Badass Writer of the Week: William T. Vollmann

William T. Vollman photographed by Newsweek (RIP)

William T. Vollman photographed by Newsweek (RIP)

By Sean Touhy

Are you working a dead end job that is slowly killing you on the inside?

First of all, welcome to the club (we have t-shirts)!

Second of all, quit your bitching and do something about it!

Go back to school, get a better job, join an international group of freedom fighters in a faraway land to defeat a super power.

Okay, you can only pull off the last one if you’re award-winning author William T. Vollmann. Who sadly, you are not.

For more than 20 years, Vollmann has embodied the true spirit of a writer. A man who uses his natural talents to write powerful and thought-provoking works.

Vollmann had a basic American childhood. After he graduated college, he worked odd jobs for several years, saving up money until he was able to leave it all behind.

The year was 1982 and a war was raging in Afghanistan between the mujahedeen freedom fighters and the Soviet Union—the world’s second-rate superpower (suck it Putin!). Some unknown force in Vollmann told him that he had to get there, he had to be on the front lines of that war, and he had to lend a helping hand. When most people “lend a helping hand,” they give a couple extra bucks to the guy smelling up their morning commute. The phrase normally doesn’t mean, “pick up a rifle and run into battle against an army that made a generation of U.S. school kids duck and cover under wooden desks in the 1960s.”

However, that’s exactly what it meant to Vollmann! After his experience, he wrote his first book, An Afghanistan Picture Show: Or, How I Saved the World (um, most badass title ever?), which wasn’t published for another decade!

Normal cover for one's first book...

Normal cover for one's first book...

Vollmann continued to write full-time. He did not contain himself to one genre of storytelling; he bounced from fiction to nonfiction. His stories tell the tales of the America of old and of the America to come. In 2009, Vollmann was awarded the Strauss Living Award, which gave him $50,000 a year—tax-free—for five years.

Vollmann was never at ease with his celebrity and rarely gives interviews. It was discovered in later years that Vollmann had been investigated by the FBI in connection to the Unabomber. What, a guy described as a misanthrope can’t refuse to use things like a cell phone and a credit cared without someone thinking he’s blowing shit up somewhere?

We've been told that Vollmann currently resides in Cailfornia with his wife and daughter but the Writer's Bone crew believes he may be planning his next adventure along the border between Ukraine and Russia.