William T Vollmann
Few of the readers of this blog, I expect, will know William Vollmann as a writer. Yet he is one of the most interesting American authors of the last 20 years. His last book, “Kissing the Mask – Beauty, Understatement and Feminity in Japanese Noh Theater”, published in 2010, has already acquired cult status among his fans.
Vollmann was born in Los Angeles, in 1959. His first book was “You Bright and Risen Angels”, in 1987. He’s written 20 books since. The first I read was “Whores for Gloria – or Everything was Beautiful Until the Girls Got Anxious”, a harrowing, yet poetic account of the life of a destitute man among the prostitutes of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District.
“Europe Central”, considered by the New York Times Book Review as his best novel, is an impressive storyline of Europe’s tragedies in WWII, from the siege of Leningrad to “Lost Victories” that tells the tale of the split of Germany at the end of the war. Vollmann’s research (50 pages of sources at the back of Europe central) is impressive. He knows what he is talking about, either because he’s lived through it, or because, well, he has the innate talent of a novelist with a sense of history.
“When the mask comes alive, one feels awe.”