Last Stories and Other Stories
“Escape” is from William Vollmann’s recent collection, LAST STORIES AND OTHER STORIES (Penguin, 2014). Vollmann is the author of three previous story collections and two novels, including EUROPE CENTRAL, which won the 2005 National Book Award for Fiction. Vollmann has become known for his extraordinary stylistic pyrotechnics and for the unique engagement of his own personality with his work, which is apparent in “Escape,” set in Bosnia during the war. He lives in Sacramento, California.
Writing in his New York Times review, Dwight Garner, said this about the collection: “Another thing to say about LAST STORIES is that it’s a phantasmagoric book, blending bits of Lovecraft and Dreiser, David Foster Wallace and Scheherazade, Poe and the Brothers Grimm…These stories pivot around the globe: Some are set in Mexico or Japan, others in America. A few are set in the present day, such as a story about an American war reporter returning to Sarajevo.”
In his The Paris Review interview Vollmann said this about his writing craft: “When I was writing the first few books, what I would do is write a bunch of sentences and then go back and expand and explode those sentences, pack as much into them as I could, so they’d kind of be like popcorn kernels popping . . . all this stuff in there to make the writing dense, and beautiful for its density.
“I still do that from time to time, but I’m getting increasingly interested in taking things out as I write. It’s fun for me to try to write concise, compact things. It’s a very good exercise for me. And I think it’s important to try to do different things–change what I write about, and also the way I write. Otherwise, I’d just be repeating myself, which wouldn’t be good for me, or fair to my readers.”