Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: Into the Forbidden Zone by William T. Vollmann

At one point I was obsessed with William T. Vollmann, but I hadn't read him in years until this week. I hadn't been following him closely for a long time. For one thing he's really into writing books that are hundreds of pages long or longer. His big thing about 20-25 years ago was having sex with crack addict prostitutes. He does have the distinction of writing the only novel I've ever read that made me vomit, which was The Royal Family. The Royal Family is a novel about crack whores that goes on for nearly a thousand pages, with a child molester as one of the main characters for good measure, such that a good portion of the book are scenes involving child molestation or kiddie porn. I think Vollmann likes crack whores way too much. If there's a new Vollmann book the sense I had was that it was either going to be a thousand pages long or or heavily involve this intense fascination he has with disease. That's a lot to ask of an audience. The statical information is very clear in showing that blogs that I've done that have attracted the most public interest are texts involving horror films and texts involving metal bands, in particular black metal bands. I'm more then willing to bend to my audiences needs in this regard, if that's . Personally, I am too fixated on the Human Centipede films and Michael Savage at this point to be datable. That is actually a very different inner insanity. For a long time I had more or less written Vollmann off, figuring he was partying with Genesis P. Orridge at Club Pervert Has-been over in the Magical Land of No One Cares. Incidentally, the reason that I always insult Genesis P. Orridge is that I figured out that posts get more hits because I do that. Vollmann's latest release isn't quite as bad as all that. Don't get me wrong, my appreciation for his work is still very much diminished, it just wasn't as bad as I thought. Into the Forbidden Zone was only released as an e-book and it's only 77 pages long. If he had put out another several hundred to a thousand page books, I wouldn't have read it. It's put out by a company named Byliner in the bay area that puts out shorter journalistic narrative in e-book format that only cost a few dollars. This is a good format for Vollmann to work in, as he has a tendency to get lost in the process of writing epics. I much prefer the stripped down Vollmann. In general, my view on wiring is that If you can't do it in 20 pages you probably can't do it in 200 pages Into the Forbidden Zone is basically an account of traveling through areas of Japan affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that followed. It is free of detailed descriptions of kiddie porn and AIDS symptoms. The threat this time around is radiation sickness and cancer, but Vollmann didn't come across people that were visibly sick and dying. What he describes is walking around disaster ravaged areas in Japan. The book does try to establish is that the Japanese government lied to the populace about the seriousness of the nuclear problem at first. Vollmann actually went into high risk areas with a radiation detector. Vollmann always seemed to have a death wish. He's always been sort of an extreme individual in that way, he's till somewhat of a fascinating enigma because of it. He's not fascinating for a thousand pages because of it, but he's still kind of a relevant figure. -W. Wheaton


  1. Hello,

    I had the chance to see Volmann give a reading of a short story at Fresno State University a couple years ago.

    It was a strange event. The audience was an older, local crowd. From what I could tell, they did not really appreciate his detailed account of sex with tentacled vegetation.

  2. Are you sure that wasn't Mark von Schlegell? I know Mark Von Schlegell writes about having sex with plants, I've never heard of Vollmann doing that. I could be wrong but I think you might have those two mixed up.