Just Keep Going North
July 1, 2019 7:26 PM   Subscribe

At the border with William T. Vollman Uplifting their heads, my fellow citizens applauded, cheered, and murmured to one another. A woman’s spectacularly eye-shadowed peepers were shining with excitement. The lady who had caught me not applauding now repeatedly turned to glare at my laptop’s clickety-clack. (Had I been outed as a media agent?) A white-haired old man shared yet another secret with a middle-aged blonde’s ear, which neither twitched nor wiggled. A man in a pinstriped shirt was beaming, and a man in a soft sweater leaned thirstily forward. Ladies and gentlemen, I dub this democracy!
posted by mecran01 (10 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
NY Mag on Vollmann’s Imperial:
Imperial is like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz, if Robert Caro had been raised in an abandoned grain silo by a band of feral raccoons, and if Mike Davis were the communications director of a heavily armed libertarian survivalist cult, and if the two of them had somehow managed to stitch John McPhee’s cortex onto the brain of a Gila monster, which they then sent to the Mexican border to conduct ten years of immersive research, and also if they wrote the entire manuscript on dried banana leaves with a toucan beak dipped in hobo blood, and then the book was line-edited during a 36-hour peyote séance by the ghosts of John Steinbeck, Jack London, and Sinclair Lewis, with 200 pages of endnotes faxed over by Henry David Thoreau’s great-great-great-great grandson from a concrete bunker under a toxic pond behind a maquiladora, and if at the last minute Herman Melville threw up all over the manuscript, rendering it illegible, so it had to be re-created from memory by a community-theater actor doing his best impression of Jack Kerouac. With photographs by Dorothea Lange.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:02 PM on July 1, 2019 [6 favorites]

...and that's not even the book he won the National Book Award for.

Looking forward to reading this 30K word essay. Hope I can finish it before the thread window closes.
posted by gwint at 8:13 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'll get to this when I finish The Dying Grass, which I've just gotten around to. I enjoy his writing, but it's an investment.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:15 PM on July 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

I finally read it and it's complicated. But worth the effort.
posted by mumimor at 5:57 AM on July 2, 2019

I've always liked his short stories, but have found his long-form books to be, well, kind of long and heavy going. I'm partway through this and enjoying it; it seems to hit a good mid-point in length that gives him space to explore details without getting lost in digression.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 AM on July 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I love Vollman; I had no idea he was doing this - this will be so good.
posted by pseudophile at 8:14 AM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm afraid that I'm at the age or at the stage where I just want people to get to the fucking point. I've read all sorts of flowery literature for 70 years. Some I liked, some I loved enough to never want to reach the last page, but - maybe it's a little like tv sitcoms. I've also been exposed to those for a similar amount of time, and can no longer watch them. There are only so many scenarios and I've seen 'em all. TLDR.
posted by Hobgoblin at 8:36 AM on July 2, 2019 [4 favorites]

While we're harrumphing, what I am over is the "it's like if Eraserhead and The Dharma Bums had a baby and it studied at the Sorbonne and then formed a band with Al Swearengen" style of review as quoted from the NYMag.
posted by thelonius at 8:48 AM on July 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

It seemed like the piece was full of facts and rather to the point.
posted by bootlegpop at 9:05 AM on July 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here's a version on Pocket that might be more legible on a portable device. Link
posted by mecran01 at 9:24 AM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

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