Matthew Vollmer’s Gateway to Paradise

This is the third book of Vollmer’s I’ve read, the most recent, and the one I’d be least likely to recommend. I loved “Inscriptions for Headstones” -it was a fantastically novel and cohesive piece of work that employed both an engaging literary device and a compelling literary voice. And his short story collection, “Future Missionaries of America,” made good use of religious theme and held itself together well. As for this collection… the most unified feature of it was it’s frustrating propensity to time-stamp itself with references to Snapchat and Twitter. This book is not good right now, and it’s going to be a real slag in about ten years.

I don’t have any issues with incorporating the ephemeral into fiction. But Vollmer’s way of doing it serves no purpose -if anything, it distracts from the narratives and from the voice. And the voice, while not as powerful or engaging as I’ve found it in the past, is still the strongest part of Vollmer’s writing. These stories have clearly been worked over, but they remain badly flawed. There’s so little to hold on to. While I vividly remember sections of “Inscriptions” and complete stories from “Future Missionaries,” almost everything here is forgettable.

Vollmer is a strong writer, and the stories here are still a fair bit higher on the shelf than most of what is available. But this story collection is measurably worse than other things he has written, and I’m pretty disappointed.

Recommendation: Skip it. Read his other stuff.


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