Another Vollmann mega-tome. Having read Royal Family and Butterfly Stories, I am not sure this volume adds too much to the prostitution-focused body of work. He covers a lot of the same ground, albeit from a different angle.
I’ve reviewed the other 2 works above at length so won’t reiterate the themes and motifs. This is both an alarming and saddening work. It challenges the reader on several fronts. It could be called excessive, but the spirit of its composition is investigative and its characters ring true. You will feel as if you are walking among these unconventional human beings, and will discern beneath their grunged-up facades the frightfully flawed souls scrounging for relevance in a dehumanizing environment. The texture of the book is very readable, with fewer moments of transcendental speculation – the phantasmagoric Vollmann hides in the shadows, going for gritty Realism, lots of dialogue.
The audio version is impressive, and the gender politics can create easily misinterpreted couplings in the mind’s eye. It is a wise and libidinous portrayal of broken and flawed relationships and lives. Unexpurgated raw material for all the frothing Vollmann fans, but likely to arouse deep anxiety in those unfamiliar with his style.