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Imperial Paperback – October 26, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
It's a big wasteland, and this is a big book that tries to look at the big issues in the wasteland. It's a product of an author who is interested in everything. It's a book I'd love to think of myself as writing, but I'd be too scared to dive so deeply. So this massive Moby Dick, an albatross about Vollmann's neck lands on our desks for us to live, vicariously, through his exploits. Yep, there are strip clubs, prostitutes, and illegal laborers, but there are also farmers, ranchers, folks striving for a better life. But the failures of Imperial (the county not the book) match and mirror the failure of America overall, and we're in the mood for some critical examinations today.
What's a book review without criticisms? Well, Vollmann is a sloppy investigator, a sloppy fact checker, and a failure as a journalist. This is a work of passion, not of careful investigation.Read more ›
Vollmann's documentary photos are published as 8x10s in black and white, as (approximately) 11x14s in sepia, or as landscape formats of various dimensions printed across two-page spreads. Apart from seven pages at the end, there is no commentary because the Viking Penguin book of the same title has the relevant text.
Some may find this collection of (mostly) posed portraits technically limited. I would not disagree. However, within those limits something eloquent can be found in virtually every page opening. To mention a few of this collection's striking moments at random: the way the shadow falls across the face of the border patrol cop on page 7; the portrait on page 11 in which the man and his cap encapsulate the closeness and distance between haves and have-nots; the contrasting mothers on facing pages 84/85; the similarity of character and visage between the ranch owners on facing pages 154/155.
Vollmann's chief subject is the human condition, and his chief interest as a photographer is capturing what people both present and inadvertently manifest to the unhidden camera.Read more ›
I have for years wanted to like Vollmann's writing. But after a few pages I always give up, and am annoyed at myself (and Vollmann). Imperial is a subject that interests me, so I decided this was the book I would read all the way through. And I did, including the source section. This is the only review I've written where I could envision writing a review, in all sincerity, with a 1 or 3 or 5 star rating (though I detest the requirement of assigning a numerical "grade" to a review). So here are a few reviews for this book.
One star - why is this classified as nonfiction?
Think of a student assigned a paper called "describe the various social, economic and natural forces currently faced by Imperial County, California." My student heads to the library, wanders through the stacks and lodged between Ellis Island and the peopling of America : the official guide and California state register and year book of facts (at least in my library) is a 2.5" thick bright red book spine with one word "Imperial." My student opens the book at random to chapter 88, which reads, in its entirety:
I can't believe in people. Did you ever consider them as machines-machines that make eggs? And in material advantages they are already well supplied.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Be advised: This is a book of photography, not a novel. That being said, I think it is still an excellent addition to your library. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sal Paradise
A reality check about the plight if migrant workers, the reality of life near lá linea, the border, and an environmental statement as well. Exhaustively researched. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Matthew Dixon
This book is larger than the United States, squarely centered on the human, and can best be understood as a Twentieth Century equivalent to "Moby Dick". Read morePublished 22 months ago by David Loyd
It’s an effort to even pick up this weighty tome, in content and heft, which took ten years to write. Read morePublished on November 17, 2013 by John L Murphy
I was assigned this book for a class and I have to say this is probably one of the worst books I have ever read. Read morePublished on February 3, 2013 by JR
I'm from El Centro, the center of the wide-ranging region that Vollmann has dubbed Imperial, and I feel like he has traced the steps of my buddies and I as we've explored the place... Read morePublished on December 5, 2012 by Jacume
This book is a massive collection of information and opinion on the Imperial valley. I picked it up off a bargain table and have just about given up after reading 300 pages. Read morePublished on November 11, 2012 by rick from Boston
I had hoped that Imperial would provide a clearer picture of the lives of my ancestors who worked the fields of Imperial Valley from about 1910 to 1932. Read morePublished on November 4, 2012 by arascal
This is a simply awful book. I got about a third of the way through it and finally gave up. I moved to El Centro in 1999, around the same time that William Vollmann started coming... Read morePublished on July 1, 2012 by Thomas A. Olafson