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The Atlas

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  494 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Hailed by Newsday as "the most unconventional--and possibly the most exciting and imaginative--novelist at work today," William T. Vollmann has also established himself as an intrepid journalist willing to go to the hottest spots on the planet. Here he draws on these formidable talents to create a web of fifty-three interconnected tales, what he calls ?a piecemeal atlas of ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Penguin Books (first published 1996)
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The Ice-Shirt by William T. VollmannThe Royal Family by William T. VollmannFathers and Crows by William T. VollmannThe Rifles by William T. VollmannYou Bright and Risen Angels by William T. Vollmann
William T Vollmann
11th out of 18 books — 14 voters
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueWar and Peace by Leo TolstoyThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyOne Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles
Rising Up and Rising Down
120th out of 347 books — 18 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,099)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The Vollmann Atlas, circa 1996 (unauthorized abridgment)

Mount Aetna, Sicily
Afghanistan
Agra, India
Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario
Allan Water, Ontario
Madagascar
Avignon
Bangkok
Phrah Nakhon-Thonburi Province, Thailand
Battambang City, Cambodia
Battle Rock, Oregon
Beograd
Berkley, CA
Berlin
Big Bend, CA
Bologna
Boot Hill, Nebraska
Boston, USA
Budapest
Cairo
California
Capri, Italia
Charlevoix, Québec
Chaing Mai, Thailand
Churchill, Manitoba
Southampton, Northwest Territories
Cornwall, Ontario
Delhi
Diesel Bend, Utah
El
...more
Jonfaith
Sweet Reader,

Allow me to corral this stampede of kittens. One Blind Billy was so in love. Then his "wife" left him. There wasn't a ceremony as such, he just knew it. This was love for Lifetime movie Network, it lasted as long as he bought her drinks and paid for the hotel room. She was gone. Blind Billy then had horrific heartache in his penis. He had to win her back. Traveling through more time zones than a Jim Jarmusch film, Blind Billy discovered some indelible truths. Clean water and being e
...more
Joshua West
Ostensibly a series of tenuously connected short stories, The Atlas reads like an assemblage of Vollmann's fractured recollections and imaginings from throughout his travels, mingled and stewed together into a single stream of undifferentiated consciousness until the former are indistinguishable from the latter. The influence of surrealism, of Lautremeant is palpable.
Vollamnn's voice is incredibly unique, managing to sound at once naive and world-weary. Despite the incredible horrors on display
...more
Pablo
Like those enlightened spiritual teachers, Vollmann here kicks our venerate rears into a vortex of wicked characters; tormented spirits from the bowels of the purgatory; Der Leibhaftige scoundrel sons and bête noire daughters; white chickens running in circles with bleeding ripped off heads and pink hairy hogs with offensive odours ~ offensive odours of sin and immorality, shield under the vicious umbrella of power and greed. That's what this shit is. Shit on top of shit, splattered all over the ...more
Lisa Eriksson Papaioanou
Most of us lead tedious, repetitive lifes (I know I do at least). Ok, we travel, we have vacations but they too are not out of the ordinary. I admit, I am a wuss: I am afraid of drugs, can't stand bad smells and am a cleaning-freak. The only way to really experience things is through reading, that is why I want the book to take me to places I' ve never been before.
The Atlas travelled me and haunted my dreams. When a book enters your dreams you know it is good. The prose is excellent, the storie
...more
Robertisenberg
Some of the most magnificent prose I've ever read -- short, staggering pieces assembled from long, beautiful sentences, like poetry without stanzas. Truly incredible. Bill does have an over-the-top obsession with prostitutes -- and I, knowing this reputation, thinking that he was just upset about the nature of the sex trade, had no idea that he was a frequent customer. Vollman himself reminds me, to a certain degree, of that really annoying indie rocker who's partied with all the great bands and ...more
Nicole
A series of vignettes based on journalist/author Willam Vollmann's many travels and experiences around the globe, some of these are autobiographical, fiction, fantastical, or blur the lines between all three. From my perspective the stories ranged from incredible slices of life to way too abstract for me to truly enjoy, but the beauty is with few stories more than a couple pages you can focus on what you enjoy. Hopefully you enjoy prostitutes, though, as they have been an interest of Vollmann's ...more
Jordan
I just wrote a great long review and then it disappear when I tried to enter it. Arggggg. This is one of my favorite books ever. My life changed the day I bought it for one dollar from a B&N bargain bin and I have since happily bought many other copies at full price for other people. The range of writing styles, feelings, themes, and global places covered here is very rare and amazing. This is the perfect intro to Vollmann too. 53 perfect little stories (52 little ones actually and one real ...more
lara
i'm rereading this and am feeling like it is oddly and lazily pieced. . .i am also really struck (again as i always am when reading early vollman) with the dynamic of female prostitution and his seeming fascination with sex as deathly and irresistable. the procreative aspect/potential is virtually absent. and it's striking because you very seldom see this depiction.
Kym
Nov 12, 2010 Kym added it
Shelves: abandoned
Just starting this...love the huge variety and shortness of locales. I am fond of his advice for other uses with the book should one find it tedious...codeine substitute, fly swatter, eye guard, sleep-inducer, etc...

OK, I had to stop reading once I got to the seal hunting and gutting. Gross.
Bryant
Completely uninhibited, unconcerned with convention and messy as hell. I put Vollmann in a camp somewhere between Gogol and Kafka. His prose at times touches the level of pure poetry.
Miranda
Vollman is a dirty old man and a wonderful writer.
Keith Michael
vollmann is a writer with great humility. it seems like the writer's task to process the world and create a perspective, some kind of an angle that makes sense for the reader, but Vollmann is all circles and air. he's difficult to understand, but he is incredibly honest and his incomprehensibility is delivered directly from the world which is his inspiration to the person holding the book.

also, vollmann's introduction reminded me very very much of the sentiment of leonard cohen's preface for Be
...more
Mito Habe-Evans
Mar 22, 2013 Mito Habe-Evans marked it as to-read
this collection of short tales that take place all over the world is enjoyable story to story, but check this out, vollmann writes in the intro:

'for those who require games and calculations in order to drowse, i should state that this collection is arranged palindromically: the motif in the first story is taken up again in the last; the second story finds its echo in the second to last, and so on.'

it's taking me a while to get through it because with each story i keep jumping to the correlated s
...more
Martin
William Vollman's take on travel writing?...though the destinations are as much an Atlas of his worldview and experience than any sort of guide for bohemian backpackers...besides, Vollman relishes going where others would never want or dare to...perhaps not since Hunter Thompson have the lines between the worlds of novel writing and journalism been so blurred... vivid, surrealistic, sordid, sensational, and...in a word amazing....
Mason
Jul 28, 2011 Mason added it
Make sure you are up-to-date on your Paxil maintenance, as there is little cheer on these pages. Yes, there is stark honesty and the beautiful prose we expect from Mr. Vollmann, but the string of vignettes grates after the keystone section. I spent the last 150 pages musing on whether he really meant for this to be digested in smaller bites, in keeping with his instructions for interacting with "Rising Up and Rising Down."
Annouchka
Mar 20, 2008 Annouchka rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who lives raw-
this is just simply the ultimate book. although i find myself disagreeing with him so much of the time on principle (particularly on his views of helpless women), i'm totally drawn into his world. his descriptions are visceral and ultimately sincere. the fact that he lives his stories brings the rawness of his world and his truth to life in a unique way. i have never read an author like him.
k
What happens when to stop traveling and start reading travelogues? Coincidentally, this one starts in Yugoslavia as well.

Great writer, sometimes a little hard to read. When you're on the same page as him, the structures that his stories create coalesce perfectly and stick with you. When you aren't, they float away, formless.
Shani Jayant
vivid, violent, heartaching, intimate views of the despair of people in their corners of the world. vollman shrinks the world down to one place. amazing writing from a genius that gets to a place only DFW has gotten with me before.. not recommended if you are already feeling depressed, there is little hope to be found here.
Robert Vaughan
Hypnotic, loose synapses, transitions flit like fireflies, blip, blip, from one topic to next. Automatic writing, flashes, immediacy of pen to pages, loosely formed, not bound-thread so thin it is invisible, no beginning and no ending. One of my favorites on page 102, called Under a Grass- Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S.A. (1968).
Kristianne
Perfect book for my journey. He's the kind of guy you love and hate alternately, depending on the chapter. I thought about reading it through a second time, being as how English books are at a premium here, but I'd already promised it to the boy in the Nepali restaurant who is studying English.
Paul
A monumental work of recording the horrors, the depths and the bright shining lie while traveling across oceans of despair, wanting and modern humanistic hopelessness. A writer with a sense of self and an appreciation for the beauty in the focus of the morbid practice of survival.
Sean
Beautifully written vignettes from Vollmann's wide-ranging travels, often dreamy and impressionistic, sometimes grim, full of memories and regrets and perhaps a few too many prostitutes. These writings show a deep sense of fascination with peoples the world over.
Kfray
This book is a series of short stories, arranged as a pallindrome (ie the first story mirrors the last and so on) that illuminates the tiny web-like strings that tie the world together. It is fantastic, sad, beautiful and terrifying. I loved it.
Steve
Jun 24, 2007 Steve rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ben, lucas, nini
Shelves: myfaves
amazing, a strong recommendation to anyone not familiar with vollmann's writing. his experiences, observations and prose are a treasury of world cultures. i have been reading and re-reading this for years!
Barbara Southard
Vollman's use of language keeps me coming back. It's one thing to write about tragedy, but to write as he did in the piece, "Under The Grass" is masterful and unforgettable.
Justin Surname
Jan 01, 2008 Justin Surname rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chris
Vollmann is king when it comes to embedding himself with all types of people around the globe and then describing what lies deep inside their hearts and their minds.
Elie
The best travel writing I've ever read, by far. Maddeningly erotic, heartbreaking, and horrifying--the literary "The Journey is the Destination."
Randy
Nobody writes a better sentence or creates a better metaphor than William Vollmann, unless, of course, it's one of his subjects.
Notcathy J
"Semi-lyrical incoherence.Would it all be more interesting if it were crafted with realism?"
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William T Vollman...: 1996 The Atlas 10 42 Oct 12, 2014 02:33PM  
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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.

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