Elevate Difference

Reviews of William T. Vollmann

Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater

Full disclosure: I am an avid fan of William T. Vollmann's work and was excited to read this book. Vollmann often has strange and interesting things to say about women and gender relations, and his notorious interest in prostitutes (who feature prominently in both his fiction and non-fiction) may almost be labeled as an obsession.


Imperial is a difficult book. To the average reader, artist, or art connoisseur, it is hard to grasp what Vollmann is doing both in terms of publishing and in the vision within his photographs. This 200-page collection of photos of the California-Mexico borderlands named the Imperial Valley offers quality, if not perfunctory, images of a hard won desert life. The book, however, is as complicated as the people and politics it represents.