The Dying Grass, by William T. Vollman

The Dying Grass: A Novel of the Nez Perce War (Seven Dreams: a Book of North American Landscapes)


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"The Dying Grass is the fifth book in William Vollmann's acclaimed Seven Dreams series - a hugely original fictional history of the clash of Native Americans and the White settlers in the New World. This volume is set during the Nez Perce War of 1877, with flashbacks to the Civil War. It follows Chief Joseph and the other non-treaty Nez Perce as they subjected the United States Army to its greatest defeat since Little Big Horn (the previous year). But to do so they had to flee from northeast Oregon and western Idaho into Montana, down into Wyoming near Yellowstone Park, and back into Montana almost to Canada. The ultimate outcome was devastating for the Native Americans Indians, and their removal one of the most tragic episodes in American history. Told frequently through dialogue spoken by various characters in powerful scenes, the book often reads as if it were a theatrical text. It is Vollmann’s most dramatic work yet."

"This Assassin’s maxim was especially useful to me as I wrote the latest of my Seven Dreams series, called The Dying Grass, about the Nez Perce War of 1877. It was a very challenging project because I decided to invent what’s essentially a new form. You don’t read this book like other books: instead, as you read from left to right, the page works like a stage. The left-hand part of the page works like the forefront of the stage, and the right edge of the paper is the backdrop. And so, there might be conversations on the left hand on the page—and what people are actually thinking might occur in the center, and perhaps landscape descriptions appear in the back, or occasionally when they really strike somebody, they appear in the front. This approach gives the page a kind of dimensionality, multiple layers of foreground and background.

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  • Spring Dead Spot will appear as dinner plate circles of dying patches in the lawn, it is most noticeable in Spring and early Summer, if these circles are seen at this time of year, then this could be an obvious cause.
  • Dollar Spot is similar to Spring Dead Spot, however the circles will appear as small circles about the size of a dollar coin. Dollar Spot usually appears around any of the warmer months of the year.
  • Brown Patch is another circle of dying grass, initially they can start as dinner plate size, but enlarge to very large dead or dying patches. This problem can be evident around any of the warmer months of the year.
  • Fairy Rings are rings of mushrooms that appear to be encompassing a vigorous circle of thriving lawn, surrounded by a circle of dying grass.

Dying Grass Next to the Water by punchlick on deviantART

"The Dying Grass by William T. Vollmann: The fifth of Vollmann’s Seven Dreams books to appear, The Dying Grass will most likely not see print until summer of 2015, according to his editor. First up is Last Stories, a collection of ghost stories slated to hit bookstores next year. Assuming there still are bookstores next year. (Garth)"

His publisher, Viking, put a clause in his contract that his books would be less than 700 pages, and Dying Grass was delivered at 1200. They sent it back for corrections and the new length was 1300. He says there is an oral promise to publish it sometime. He didn't give a date.