This stunning new collection of stories confirms William T. Vollmann’s growing reputation as the American writer whose books “tower over the work of his contemporaries by virtue of their enormous range, huge ambition, stylistic daring, wide learning, audacious innovation, and sardonic wit” (Washington Post Book World). All these qualities are in evidence in this collection in which the character of the writer and that of some of his intimates – both real and imaginary – surface and resurface in a series of extraordinary situations and encounters. Two astonishing stories frame this collection. The first, “The Ghost of Magnetism, ” tells about a young man leaving San Francisco to become a sort of literary hobo living on his freeze-dried memories. The last, “The Grave of Lost Stories, ” describes the death of Poe in a fungus-encrusted tomb somewhere deep in the earth. Here is the colorful and disreputable group of people familiar to us from Vollmann’s earlier fiction – pimps, tramps, pornographers, witch doctors and massage-parlor girls. Within these stories, Vollmann gives us one of the most searching, bizarre, and subversive views of America today.