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Whores for Gloria: A Novel (Contemporary American Fiction) Paperback – February 1, 1994


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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140231579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140231571
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #621,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vollmann's brief, coy and ultimately unfulfilling novel portrays a Vietnam veteran in San Francisco's Tenderloin demimonde questing for an elusive, idealized woman named Gloria.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Jimmy, a down-and-out Vietnam vet, spends his disability checks drinking in skid row bars and paying streetwalkers to tell him their life stories. Later, alone in his hotel room, he reassigns the memories he has collected to Gloria, his imaginary girlfriend. In his 1989 collection The Rainbow Stories ( LJ 6/15/89), Vollmann himself wandered the streets of San Francisco paying prostitutes for talk. Apart from the heartbreaking frame-story of Jimmy, this new book seems to consist of outtakes from the earlier book--gritty scenes of almost surreal depravity and squalor. Unfortunately, Vollmann the urban anthropologist subverts the efforts of Vollmann the novelist. In the end, one wishes he had devoted less space to the whores and more to Jimmy and his hallucinatory quest for love. A minor work by an important author.
- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. L Harris on May 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
One of the editorial reviews calls this a "minor" work and I can see his point; it's a novella with small ambitions and it's defintely tawdry. (For me, that's a plus, having a weakness for that sort of thing.) However, that's not the reason I've read it dozens of times, and will continue rereading it. There's the description of the Tenderloin, which is lean and evocative; Vollman brings it to life the way Jimmy wants the whores' stories to revive Gloria. There's the compassion I have for Jimmy, who is the sort of stinking, addled drunk you'd walk by while holding your breath. But most of all - and I have no idea if it was intended - "Whores for Gloria" becomes this wonderful allegory for the process of writing a novel, if not being a novelist. Jimmy is so deluded that he goes to whores in search of their hair and their stories and their memories, all of which he thinks he can graft on to his memory (invented or not) of Gloria and make her real. It's the same game a novelist plays: there's an ideal vision that exists for reasons only he/she understands. To make it real on paper they have to become an obsessive collector of the world, stealing others' stories and blending them with their own imaginations. Such a strange, crazy-making hobby - and yet every novelist on Amazon.com has indulged in it, which is one more reason that Jimmy becomes a worthy subject. A terrific read(...)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. Baker VINE VOICE on October 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've read that Vollman is the next great American novelist and you can certainly compare him to Pynchon. I wouldn't go quite so far as that, but he certainly has an evocative, if sometimes difficult to follow prose style, that one will either find very annoying or very gratifying, depending how well you get into his groove.

This novel or novella is quite good. Vollman depicts a very gritty, grimy, and sometimes gross Tenderloin district in San Francisco known for it's prostitutes, strip clubs, and other nefarious goings on. The story is about Jimmy, a low life, down and out, alcoholic who is in love with a prostitute named Gloria. The catch is Jimmy is so addled by the end of the novel we never really know whether Gloria is real or a figment of Jimmy's imagination. In some ways Gloria is an amalgamation of a number of street girls that Jimmy congregates with. Whatever the case, the story is compelling - the way watching a train wreck is compelling.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
William T. Vollmann, Whores for Gloria (Pantheon, 1991)

Published just as Vollmann was beginning to make a name for himself as a critical darling, Whores for Gloria propelled him into the world of underground literature with a fervor rarely seen. What separates the now-towering Vollmann from his flash-in-the-pan contemporaries is that Vollmann's shock-value work actually has some real meat to it.

Whores for Gloria is the story of Jimmy, a drunkard who lives in San Francisco's Tenderloin district and pines for Gloria. We have no idea who Gloria really is, and we often get the idea that Jimmy doesn't, either. In an effort to rebuild his memories of Gloria in his mind, Jimmy begins paying the area's hookers to tell him stories of their childhoods, which Jimmy then maps onto himself and Gloria, attempting to make her (or his vision of her) achieve flesh-and-blood status.

As the title is likely to convey, Whores for Gloria is not a suitable-for-all-audiences kind of book. However, one isn't going to get the prurient-interest-for-the-sake-of-prurient-interest writing one finds in such authors as Dennis Cooper or Matthew Stokoe; what Vollmann has penned here is a surprisingly subtle mystery novel disguised as a slice-of-life drama so embraced by the other authors mentioned above. The best comparison I can make to this book is to the better novels of Joyce Carol Oates; it seems to me that those who enjoy Oates' take on the disintegration of the psyche will also get a kick out of Vollmann. This one deserves the hype. *** ½
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dallas Fawson on April 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whores for Gloria, like its author, takes time to grow on you. Vollman's writing style takes some getting used to, but once you read for a little while, you'll realize just how tight his prose is. His exploration of Jimmy's consciousness is haunting, and the way he rehashes the prostitute's stories and changes them to be about himself is interesting.

Another things that is interesting about this book is the ambiguity of Gloria's identity. Gloria is a woman, seemingly a prostitute that Jimmy claims to be married to. He thinks that by collecting stories and hair from other prostitutes he can somehow reconstruct her. The question is whether or not Gloria exists. I came to my own conclusions on that, and I'll let you do the same.

I liked that, at the end of the novella, Vollman included an actual account of his experiences with prostitutes, including a diagram of the average street prices for anything you could think of, as of the early 90's.

My only complaint about the book is that I wish it had gone more into Jimmy's consciousness. Despite that, it is a good way to introduce yourself to the author, simply because of how short it is.

This book is written in a way that reminds me A LOT of Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates, which explores the mind of a psychotic serial killer. I recommend reading that if you like this book, or the other way around.
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Whores for Gloria: A Novel (Contemporary American Fiction)
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