William T. Vollmann is an American author and journalist born on July 28, 1959 in Los Angeles, California. As a child, he was raised in an academia-focused household considering his father was a professor of business at Indiana University. However, his true passions lied in the arts, not a STEM-related field as his parents had hoped for. Vollmann’s younger sister died by drowning, leading Vollmann to a spiral of depression throughout his teens. In this period of time, he found solace in writing as a form of emotional expression and catharsis. After graduating high school, he attended Cornell University to study comparative literature, eventually earning his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude.
In 1991, Vollmann published a novel entitled Whores for Gloria, which tells the story of a Vietnam veteran named Jimmy who suffers from PTSD and thus struggles to maintain his sanity when he has returned from war. He spends his government checks on prostitutes, alcohol, and other substances to cope with the pain. Meanwhile, Jimmy is mentally creating an ideal woman in his head, an imaginary lover that only exists within the boundaries of his own thoughts. The novel unfolds as Jimmy falls in love with this imaginary companion, who he names Gloria.
Upon its publication, Whores for Gloria garnered positive reviews from critics and audiences for its provocative depiction of post-war stress. Catherine Texier of The New York Times states that “the power of Mr. Vollmann's writing turns this short novel into a lyrical poem of the street, sad and beautiful.” After the success of this novel, Vollmann has authored numerous more books throughout the years, including The Royal Family, The Atlas, Poor People, and Uncentering the Earth.