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Heading Toward Nowhere

Original fiction by William T. Vollmann


  • By Greg Roden

A few years after deciding to write a novel about a young man named Matthew who sets out to see America, I met Mr. Stett Holbrook of the Bohemian, with whom I contracted to deliver what we officially agreed would be a short piece about something or other. The only stipulation was that whatever I turned in show some relation to the Bohemian's area of readership. Since I live in Sacramento, I settled on Redding, which was not only a fairly straight shot north, but also virtually unknown to me.

In Sacramento, which can get plenty hot, some people smugly console themselves that at least we often get the famous Delta breeze, while poor Redding, etcetera, etcetera. The only information I had on Redding was from my local newspaper, which, as newspapers will, retailed accounts of drug busts and violent crimes. Thinking to follow up along those lines, I telephoned a Redding private eye, who, unlike all the others of his kind whom I have hired over the years, was gruff, suspicious and sullenly unhelpful. None of the other PIs returned my calls. I set out expecting to find a sweltering, downtrodden place. In fact, Redding was cool and green just then, and its inhabitants turned out to be some of the nicest people I have ever met.

The following draft is one iteration away from my original notes. All the conversations in it come nearly or entirely verbatim from actual interviews. The novel will be called A Table for Fortune. I hope to finish it in about 2018. I thank the Bohemian for the opportunity, and my friend Greg, who was my driver and companion on the trip; the avocado stories come from him. And I thank the people of Redding.—WTV

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