William T. Vollmann's POOR PEOPLE

National Book Award-winning novelist William T. Vollmann has published a compelling book on poverty, titled simply Poor People (Ecco/HarperCollins), with interviews he conducted all around the world.

Writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (3/11/07), National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) president John Freeman compares Vollman’s project to James Agee’s and Walker Evans’ study of white sharecroppers in 1936:

By eschewing the usual social-science observations, Vollmann has written a book of enormous power—one that honors the magnitude of each story it records. “For me,” Vollmann writes, “poverty is not mere deprivation; for people may possess fewer things than I and be richer; poverty is wretchedness. It must then be an experience more than an economic state. It therefore remains somewhat immeasurable.”

Chuck Leddy, another NBCC member, writes the following in The Christian Science Monitor (3/13/07):

Throughout the book, Vollmann ruminates deeply on the manifold causes and consequences of poverty, and on what obligation individuals and nations have toward the poor. He considers the role of the United Nations, and the widely lauded idea of “more aid, better directed,” but remains skeptical about slogans …

Poor People enlightens, posing important questions and putting a human face on the socioeconomic statistics.