Sunday, September 2, 2012

William T. Vollmann, Rising Up and Rising Down, 7-volume set

Rising Up and Rising Down is William T. Vollmann's exceptionally good and unbelievably overwhelming seven-volume meditation on violence in the world. As usual with Vollmann's writing, Rising Up and Rising Down isn't so much verbose as it is impressively ambitious. You'd think seven volumes is too much, but when you begin to read Rising Up and Rising Down it becomes quickly apparent how well-thought and paced the book actually is. The set opens with a volume he calls the "Moral Calculus" and is followed by an introductory meditation. The subsequent five tomes methodically delve into "Justifications" of violence (Honor, Class, Race, Religion, War, etc.) and proceed into case studies of consequences of the previously discussed motives.

It's fascinating and difficult stuff, but Vollmann's more-gonzo-than-gonzo style of writing provides Rising Up and Rising Down with a surprising amount of readability. Rising Up and Rising Down was published by McSweeney's in 2003 in what I believe was a limited run of only 1500 copies. It's a really special book and if you ever have a chance to get your hands on a copy I'd highly recommend it.

What prompted me to showcase Rising Up and Rising Down is the newly minted "Limited Edition Goods" section of the McSweeney's store. If you like the publisher, you should begin lurking here and adding it to the cycle of website you check daily. Signed Chris Ware posters and signed new releases by authors like David Byrne and Beck have appeared there for a few hours in drastically limited copies, only to be snatched up by discerning collectors. A series of original portraits by Tony Millionaire is currently in the store, but who knows how long they'll be there. When the shop opened, they had five copies of Rising Up and Rising Down listed for $500.00 each, and I'm happy to report that they've all been sold. In 2003, when I first bought the set for a discounted $95, it was the most expensive new book I had ever bought. And how things have changed since then...

Currently listening to:
Sun Kil Moon, "Admiral Fell Promises"

Currently reading:
Psalm 44 by Danilo Kis

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