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Whores for Gloria by William Vollmann

Whores for Gloria (1991)

by William Vollmann

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A Vollmann novel that's less than 600 pages? Say it ain't so!

A focused look at the beauty and ugliness of a deluded man looking for a woman he invented. Sad and disgusting and compelling all at once. Don't read while eating.

Recommended for the kind of people who want to know the 'spirituality of whores' to use Vollmann's own phrase, or the kind of people who collect insects. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
Jimmy is a Vietnam veteran living month-to-month off his disability check in San Francisco's Tenderloin district (home of Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon) in the late 1980s. Jimmy spends most of his monthly check on Budweiser and prostitutes. But what he wants most from the prostitutes isn't sex, but their memories. Jimmy is constructing, in his mind, a woman named Gloria, and he is building her out of the childhood memories and adult experiences of the streetwalkers whom he pays just to talk to him.

Gloria may have been a childhood sweetheart, she may be an estranged lover, or she may be pure fantasy. Jimmy, at least, has a clear idea of what she must be like, and he is both specific and determined in his quest to find the right memories to complete his vision.

The story of Jimmy and Gloria is just a vehicle, however, for the novel's real purpose which is to serve as a collective portrait of the prostitutes of that particular place and time. In a series of appendices the author provides quotations from the streetwalkers he interviewed, a glossary, a profile of the typical prostitute, and a list of services and typical prices. His portrayal of the profession is sympathetic but unvarnished, and includes, of course, drugs, AIDS, alcoholism, violence, and theft. Vollmann avoids moral judgment of the prostitutes and their clients; his only editorial comment is to remark that most of the ills associated with prostitution derive from its illegality and not from the trade itself. ( )
4 vote StevenTX | Mar 26, 2012 |
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