Friday, May 07, 2010

William Vollmann: Imperial

I can't believe I read the whole thing. It's been months. Really. I almost lost interest in reading while I read Vollmann's Imperial. Which is just wrong.

In a way, and not just in length and subject matter, this book reminds me very much of Bolano's 2666. Robert Bolano and William Vollmann both write with a twisted, talking-to-the-reader, in a whimsical, nonsensical, nonlinear, back and forth, unintelligible, needing-an-editor-for-at-least-500-pages way. And yet, I read the whole thing. Both books appealed to me because they touch on Mexico and the border. And both books were not good.

"Imperial" is a history of an area of Southern California and Northern Mexico that, while including California's Imperial County, is defined by Vollman to be greater than Imperial County. It's a history of the drawing of the border, the people, the people who cross the border, the agriculture, the economy, which revolves around the water, the Salton Sea, which falls within the area, some of the politics, and the very political issue of water. It also becomes a bizarre almost autobiography of Vollmann's sex life. Vollmann doesn't deal with anything personal except who he slept with- girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, and prostitutes alike. Maybe this works for other readers, but it doesn't do anything for me. The topics that did interest me were things like the border crossers, the water issues, the economy and descriptions of day labor, what life is like on each side of the border. I would tell you about Vollmann's take on these things only I. Can't. Remember. The book is too long, too crossed up with too many things, and too convoluted.

I will say that my reading of this book is timely (how could it not be- I've been reading it so long?) with current events: the Arizone racial profiling law (aka SB 1070 which is technically about immigration or something) and an attempted terrorist attack in New York by a brown person. Therefore, I will cut this blog/book review short and focus on an upcoming post about that.