Jim's Reviews > Imperial

Imperial by William T. Vollmann
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's review
Apr 24, 2011

it was amazing
Read from April 24 to May 16, 2011

A non-linear history of Imperial County, California. Vollmann catches the desertness of the place, illegal aliens, narcocorridos, Chinese tunnels, the casual vice of Mexicali, maquiladoras, the creaction of the Salton Sea, and now the decline of Imperial.

Vollmann is careful, balanced and wistful. He asks, but does not answer, the question of taming the desert with irrigation water and the subsequent bloom of agriculture. Now Imperial is in slow decline because it is more profitable to sell the water to San Diego and Los Angeles than grow lettuce, cotton and strawberries.

The Salton Sea was created by and accident and now will eventually go dry. Should it?

The maquiladoras pay 95 pesos (~ $10) for a days work. Is it exploitive or is a source of decent employmewnt for illiterate Mexicans?

Illegal aliens are rounded up by the 100,000/year, yet when the foremen hires day laborers early in the morning in Brawley, El Centro and Niland, the Boarder Patrol is nowhere to be found.

The Brawley I knew in 1977 is no more with the Planter's Hotel long boarded up. Memory is a funny thing. It fixes things in place for easy reference, and even when the thing no longer exists, the memory lives on --- clean and pure and bright.

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