William T. Vollmann

(William Tanner Vollmann)

Quote Topics Cited
I’d rather risk being a terrorists victim than live under a surveillance state. Privacy, Abortion & Family Planning
Surveillance becomes more odious to the surveilled as it is coupled with secrecy…. Surveillance creates a power differential. The spies know ever more about the spied-on, who know virtually nothing about the spies. Intelligence, Spying, Espionage & Covert Operations
A common measure of poverty is how much money you have in relation to other people - that is useful as far as it goes, but that excludes the case of, say, a hunter in the rainforest who has no money but is not poor. And there can be a number of people with money but who can consider themselves unwanted or invisible or estranged from society. Society ;Money, Coins & Minting
After college, I went to San Francisco and worked as a secretary in a reinsurance company. That was a pretty dismal job. It was a real small place. Guys would come in, and they'd sort of stick out their arms like wings so I could take their coats off. They'd tell me, 'Two,' and I'd put two lumps of sugar in their coffee.
Americans worry that Afghanistan has become a petri dish in which the germs of Islamic fanaticism are replicating - soon Afghans will be hijacking American planes and bombing embassies everywhere. And their fears are not necessarily unfounded. The Taliban are unemployed war veterans, ready and even eager to return to the battlefield. War & Peace
As I get older, I find myself getting angrier and angrier. Doubtless, change itself, not to mention physical decline and inevitable petty tragedies of disappointed expectations, would have made for resentment in any event; but I used to be a passive schoolboy, my negative impulses turned obediently inward.
As large publishers turn into monopolies, and the MBAs who are running them - maybe editors used to run them before - are steadily tightening the screws, they feel more and more that they get to call the shots.
At least for me, it takes more knowledge to write fiction than nonfiction. At least about someplace that I begin with a lot of ignorance about. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Don't write for money. Money, Coins & Minting
Everybody is an expert on one thing - that's what I learned in my high school journalism class - and that's, of course, his own life. And everybody deserves to live and have his story told. And if it doesn't seem like an interesting story, then that's the failure of the listener, or the journalist who retells it badly. Life ;Failure
Everybody is probably guilty of something. I'm sure that if anyone looked into my heart long enough, they could say, you know, 'Bill had some unkind thoughts back in second grade.'
I didn't vote for Bush, and I'm not happy particularly that he's president. But I will say I'm impressed that he didn't start bombing Afghanistan the day after Sept. 11. The more time that passes without him bombing Afghanistan, the more I respect him. Time ;Respect
I don't believe in a personal god. It's good to give thanks, whether or not there's a god. There's no reason not to live life to the fullest. Morality is all the more important for people who don't expect to get a piece of celestial candy after they die. Life ;Religion & God
I don't subscribe to organised religion. I've travelled enough to see that adherents of organised religion often attack adherents of other religions. Religion & God
I first got really interested in Noh in about 1977. There was an independent bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana where I was going to high school. It was a really nice place. There was a New Directions paperback. It was the Pound/Fenollosa book, 'The Classic Noh Theatre of Japan.'
I go through all of my old notebooks, and I put an X on every page when everything has been entered into the computer, and sometimes that takes 15 years. But eventually the notebooks are full of X's, and they're no good to me anymore.
I might enjoy writing some ghost stories set in Japan because their whole idea about the spirit world is so interesting.
I read and write for most of the day, but I do let myself be interrupted by real life. I enjoy going out with friends and try not to take myself too seriously. Life
I think most of us who live into our 50s have had a few experiences with death. You know, we see people we know start to die. We realize it's getting closer and closer for us. Death
I think that there always have been and always will be at least two Americas - the poor America, the second America, tends to be in the shadows. Sometimes it's an America of people in a ghetto of color, sometimes it's an economic ghetto, but definitely there is a parallel America which people in the dominant America prefer to ignore if they can.
I think that we're all, as human beings, so limited. If we want to write about ourselves, that's fairly easy. And if we write about our friends or our families, we can do that. But if we want to project ourselves somewhere beyond our personal experience, we're going to fail unless we get that experience or we borrow it from others.
If I didn't feel that I was doing something or trying to do something for others, then I would have very little excuse for the life that I lead. Life
If I'm writing a book, and I'm warned, 'Oh, this is unsaleable, you need to make it shorter,' or, 'It has to be this, or that,' I'm proud to say I don't pay attention.
I'm still a marginal figure living from book to book, but, as long as I'm producing labour as a good Marxist prole, I guess I'm satisfied.
'In the nineteenth century, we beat the British more than once,' Afghans often told me. 'In the twentieth century, we beat the Russians. In the twenty-first, if we have to, we'll beat the Americans!'
It's always, you know, a pleasant exercise to imagine my own death because then I'm so happy when I can stop. Death
It's fun for me to try to write concise, compact things. It's a very good exercise for me. And I think it's important to try to do different things - change what I write about, and also the way I write. Otherwise, I'd just be repeating myself, which wouldn't be good for me or fair to my readers.
I've always felt I want to be of service to the world somehow. I haven't yet figured out how to do it, and I may never figure out how to do it.
Kabuki is the way that I so often write; Noh is how I would write if I were more 'spiritual,' more understated, or perhaps just older.
My father grew up in an era when to be an American - a white American, at least - was to be yourself. In some respects, his generation was more ignorant, complacent, self-centered and parochial than mine.
My father hates organized religion, probably because he hates the God who killed his little girl back in 1968. I find religions variously bemusing. Religion & God
Not only am I physically and emotionally attracted to women, I also wonder what being a woman would be like. Women
Once you've finished typing and moving text around and everything else, you have to leave it alone for a while. You do that to see if it stands up, to see if all the loose edges have been trimmed, if it makes sense, if it's consistent, what shape it really has. You can't tell that while you're working on it.
Precisely because I'm a man who is attracted to women, there may be some things that I have to say as a spectator of feminine grace that women themselves may not be able to see. Women
Really what it gets down to is that my idea of the American life, the American dream, whatever, is that I can do what I wish in the privacy of my own home. And as long as I'm not hurting anyone, no one has a right to know what I do. The main thing that I have to hide is that I don't have anything to hide. Life
So far, I've never missed a deadline for a term paper, a review, a manuscript. I perform the mumbo-jumbo of voting with belief in my heart, I've not yet won even a jaywalking ticket, and unlike my father, whom I fault in this respect, I refrain from opting out of jury duty; instead, they mostly kick me out. Respect
So much of the destruction on Earth has been wrought by men. Women are the ones who give life and try to pick up the pieces... What a great gender they are. Life ;Women
The case of Afghanistan vs. the Soviet Union is the clearest case of good against evil that I've seen in my lifetime. I thought it was terrific the way they got their country back.
The first chance I had to go to Japan, which was in the early nineties, I went to a Noh play. I thought, 'This is very, very slow.' I noticed lots of people falling asleep. I didn't really know what was going on; I was getting a little sleepy myself. Then the more I studied it, the more fascinated I got.
The instant people specialize, it's in their interest to dehumanize the people their specialized function operates upon.
There have been times when I'm writing about things that are personally embarrassing. Like any human being, sometimes I can't help but wonder - 'What are the people I know going to think about this?' So I have to remind myself that all is permissible. Art has to be a free space. Language has to be a free space. Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
There's an Inuit myth about the origin of the human race. There were two brothers, and the younger brother eventually gets changed into a woman. And that's how humans reproduced. And I thought, 'How could I really understand that?'
When I go train hopping and I look up into the sky, there are always so many more stars than I remember there were.
When I was writing the first few books, what I would do is write a bunch of sentences and then go back and expand and explode those sentences, pack as much into them as I could, so they'd kind of be like popcorn kernels popping... all this stuff in there to make the writing dense, and beautiful for its density.
When I'm dying, I want to think I did what I felt was best for the words I was writing. This may mean, at any time, that I won't be publishable anymore. Time
Whenever I travel to a poor country, I try to help at least one person. Usually, that person helps me just as much - I can find a local poor person to be my guide or my interpreter. That person makes money from me, I make money from him or her, we both learn about each other. It's an equal win-win relationship. Travel ;Money, Coins & Minting
Whenever we have an opportunity to engage with each other as human beings and to minimize the differences between us based on disparity in resources, then we should do it.