“Readable” shouldn’t be a compliment, but

But. In the case of William Vollmann, it’s oddly high praise. Which is to say: I’ve been reading The Dying Grass, and while I generally do enjoy the challenge of a Vollmann book, I’ll be one of the first to admit that there’s often long passages where I just kind of shrug and plow through and wait to pick up the thread again, but, with this book, that isn’t happening all that often. There’s still a good deal of go-with-the-flow here but I find the flow itself to be pretty much front and center and refreshingly followable, without ever feeling either like he’s dumbing the work down or the story down; he’s still stubbornly himself at every turn, but the version of his writing he’s putting forward here is the kind that makes it a lot easier to want to suggest that maybe people who wouldn’t typically read Vollmann might want to give this one a shot. Don’t let the indentation cause concern; for me it feels almost like a poetic or dramatic device rather than one with any real strict literal meaning to it, one that often enough simply blends into the flow of the book but every now and then gives rise to a really startlingly crisp moment of insight and affect. I don’t know that I would literally call this book poetry but I would say that it puts me in mind of Mark Z. Danielewski’s Only Revolutions, except you know even for not being poetry Vollmann’s book offers far superior poetry on just about every single page.