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Whores for Gloria

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  852 Ratings  ·  106 Reviews
With his first three works of fiction—the novels You Bright and Risen Angels and The Ice-Shirt, and the collection The Rainbow Stories—William T. Vollmann announced himself as a writer of rare and ferocious talent, with critics comparing him to William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, and T.C. Boyle.
His new novel is the story of Jimmy, who has been deserted by his lover, a pros
ebook, 144 pages
Published January 2nd 2013 by Pantheon (first published 1991)
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Community Reviews

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Ian "Marvin" Graye
Gloria, Gloria, Gloria

Bill rang me and said do you want to come and meet Jimmy, so I said yes, I’d heard so much about him from Bill, he was going to write a piece, an article or a story about him for some magazine, he was infatuated with some whore, an ex-girlfriend, Gloria, who’d just up and disappeared six months ago, Bill didn’t know whether she was dead or in prison or had gone back to her family to have a baby, Bill had never even met her or seen a photo, all he had to go on was a descript
May 17, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vollman
4.5 stars
This is my first Vollman; an easy way in I thought because it is short. I should have known better because it raises all sorts of issues and defies neat classification. The novel is a series of vignettes and short chapters. The main protagonist is Jimmy, who is a Vietnam veteran; middle-aged and living in a flophouse, surviving on his regular cheque and spending much time drinking in bars. It is set in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. Jimmy is obsessed with Gloria, who seems to
Jan 04, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Driving home from a movie last week with my seven year old daughter, I chose the way that took us up 6th Street, across Market and through the heart of San Francisco's Tenderloin. At a stoplight my daughter pointed out the car window at a disheveled, drug-addled man stumbling through pedestrian traffic in bright, mid-afternoon sunshine and asked, "Daddy, how does a person get to be like that man?"

After ten years of living in San Francisco, I realize that I inhabit a real-life version of China Mi
May 07, 2015 Geoff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here we have a novel or novella about unhappy love and those who are bound in peculiarly painful kinds of loneliness. Here is a story about religious devotion to an ideal, and a kind of Mother Mary made of scraps one might assemble scouring the shores of hell. Or a Mary Magdalene and her seven demons stitched together out of pieces of other people's sad stories. Here we have a novella about those made to sin by the need of money. Here we have a novel about what's washed up when we send people to ...more
Anthony Vacca
Jun 16, 2016 Anthony Vacca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did it! I really did it! I finally managed to not helicopter a book by Vollmann across the room after the first thirty-odd pages or so. Despite the rabid adulation on the GR from his (admittedly) small number of unwavering acolytes, something about his prose style has never clicked with me. Again and again I found his run-on sentences too unwieldy and stilted as they clunked along the page, regurgitating a Mulligan stew of overly self-serious authorial asides and (admittedly) erudite annotatio ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
It is difficult to not resort to the man, his biography, his researches, when reading Vollmann's work on the Tenderloin and its prostitutes. One comes to feel at home, belonging here, among our nation's caste-offs, our prostitutes and pimps and homeless and drunks and transvestites.

Jimmy knows his whores. He pays for the stories that they might tell him, first the happy ones and, when those run short, the sad ones. With the addition of a lock of whore's hair he turns these stories into his godde
Stephen P
Jan 08, 2013 Stephen P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like fiction mixed with blood and the torn flesh of life.
Recommended to Stephen by: Nathan N.R. Gaddis
Virgil stopped, retreating the few steps. "This. You do not see?"

"Yes. I see…"

A hand clasped about my shoulder, "But you see the drugs, human bodies bought and sold, the frenzy of blight. You see through the eyes of a Parole Officer. You see guns, knives, prostitution, rapes, muggings, death. You should have never taken that job…"

"It was all I could find. And only eighteen months before leaving. I did it different. More their friend. They knew I was on their side. I grew up in a neighborhood whe
Mar 24, 2014 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, fiction
Jimmy's Tricky Tenderloin
Flatbacked in the Financial District

"...and she fixed her huge pupils on him she was not even thinking of the money for the moment but the thrill of making him see her as she wanted to be for all those lonely men whose greed of lust was nothing but an aching prayer for beauty..."
-- William T Vollmann, Whores for Gloria


Not an easy read. I picked up 'Whores for Gloria' at City Lights last time I was in San Francisco. Paid full price. Figured it was a book about the Ci
Samir Rawas Sarayji
Jul 21, 2013 Samir Rawas Sarayji rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I have updated and expanded this review at Samir's Critical Corner over here.
May 16, 2013 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Vollmann (in at the shallow end):

Whores for Gloria is the harrowing, episodic story of an alcoholic, mentally disturbed veteran of the Vietnam War, Jimmy, who is trying to fabricate a love he calls Gloria from the clothes, hair, appearances and (the more pleasant, if necessarily quite distant) memories of the most desperate, diseased, sliding-along-the-filthy-bottom-of-the-barrel prostitutes in San Francisco's Tenderloin district. The reader is pulled along in this unspeakably sad qu
Oct 29, 2014 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We all know the story of the whore who, finding her China white to be less and less reliable a friend no matter how much of it she injected into her arm, recalled in desperation the phrase "shooting the shit", and so filled the needel with her own watery excrement and pumped it in, producing magnificent abscesses. Less well known is the tale of the man who decided to kill himself by swallowing his athlete's foot medicine. Loving Gloria, he died in inconceivable agony. When they collected a samp ...more
Jul 26, 2011 Hadrian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, fiction, vollmann
A Vollmann novel that's less than 600 pages? Say it ain't so!

A focused look at the beauty and ugliness of a deluded man looking for a woman he invented. Sad and disgusting and compelling all at once. Don't read while eating.

Recommended for the kind of people who want to know the 'spirituality of whores' to use Vollmann's own phrase, or the kind of people who collect insects.
Feb 05, 2016 Cody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vollmann
Whores for Gloriousness...

(Note: All of the following draws me ineluctably closer to RURD. The RURD is calling. It must be sated. All hail the RURD. Haven't you heard that the RURD is the word?!?)

Jesus Christos' on a giant lower-case 't'! How did Vollmann accomplish this beautiful and terrible feat? This is a crushing book, full of so much empathy that you could practically wring some out and use later it to seem like a swell guy or gal in your real life. In Steven Moore's words, Vollmann's lack
Sep 01, 2013 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970-present
I'd only read The Rainbow Stories by Vollmann (dug it), but have decided to start reading more of his stuff. I figured this thematic trilogy for a decent starting point.

Whores for Gloria unfortunately is a bit of a failure, but at least an interesting one. Was kind of neat to read this right after Endless Love, because it's about as good, but for totally different reasons. Endless Love is, even in its risk-taking, largely mediocre and tedious, occasionally pretty good, rarely ever terrible. Whor
Mark Sacha
A year ago this would have taken a lot of convincing to read. Drunk, wino, pervert, pimp, whore - in language and material Vollmann's rendering of this particular underworld embraces the crassness of it, the brutality and alienation of the people thrown into it, I think out of a curious kind of respect for its very real ugliness, its daily deprivations and terrors; maybe also out of an attempt to show that even in the terms of extreme degradation these same people are worthy and in fact beautifu ...more
David M
Sep 03, 2015 David M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there must be filth in this world I'm going to be part of it -

Vollmann himself is not a whore, more like a humble student of human nature. He writes mainly from the perspective of johns (no one should hold this against him; not all johns are the same; a john may be filled with empathy and complex motives).


"We all know the story of the whore who, finding her China white to be less and less reliable a friend now matter how much she injected into her arm, recalled in desperation the phrase 's
The novelistic part (Gloria) was only so-so believable; the gritty skid row, very believable -- but it does get a bit repetitive after awhile -- not all unhappy 'families' being always different.
Verstörender halb-fiktiver halb-realer Einblick in das Leben der Huren, Freier und Zuhälter von Tenderloin. Vollmann beschreibt eindringlich eine Welt die die meisten nur aus dem Fernsehen kennen. Seine Erzählung beruht auf Interviews und ist somit wahnsinnig nah dran am Geschehen.

Problematisch ist dabei eigentlich nur die Erzählweise. Jimmy, ein Ex-Soldat der in Vietnam gedient hat, verprasst seine Rente an Huren, was in kurzen Vignetten erzählt wird. Beizeiten ist es schwer dem Plot zu folgen
Alex V.
Aug 17, 2014 Alex V. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brutal and hallucinatory. You don't really know who is alive or dead or made up or just a part of stores told by prostitutes. It is possible that it doesn't matter if anyone is alive or dead or imagined, which is a hard possible truth to swallow. There is a sentence in there where it says we are nothing but stories and hair, and maybe he is on to something. The terror the book mines is that that lies below the surface of the terror we can romanticize: the hooker with the heart of gold, the omnip ...more
Aug 07, 2009 Kericontrary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A horribly beautiful, sad and painful story about hopelessly, drunkenly trying to build something out of nothing. It's about collecting memories and stories and weaving a tapestry of debauchery. It's about love and obsession in the most vulgar, twisted manner ever.

I think you have to be a fan of Vollmann, and have a strong stomach to truly take this novella all in. The character stalks streets and bars, collecting stories, memories and graphic sex from the prostitutes of the Tenderloin. As the s
Nov 11, 2011 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20th-century
Από τα πιο καλογραμμένα βιβλία που διάβασα φέτος και σίγουρα από τα πιο σκοτεινά, περίεργα και βρόμικα.

Πρωταγωνιστής είναι ο Τζίμι, ο οποίος πολέμησε στο Βιετνάμ και τώρα παίρνει σύνταξη απόμαχων και την ξοδεύει όλη σε πόρνες για να κάνει ό,τι κάνουν συνήθως οι πελάτες στις πόρνες, αλλά και να ακούει τις ιστορίες τους για να δημιουργεί την Γκλόρια, την γυναίκα του υποτίθεται, που δεν είναι πραγματική φυσικά, αλλά δεν μπορεί να "ζήσει" πραγματικά χωρίς αυτήν, χωρίς να την έχει συνεχώς στο μυαλό
Jan 11, 2011 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i have a soft spot for this one since it was my first encounter with vollmann (and it was a coincidental encounter since i discovered him randomly while browsing the shelves in the dark upper floors of sterling memorial library at yale). it has a dream-like quality not unlike some david lynch films especially inland empire. like at the end you wonder if it was all some post-mortem dream of the deceased. like the whole thing was a vignette of a weird purgatory. i gave it four stars because on sec ...more
Apr 08, 2009 Todd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My cousin came to stay with me for a few weeks during his post-medschool residency. When he picked up my roller hockey stick (i played a little at the time) I asked him to be careful; he put a tennis ball through a pane of glass in my french doors. i sliced the back of my hand open on a shard the size and shape of a sharks fin stolen for soup. While i was revolted by the site of my long white tendon, an udon noodle with a deep 'V' nicked in it, I also couldn't look away.
Thats what reading Volman
As i was adding the Vollmann title that i am just beginning, imagine my surprise and delight to recognize one of those titles as a random book from the library that i read without really noting the author or even the correct title: this book. which i remember as hilarious if a bit tedious. One of my dearest friends was an older, somewhat crotchetity woman called Gloria and i think that was why i grabbed it as a bit of a joke; and i remember being blown away by the skill and imagination of this g ...more
Aug 18, 2010 TK421 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: experimental
To say that I "really liked it" would be incorrect. I respect the story, but to like it would be akin to "liking" the act of watching a person being tortured before your very eyes. A powerfully bleak representation of life on the street that I will not soon forget.
Oct 03, 2007 Brandi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
it's amazing how quickly the "dirty whore getting fucked by a creepy old drunk" image gets dull.
Nov 11, 2007 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Vollmann fans
Whores for Gloria was my first exposure to Vollmann, and in my opinion it's his best novel -- a streamlined, oddly touching fever-dream with the intelligence to match its intensity.
Brent Woo
WTV continues to fascinate me. This is the entry point into Vollmann's underworld, where the unassuming and harmless-looking author dives into the worst of society. He never uses any other word -- not the clinical 'prostitutes', not 'hookers', not 'call girls' (sorry Cyril) -- but just 'whores'.

Most of this story is ugly language describing very ugly situations with ugly people. But... I think that's what is correct about this novel. In this world there is no room for dressed-up Strunk&Whit
Adrian Astur Alvarez
"For we all must build our worlds around us, bravely or dreamily, as long as we can we shelter ourselves from the rain, walling ourselves in gorgeously." (53)

The true cleverness and weight of this novel comes after the main story has ended and the book lists a sociological glossary of terms used in the book, then proceeds to outline generalized descriptions pulled from Vollmann's presumed field work in SF's tenderloin among the pimps and prostitutes in the area. The moment you read this last par
May 21, 2015 Ethan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Arriving in the same year as two other of his releases, the gargantuan Fathers and Crows and story collection 13 Stories and 13 Epitaphs, Whores for Gloria naturally comes off as a slighter work. Smaller than a large majority of Vollmann's output (and even some of his stories), the novel is now viewed as part of the "prostitution trilogy" that continues with Butterfly Stories and finds its completion with the enormous Royal Family, although this novel (and its superior next installment) each fee ...more
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William T Vollman...: 1991 Whores for Gloria 10 49 Mar 30, 2015 06:41PM  
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William Tanner Vollmann is an American novelist, journalist, short story writer and essayist. He lives in Sacramento, California with his wife and daughter.

More about William T. Vollmann...

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