An epic study of an emblematic American region by one of our most celebrated writers
It sprawls across a stinking artificial sea, across the deserts, date groves, and labor camps of southeastern California, right across the Mexican border. For generations of migrant workers, from Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl of the 1930s to Mexican laborers today, Imperial County has held the promise of paradise-and the reality of hell. It is a land beautiful and harsh, enticing and deadly, rich in history and heartbreak. Across the border, the desert is the same but there are different secrets. In Imperial, award-winning writer William T. Vollmann takes us deep into the heart of this haunted region, and by extension into the dark soul of American imperialism.
Known for his penetrating meditations on poverty and violence, Vollmann has spent ten years doggedly investigating every facet of this bi-national locus, raiding archives, exploring polluted rivers, guarded factories, and Chinese tunnels, talking with everyone from farmers to border patrolmen in his search for the fading American dream and its Mexican equivalent. The result is a majestic book that addresses current debates on immigration, agribusiness, and corporate exploitation, issues that will define America's identity in the twenty-first century.
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Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: How do you describe a 1,300-page book in 150 words? Start with adjectives (some of them opposites): vast, intrepid, passionate, and yes, sometimes dull, illuminating and infuriating, satirical and confessional, exhausting and exhaustive, dirty, fertile, and dry. William T. Vollmann, legendary for his huge, all-consuming books of fiction, history, and reporting, has spent much of the past ten years returning obsessively to one of the harshest but most contested territories in North America, the desert borderlands of southeastern California and northern Mexico he calls Imperial. Wading through water-use arcana, agri-booster archives, and centuries of colonial history; listening to lettuce farmers, motel clerks, and dance-hall hostesses; and crossing the border hundreds of times (while meeting those who cross via other means, and those who try to stop them), Vollmann has written an intensely personal fever dream of an encyclopedia that makes a strange, northern companion to last year's giant borderlands masterpiece, Roberto Bolano's 2666. --Tom NissleyAbout the Author:
William T. Vollmann is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Vollman's writing has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Paris Review, Esquire, Conjunctions, Granta, and many other magazines. He lives in California.
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