“A piecemeal atlas of the world I think in” was William T. Vollmann’s phrase for a book he wrote almost ten years ago. That world is certainly worth mapping. It is full of contemporary history, politics, guns, prostitution, drugs, crowds, and violence. But it is also the shifting residence of a lonely, obsessive reader and writer determined to make sense of things. The work in question is in fact called The Atlas (1996), and contains fifty-five items of varying length, written alternatively in the first and third person, from the point of view of a male traveler, set in an impressive list of locations around the globe, from Afghanistan to Zagreb, and from Grand Central Station to the Yukon.

more in the New York Review of Books here.