RARA-AVIS: Butterfly Stories

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 18 Oct 2007

I finished this novel by Vollman a few weeks back. It's predominantly about a journalist and photographer who mask a sex tour of Cambodia and Thailand with supposedly professional intent. It is at least partly reminiscent of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. Both novels portray a character searching for love in vain in a world made meaningless in the shadow of some dark and deadly large scale slaughter, Hemingway's the first world war and Vollman's the Khmer Rouge. There is a lot of heavy drinking and hell-raising with the distinct impression that it is all a thinly veiled charade for hollow lives in a world with no moral compass. The protagonists of the novels are not carbon copies, though. Hemingway's Jake is stoic, struggling to show self-discipline and grace under pressure, while Vollman's miserable character is self-indulgent and totally without any self-control. Vollman does not shirk his writer's duty, though, and the character's ending rings true.

The story itself had some high spots, but few of them involved the protagonist. This is the second and last novel I'll read by Vollman. I read Whores for Gloria a few months back. Of the two, I'd recommend Whores for Gloria.


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