James Howard Kunstler’s World Made By Hand

Today I was reading about the British Free Festivals of the 1970s and ’80s as part of my thesis research, and came across some interesting bits about the “New Age travellers” who strove to create an alternative communitarian society of semi-nomadic artists and craftsmen.  It brought to mind a recent book I read: World Made By Hand: a Novel of the Post-Oil Future by James Howard Kunstler.

I haven’t read Kunstler’s nonfiction book The Long Emergency (it’s on my list), but apparently it provides the doom-and-gloom background for the novel.  The novel was quite good even without the background — a page-turner that was both thought-provoking and entertaining.  The tale packs plenty of action and suspense, but there’s more Mother Earth News than Mad Max in this post-apocalyptic vision, so gamers and sci-fi readers be prepared for something a bit different from what you might expect.

The book certainly got me wondering — if I had to live in the new America described in Kunstler’s novel, what the heck could I do to contribute meaningfully to the survival of my community?  I can write fairly well and play a handful of musical instruments with varying degrees of proficiency, but that sort of thing falls more into the recreational and morale-building category.  What about practical skills?  I can cook, but I’m not experienced at growing the food that goes into the pot; my black thumbs have killed plenty of plants over the years.  I can follow instructions and wield a hammer, axe, or saw well enough, but have no instinct for crafty stuff.  I’m an Eagle Scout, but it’s been a long time since I’ve built wilderness shelters or lashed tripods.  I suppose I’d be better off than some folks, but there’s a part of me that wishes I had some sort of trade I could fall back on should the worst happen and Kunstler’s vision come to pass…

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