“The Stench of Corpses” — William Vollmann Reviews William Vollmann

“The Stench of Corpses” is a self-review by William T. Vollmann of the poorly-received and rarely read book Argall, one of his “Seven Dreams” series (still incomplete). The piece originally ran in the October 7, 2001 edition of The Los Angeles Times, but I read it in Expelled from Eden, a Vollmann reader that I am very much enjoying.  There’s an immediate post-9/11 vibe running through Vollmann’s scathing review of Vollmann, culminating in his declaration that Argall is “positively un-American.”

“The Stench of Corpses”

A hundred years after William T. Vollmann was killed in a gun cleaning accident, I, William the Blind, received a commission to review the long novel “Argall,” which marks the midpoint of his uncompleted “Seven Dreams” series. According to Dombey’s “Easily Digested Biographies of Minor Authors,” which I just happen to have right here inside my reading pod, it was always Vollmann’s hope that the “Seven Dreams,” which were second in ambition only to his still-unpublished essay on violence, “Rising Up and Rising Down,” would “somehow, uh, mean something to people a hundred years from now.”

This desire is best understood as a form of wish compensation. Vollmann lived what can only be called a pathetic life. Isolated within and stubbornly estranged from millennial American society, he consoled himself with a sophomorically romantic belief that art, if protected in time capsules, can outlast Dark Ages. Let’s temporarily ignore the fact that Vollmann’s so-called art was never worth preserving, being infested by individualism, moral relativism and sexual depravity. More to the point, since stars, elephants and gods suffer death, how could even the greatest art be “immortal”? As we all know, the Liu-Mallinger Act of 2027, which made cranial stimulation devices compulsory for all inhabitants of the Global Trans-Industrial Zone, reduced the printed word to irrelevancy at last. Continue reading ““The Stench of Corpses” — William Vollmann Reviews William Vollmann”