The Vollmann Club is an online collaborative effort to read all of William T. Vollmann's books and place Mr. Vollmann's work into perspective. Participating sites include Black Market Kidneys, Conversational Reading, The Happy Booker, Rake's Progress, and Return of the Reluctant. The project began after several people saw Mr. Vollmann at book signings, got a bit excited, and realized that they needed to read more of his work. The only requirement to joining the Vollmann Club is that a member must have seen Mr. Vollmann in the flesh.
We're passionate about literature. So, yes, we're insane to some degree. And while Mr. Vollmann is a very prolific writer (rivaling only Joyce Carol Oates), splitting the books among five people isn't nearly as unwieldy as it seems. Plus, there's no hard deadline to finishing his books, which means that we can all go about our lives while pursuing this.
William T. Vollmann is one of the most fearless authors of our time, often considered to be the dark horse of contemporary novelists. Born in Los Angeles in 1959, Vollmann studied at Deep Springs College and Cornell University. He wrote his first novel, You Bright and Risen Angels, while working as a computer programmer. He has traveled to Alaska, Afghanistan and a variety of exotic locations that would rival Jack London. Vollmann is willing to go places where most novelists fear to tread. For The Rifles, Vollmann holed up in the Magnetic North Pole for two weeks to relive the hardships of the Franklin Expedition, just to know what it was like to be cold and hungry. To befriend prostitutes and get them to talk to him, he was willing to smoke crack. He has also been writing an ongoing series of historical novels called The Seven Dreams, a seven-volume series written by "William the Blind" about (to put it mildly) clashes between native North Americans and settlers. Vollmann is also known for his monumental seven-book treatise on violence, Rising Up and Rising Down, which runs some 3,300 pages. He currently lives in Sacramento, California.
If you're new to Vollmann, Scott has a few ideas on where to start reading.
Mostly because it's a collector's item that is now very difficult to find. Much to the surprise of everyone, nearly every copy managed to sell. We suggest checking out Rising Up and Rising Down, a blog devoted to reading the seven volume work in its entirety.
We've split up Vollmann's books among the five participants. As posts come in, we will link to the appropriate content among the participating litbloggers. More supplemental links will be added, as time permits.
"Will Repetition Destroy Vollmann's Legacy?": Comparisons between The Rainbow Stories and The Royal Family. (Return of the Reluctant, 5/25/05)
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow": A cursory look at Vollmann as narrator and his imagery. (Return of the Reluctant, 5/22/05)
Fathers and Crows: PP. 1-106: Tito Perez finds his groove and chronicles Vollmann's use of the aside. (Black Market Kidneys, 5/25/05)
Views on Indigenous People: Tito caught midway. (Black Market Kidneys, 6/24/05)
Are You Experienced?: Tito on Vollmann's spirituality. (Black Market Kidneys, 6/29/05)
Fathers and Crows: The Pathetic Post-Readem: Tito's summation. (Black Market Kidneys, 7/31/05)
"The Royal Family is Long" (RV#1): Does Vollmann really need to write that much? Also, deals with The Royal Family's repetition. (Conversational Reading, 5/25/05)
"Vollmann Feels Your Pain" (RV#2): On Vollmann's idea of being "overlooked." (Conversational Reading, 5/20/05)
[NOTE: For thoughts on the unabridged version, the blog Rising Up and Rising Down has been carrying on an ongoing chronicle.]
"Europe Central": Scott's initial impressions halfway through the book. (Conversational Reading, 1/9/06)
"Europe Central": Scott finishes the book and ponders Vollmann's historical objectivity. (Conversational Reading, 1/16/06)
The Quarterly Conversation (lengthy review)
Los Angeles Times Book Review: Edward Champion's take. (3/4/07)
Rising Up and Rising Down: a blog devoted to reading all seven volumes of RU&RD.
The William T. Vollmann Collection: Archive at the Ohio State University Libraries
Unofficial Vollman Page: Currently "locked."
Tome Improvement: An excellent overview/comparative review of Expelled from Eden and Europe Central.
A Day at Vollmann's Studio (The Quarterly Conversation, Winter 2007)
The Bat Segundo Show #109 (March 2007 -- podcast interview for Poor People)
The Bat Segundo Show #26 (March 2006 -- podcast interview)
Bookslut (November 2005)
San Francisco Chronicle: November 28, 2003
Center for Book Culture: An interview with Larry McCaffery
Free Williamsburg: Interview with Alexander Laurence (August 2000)
Beatrice: Interview with Ron Hogan
Maisonneuve: Interview with Nicholas Hune-Brown (May 2005)
The Paris Review: Interview with Madison Smartt Bell (Fall 2000)
Salon: Interview with Steve Kettmann (Sept. 27, 2001)
Hyde Park Review of Books: Interview with Kevin Canfield
Rake's Progress: An Evening with Vollmann
Conversational Reading: Vollmann Reading
Black Market Kidneys: WTV and the Musicians Who Love Him
Return of the Reluctant: SF Sightings -- William T. Vollmann
Eyeshot: Eyeshot Provokes William T