You don’t have to want to read a 7 volume, 3,300 page history of violence, or a $55, 1,300 page book about Imperial County, California to be interested in William T. Vollmann. All you have to do is believe that it is important to have good writers around who are incredibly curious about what life is like on the periphery of our society, and who are willing to experience the things they write about in order to better understand them, whether those things are crack, prostitutes, riding the rails, or hanging out at the North Pole. It’s like William T. Vollmann smokes crack and burns his eyebrows off in a sleeping bag fire (two unrelated instances, by the way) so you don’t have to.
This may wind up being a somewhat tortured sentence, but I find it hard to read this New York Times profile of the man without wanting to want to read his 7 volume, 3,300 page history of violence and feeling very slightly guilty that I actually only want to read the one volume distillation he freely admits he did “for the money.”
-Norm De Plume