World Made By Hand, a must-read.

Casting about for a suitable novel to nominate for the 2010 IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award, (it has to be a novel published in English in 2008), I settled on James Howard Kunstler's World Made By Hand, a post-"peak-oil", post-"global-warming" novel set in the near future. It's been widely reviewed, so I won't waste my breath summarizing it.

The publisher, Grove/Atlantic, has mounted an impressive web site for it, redolent of Ken Burns, with its sepia photographs and plaintive folk string music. Yet, I thought they got it just right. Reading the novel, I had a sense of what Civil War reenactors call "period rush". If all the crap of modern electronic life went away, would a primitive American sensibility reassert itself? In the novel, there is a kind of bleed-through from our ante-bellum past to the world just over the horizon.

I had thought I remembered reading a review in the NYT, but now I think I saw him on Colbert. Kunstler has a religious sect, the "New Faithers", arrive to settle in the upper New York State town of Union Grove from Virginia. But they put me in mind of New York's "Burned-Over District", the region that produced the Mormons, the Shakers, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and other Protestant sects.


Author web site.


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