Monday, December 31, 2018



William T. Vollmann confronts climate change
William T. Vollmann. No Immediate Danger: Volume 1 of Carbon Ideologies. Viking, 2018.
William T. Vollmann. No Good Alternative: Volume 2 of Carbon Ideologies. Viking, 2018.
IN 2018... It might be fair to ask at this stage of the game if it is rational to speak of “solving” climate change at all.
William T. Vollmann seems to think that it is not. His two-volume Carbon Ideologies, nearly 1,300 pages long with “129,000 words of source notes, citations, and calculations” ...
Carbon Ideologies does not appear to aspire to readability. The primer’s level of technical detail simply doesn’t justify the hemorrhaging of readers it will unquestionably induce... We learn that ... Vollmann loves gadgets and toys. In the first volume, this love expresses itself mainly in the form of an unmistakably phallic pancake frisker he carries around Fukushima... pointing it at a bald statue of a praying man at a temple called Hen Jo...
Above all we understand that after Vollmann’s years of scary research, he feels unbearably guilty for his awe and use of fossil fuels.,, he also excoriates himself for nearly every convenience he might conceivably enjoy. Lighthouses, ice-makers, breakfast, books. Glasses and a nylon bristle brush...
Vollmann predicts that glass, which, like everything else, is surprisingly carbon-intensive to manufacture, will become a dear commodity...  like glass, the production of paper is also carbon-intensive. 
He speculates that in the future, as civilization collapses, the goal of universal literacy will become an artifact of the past. Even if he allows that some future wretches might know how to read, I was surprised that Vollmann, in his characteristically fatalistic style, didn’t simply imagine that they would burn these hefty books for fuel.