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677 pages, Hardcover
First published July 10, 2014
This is my final book. Any subsequent productions bearing my name will have been composed by a ghost.Vollmann’s opening salvo in his To The Reader has gotten his reviewers a bit confused. Will there be any more books by Bill? Is this a threat or a promise? What would a book written by a ghost read like? The difficulty is complexified when we learn that Author Vollmann too is rather confused on the issue. Not at all unlike his own forgetful ghost our Author Vollmann has quite evidently forgotten that he is dead. Last Stories and Other Stories has already been written by a ghost. The living resent it.
”The ancient poets teach that veiled beauty is the profoundest type. Much as autumn foliage barely seen through mist outranks the untrammelled scarlet of the leaves themselves…”
”I loved life so perfectly, at least in my own estimation, that it seemed I deserved to live forever, or at least until later rather than sooner. But just in case death disregarded my all-important judgements, I decided to seek out a ghost, in order to gain expert advice about being dead.”
”What I liked best in life - I like to look back in time… And for all of us, many letters lie waiting new and unopened, with beautifully unfamiliar stamps on them- letters from the dead.”
”There is no means through which those who have been born can escape dying. Therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world.”
”But then he smiled a trifle; for his recollected joys now came to comfort him, most of them surely for the last time.”
With this big collection of ghost stories, Vollmann haunts the literary territory Henry James explored in The Turn of the Screw, Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol and, more recently, the prolific Joyce Carol Oates in “More Tales Than I Care to Count.” Don’t let my mention of James, Dickens or Oates fool you – Vollmann is Franz Kafka. He’s William Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon skinny-dipping in a post-postmodern Vollmannesque ectoplasm.