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/.

NPR

What's A Pirate's Least-Favorite Puzzle? One That Hates Arrrrs

In each pair of clues, the answer to the first clue is a word that contains the consecutive letters A-R. Drop the A-R, and the remaining letters in order will form a word that answers the second clue.
NPR

What To Do With Weird Farmers Market Vegetables

The farmer's market in July is a wondrous thing: juicy tomatoes, jewel-toned eggplants, sweet yellow corn. But then, you see greens that look like weeds, and suddenly, you feel intimidated.
NPR

Trump's Campaign Theme Song Headache? Blame Michael Jackson, Sort Of

Candidates keep getting in trouble for picking theme songs without getting approval from the artist. You can trace this back to changes in both campaigning and the way companies sell products.
NPR

Want A Taste Of Virtual Reality? Step One: Find Some Cardboard

Fancy headsets can cost between $200 and $500. But if you have a smartphone, some extra time and an empty pizza box, you can make your own.

Leave a Comment

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