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Argall (Seven Dreams #3)

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  140 ratings  ·  21 reviews
In Argall, the newest novel in his Seven Dreams series, William T. Vollmann alternates between extravagant Elizabethan language and gritty realism in an attempt to dig beneath the legend surrounding Pocahontas, John Smith, and the founding of the Jamestown colony in Virginia-as well as the betrayals, disappointments, and atrocities behind it. With the same panoramic vision ...more
ebook, 768 pages
Published November 26th 2002 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published 2001)
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”In this vain world all must sooner or later sink to ooze, laugh’d Argoll. Pride’s the merest weed, like love; Mufkaiuh’s a weed; all weeds do wilt, but ne’er mind; upon the slime new weeds will grow.”

Come back, come back

We all know this story, so why tell it again? Happy histories haunt hollow heads. The Disney corporation’s 33rd animated movie employs lush swaths of color. Pokahuntiss’s complexion is not pockmarked. She is lithe and curvy and one imagines the animators masturbating while dwell
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Oct 30, 2013 Nathan "N.R." Gaddis added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Powhatans everywhere
Recommended to Nathan "N.R." by: Black Gowns
Opechancanough [Powhatan] “He Whose Soul Is White.” “This kind King.” -- John Smith, who was his captive and who later humiliated him by extorting corn from him at gunpoint. Half-brother to Powhatan, Werowance of Pamunkey, and in time Powhatan’s successor. This cunning, dissembling enemy of the English orchestrated two massacres of the colonists, the first in 1622, the second in 1644, after which he was captured and murdered in an English prison. Had the Indians won, he would be remembered toda
This is one sumbitch of a book.

In every sense of what that means. It's longer than its 700 pages. Dense. And written in the vernacular of the time. So it takes both concentration and commitment.

And this is not the Disney version of Pocahontas. No smiling blue birds cavort around her singing face. It's brutal and cynical and ironic. True? Hell, I don't know. The author equivocates in endnotes. But it reads true. And slaps you in the face with that possibility. Mostly it insists that you think.

This is a novel of unrelenting frustration, sadness, bitterness. It also has more than a tinge of naive hope, idealism, and ambition that is unfortunately mired in the all-conquering ooze of history. The setting is what I've decided to term a "far-fetched time" when reality was extremely improbable. We witness the collision of English desperadoes with Virginian tribes, especially the Powhatan and allied tribes, as both sides demonstrate a great capacity for atrocity, duplicity, and blind idiocy. ...more
Forgive the lack of review, which is something this novel deserves. Please see the wonderful reviews already up here. I did feel there were some sections where my interest and enthusiasm waned a little, and some sections which felt as though he simply felt the need to re-tell some of the stories he had uncovered in his reading, regardless of their relevance. My least favorite of the three dreams I have read so far, but still an incredible work.
It's not surprising that Argall is one of William T. Vollmann's most neglected books. The fact that it was my second Vollmann read was a complete fluke, really. After devouring The Rifles, I went to Hastings looking for more Vollmann. By all that is proper in this world, I should not have found anything by Vollmann in that store, except perhaps an overstock copy of Europe Central. Instead, I found a hardcover first edition of Argall. I picked it up without a second thought - not realizing that i ...more
Benito Jr.
Weighing only a little less than his latest book Imperial, Argall is Vollmann's 746-page retelling of the "true story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith -- though by "true" Vollmann refers to what he calls a "Symbolic History", and that the facts contained within are "often untrue based on the literal facts as we know them, but whose untruths further a deeper sense of truth." I can't claim to be any good arbiter of the ethics behind this, only to note that it's fiction, after all, and that Smi ...more
Jun 06, 2012 Jim marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I've read Vol.1 (Ice Shirt) and Vol. 2 (Fathers and Crows). Vollman is so Scary-Brilliant. God help me I feel myself drawn to the beautiful-brilliant looking, but massive book. The Prose Style looks dense, archaic and beautiful. Although this doesn't look like a fast read, I think I'll be reading this in the next several months. \

Hmmmm....this was written approx 3 1/2 years ago so several "months" didn't happen i guess. I'll get to it.

Once againa, this looks both daunting and brilliant so I may
Jesse K
In lieu of reading both side by side, which may have been a worthy venture since they have many parallels, I opted to dabble with the first 60 pages of Imperial (procured a day before release) and then launch back into Argall so as to finish it in order to gain cleanse my queue for the lengthy read to come with Imperial.

Argall is quite a bit better than the other Seven Dreams books published so far. By narrowing his scope to two primary characters, Vollmann managed to broaden the effect of his s
Vollmann ends up crafting a narrative just as saccharine and insipid as those he snarkily distances himself from; I'd genuinely argue that you can learn a lot more history from the Disney movie than this *ROMANNCE HISTORIKALL* or whatever. It occasionally redeems itself - and this is why it's superior to Europe Central - in the raaaaaaaare moments when Vollmann just lets himself be silly, e.g. "He saved himself in the West Indies by eating Oranges and Lemonds."

I honestly think the turning point
Extreme. & wonderfully written with much wind mostly in the sails & tacting here to there with a master's nautical precision.
What a sad story. Vollmann goes deep into the world and the heads of John Smith, Pocahontas, and many others, writing in some crazy sort-of Elizabethan English he came up with. It is something else, this book. It is certainly not romantic. How could it be? Smith was an opportunistic liar, and by today's standards genocidal. At the time, he was one of many who rightly figured that killing the so-called savages was the best way to keep them at bay. And Pocahontas. Her people routinely slaughtered, ...more
Rider Babbit
Really enjoyed this book, very difficult to read at times as I often want to avoid the uncomfortable reality of the violent and unjust manner in which the English captured Virginia and her people. Overwhelmingly good history and mood set by author with beautifully illustrative language. Awesome read, I'll miss this book.
the elizabethian prose was drudgery at first but i was used to it by the end. and it kept you in the spirit of the story through the pages where nothing much happened. all-in-all i really liked the book, though. i came away from the book feeling sorry for both smith and pocahontas, and at the same time wishing the story were really as true as the title suggests.
As Imperial wanted to be a novel and ended up as a history, Argall wanted to be a history and ended up as a novel. Though the passion read in later works is missing, Argall remains both an impressive exercise in the reverse evolution of language and a get-wrenching voyage through the cruelties of European conquest.
May 20, 2008 Steve rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: invalids, shut-ins
William Vollmann is undoubtedly a genius, stylistically and otherwise. Depsite this, I find his prose tiresomely overwrought albeit occasionally rewarding. The tale of Pocahontas is stripped of its romanticism and related in a historical context in a mountain of purple prose.
Bryn Hammond
[on pause]

Here's a mock-review by the author: It made me impatient to start. I own this, I've read #1 The Ice-Shirt and #2 Fathers and Crows.
Jan 30, 2008 Gabriel is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I actually had to stop reading this well over a year ago. It was beautiful and painful and I had no idea where I was half the time. However, I can't take it off my currently reading shelf. It felt true.
Another massive installment of the Seven Dreams series. Anti-romantic. The ornate Elizabethan style reminds one of Mason and Dixon, which is also excellent, but wholly different in tone.
Best of the Seven Dreams yet.
Beth Shields-Szostak
Jun 22, 2010 Beth Shields-Szostak marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: signed
1st edition, signed by author
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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...

Other Books in the Series

Seven Dreams (5 books)
  • The Ice-Shirt
  • Fathers and Crows
  • The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War
  • The Rifles
Europe Central The Rainbow Stories Whores for Gloria You Bright and Risen Angels Poor People

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“Thus the protagonist of this Dream of mine is ooze, here and forever call'd Oozymandias the King. 2 likes
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