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William T. Vollmann (William Tanner Vollmann) Biography

(1959– ), (William Tanner Vollmann), You Bright and Risen Angels, The Rainbow Stories

stories novel individual sequence

American novelist and short-story writer, born in Los Angeles, educated at Cornell University. His researches have taken him to many parts of the world, frequently to places engaged in political turmoil: he covered the war in Afghanistan and was wounded in Sarajevo. His first novel, You Bright and Risen Angels (1987), used the picaresque form, robust humour, and fascination with power found in Thomas Pynchon, although there were already signs here of an individual vision, particularly in his treatment of sexuality. Subsequent volumes deepen and extend the historical research, journalism, experiential testing, and fascination with mythology that can be found in the first novel. The Rainbow Stories (1989) and Thirteen Stories and Thirteen Epitaphs (1991) are volumes of interconnected short stories; Butterfly Stories (1993) is a novel which focuses on both AIDS and Cambodia. His most ambitious work to date, ‘Seven Dreams’, is a projected sequence forming a ‘symbolic history’ of North America; the Norse discovery is dealt with in the Ice-Shirt (1990), the Jesuits in Fathers and Crows (1992), and Franklin's attempt to find the north-west passage in The Rifles (1994). The latter volume, being written out of sequence, is the sixth dream and, like the others, holds a prodigious array of materials within the gaze of a disabused yet passionate individual.

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