Vollmann's writing prevent The Royal Family from becoming dry or even remotely dull. As repulsed as a reader might be at times, it is obvious that Mr. Vollmann cares about these people, and he makes their story both compulsively readable and strangely moving." The Wall Street Journal
"William T. Vollmann is a fascinating writer, one whom few other writers can touch in terms of range, erudition, and outrageousness....The monstrosities compound in The Royal Family. Extremity upon extremity is William T. Vollmann's method of attack. Read him. Fear him." Esquire
Since the publication of his first book in 1987, William T. Vollmann has established himself as one of the most fascinating and unconventional literary figures on the scene today. Named one of the twenty best writers under forty by the New Yorker in 1999, Vollmann received the best reviews of his career for The Royal Family, a searing fictional trip through a San Francisco underworld populated by prostitutes, drug addicts, and urban spiritual seekers. Part biblical allegory and part skewed postmodern crime novel, The Royal Family is a vivid and unforgettable work of fiction by one of today's most daring writers.
About the Author
WILLIAM T. VOLLMANN was born in Los Angeles in 1959. He attended Deep Springs College in California and Cornell University, where he graduated summa cum laude in Comparative Literature. Vollmann was the recipient of a 1988 Whiting Award, and in June of 1999 the New Yorker named him as one of the twenty best American writers under forty. His journalism has appeared in such places as Esquire, Spin, Outside, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. He is the author of ten other books, including the novels You Bright and Risen Angels (1987), The Ice-Shirt (1990), Whores for Gloria (1992), Fathers and Crows (1992), Butterfly Stories (1993), and The Rifles (1994); the story collections The Rainbow Stories (1989), Thirteen Stories and Thirteen Epitaphs (1991), and The Atlas (1996, winner of the PEN Center USA West Award for Best Fiction); and the non-fiction book An Afghanistan Picture Show (1992). Vollmann has also established the Co-Tangent Press for the publication of his own limited-edition art books. His next novel, Argall, Volume Three of his acclaimed "Seven Dreams" series of novels about the collisions between European colonizers and Native Americans, will be published by Viking next August. Vollmann lives in California.