Fathers and Crows (Magill Book Reviews)
Although William T. Vollman is only thirty-two, he has already published six books and attracted a great deal of favorable critical attention. FATHERS AND CROWS is almost a thousand pages long and represents only one-seventh of an ambitious project to write a dramatized history of North America.
In THE ICE-SHIRT, the first volume of a series that goes under the omnibus title of SEVEN DREAMS: A BOOK OF NORTH AMERICAN LANDSCAPES, Vollman described the colonization of Iceland and Greenland by Vikings in the tenth century. Now he leaps forward six hundred years to describe the history of New France.
At first the Native Americans welcomed the French, who brought marvelous manufactured articles to trade for furs. The Micmac, Algonquin, Huron, Iroquois, and other Indians especially valued iron in the form of kettles, knives, hatchets, arrowheads, and other tools. Gradually, however, the “Savages” grew hostile as they realized that the “Iron People” were following a pattern of conquest that included pitting tribe against tribe and attempting to impose on them an incomprehensible Judaeo-Christian religion.
When the Jesuit missionaries began to arrive in New France, they aroused greater animosity because of their uncompromising attitude toward what they regarded as pagan superstitions. Unfortunately, the arrival of the “Black Gowns” coincided with the outbreak of smallpox epidemics, devastating native populations who had no...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
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Fathers and Crows (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
In the introduction to this long, intricate, often cryptic historical novel, William T. Vollmann writes:
This book is the story of how the Black-Gowns [Jesuit missionaries] and the Iroquois between them conquered the Huron people. With its weight of antecedents and obscurities, as I admit, the tale is an ungainly one.…”
That is a pretty good capsule description of Fathers and Crows, a rambling narrative accompanied by an introduction, glossaries, and other reference material.
Although most of the principal characters are actual historical figures, the author has inserted imaginary characters to flesh out his scenes. He has also traveled backward and forward in time, going as far into the past as a.D. 30 and as far forward as 1989.
Vollmann himself calls his work a “dream.” It is part of a projected series of novels about the conquest of North America by Europeans that will carry the omnibus title of Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes. The first volume in this series was The Ice-Shirt (1990), a much shorter but no less impressionistic book that covered the arrival of the Vikings in North America in the tenth century.
Vollmann, a young writer, has amazed critics with his literary talents and his passionate dedication to his craft. Fathers and Crows contains exhaustive reference material showing how deeply he has immersed himself in the period he is...
(The entire section is 1893 words.)