The Rifles

The Rifles

by William T. Vollmann
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

Vaulting through time to another flashpoint in the long struggle between Indians and Europeans, William T. Vollmann's visionary fictional history now focuses on the white explorers of the mid-1800s, desperately dreaming of forging a Northwest Passage. As Sir John Franklin embarks on his fourth Arctic voyage, he defies the warnings of the native people, and

Overview

Vaulting through time to another flashpoint in the long struggle between Indians and Europeans, William T. Vollmann's visionary fictional history now focuses on the white explorers of the mid-1800s, desperately dreaming of forging a Northwest Passage. As Sir John Franklin embarks on his fourth Arctic voyage, he defies the warnings of the native people, and his journey ends in ice and death. But his spirit lingers in the Canadian north, where 150 years later, in 1990, Inuit elders dream of long-gone seal-hunting days and teenagers sniff gasoline. And when a white man seduces and leaves pregnant a young Indian woman, he becomes Franklin reincarnated, bound for the same fate. Vollmann's vivid characters and landscapes weave together the stories of the past and present to live out America's ongoing tragedy of greed, ignorance, and violence.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Rifles is the ``sixth dream'' in Vollmann's staggeringly ambitious Seven Dreams sequence, which promised to be an imaginative charting of the European conquest and settling of North America. And it is the third dream to be published (Vollmann is breaking chronological order), following The Ice-Shirt and Fathers and Crows , which detailed the Viking arrival in Newfoundland at the end of the first millenium and the French foray into the St. Lawrence River region in the middle of the second, respectively . The Rifles jumps to about 1850 and chronicles, in a highly impressionistic manner (though, like all Vollmann's work, it is prodigiously researched and gracefully written), Sir John Franklin's ill-fated expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. By now, more than 2000 pages into the Dreams project, an evolving structure is becoming evident. Whereas in the previous two books, contemporary references were kept to a minimum, in this volume the authorial present, in the guise of Captain Subzero, is a strong structural element. In fact, the central imaginative conceit is that Subzero/Vollmann (the author's own trip to the Arctic Circle is detailed in the endnotes) becomes a spiritual ``twin'' of Franklin, even sharing the same Inuk woman. Readers wishing for a dramatic re-creation of Franklin's expedition will be disappointed, for Vollmann is more interested in the cultural clash between Europeans and Arctic natives, and the rough fates of both. The elliptical, frenetically snapshot style grows tiresome at times, and one has the sense that Vollmann is desperately at work on historical material that is yielding little that is new, making his own increased presence a necessity. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In an endnote to the latest installment in a projected seven-volume series, Vollmann states, ``I have mixed my colors . . . from the palate of times.'' The Rifles addresses three historical topics in one hallucinatory narrative: the disastrous Franklin expedition to the North Pole in the 1840s, the Canadian government's forced relocation of Inuit families in the 1950s, and the devastating effects of Western technology on indigenous peoples. Captain Subzero, the book's narrator, journeys to Northern Canada in the 1990s, where he encounters the gasoline-sniffing descendants of a once-proud hunting race. Obsessed with Franklin, he retreats to a remote island outpost to experience cold and starvation firsthand. Huddled in his useless high-tech sleeping bag, Subzero ``becomes'' Franklin in a long fever dream that comprises most of the book. The text is augmented by maps, drawings, bibliographical notes, and a ``consumer's report'' on the equipment used. The Rifles is the best of the ``Seven Dreams'' series and one of Vollmann's most enjoyable books.-- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140176230
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/28/1995
Series:
Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes Series, #6
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
1,186,514
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

William T. Vollmann is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Vollman's writing has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Paris Review, Esquire, Conjunctions, Granta, and many other magazines. He lives in California.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Sacramento, California
Date of Birth:
July 28, 1959
Place of Birth:
Santa Monica, California
Education:
Attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >