Jibes aside, though, McLemee writes that the book (books?) are nothing if not a reflection of its readers’ longings: “Given the course of recent events, the publication of a masterpiece exploring the nature and consequences of violence is a thing greatly to be wished — especially if it were written by a contemporary American author, synthesizing specialist knowledge with a novelist’s imagination.”
That much would mark McLemee’s essay as uncommon for the consumer gossip report-style of the Times‘ book pages, but read on, not for Vollman but for McLemee’s investigation into the roots of such a desire — Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism, Thomas More’s utopianism, the “ethics of the survivalist,” the blind ecstasy of logorrhea. In short, all the fixings for one hell of a cult guru.
McLemee’s frustration with Vollman’s “narcissistic didacticism” stop him from going the last step in this analysis — naming the novelist’s work as a full-blown attempt to create a scripture as complete as the cosmos it hopes to contain.
A seductive and terrifying proposition.