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The Book of Dolores by William T. Vollmann powerHouse Books pages. We lived in manic limbo. My favorite girl, an Asian woman with long hair and flip-flops, chewed on what I assumed to be the same straw night after night, her gait a kind of stumbling towards death, and she occasionally returned my greetings with a harsh squint. I thought of her often as I ventured into my own line of sex work, imagining her dis approval, and that straw, hanging from her mouth, the calming effects of mastication canceling out the noise of memory.
It was around this time that I read William T. I knew of Vollmann through my ex, who had finished Europe Central and took me to see a rare black box production of the massive book in Durham, North Carolina. What hit me about Vollmann was his sense of humanism.
He is a noble pervert. The portraits, too, are meticulous and haunting—mostly the eyes, which are drawn with a brutal accuracy that catches you looking and looking. As he wrote her, he began to dress like her, and thus a lesbian Mexicana was born. This is not about Vollmann transitioning, or a blind grope towards a community. Dolores does not need a definition of what she is; her identity is a medium of limitless potential.
She is an homage to the smuttiness, the sultriness, the vulnerability of feminine performativity. It is a surprisingly technical book. I have always loved to watch a silver gelatin print develop out of blankness in a tray of developer. While making the first layer of a gum print is mostly an exercise in deferred gratification, each additional layer resembles a drink of absinthe, the aesthetic pleasure building on the tongue and in the brain until conviviality ascends into heavenly drunkenness.
Who would have thought that rhodonite over golden ocher could be so beautiful? Sometimes I lie awake at night marshalling my army of phantom watercolors around me, wondering which color I will print tomorrow.