William Vollmann's Immigration Saga

He’s reclusive, he’s eyebrowless, and, according to the Times, “some people think he’s a little nuts.” That’s William T. Vollmann, author of the forthcoming book, Imperial, which the Times calls simultaneously smart and, in parts, unreadable. It centers on immigration, and focuses on the struggles of Mexican immigrants who come through the Imperial Valley. Vollmann says he refused to cut down his 1,300-page manuscript, and knows that he’ll sell fewer copies as a result. “I don’t care,” he said of the length. “It seems like the most important thing in life is pleasing ourselves. The world doesn’t owe me a living, and if the world doesn’t want to buy my books, that’s my problem.” And on a visit to a cemetery for unidentified immigrants, Vollmann hints at what we might see in the book: “You wonder how many are never found and never brought here.” He continues, “At least they won’t be stealing our tax dollars anymore. That’s very important.”