Across fiction, journalism, ethnography, and history, William T. Vollmann’s oeuvre—which includes a “prostitution trilogy,” a septology (Seven Dreams) about encounters between first North Americans and European colonists, and a more-than-three-thousand-page philosophical treatise on violence—is as ambitious as it is dazzling. Conversations with William T. Vollmann collects twenty-nine interviews, from early press coverage in Britain where his career first took flight, to in-depth visits to his writing and art studio in Sacramento, California.
Throughout these conversations, Vollmann (b. 1959) speaks with candor and wit on such subjects as grief and guilt in his work, his love of guns and his experience of war, the responsibilities of the artist as witness, the benefits of looking out into the world beyond the confines of one’s horizon, the limitations of what literature can achieve, and how we can speak to the future. Bringing to the fore several expanded, unpublished, and hard-to-find interviews, this volume offers a valuable set of perspectives on a uniquely rewarding and sometimes overwhelming writer. On the road promoting his books or in a domestic setting, Vollmann comes across as reflective and humane, humble in his craft despite deep dedication to his uncompromising vision, and ever armed with a spirit of mischief and capacity to shock and unsettle the reader.