Book News: FBI Suspected William T. Vollmann Was The Unabomber | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Book News: FBI Suspected William T. Vollmann Was The Unabomber

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The FBI suspected William T. Vollmann of being first the Unabomber and then the anthrax mailer, the award-winning writer revealed in a grimly funny Harper's article [subscription required]. Vollmann's heavily redacted FBI file, which he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that he became "Unabomber Suspect Number S-2047" based on a tip from an anonymous citizen, whom Vollmann dubs "Ratfink." "UNABOMBER, not unlike VOLLMANN has pride of authorship and insists his book be published without editing," part of the file states. Other sections link his appearance to composite sketches of the bomber and suggest that "anti-growth and anti-progress themes persist throughout each VOLLMANN work." A source told the FBI that Vollmann "reportedly owns many guns and a flame-thrower." ("I would love to own a flamethrower," he notes cheerfully.) After the real Unabomber was caught, Vollmann was listed among the suspects in the 2001 anthrax attacks. Though Vollmann writes that he was initially flattered to be labeled "ARMED AND DANGEROUS," he became alarmed over the privacy violations the file suggests. He writes: "I was accused, secretly. I was spied on ... I have no redress. To be sure, I am not a victim; my worries are not for me, but for the American Way of Life." Vollmann spoke to Morning Edition's David Greene in an interview Thursday morning and said he minded the FBI's secrecy almost as much as the invasion of his privacy: "If we're not allowed to know what they're doing with this information, I can't help but think that we are headed for really serious trouble."
  • In an interview in Poets & Writers, Knopf senior editor Jordan Pavlin explains what she looks for in a book: "It's an immediacy. It's a sense that something is alive, that whatever mask I wear in my daily life is somehow stripped away by the experience of encountering it. It's a cliché now, but the book that's the 'axe to break the sea frozen inside us'—that's the thing I am looking for. I'm interested in being disarmed."
  • Junot Diaz spoke to The Daily Beast about his writing habits: "I wrote my first book listening to the soundtrack to the movie Conan the Barbarian on a loop. That's how I ride."
  • Quebec is considering setting the prices of new books for nine months to give independent booksellers a chance against Amazon and bigger stores that can offer steep discounts, The Montreal Gazette reports. Several countries including France and Germany have similar protections in place.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Math Is Everywhere, But Especially On National Mall This Weekend

The first National Math Festival of its kind comes to the District Saturday, taking over the National Mall and Smithsonian museums.
NPR

How The Food Industry Relies On Scientists With Big Tobacco Ties

Critics of the system that ushers food products to market say it is rife with conflicts of interest. When scientists depend on food companies for work, they may be less likely to contest food safety.
NPR

On Links As In Life, D.C. Bipartisan Relations Are Deep In The Rough

Golf is a sport that's been enjoyed by both Democrats and Republicans through the decades, but bipartisan golf outings may be disappearing like a shanked tee shot into a water hazard.
NPR

What Does It Take To Feel Secure?

Computer security expert Bruce Schneier says there's a big difference between feeling secure and being secure. He explains why we worry about unlikely dangers while ignoring more probable risks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.