World Made By Hand
James Howard Kunstler

On: World Made By Hand

The latest hot news is that Michael Phelps, the phenomenal Olympic swimming champion, is not above smoking a little dope when a bong is passed around at a party. Various swimming bureaucrats professed to be shocked --- SHOCKED! --- at this news, and are reported to have "suspended" Michael for three months.

Does this mean that whenever he goes into the pool in the next three months, it won't be considered "swimming" officially, but just poking around in the water? If that's what they mean, Mr. Phelps could earn a trunkfull of Olympic medals for poking around in the water faster than any other human being can poke.

Certain corporate sponsors have also dropped him, although you would think that the makers of items like bongs and roach-clips would speedily replace Kellogg's and Speedo.

I was reminded of this by RALPH's review of World Made By Hand, James Howard Kunstler's new novel about life after Peak Oil. Your estimable reviewer noticed the book's almost obsessive wallowing in descriptions of homey but delicious food prepared from the various characters' kitchen gardens.

But he overlooked the fact that all the characters also raise marijuana, not to mention various medicinal crops, along with their abundant plantings of herbs, maize, yams, squash, okra, and berries. The prevalence of pot, alongside this farmers' market cornucopia, is a clear tip-off about the book's cultural origins.

The novel's simple, close-to-the-soil life obviously grows straight out of late 60s hippiedom. I have friends from those days who turned on, tuned in, dropped out, and went back to the land to construct a life much like that portrayed in World Made By Hand. The only difference is that they raise goats as well as maize, squash, and marijuana. I was a little puzzled by the absence of goats in Kunstler's novel, but perhaps he felt that would make the connection all too obvious.

In one of his essays, I don't remember where, Kunstler mentions in passing that he was a 60s hippy himself. I wonder whether the tremendous gusto of his prose in The Long Emergency and World Made By Hand doesn't stem from sheer, gleeful satisfaction at the argument --- and he makes it very plausible indeed --- that circumstances will soon force everybody to live the way he and his friends attempted to live back in the good old days of the late 60s, evidently just a little ahead of their time. Why, once the fossil fuel is gone, they will be there already, with their maize, squash, pot, and autoharps.

Pass the bong.

--- Herman M. Fessenden
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