Butterfly Stories

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Overview

Heralded as "one of America's most intrepid fictional frontiersmen" (Publishers Weekly), William T. Vollmann has few equals on the literary landscape. Called a cross between William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon, he explores the dark margins of society with a rare and ferocious imagination. In his newest novel, he takes what may be his most daring tour of this world of harrowing, essential truths. Butterfly Stories follows a Henry Milleresque narrator in a dizzying cradle-to-grave hunt for love that takes him from...
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1993-11-01 Hardcover New Pages have begun to color with age.

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Overview

Heralded as "one of America's most intrepid fictional frontiersmen" (Publishers Weekly), William T. Vollmann has few equals on the literary landscape. Called a cross between William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon, he explores the dark margins of society with a rare and ferocious imagination. In his newest novel, he takes what may be his most daring tour of this world of harrowing, essential truths. Butterfly Stories follows a Henry Milleresque narrator in a dizzying cradle-to-grave hunt for love that takes him from the comfortable confines of suburban America to the blood-stained killing fields of modern Cambodia. The object of abuse and ridicule as a child, the "Butterfly boy" finds his only connection is with those outside of society, the untouchables. It is here that he meets up with Ulrich, the psychopathic son of a former S.S. officer; befriends a hedonistic photographer who travels with him to Southeast Asia; visits Thailand, where Benadryl and prostitutes with AIDS are his ever-present companions; and, finally, falls in love with Vanna, a waif-like hooker plying her wares in post-Khmer Rouge Phnom Penh. With Vanna he will engage in a monumental search for wisdom that will take him to the precipice of hell. Vollmann's most accessible work to date, this exotic, erotic, evocative tale will surely add to the legions of admirers who proclaim him as one of today's most arresting, provocative, and inventive writers.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The prolific Vollmann weighs in with at least his third hyper-realized meditation on female prostitution. But whereas Whores for Gloria had an imaginative conceit worthy of Borges and Thirteen Stories and Thirteen Epitaphs teetered provocatively between a Baedeker and a Book of the Dead, his latest effort falls a bit flat. The ``Butterfly Boy'' grows up as a nerdish American kid who is routinely abused by bullies at school. His adolescent trials, configured against a backdrop of American atrocities in Vietnam, are relieved only by the affections of a particularly plucky girl who then moves away. This sets the stage for the protagonist's adult explorations of love and violence in the Far East, where, as ``the journalist,'' he pals with ``the photographer,'' and together they insist on developing relationships with a series of prostitutes. As always, Vollmann's style--gritty detail stirred with hallucinated fancy--perfectly serves his investigation of the profane, which in this case includes the vile horrors exacted by the Khmer Rouge. However, the heart of this darkness is not convincingly evoked, and readers may begin to wonder if the exoticism of the Orient and its women is not just a handy occasion for Vollmann to act out a forbidden fantasy. (Nov.)
Library Journal
This is not a collection, as the title suggests, but a novel. The main character, known as ``the butterfly boy'' in grade school but now simply called ``the journalist,'' travels to Southeast Asia to investigate the prostitution problem, accompanied by a photographer. The latter proves to be an impeccable sex tourist, but the journalist is inept. He forgets to use a condom the very first night and suffers from an ever-worsening barrage of fevers and infections thereafter. Then he falls in love with one of the prostitutes and decides to marry. Typically, Vollmann is more interested in the sordid aspects of his tale than in its erotic potential. The tone is sober, almost scholarly, complete with bibliographical notes on source material ranging from Tacitus to Nazi aviator Hanna Reitsch's memoirs. Shorter and more focused than the ``Seven Dreams'' sequence of novels, this title presents Vollmann's trademark obsessions in a new light. For larger fiction collections.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802115027
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1993
  • Edition description: 1st Grove Press ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 279

Meet the Author

William T. Vollmann
William T. Vollmann
Known as a bit of a "dark horse" of contemporary literature, William T. Vollman has garnered acclaim from readers and critics alike for the boldness and raw originality of his works, which often combine fictional and journalistic techniques. "Whether Dostoyevskifying the detective novel or offering boundless books-of-Genesis, Vollmann has had an ability to conjure tomes in a range of genres that is increasingly Faustian," observes The Village Voice.

Biography

Fearless, ambitious, and wildly original, William T. Vollmann has been lionized as one of the most significant and influential voices in contemporary postmodernist literature. His dauntingly voluminous books, a hodgepodge of fiction and journalism, are marked by bold, often beautiful language. They also spring from personal experience: Volmann is famous for total immersion in his subjects. His research has taken him to the ends of the earth – to the North Pole, to war zones around the globe, and (perhaps most famously) to San Francisco's notorious Tenderloin district to gain a better understanding of its notorious denizens..

Vollmann roared onto the literary scene in 1987 with You Bright and Risen Angels, a bold and quirky debut novel that chronicled in allegorical fashion the bitter battle between insects and the inventors of electricity. From that point on, his books became less surreal and more gritty. In 1992, he wrote his first "official" work of nonfiction, An Afghanistan Picture Show , an impressionistic chronicle of his experiences among the Afghan rebels in the early 1980s. Since then, the prolific author has produced an unstoppable juggernaut of prose, most notably installments in his towering fictional sequence Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes and a labyrinthine seven-volume treatise on violence called Rising Up, Rising Down. Published by the iconoclastic publishing house McSweeney's in 2003, this magnum opus was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Nonfiction.

In 1999, The New Yorker named Vollmann one of the 20 best American writers under the age of 40. In 2005, he was awarded the National Book Award for Fiction for Europe Central, a 750-page series of linked stories set in Germany and Russia during World War II. His journalism continues to appear in such magazines as Esquire, Spin, Gear, Outside, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, and The New Yorker. In addition, he has founded the Co-Tangent Press as a vehicle for publishing his own limited edition art books.

Good To Know

Vollmann wrote his first novel, You Bright and Risen Angels, while working as a computer programmer.

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    1. Also Known As:
      m the Blind, Captain Subzero
    2. Hometown:
      Sacramento, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 28, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Santa Monica, California
    1. Education:
      Attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University

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