Fathers and Crows

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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.)