Reading Long and Reading Hard

vollmann.jpegSan Francisco Chronicle: “It’s impossible to do justice in this space to the 3,299 pages of philosophic declaration, autobiography, journalism and intellectual exhibitionism in machete-sharp prose and photography.”

The new Vollmann set, Rising Up and Rising Down is $120, seven volumes, 3,299 pages, and 20 pounds. It took a year for the McSweeney’s people to fact check. Frankly, it’s astonishing that any newspaper bothered to review it.

But despite Vollmann’s prolificity, Zoetrope can’t get a new story out of him. “I love literary magazines, but they don’t pay what the big ones do.”

Vollmann on fact checking: “I told them I wanted a fact checker since some of the things that I say may be controversial and I’m not a scholar. Or not an academic, and I’m talking about so many different things. At the very least I want to make sure that I’m not making errors in my sources. And so they’ve given me four or five of them. They’re great people to work with. They’ve been looking up every single book that I cite. I don’t know how many I cite, but the bibliography is probably like 100 pages long.”

[3/22/04 UPDATE: Months later, the Vollman set received a cover story on the NYTBR. Of course, who’d expect anyone to read all those pages so quickly? I should also note that publishing such an ambitious work was one of the coolest things that the Eggers clan did.]