Monday, May. 18, 2009

William T. Vollmann's Imperial

Available August 3

This is a book about a piece of land: Imperial County in southern California, right on the Mexican border. It's a hot, dry place with a boom-and-bust history thanks to a series of massive irrigation projects. Vollmann, who won the National Book Award in 2005 for Europe Central, has spent much of the past 10 years there, talking to immigrants, farmers, laborers, prostitutes and border patrolmen, most of whom are either dying to get into Imperial or dying to get out of it. At 1,300 pages Imperial practically needs its own zip code, but there's a kind of grandeur to Vollmann's obsessive desire to document this cursed scrap of land, which is so fiercely contested and soaked in blood and history that it's hard to imagine another way to do it justice.

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