Tom Bissell on Trying to Edit William T. Vollmann

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In the above video, author and editor Tom Bissell describes his failed attempts to edit William T. Vollmann’s epic work, Rising Up, Rising Down. Bissell wanted to cut 1,000 pages, but instead Vollmann had the work published in full as a beautiful seven-volume set from McSweeney’s.

Vollmann did later radically cut the book down in a single-volume abridged version for Ecco, saying the seven-volume work took “twenty-three years … The abridgment took me half an hour.”

Vollmann explained his decision to do an abridged version:

I did it for the money. In other words, I can’t pretend (although you may disagree) that a one-volume reduction is any improvement upon the full version. All the same, it’s not necessarily worse. For one thing, the possibility now exists that someone might read it.

(Video produced by the LA Review of Books.)

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