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Last Stories and Other Stories Hardcover – July 10, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* A resolute global traveler and writer of conscience, Vollmann seeks to hold the whole world in his heart, and, consequently, his books are capacious, highly charged, and tempestuously human. Vollmann’s first work of fiction since his National Book Award–winning novel, Europe Central (2005), follows a half-dozen nonfiction books and contains 32 creatively sourced, boldly imagined, and incandescently written supernatural stories. Vollmann begins with several autobiographically leaning tales of besieged Sarajevo, where an American freelance journalist opens himself to the anguish of others. Eighteenth-century Trieste is the setting for “The Treasure of Jovo Cirtovich,” a gorgeously baroque and spooky epic featuring a wealthy Serbian merchant whose success is orchestrated by a strange entity. “The Trench Ghost” is a surreal antiwar story. Mexico is the inspiration for several mythic tales staggering in their scope and heat, one depicting the doomed Emperor Maximilian, another the voraciously lustful La Llorona, a spirit of raw female power. On to nineteenth-century Norway and a bizarre and harrowing immigration saga, which is followed by elegantly eerie ghost stories of Japan shaped by Vollmann’s fascination with Noh theater. Throughout this ingeniously fabulist, erotic, musing, and satirical treasury, Vollmann gives monstrous and alluring form to the forces that haunt us, from desire and love to regret and loss, as he contemplates with ardor, sorrow, bemusement, and wonder the beauty and terror of life and death and the vast mystery of the hereafter. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Vollmann is a media magnet as well as an exceptional writer, and his latest departure from the expected will be supported by an author tour and a major publicity campaign. --Donna Seaman

Review

Praise for Last Stories and Other Stories

“Mysterious, magical. . .nightmarish, beautiful. . .Vollmann is an exquisite magician of a baroque stylistic obscurity that changes the reader slowly but surely. . .these troubled, voluptuous narratives are deeply concerned with the bewildering effects of trauma and loss. . .the book took reading and rereading for me, just as an intensely odd, seductive love song asks to be heard again and again.  But Vollmann is a great storyteller, and the weird aurality is a critical part of these tales.”—Kate Bernheimer, The New York Times Book Review

“Transporting [and] bizarrely beautiful. . .[these stories] call to mind no living writers, summoning instead Calvino, Marquez, Kafka. . .So mysterious are Vollmann’s motivations, so sweeping his interests, so prodigious is his production, so vastly different is the thing he does from the thing that everyone else does that he may actually be a visitor from another dimension come to report comprehensively back to his home planet.” – Esquire
 
“A phantasmagoric book, blending bits of Lovecraft and Dreiser, David Foster Wallace and Scheherazade, Poe and the Brothers Grimm. . .builds to a suite of love stories, intended not to shock the unshockable but to trace the far reaches of this author’s obsessions with sex and death.” – The New York Times

“Every story leaves someone behind, and so loss in itself, whether violent or beautiful, becomes an unrelenting thematic constant.  In another writer’s hands this would seem like a gloomy trudge, but Vollmann invigorates the subject with folkloric swashbuckling bluster. . .at best, the stories are odd, transportive, and of the blackest humor.”—The Los Angeles Times
 
“Don’t be afraid of the bricklike mass of this collection, or of Vollmann’s forbidding reputation.  Fear only the spectres and vampires that invest these 32 stories with highbrow goth.”—New York Magazine
 
“There are ghost and horror stories here, parables, tales, and tender, more memoiristic stories, all enriched by Vollmann’s travels to the Balkans, Scandinavia, Japan, Trieste, Bohemia, Buenos Aires, Mexico.  It’s less a story collection than a dozen interrelated mini-novels wrapped around various continents.”—The New Republic
 
“A sprawling, enchanting casket of curiosities. . .these stories range from novella-length to just a single paragraph.  In their elegant, elegiac meditations on death and the afterlife, we cross broad terrain, including geishas in ancient Japan, vampires in preindustrial Bohemia, and bombings in modern-day Sarajevo.”—Atlantic.com

"Vollmann’s fiction has always defied easy categorization. Here, he straddles, twists, and morphs action-adventure, horror, political thriller, fantasy, and literary fiction. What gives the book coherence is his singular style:  elaborate and picaresque, with a rich vocabulary. . .Mainstays of horror and the supernatural figure prominently, and it’s especially exciting to read these pop-fiction conventions treated with Vollmann’s narrative richness.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“Creatively sourced, boldly imagined, and incandescently written supernatural stories. . .Throughout this ingeniously fabulist, erotic, musing, and satirical treasury, Vollmann gives monstrous and alluring form to the forces that haunt us, from desire and love to regret and loss, as he contemplates with ardor, sorrow, bemusement, and wonder the beauty and terror of life and death and the vast mystery of the hereafter.”—ALA Booklist

 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; 1St Edition edition (July 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670015970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670015979
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Leonard on July 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book, and a wonderful addition to Vollmann's body of work.
Last Stories struck me as an extended meditation on death. How we face it. How we obey it, how we try to fight against it. Vampires are subversives who get hunted by well-armed Church functionaries. A Serbian smuggler in 18th century Italy is both blessed and cursed to have a foreknowledge of death's coming. A journalist is submerged in death in war-torn Sarajevo, only to survive and find out that death plays a long game, stalking us over the decades and taking away our physical health even as we're haunted by the past.
The language is hypnotic, beautiful and even jarring at times. In other words, it's written by William T. Vollmann.
Full warning: There are vampires in this book, but it isn't built to be an easily palatable crowd-pleaser. As Vollmann himself seems to admit in one of the novellas, he is: "a merchant of sorts, retailing paragraphs by the sailmaker's yard." And a lot of sailmaker's yards are found here! All of them utterly unique, illuminating, funny at times, and always fascinating. A beautiful work by one of America's best writers.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dmitry Portnoy VINE VOICE on July 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
William T. Vollmann is our greatest living nineteenth-century writer. He has the compassion of Dickens, the clear-headedness of Mark Twain, the ethical complexity of Tolstoy, the morbidity of Edgar Allan Poe. His latest book is not about ghosts, but hauntings: a globe-trotting wartime fantasy-adventure that can only be compared to Ian Potocki's "Manuscript Found In Saragossa," a book that had no equal until now. Like almost all great writers Vollmann is a re-animator. He starts with dry bones and gradually grows flesh and blood and connective sinew. The charcoal elegies that open this book barely hint at the full-spectrum fantasmagoria that follow. Have patience: the wait is not too long. This is a vintage that needs but a moment to breathe, a spirit distilled from the finest grapes of love and wrath that everyone should drink and toast to literature. A book about death, it is the best proof that the novel lives after countless attempts to bleed it dry.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In 13 Stories in 1991, "The Grave of Lost Stories" appeared, an homage to Poe. It reminds me of this title, which may mislead. In his mid-fifties, after a five-year grant which afforded him a break from frenetic typing and prolific publishing, William T. Vollmann given his work ethic presumably intends to tell more tales. His books blur globetrotting journalism, ethics, violence, sex, travels among the down-and-out, history, cultural critique, and speculative fiction. Michael Hemmingson's 2009 monograph explains: "Vollmann's collections are not compilations of random short stories written over a certain period of time, as many collections seem to be. Each is compounded on a high concept, a grand metaphor; the volumes are cycles of related texts with recurring topics and motifs." (22) In these thirty-two sprawling stories, composed apparently during the past decade, ghosts hover, spirits tell tales, and memories linger, to settle down.

A journalist now "fat and old" returns to Sarajevo two decades after the war. His story, told obliquely, labels him only by his nationality, bound by the dictates of an internecine conflict which reduced neighbors to their territory or tribe. That war shot down any Romeos and Juliets who tried to escape the snipers, as the opening vignette dramatizes. Attracted to the crossfire the natives try to flee, the protagonist echoes Vollmann's experience as it opened his critique of justifications for violence, Rising Up and Rising Down (2003), as one of "Three Meditations on Death". This event led to his serious wounding and the death of two of his companions when their jeep was ambushed on the way to Sarajevo.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading Last Stories and Other Stories felt like exploring a bizarre museum of obscure antiquities. You will encounter artifacts from lands of half-remembered dreams and race forward to turn down twisted hallways of shadows and secrets. The novella of Jovo Cirtovich will stun readers with the force of its majestic language. Other stories, such as "Trench Ghost" and "The Narrow Passage" unsettle long after their completion. "Cat Goddess" is surprisingly charming and comedic. Unbelievably entrancing and entirely addicting--I finished it in just three days. Well worth the wait of seven years for Vollmann to publish another work of fiction. Never have ghosts and their living friends and enemies been quite so compelling and sexy!
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