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And then there's this: William T. Vollmann at Skylight Books tonight

August 11, 2009 |  3:34 pm


William T. Vollmann, the prolific and powerful writer, is touring the west coast in support of his just-released book "Imperial." Tonight he reads at Skylight Books in Los Feliz at 7:30p.m.

"Imperial" -- and its companion volume of photographs -- focuses on California's Imperial County, which borders Mexico. It's a place where the desert meets agriculture, where the California dream smashes up against an often-harsh reality.

In 2008, reviewing Vollman's book "Riding Toward Everywhere" in our pages, Marc Weingarten wrote:

Vollmann thinks a lot about savagery and the human capacity for suffering. It's a major preoccupation of his numerous novels and volumes of reportage.... The author, as he explains near the beginning [of "Riding Toward Everywhere"], is a man given to frequent reflection -- even self-recrimination at times -- about his place in the world.

"All I know is that although I live a freer life than many people, I want to be freer still," he writes. "I'm sometimes positively dazzled with longing for a better way of being."

As Vollman has a tendency to report right from the center of things, his book -- and his reading -- should be interesting. Although odds are against it, he may have found a better way of being in Imperial County.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: William T. Vollmann in 2005. Credit: Kent Lacin / For The Times