Join us for an evening with famed American author William T. Vollmann. The format will be a moderated on stage discussion followed by audience Q&A.
“William T. Vollmann is a monster, a monster of talent, ambition and accomplishment.” —Los Angeles Times
Distinctive for his boundless ambition and extraordinary output—over twenty books, to date including the seven-volume, 3,352-page Rising Up and Rising Down series—National Book Award winner William Vollmann fully inhabits two often-polarized literary worlds.
“One of the most unnerving aspects…is his combination of journalistic immediacy with profound moral inquiry” (Chicago Tribune).
In his case, “journalistic immediacy” could be considered a euphemism for suicide missions. There is little he won’t try in the pursuit of authenticity: running with the Afghan guerrilla muhajadin against Soviet invaders; smoking crack with street prostitutes; nearly freezing to death, alone for two weeks in the North Pole; losing two friends while escaping gunfire in a Bosnian war zone—all “with a disregard for personal danger that would shame Hunter S. Thompson, or Jack London, or Errol Flynn” (New York Times Magazine).
Named by the New Yorker as “one of the twenty best writers in America under 40” in 1999, Vollmann has achieved cult-status with legions of readers for embracing taboo subject matter and highly dangerous situations. It would be enough—as it has for many writers—to give us a clear-eyed, inside view of these harrowing, sometimes tawdry, events. But Vollmann’s close and relentless study is driven by a sweeping philosophical and historical agenda, as in trying to find a “simple and practical moral calculus” for violence, in the voluminous Rising Up and Rising Down series, or writing a “symbolic history” of North America in the series Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes.
Over twenty-five years, Vollmann has slowly built the Seven Dreams series, each novel focusing on a different expedition in North American history, from the arrival of the Vikings in North America in the 9th and 10th centuries, to the exploration of the Northwest Passage in the 1800s and beyond. The newly released, highly anticipated fifth installment, The Dying Grass, focuses on the clash of Native Americans and the White settlers in the new world.
Vollmann’s other books include the 2005 National Book Award winner Europe Central, an examination of fanaticism and totalitarianism; Poor People, a fearless inquiry into the brutality of poverty around the globe; and Last Stories and Other Stories.
His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, Spin, Gear, Granta, Grand Sreet and Outside Magazine. Born in Santa Monica, California in 1959, Vollmann attended Deep Springs College at Cornell University (summa cum laude), and did graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley. He lives in Sacramento, California.