Twenty-three years in the making, Rising Up and Rising Down (the original, published by McSweeney's in October 2003, spans seven volumes) is a rich amalgam of historical analysis, contemporary case studies, anecdotes, essays, theory, charts, graphs, photographs and drawings. Convinced that there is "a finite number of excuses" for violence and that some excuses "are more valid than others," Vollmann spent two decades consulting hundreds of sources, scrutinizing the thinking of philosophers, theologians, tyrants, warlords, military strategists, activists and pacifists. He also visited more than a dozen countries and war zones to witness violence firsthand -- sometimes barely escaping with his life.
Vollmann makes deft use of these tools and experiences to create his Moral Calculus, a structured decision-making system designed to help the reader decide when violence is justifiable and when it is not.
William T. Vollmann is the author of seven novels, three collections of stories, and a seven-volume critique of violence, Rising Up and Rising Down. He is also the author of Poor People, a worldwide examination of poverty through the eyes of the impoverished themselves; Riding Toward Everywhere, an examination of the train-hopping hobo lifestyle; and Imperial, a panoramic look at one of the poorest areas in America. He has won the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction, a Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize and a Whiting Writers' Award. His journalism and fiction have been published in The New Yorker, Esquire, Spin and Granta. Vollmann lives in Sacramento, California.