The world has moved on, thanks to climate change, a worldwide oil shortage, and population devastation from superbugs, and in one small corner of New York State, the world is being rebuilt by hand.
Anyone who spends much time with me will eventually learn that I am obsessed with The Long Emergency, one of World Made By Hand author James Kunstler’s non-fiction treatises. I have always been drawn to the apocalyptic, and now that I am a mother I can worry about the world my daughter will inherit.
World Made By Hand is filled with Kunstlerisms–imagery and expressions that are familiar to anyone who has read his books or spent any time on his blog. He is always at his best when conjuring a decaying post-automobile America, where the suburbs are blighed ghettos and big box stores crumble without power to heat and cool them. The novel is a great introduction to the ideas that obsess Kunstler (and his acolytes, myself included), yet it’s far more hopeful than any of his jeremiads.
The protagonist of World Made By Hand is Robert, who once worked in corporate America, and who now finds himself mayor of an ersatz community in upstate New York. His townspeople just want to get by, but they’re caught between an encroaching band of religious fanatics, and a mini-despot who may have aggressively nefarious intentions towards the town. After a young man is murdered, Robert finds himself at the center of an ancient kind of conflict in a new world that looks like an old one.
I was not expecting World Made By Hand to be as lyrical as it is. If I didn’t know Kunstler’s non-fiction, I’d be taken by the poetry of many of the passages. However, as much as I was tickled to be in on Kunstler’s auto-intertextuality, it distracted me from engaging with the story. That won’t stop me from recommending it–I think it’s more accurate a picture of our future as anything found in the Jetsons!