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The Rainbow Stories ➢ [Epub] ➜ The Rainbow Stories By William T. Vollmann ➬ – Here are 13 daring and innovative tales dealing with skinheads x ray patients whores lovers fetishists and other lost souls who populate landscapes as diverse as ancient Babylon India and contemporary Here are daring and innovative tales dealing with skinheads x ray patients whores lovers fetishists and other lost souls who populate landscapes as diverse as ancient Babylon India and contemporary San Francisco Part fiction part reportage these narratives are laced with a bleak and bitter humor and portray a dazzling array of characters.

10 thoughts on “The Rainbow Stories

  1. Ian "Marvin" Graye Ian "Marvin" Graye says:

    Breakfast with DoloresThere were half a dozen benches on the rise overlooking the pond near where some of the Wrecking Crew were still sleeping after a party last night The police hadn't done their rounds yetOn one seat was an elegantly dressed man somewhere in his mid to late 40's He was reading the morning paper intently I didn't sit there Two seats away was an attractive girl early to mid 20's I'd say She too was dressed well I sat a few spaces away from her on the same benchAfter a couple of minutes she reached into her handbag and pulled out a cigarette Before she put it to her lips she asked me if I had a light I knew straight away she was a whore a high class one definitely maybe an escort who had just finished a night's work in one of the nearby hotels or apartment buildings I'd heard there was some big society ball last nightI lit her cigarette and returned my lighter to my coat pocketWhat's your name? I askedIt's actually Dolores she responded but most people call me LolitaIf they've read the book I volunteeredShe laughed Hardly anyone knows my real name any My name's BillHi Bill she said still friendlyHave you eaten breakfast yet?NoWould you like to join me? I'd like to talk to youI'm sorry Bill it will cost you you knowThat's OK I've budgeted for itBudgeted? She didn't get my driftI'm a writer I'm working on a bookI thought you might be that guy Marisa told me about youAh Marisa She's sweet I like herShe likes you tooIs your pimp around? I didn't even know whether she had a pimp but I thought I would ask anywayShe nodded He's over there nodding at the other benchJust then he looked over at usHumbert she said Bill here would like to give you 200 We're going to have breakfastI opened my wallet and gave Humbert everything I had but 20 We might have to make that coffee It's a while since I've done thisDolores grinned at Humbert Can you spot me a hundred? It's my shout Bill's famous now Sweet MarisaThis was my third Vollmann and the best so far even though it was only his second book published in 1989If there's one thing about Vollmann it's that he knows how to write Or to paraphrase he writes what he wants to write and he writes it wellI suspect that much criticism of his style is motivated by sensitivities about his subject matter in the same way that many readers object to Lolita on the basis of their moral objection to Humbert HumbertVollmann's characters although almost all of them were real life people at the time only with their names changed live on the fringe of normal society where conventional rules don't applyIn Absolutely Sweet Marie Dylan sings To live outside the law you must be honest However you uickly realise that not even that rule applies here The book abounds with theft dishonesty abuse violence and murder by the ingestion of blue Drano crystals much of it sexually basedWhy Write?Some readers might ask why write about this? To them I would respond only why not?Others complain that he should write less or be better edited To them I would respond why not write ? How much is enough? How much is too much? And why?I say this only to warn some readers that the book might not suit their tasteThe rest of us will still need to suspend moral judgment if we are to enjoy its literary and other meritsFor me neither style nor subject matter is a concern I'm interested in what the book reveals about Vollmann's authorial stance and worldviewWhat is a Life Worth?To start with what Vollmann seems to value most is the diversity of human life on earth in terms of both individuals' nature and their life style His characters are Skinheads X ray patients whores lovers fetishists and other lost soulsIn his eyes but not his words they are all God's chillun They all have a worth simply by virtue of their existence Their value doesn't depend on whether they pass some arbitrary or subjective test He argues that perhaps a kind word would not be out of orderBy and large his characters live in abject poverty Their only hope is to survive until the next day in which uest not all of them succeed Very little separates life and death literally or materially To uote Dylan again If you ain't got nothing you got nothing to loseWhen they die they leave little behind but an autopsy reportLife MosaicsStill no matter what conditions people live in they construct their own material and social world around them as best they can It's not for us to judge themVollmann writes about these people because he seeks the truth Late in the book he interposes I myself wish that I could go through every trash can in the world for the life mosaics which can be puzzled together from them are TRUE even if irrelevant to my life; what could be truer? How many people deceive their trash cans?He doesn't go as far as to say that these characters are trash but he does continue They live in my trash; they are my Zombies my Wrecking CrewI'm not sure whether we're supposed to infer any sense of ownership from these wordsHowever it does raise the issue of Vollmann's relationship with his characters andor the people upon whom they were basedHis Master's VoiceVollmann tells stories their stories There would be no stories to tell without them At times particularly with the whores he even tells us what the opportunity to learn about them cost him financiallyOver the course of the book Vollmann refers to himself variously as a Recording Angel and the Holy Ghost The narrator is tantamount to divine even if he might be just a little tongue in cheek He observes and describes but does not judge his creation He is tolerant and forgivingHowever to the extent that the omniscient narrator is a God he is a non interventionist God He does not intervene to improve anybody's circumstances He simply houses them under the curve of a giant rainbow and leaves them to their own devicesConversely these people reflect the colours of the rainbow The cover of the book I read hints that some seven clawed beast whether God or Beelzebub or something else has gouged the earth and from the incisions or wounds has grown the rainbow coloured beauty of humanityThat said just about every character suffers far than an average white middle class person might in a contemporary western economyTenderloin Rainbow 2010 styleJust BecauseJust as Vollmann doesn't set out to judge he doesn't set out to explain or to blameHe doesn't purport to be interested in causation why people and their circumstances are as they are He describes the present not the past or the futureHe doesn't seem to be motivated by middle class guilt or embarrassmentVollmann paints a picture of the world as it is He observes and reports like a journalist at least one who doesn't freuent the opinion pagesThere is no endeavour to complain about or remedy or minimise immorality or evil or oppression or abuse or violence What is is right for the very reason that it is It is implied that there is no moral or political purpose in trying to change things people life realityUnlike Jonathan Franzen there is no moralistic desire to correct the world as he sees it perhaps because that would derive him of subject matter as an author? The world is as it is so Vollmann canwill continue to write about itAs a result there doesn't seem to be any sense of or sense in collective political actionMoral CalculusMy concern is that if your greatest aspiration is survival you rely on and facilitate the continuation of the current order with all the violence that impliesWhatever forces of structuralism and determinism might be at play will continue to work their way generation after generationThe Skinz live out the conservative belief that Politics is the exercise of power Power is the ability to inflct painVollmann says of two IRA activists Seamus and Oliver they both have red hands and they both acted for what one might as well call structural reasonsIn words that paraphrase Lenin Vollmann sloganises that Left Wing Utopianism is an Infantile DisorderFor somebody who is as interested in the condition of these people and who writes so authoritatively about it it confounds me why Vollmann maintains a position of neutrality why he refrains from developing a moral calculus as he would later attempt in relation to violence per se in Rising Up and Rising Down In the Preface he mentions that my attempts to do good have been disasters thus far Hence he resolves to be a mere Recording Angel insteadAs a blonde in The Visible Spectrum laughingly exclaims Oh shit How passiveI don't expect Vollmann to feel middle class guilt However I would like to get a better understanding of the reasons for his silenceIs he prepared to sit back and let Ayn Randian Social Darwinism work its way through society ad infinitum?After all he does so much than other authors to make sure that what happens on the street is made known through fiction Why does he stop at mere reportage?Inside the Nihilist CocoonVollmann writes for or is read by primarily an audience of mainly male white college graduates who are well versed in literary theory and continental philosophyHe ventures onto the street on our behalf so we can remain seated in front of and behind our computer screens He perpetuates our belief that we are street wise and hip However eually he allows us to sit back and belittle the liberal left who for good or bad reasons think of these issues as problems and try to do something constructive about themVollmann's fiction runs perilously close to being easily digested fodder for solipsism that ironically denies the reality outside the digital cocoon of the 21st century middle classInside the cocoon solipsism becomes nihilism and nihilism becomes nothingnessStations of Whose Cross?Fellow novelist Madison Smartt Bell argues that If Vollmann is the god of his own texts he offers himself up for crucifixion every time”I'm not sure whether that's the case or if it is whether it is deliberateVollmann portrays himself as an Angel or the Holy Ghost not Jesus Christ who after all was the one who was crucifiedBesides the wounds that he shows us are those of his characters not his own His rationale the motto for this collection The prettiest thing is the darkest darknessIt's possible that Vollmann has adeuately addressed his neutral stance in later works and interviews If so I haven't seen what he has to say However on the strength of this book alone he leaves himself open to charges of literary voyeurism The result of his effort is often profane than divineIf Vollmann just wants to observe and report there is a risk his work might never transcend journalism and like yesterday's news it might end up being ephemeralIf he addresses these concerns I hope that future readers might regard his body of work as truly visionary He has all the chops I just don't know yet on the basis of my limited reading whether he has the willPeter De Smidt Recording Angel to DranoCourse heavy crystalsBeing and DranothingnessBlue sky blue heavenSOUNDTRACKGeorge Harrison Friends Absolutely Sweet Marie would have included Dylan's version as well but his record company has limited what is available on YouTubeNick Cave Into My Arms Mystery of SixesI was sitting in a corner writing down notes on my last client when I sensed a shadow move over me I looked up at a guy lean muscular taller than me clothed in jeans t shirt and tatsAre you the lawyer? he shot at meWell sort ofCan you get me out of jail?It depends What's the charge?Drink drivingI can get you out todaybut I can't guarantee you won't get back inHe laughed You mightn't be able to but I canThat was how I met Bez I got him out on remand and I was his new best friend I didn't think I'd ever see him again He was working on the gas fieldsA month later I was glad to feel his shadow over me again I'd bumped into a punk at the bar at a gig and straight away he had me on my back on the floor He was about to kick me in the head with his DocsHey suit is that you?Bez pulled his mate Banger away and dragged me off the groundThis is my attorney he announced to all and sundry As far as he was concerned I had worked some kind of miracle to get him out of prisonWe kept running into each other at gigs I was actually on the door for the Iggy Pop concert and they were all there When I got time off to watch the band I found myself up the front where Bez had broken a glass on a table and then dived shirtless onto the broken glass There was blood everywhere Even Iggy stopped to watchBez and Banger decided that they were going to start up a punk band Bez was singer and Banger needless to say was the drummerI saw them half a dozen times over three or four months They were actually pretty good A triumph of energy over skill The Mystery of SixesOne night after a gig Banger came up to me and said that the police had been hassling him outside the club Would I come out and help him?I stupidly agreed As we walked through the door he told me that one of them had stolen his pen I shrugged my head in disbelief I don't give a shit about your penWe went down the steps I was going to introduce myself respectfully to the two cops neither of whom looked familiar sort something out and go our separate waysAs we approached the road where they were standing I asked Banger Which one was it?He pointed ostentatiously at one of them That one the fat cunt with the mo It was a bit too loud for my comfortThat was the end of my suave act They soon had me held down on the bonnet of their car until I told them I was a lawyerThey let go of me took my details asked me where my car was it was in the car park across the road though I was going to leave it there overnight because my girlfriend Drea and I had had a few drinks too manyEventually they told both of us to fuck off Banger asked about his pen Didn't you hear what I just said? It was the fat cuntThe following morning Drea and I caught a bus into the city to pick up my car I'd had a few drinks with Bez and Banger after the police incident and I was still a bit nervous about whether I might be over the limit About 100 meters down the road we passed a stationary police car and stopped at the lights Suddenly the car pulled out from the curb and its siren started I was hoping they weren't after me but they pulled up next to us and waved me overI got out of the car suspecting they were going to breath test me or else it had something to do with the night beforeWhat have I done?It's not you mate It's your girlfriend She poked her tongue at us when you drove pastI laughed and they took me through the whole note taking routine again They were both fat cunts only differentThe Mystery of Sixes put out a single and it got a lot of airplay for a couple of months on Triple Z Then the word got around that they had stolen their euipment from another band The station called a staff meeting to impose a ban on playing their music and letting them play at Triple Z gigsI stuck up for them Bez would have been proud I said that until the police took some action there was no proof that it was up to the court to punish them not us and that it would be censorship if we banned them The vote for the ban was carried 16 1Within a year three of the band were in jail and the Mystery of Sixes were no Their first single sells for over 400 now

  2. Nick Craske Nick Craske says:

    This was the most stupefyingly brilliant kick in the head The kind of volt and jolt which leaves a concrete and metallic aftertaste Lazy psuedo book jacket writer mathematician me says 'Bukowski Foster Wallace ÷ Garcia Maruez x Pynchon William T Vollmann' I've discovered my new favourite place to hang out It's the world as scribed by this compulsive obsessive and distinctive writer Headbendingly good I was seeing coloursThe Rainbow Stories are so much than a collection of short stories There's pulse and heart to these pieces which connects them than just thematically They're like alternate realities of each otherThere's urban folklore interviews with LA prostitutes skinheads and street urchins; there are inner monologues and fantastical tripped out moments; there is mythical imagery and dusty dessert stories of vagabonds and thugs So many voices; so much chatter and noise blended togetherI perceive WTV's writing to be as brutally real as psychologically intoxicating and as compelling as my beloved David Foster Wallace's stuff Each individual story is written in it's own uniue style but there are controlled episodic and almost cinematic structures here Must have a great editor too The use of brief footnotes —did DFW find inspiration here?— asides and succinct moments to punctuate the longer passages is flat out genius I want to write like WTV

  3. Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Nathan "N.R." Gaddis says:

    The Rainbow Stories is a Rainbow Coalition of our societal remains our tramps homeless drunks prostitutes skinheads residents of morgues terrorists and lab technicians immigrants Hebrews in fiery furnaces and industrial artists I am tempted to read Rainbow Stories as a novel because it looks like a novel and I want it to be a novel Perhaps it could be done It is no mere collection but an assemblage of related thematic and experiential material We should not be misled into thinking that these Rainbows are short stories written in the tradition of the Poe short story but are instead simply Stories and portraitsVollmann is writing in the tone of his major influences the surrealists such as Comte de Lautrèamont and the saga literature of the Scandinavians From the surrealists he takes the form for his sentences large and imaginative extending into metaphors such as can only present themselves to a precise playful attentive and expansive mind The saga tradition is antecedent to the modern tradition of the novel with its attendant interest in psychological realism This tradition is epic in which characters are fully themselves with no hidden kernel which might be mined; all is surface All that is is as seen and told Added to this is Vollmann’s journalistic commitment to record and render characters as they show themselves to pass on the story as heard and believed not inventing a false interiority or overlaying an I know better skepticism but respectfully allowing his panoply of characters their own skins of exteriority Thus although he inserts himself into his stories for in truth there he is his pieces do not resemble the New Journalism school but rather the cool objectivizing of a Robbe Grillet These background influences provide Vollmann with a voice which does not intrude where it is not welcomed But for a contemporary reader who is accustomed to eavesdropping on characters’ most intimate thoughts and feelings the effect can be alienating and cold This is the risk that Vollmann’s respectful in the Kantian sense fiction takes It becomes the reader’s responsibility to exercise hisher empathy not relying upon the author to leap in on the reader’s behalfA few indicators as to the nature of these Rainbow StoriesThe White Knights A portrait of San Francisco skinheadsRed Hands An IRA bomber meets a lab technician killing miceLadies and Red Lights A portrait of Vollmann’s TenderloinScintillant Orange You have never heard the story of the three Hebrew boys who stood their ground agains Nebuchadnezzar uite like this beforeYellow Rose A story about Bill’s girlfriend who is Vietnamese and the attendant inter cultural difficulties Also Bill is high on mushroomsThe Yellow Sugar Shall we say that this may have come straight out of The Thousand and One Nights?The Green Dress A man steals his neighbor's green dress A love storyThe Blue Wallet Bill’s girlfriend loses her blue wallet Skinheads are involvedThe Blue Yonder The story of the Drano killer of Golden Gate Park Do you hear Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? view spoilerAlso we witness Evangeline’s autopsy hide spoiler

  4. Jimmy Jimmy says:

    Approaching The Rainbow Stories as a piece of fiction is complicated Mr Vollmann was living in San Francisco at the time and in various interviews he has spoken of the considerable portion of time that he spent hanging out in the city’s infamous Tenderloin District Subseuent pieces of fiction such as Whores for Gloria and The Royal Family were not only set in the same downtrodden part of town but these works were or less directly based on interviews and conversation that Vollmann had with the Tenderloin’s seedy and depraved denizens And while referring to past life experiences as a fount of information for story writing is nothing new to the world of literary fiction there should be established a fine demarcation between a creative recapitulation of the events that occurred and that of mere reportage of those same events A majority of this collection is set in San Francisco particularly in the Tenderloin although Vollmann does stretch his material a bit; included in this collection is his take on the Hebrew Book of Daniel and a riff on the famous tales of the Thugee cult in British India a story originally written by Phillip Meadows Taylor entitled Confessions of a Thug Beginning with the story White Knights Vollmann digs right into his Tenderloin material chronicling the aimless adventures of a group of skinheads in the eighties that went by the gang name the Skinz This comes subseuently after an intro describing various emergency room grotesueries The narrative voice that establishes itself in this first story is notable in that this was the point at which Vollmann made the artistic transition from the unwieldy storytelling perspectives of You Bright and Risen Angels to the focused objectivity that hangs around to record the phenomenon of this particular counter culture group It’s a telling stylistic leap and in this sense the two books sound as if they were written by completely different authors While his first novel dallied in the historical fables of non existent revolutionaries this collection begins in an urban reality too specifically crass and racially decadent to sound like fiction And of course Vollmann doesn’t really judge the Skinz; he’s merely a recording angel here someone who isn’t exactly reporting on their lives in order to see what makes them tick This distance works because he cleverly avoids judgment What he seems interested in is the uestion of what exactly it is that skinheads do all day long From there he takes the reader into the red touring the streets of the Loin in search of loose women At this point in his career Vollmann’s preoccupation with prostitutes has been firmly established You could say that he’s sort of cornered the market when it comes to writing about whores Once again Vollmann Bill or our mysterious narrator is merely an observer The structure of this collection begins to reveal itself rather heavily in this part; infinitesimally brief interviews are interrupted by even shorter punch lines about human depravity Vollmann builds a rhythm as he cuts up the journalistic elements with the fictional interludes to the point at which the stories themselves become literary collages of real life From there he abruptly delves into the story of Mes’hach Shad’rach and Abednego being cast into the Burning Fiery Furnace by Nebuchadnezzar Considering this biblical story along with the tale of Jhora Naek the celebrated leader of the Multan Thugs inspiration for the Thugee it’s tempting to give Vollmann the benefit of the doubt and look upon these chronologically and geographically disparate fables as allegorical asides; a comment on the retribution that Vollmann’s Bay Area derelicts seem to be so deserving of Unfortunately these two tales don’t fit into this story collection as comfortable as that Assuming that he earned readers’ trust with the accessibly open humanity of the contemporary San Francisco tales it seems that Vollmann aims to take random liberties with the direction of the theme with such disregard for his audience that he'd be happy if they were still following him but if not it doesn't matter either way Other stories such as The Green Dress and The Indigo Engineers explore disconnected themes of absurdist lust and bleak technocracy They differ from the Tenderloin material in that there is no element of journalistic observation nor does there seem to be any attempt at homage or revision They’re sort of like the literary fiction euivalent of abstract paintings or linguistic playthings created by a bored postmodernist The Blue Yonder – another Tenderloin story – stands out as the finest in this collection Vollmann tells the tale of a serial killer referred to as The Zombie who begins rubbing out a good portion of the homeless population of Golden Gate Park The killer’s pathological disgust for the filthiness of the homeless informs this story with a profound sort of pathos There is also a cinematic aspect of horror to this tale; the killer's trademark is to fill the maws of his victims with Drano after getting them righteously wasted on Night Train In the most unsettling portion of the story Vollmann even goes into graphic detail describing an autopsy of one of the victims In ridiculously lofty prose Vollmann reads her sick body – her internal organs malformed by decades of alcohol abuse – like a book“Evangeline’s liver was a chapter entitled “What I Wanted” The text was short but not without pathos “I wanted to feel loved and warm and happy and dizzy” Evangeline had written “I wanted to live in the Blue Yonder I wanted to live in the blue sky and the sun I wanted to be my own person I got everything that I wanted” The Pathologist went on snipping and snipping”The loose underlying thematic conceit of these stories is that they follow the visible color spectrum Any attempt to draw an overall social message from The Rainbow Stories is a critical exercise in futility While many of the stories seem ripe for that sort of thing Vollmann's journalistic tendencies restrain him from suggesting solutions for these social ills or even trying to understand them for that matter The inclusion of every color fueled vignette in this collection is driven by the earnest impulses of a writer pursuing every authorial conviction that he has This occasionally has a seemingly deplorable affect on Vollmann’s prose The narrator speaks in a pedantic voice; overwritten sentences unwieldy metaphors and embarrassing similes And yet The Rainbow Stories seemed to solidify this uncompromising style of Vollmann’s as something admirable while simultaneously not devoid of a hint of self deprecating humor It’s tempting to think that in Vollmann’s case critics might be overlooking the casual irony in subtitling one of the stories “A Heideggarian Tragedy” He’s occasionally gullible but to suggest that he gave the final tale Violet Hair such a pretentious subtitle without an element of humor probably says about the gullibility of some critics than it does of Vollmann

  5. MJ Nicholls MJ Nicholls says:

    Loved the street smart reportage cum fiction parts—a blast of surprising grit candour and pulsing realism all too rare in this navelgazing era ‘The White Knights’ and ‘Ladies and Red Lights’ is rich in powerful electrifying vignettes as Vollmann restricts his prose to a splendidly unshowy detached and oddly empathetic voice Unfortunately what follows failed to provoke any reaction from me other than befuddlement and boredom—one cod Talmudic story written in a zanily biblical style and one mind numbing historical tale about a Chinese Thug gang were endured in the hope of finer things The awkward romance stories about frolicking yuppies especially ‘Yellow Rose’ are precisely the sort of late eighties all smart and rich young people are fascinating efforts that Goodreads users rightly treat with contempt although as stories they are mildly entertaining But the onslaught of ‘The Blue Yonder’ a nigh unreadable stream of codswallop close to DFW at his most Mister Suishy like—the prose gummed to death by an overworked self regarding flashiness that eliminates all reader involvement settling instead for vague templates for characters like ‘The Other’ and ‘The Zombie’—pulls the book into the realm of insufferable opaue uasi philosophical dribbling that does not merit my attention for 180 pp Stopped on p360 More Vollmann? TBD

  6. Oriana Oriana says:

    Vollmann is so endlessly fascinating This is probably my favorite of his books I've read because it's so raw and real and harsh and gritty unlike the one where there's a race of bug people in the sewers and it's punchy and succinct unlike the ones that traipse and meander on for hundreds and thousands of pages This is definitely not for the faint of heart with stories about hookers and junkies dying in hospitals and skinheads fucking shit up just for starters but it's this super intense slice of life of old San Francisco and it's cruel and devastating and great

  7. Cody Cody says:

    THE ADVENTURES OF BILL in which our hero is blown by a prostitute; eats ‘shrooms; muses about WWII; hangs out with skinheads; shows a serial killer’s duality; witnesses Beelzebub buy a stiletto and covet his CD collection ; speaks phonetic Korean; reimagines The Book of Daniel; lives amongst the homeless; escapes the Thugs of the Tenderloin and Ancient Arabia alike; becomes the Holy Ghost; and much much “Reader do you consider yourself a Sneaky Soldier? I know that I am one plodding sneaking sneaking across my concrete days while something big and bad comes after me I know that I must admire myself and every other Sneaky Soldier for trying however unsuccessfully to sneak awayWhen I see an infant clutching for his shiny plastic toys or sucking at the breast I am sad because I know that he will die and the manipulations which he is learning can do no than help him get through life”A few friends and I often discuss who will replace the living writers we most venerate Now that most are septuagenarians and octogenarians it is a sad fact that despite their superhuman literary feats they are actually mortal and will thusly be dispatched sooner than not Who will fill the shoes of Pynchon and McElroy? Amy Tan The pants of DeLillo and Gass? Amy Tan The four buttoned two pocketed cardigans of Ōe and McCarthy? Amy Tan I for one hold out hope for this Billy Vollman kid ‘cause this firecracker sure knows how to dazzle A soon as the Lifetime Network gets done making Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat no shit that's a real book by Amy Tan I hope they set their sights on producing this collection for Basic Cable television No kidding “Red Hands” and “The Blue Wallet” are as close as this tough guy gets to the ‘feminine’ emotions These two likely the most straightforward in The Rainbow Stories just tore through to the bone for me A lot of the others have the WTV patented prose that make his pages SING but that pair have altered me irrevocably The last line in “The Blue Wallet” is one of the most perfect endings of anything I’ve ever read Along with the very brief epilogue it crushes you If you own a copy go re read that last bitsy page and tell me that your heart doesn’t break at least a little Go on I’ll wait—I brought me some Amy Tan along to read By the way I learned to italicize amytan

  8. David David says:

    There's a tissue and pulse a taught tendon and a sturdy construction of bone and muscle that connects the thirteen works in Vollmann's The Rainbow Stories One immediately thinks that a collection of short stories and novellas is merely that a collection but what Vollmann has created here can also be considered a novel of ideas in as much as a novel can be a collection of similar ideas and notions Characters reemerge two hundred pages later Locations streets and neighborhoods and motives become each story's lifeblood Remarkably Vollmann packs each story with about as many memorable lines as one three hundred page novel and he somehow does so in a such a way it is fluid and natural and unburdening even if the run on sentences and footnotes tend to get in the way for a short whileVia firsthand accounts Vollmann's interaction with said subjects aren't journalistic so much as they are experiences he's jotted down and misinterpreted or elaborated sometimes on purpose to get a point across or to move a plot line forward we go from The White Knights and its grimy and honest portrayal of the San Francisco Nazi movement which isn't so much a movement as it is a last stand They used to go into bars and pick fights punch people in the face when they didn't like the way they lookedIt is not my aim however to describe these old times of violent freedom for this record was made in the decline of their movement when most of the bars had bounced them out for good; and they sat around in their middle twenties muttering about how it used to be then there is Yellow Rose Vollmann's most passive work in the collection an unreuited love story with psychedelic mushrooms which eventually reconnects the themes and characters previously in The Blue Wallet which is not only about his unreuited love but also about his skinhead friends There is the abstract The Green Dress where our narratorauthor obsesses over certain articles of clothing it's not the bodies themselves he's in love with and how the fabric falls on their lines and curves but the flexibility of the fabric itself that entices and then Ladies and Red Lights where Vollmann pays prostitutes for life stories not sex; he remarks on the spectrum of faces he meets Jamaika was beautiful A beautiful face can never be described The colors of its self lie so far beyond this wretched visible spectrum in which I am usually confined that I can only write captions for missing paintings of whores' faces pertness anxiety desperation loneliness hideousness there they were those faces glowing in the red lights One of my favorite stories The Blue Yonder the longest at one hundred pages embarks on a journey between a protagonist The Other and an antagonist The Zombie both occupy one and the same body mind you in the destitution of modern homelessness Nowhere else does The Rainbow Stories make you an unbeliever in beauty than in this novella where The Zombie an old white haired man who has the face of moldy meat kills his victims with Drano in a grotesuely detailed manner Then there is The Indigo Engineers about a monster truck rally like show that's put on for the curious and ultra violent What do the indigo engineers engineer but intricate killing machines built for the sole purpose of tearing each other apart in greasy blood; they're tortured these non living constructs just for the sake of entertainment And why does this kind of depravity even have an audience? Vollmann even turns the uestion on the lowly reader who isn't raising his fists and screaming and cheering as he reads all the freakish detail But by then we've come to the end of the book and all these uestions have already been answeredThese stories don't capture the seedy underbelly; they capture the month old lint trapped in it Hookers drug addicts serial killers racists martyred ex lovers and everything these lowlifes can't ever be from then on is neon Vollmann's purpose with this book is to make us startlingly aware that the lowest scum and swine of the richest nation on Earth is a reflection of that clean and civilized upper class The Zombie kills his victims and in the background are San Francisco's skyscrapers of success and the Golden Gate Bridge And Those things happened because the innocent always fall short of the advantaged and those who live in the Wild Blue Yonder were doomed to be devoured by the monsters of the place But when the single color realizes that together they are beautiful and worthy of living a happy life a rainbow will be born Vollmann in this case is just the guy pulling the strings to make us believe so On the other hand The White Knights have rationalized this in their own way What after all could anyone yearn for in in his guts than the chance to hurt somebody else jawkicking a soul to screaming subhumanness in order to reiterate that I live? Politics I once heard a conservative say is the exercise of power Power is the ability to inflict pain And then four hundred pages later as Dr Adelson assesses the homeless victims from The Blue Yonder One cannot categorize the huge number of ways in which people attempt to or succeed in killing one anotherA phenomenal work Not all of the pieces are as unforgettable and ridiculously easy to read as the best but The Rainbow Stories just further marks William T Vollmann as one if not the greatest author alive It was said anyway as a girl looked upon the contraptions and mummified rodent skulls set outside the coliseum of destruction and violence known in The Indigo Engineers and as Vollmann so elouently and matter of factly states as an engineer himself Ohhh she said I really like it I wondered whether Mark Pauline would have to cram it the rodent skull into her mouth before she understood that she was not supposed to like it The funny inside joke takes place at the end of the first story The White Knights in the chapter entitled What the Skinheads Thought where they confront Vollmann on his unfinished story Dude I want to talk to you about your story screamed Bootwoman Marisa very rapidly because it fucking sucks Well said Bootwoman Dan L my first reaction wasn't too positive You need a lot of work with your grammar You have a lot of run on sentences She knows said Dickie lighting up his bong She went to college Effective run on sentences shouldn't be jolting but bizarre and enlightening which they are here and sometimes up to a few pages or so Vollmann's style echoes David Foster Wallace's or is it the other way around? including the use of footnotes which are no than a paragraph long never mind entire chapters of footnotes Wallace incorporated into Infinite Jest Both writers still share a neurotic will to let you in on almost everything but Vollmann never forgets his reader Vollmann trumps Wallace in sheer uantitative consummation of his subjects without all the cold mechanical sterility that is known by his peer which is just a smarmy way of saying that Wallace could have been any number of things but Vollmann had no other choice than to be a writer or archival representative of the numerous topics that fascinated him It's all really simple when you think about it; if you have a tangent that needs addressing put down one asterisk per page and if it's really that important for one you'll never need than a paragrpah to get your digression across See?

  9. Jim Jim says:

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  10. David M David M says:

    The little vanities of those whom the human race has excreted are so sinister because we know by them that there must be consciousness in those skulls from the Blue YonderIndeedRainbow Stories is the best portrait I've yet encountered of my adopted city It makes me want to get to know my neighbors better Mr Vollmann is a great writer a ferocious humanist

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