You Are Now Entering the Demented Kingdom of William T. Vollmann: [The New Republic] Home to goddesses, dreams, and a dangerously uncorrupted literary mind.
When is violence justified? I am now the proud owner of one of 3,500 copies of William T. Vollmann's 3,299-page study of violence, Rising Up and Rising Down, published by McSweeney's. The book (if you can call something that's seven volumes a "book") has gotten mixed reviews that lean toward positive: Scott McLemee, writing in the New York Times Book Review (reg. req.), called it a "flood of logorrhea," while Steven Moore (a literary critic notable for his work on another long-winded writer, William Gaddis) wrote in the Washington Post that it is an "achievement beyond the realm of mere mortals," comparing it to Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough. This oral history tells the story behind how the book came to be published at McSweeney's, and is an interesting look at what needs to happen for a difficult-to-market work to make its way from its author to the general reading public, in a publishing industry that's unfriendly to this kind of thing, to say the least.