By Charles McGrath for The New York Times "A companion volume ( to Imperial by William T. Vollmann), to be published next month by powerHouse Books, contains some 200 photographs he took while working on "Imperial," for which he also wore a spy camera while trying to infiltrate a Mexican factory, and paddled in an inflatable raft down the New River in California, a rancid trench that is probably the most polluted stream in America. The water, he writes, tasted like the Salk polio vaccine."
..."Imperial," which is about Imperial County in California, the vast, flat and arid region in the southeastern part of the state, bordering Mexico, is an extreme Vollmann production: brilliant in places, practically unreadable in others. There are lyrical passages, and others edging over into magenta ("And change came; just as the urine of dehydrated people is turbid and dark, failing in transparency, so the evening sunlight, as if heated to exhaustion by and with itself, now lost the glaring whiteness which had characterized it since early morning, and it oozed down upon the pavement to stain it with gold"), along with scientific chapters, complete with graphs, on salinization and agricultural productivity, and 175 pages of notes. A page early on has a title warning of "Impending Aridity."
An Author Without Borders: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/29/books/29vollman.html
Related Link: A Drive Through 'Imperial'
Imperial. Photogarphs by William T. Vollmann. Powerhouse Books,