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Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means Paperback – October 11, 2005
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Well, good news: Rising Up Rising Down is very readable; moreso I think that his recent novel Argall, on which I remain stuck on around page 350. The book does get heavy of course in its theories and efforts to explore the connections it needs to make. But the chapters themselves are usually very short, and few examples in it last so long that you lose interest. A few more pages and he'll be talking about something else in a different country and different time. I raced through the first volume, and half of the second. At that point I got sidetracked with some other things, but I can't wait to get back into it.
In many cases you actually get nice short versions of difficult to understand historical events. For example, one hundred pages on what happened in the early Soviet Union when farms were turned into state owned collectives and the famine that resulted is actually much easir to read than a 500 page book on the topic, Frankly that's enough for me, and if I want to know more about it beyond that, Vollmann gives me a list of plenty of other books to check out on the topic as well.
I'll leave it to others to go into the strengths and shortcomings of this book. What I wanted to do here is just encourage people who are on the fence about buying this thing to not be discouraged by its length or topic or bewildering talk of Vollmann's "moral calculus." It is in fact a very interesting read, and the fact that you learn a lot at the same time hasn't hurt me a bit.
This is the best attempt to reason through the moral problems of violence since Michael Walzer's "Just and Unjust Wars" and it improves on that flawed work in every way. Vollman's analysis is not limited to nation-states, he distinguishes between just and unjust regimes, he does not assume that there must be a binary moral value to every act of violence, and he knows when to conclude that a moral problem is insoluable.
Vollman passes judgment confidently when it is called for, but he has a healthy respect the lesser of two evils, the exigencies of war, and the pressures of decisionmaking in violent situations. He makes objective moral judgments, but they are clearly informed by his own subjective encounters with violence and death.
That said, this book has a lot of problems. First off, Vollman is clearly a thrill-seeker. When he talks about packing a handgun in Golden Gate Park or smoking crack cocaine, he reveals a very unusual attitude toward death. We should be suspicious of the moral handwringing of anyone who has deliberately seeks out violence.Read more ›
The first thing you need to know is that William Vollmann is a talker. You probably already know this, since this 733 page book is chopped down from the original 3,300 (!) page original. The subtitle of this book is "Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom, and Urgent Means." Saying this is "some thoughts" on violence is like saying the USA dropped "some" napalm on Vietnam. Vollmann looks in-depth at a number of historical figures including Trotsky, John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and Hernan Cortes as he grapples with who was right and who was wrong - and then summarizes their behavior in a concise maxim. However, the conclusions Vollmann draws usually takes up one sentence in a 55 page chapter.
Secondly, a lot of the book is Vollmann looking at historical case studies and examining the choices of the participants and their rationale. I found this to be the most interesting part of the book, but I am a fan of history. I could see some readers feeling like they are back in a first semester college World Cultures course, but like I said, I enjoyed it. However, I do wish Vollmann discussed a few more historical cases, with each one getting less depth, but showing similarities in justifications across the board.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This abridged version is a mistake. In the back of the abridged version appears a table of contents of the unabridged version. Read morePublished 16 months ago by 99999jj
These 730 pages compile but one-fourth of seven volumes in 2003 published by McSweeney's as "some thoughts on violence, freedom and urgent means" about the justifications... Read morePublished on March 8, 2014 by John L Murphy
It is a very insightful and necessary book for our contemporary global society. This edition is very affordable, although the alternative seven volume set would be wonderful aside... Read morePublished on December 5, 2013 by Kyle Kendall
I started with the one-volume abridgement and was so impressed I bought copies for several friends and family members and then bought the original seven-volume edition which I am... Read morePublished on August 3, 2013 by Peter C. Patton
What you should know before buying the one-volume version of the book is that it is a heavily condensed edition of a work that is seven volumes long. Read morePublished on November 3, 2012 by Tim
Read it awhile back and can't write anything very useful, but I enjoyed it quite a bit and applaud the effort.Published on October 19, 2009 by Amazon Customer
Originally I was going to buy the seven volume version but then I became intimidated by the thought of spending that much time and energy on one book. Read morePublished on August 29, 2009 by Michael P. McCullough