Tony's Reviews > Argall

Argall by William T. Vollmann
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Sep 14, 11

bookshelves: u-s-lit, top-10-2011
Read from July 14 to September 14, 2011

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.

I wasn't there. My ancestors weren't there. But I am here, in part, because of Argall, a person, but also a spirit, a way of doing things. Three questions: a) Does that absolve me? b) Wasn't everyone a 'Salvage' - victim and winners alike? and c) Are there reasonable, let alone legally cognizable, remedies? Legislatively mandated gaming licenses are just so many more blue beads, aren't they? Especially when there's some Argall behind the curtain getting rich.

Maybe the only 'remedy' is literature. This book redeems. It's my first Vollmann and I intend to read the rest of the Seven Dreams series.
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Donna (new)

Donna I like Vollman a lot. I just tripped over him last year through a book called 'Imperial'. Denser than Kiwanis fruitcake and I loved it. So was 'You Bright and Risen Angels'. In fact I had trouble following that one at times but the sheer density kept me going and it exploded into comprehension at some point. Stealth density within the density. I didn't know he had a Jamestown story up his sleeve. That's two things right there that I can't leave alone.


message 2: by Tony (last edited Sep 15, 2011 03:10AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tony The scholarship and inventiveness were striking. Vollmann writes fiction like Walter McDougall writes history: with awareness, confidence and fearlessness, intruding not only himself but the occasional billboard. And plenty poetic: as smooth as fingers gliding o'er the grooved backs of church pews. Always hitting the same Machiavellian themes: misfortunate swims the fish with insufficient guts.


Tony I don't think I want any Kiwanis fruitcake.


message 4: by Donna (new)

Donna It is a bit heavy on the raisins. Kind of a brown clump. The Lion's club makes theirs a bit lighter with more candied fruit. More colour.


message 5: by Donna (new)

Donna sometimes the thought of here in the 1600s keeps me up at night. I take away the filled land. Remove the houses. Add the trees. The lake would be the same colour, as well as certain landmarks. But there's a point where it all gets crowded and spooky from superposed inhabitants and habitants.


Tony I'm just not much of a joiner.


Tony The Lions' Club, I mean. But, yea, the landscape too.


message 8: by Donna (new)

Donna They used to sell the fruitcakes door-to-door around here. My Mom used to buy them to make the Lions go away. The tin was always good for art supplies. There's a part in 'Imperial' where Vollman takes a few square miles of dry landscape, digs up all the deeds and makes it interesting. Then he goes off to Mexico and does all those things that make me worry he'll put an eye out. I don't think he sleeps.


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