The subversion dialogues
Kate Braverman holds a genteel conclave with William T. Vollmann about guns, whores, whiskey, death, and other literary matters
When I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago, I gravitated to the second-hand section of Berkeley’s Black Oak Books. It’s the cult library of books you meant to read but didn’t quite get to. The first year, the novels that most astounded me were Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, and the fictions of William T. Vollmann. In particular, Vollmann’s The Royal Family is a savage, glittering novel of the San Francisco underbelly of prostitutes, pimps, private detectives, and drugs written with the audacity, skill, and authority of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. But the social and psychological issues are more complex and ambiguous. Vollmann’s uncompromising antiauthoritarianism, his daring deviation from conventional narrative into literary criticism asides and essays, the sheer epic scale of the ambition, unhinged me. I felt as if I was in the presence of punk high art, renegade genius, and a contagious subversion I wanted to join.
Kate Braverman Black Oak has a wall of your books. I read your novels and short fiction and inquired about you to other writers. You have an enormous reputation as an outlaw, a recluse, and a profoundly important literary force.
William T. Vollmann I’m sure they’re all making a mistake. Read the rest of this entry »