The Dying Grass

The Dying Grass : A Novel of the Nez Perce War

4.11 (282 ratings by Goodreads)
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From the National Book Award-winning author of Europe Central - a dazzling fictional account of the epic fighting retreat of the Nez Perce Indians Watch for Vollmann's new work of nonfiction, No Immediate Danger, coming in April of 2018

In this fifth installment in his acclaimed Seven Dreams series of novels examining the collisions between Native Americans and European colonizers, William T. Vollmann tells the story of the epic fighting retreat of the Nez Perce Indians, with flashbacks to the Civil War. Defrauded and intimidated at every turn, the Nez Perces finally went on the warpath in 1877, subjecting the U.S. Army to its greatest defeat since Little Big Horn the previous year, as they fled from northeast Oregon across Montana to the Canadian border. Vollmann's main character is not the legendary Chief Joseph but his pursuer, General Oliver Otis Howard, the brave, shy, tormented, devoutly Christian Civil War veteran. In this novel, we see him as commander, father, son, husband, friend, and killer. Teeming with many vivid characters on both sides of the conflict, and written in an original style in which the printed page works as a stage with multiple layers of foreground and background, The Dying Grass is another mesmerizing achievement from one of the most ambitious writers of our time.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 1376 pages
  • 152 x 226 x 56mm | 1,179g
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Illustrations, unspecified
  • 0143109405
  • 9780143109402
  • 1,049,241

Review quote

Praise for The Dying Grass "A novel of incredible significance and power. . .the reading experience of a lifetime. . .what Vollmann has done is nothing short of miraculous: He has taken a story whose ending is well known, yet he has made us wonder how it will end. . .A masterpiece that delivers us to the far shore of our past, a past that is still at war with the ghosts of its decisions. The Dying Grass is brilliant and alive."--David Treuer, The Washington Post "A novel as involving and beautifully assembled as any this year. . .the writing has a pleasing aural quality that keeps the pages turning almost on their own...[the story] whistles ahead with the grace and speed of an arrow."--Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal "Vollmann is one of the most idiosyncratic and challenging novelists at work today. The Dying Grass, like his other works, daringly pushes at the edges of the novel as a form while at the same time demanding that the reader sit up and pay attention." --Jane Smiley, The New York Times Book Review "Nothing less than Vollmann's inventive telling these events are rendered with an unstinting detail and vigorous immediacy that feels startling and new. Swept along in streams of dialogue interspersed with vivid descriptive passages that call to mind the invention of Melville and the poetry of Whitman, the reader bears witness to the chaotic melee of pitched battle...the most remarkable thing about this novel is not how long it is, but how good it is." - The Seattle Times "An uncompromising artistic achievement, a critical and heartfelt retelling of America's evolution." - The Philadelphia Inquirer "[Vollmann's] artistic efforts and stamina are unparalleled...As in all his work, Vollmann manifests striking images...moments of grim humor...and poignancy." - The Portland Oregonian "Stunning. . .The indefatigable, seeming inexhaustible Vollmann returns with another impossibly long - and peerless - book, this one an epic study of the Nez Perce War of 1877. . .Vollmann restores that history with an onrushing immediacy that takes on all the contours of a good Greek tragedy. . .Vollmann's vivid reconstruction is believable and achingly beautiful. . .a note-perfect incantation."-- Kirkus Reviews

"A colossal, ravishingly descriptive, adeptly omniscient novel...Vollmann's rampaging, reflective, absurd, ironic, tragic, and poetic epic is supported by a painstakingly compiled chronology, glossaries, and copious notes. Yet for all this documentation, this is a work of grand invention, creative empathy, and holistic interpretation.. . This virtuoso, polyphonic saga of invasion, resistance, forced exodus, and conquest flows, whirls, and mesmerizes with riverine dynamics, and it is as large, encompassing, and deeply felt as it needs to be to do justice to its momentous subject." --Booklist (starred review)

"Offers a panoramic view of the era and the decades leading up to it...Vollmann's prose is evocative and often lyrical, trailing down the page like free verse. . .To his credit, Vollmann is as interested in context and history as in storytelling...This massive novel is sometimes challenging, but ultimately rewarding." --Publishers Weekly (boxed review) From the Hardcover edition.
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About William T Vollmann

William T. Vollmann is the author of ten novels, including Europe Central, which won the National Book Award. He has also written four collections of stories, including The Atlas, which won the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction, a memoir, and six works of nonfiction, including Rising Up and Rising Down and Imperial, both of which were finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His journalism and fiction have been published in The New Yorker, Harpers, Esquire, Granta, and many other publications.
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Rating details

282 ratings
4.11 out of 5 stars
5 54% (151)
4 22% (62)
3 13% (37)
2 5% (14)
1 6% (18)
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