“List of What Porn Is (and Isn’t)” — William T. Vollmann

14 thoughts on ““List of What Porn Is (and Isn’t)” — William T. Vollmann”

  1. Humorous? It’s kind of a stretch to take seriously. I get his point about the obscenity of Bush & Co. I always found their use of newspeak, or alternate speech, or whatever it was they spoke when redefining the English language obscene. But not pornographic. The dictionary doesn’t do it much better. It opposes esthetic and erotic. I thought they were part of the same context – sensual. Do you suppose we have to resort to the Supreme Court Judge’s opinion that he couldn’t describe it but he knew what it was. Freud must have messed me up because I equate denial with the sin itself, such as in the collision of two cultures in Maugham’s ‘Rain’. I thought that the religious couple was prurient in their attitude, which led to the husband’s pornographic behavior. And in his denial by committing suicide.

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    1. I mostly agree with what he is saying, but maybe it is the pompous that makes me think he is pulling a leg. When I am serious people will think I am being funny and when I try for funny people take me seriously and get angry. So, who knows. But he did make a good point. Snortin’ Geo II was an arrogant a.hole and people thought he was a cowboy humorist. We live in a surreal nation.

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  2. I try to get on board with Vollman, the writer, but I just can’t. He strikes me as either a high-fuctioning Autistic, or a sufferer of C-PTSD, who can type really fast. I do think as a person, though, he is quite fascinating. He has spent the last 30+ years of his life daring the universe to take his life as penance for what happened to his sister, and every time the universe says, Not now, maybe later.

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    1. I guess it depends. I mean, I think the best starting place is probably EXPELLED FROM EDEN —
      https://biblioklept.org/2011/09/09/book/
      It’s an excellent sampler, and the editor, Larry McCaffery does a great job of representing a fairly complete (up to that point) picture of Vollmann. Vollmann’s letters to editors protesting cuts are particularly enlightening. There are stand alone sections from all of his “big” books (which is basically like all of his books) too.
      If the idea of a reader/compendium is repellent to you (I personally think it’s the best way to approach Vollmann, but I’m sure some folks would disagree), then I’d suggest starting with one of his shorter novels, like The Rifles or The Ice-Shirt (maybe my favorite one). Butterfly Stories is also a good starting point too —
      https://biblioklept.org/2010/05/01/butterfly-stories-william-t-vollmann/
      It’s maybe his shortest book, but it also showcases the themes he’s obsessed with (prostitutes, drugs, putting himself in situations that should kill him).
      I’ve been reading Imperial for like 8 months now. Rather, every now and then I remember that I meant to finish it this year. It’s overwhelming. Ditto Europe Central, although it’s got more narrative propulsion. I would pick up the Eden sampler though, and go from there.
      (Alternately, you could become part of the exclusive club of maybe 500 people who’ve actually read Argall . . .).

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  3. Thanks very much. I’ll have a look at Eden. Interesting list of themes. Sounds like I will enjoy his stuff. And I do like a well curated sampler. They can be a great way to get the flavor & the rough contours of an artist’s Bodies of Work is a good one, too.

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      1. You hit the nail on the head: Pleasure to some offends others maybe simultaneously. Now I know what pornography is to me. I tend to think of erotic as being without a hard-on, but capable of causing one, more suggestive than literal. Lewd is offensive, w/wo sex? Obscene: you really shouldn’t do/say/show that? Such as a 300 pound 65 year old man in nothing but a Speedo.

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