Friday, November 18, 2011

James Howard Kunstler Talks Back to My Class

This week, in Duncan Crary's and James Howard Kunstler's weekly Kunstlercast, Jim responded to questions from my Eng. 216 "Invented Worlds" students about his novel World Made by Hand.

Jim Kunstler
Set in Washington County, New York several years after an economic collapse in America, the novel upended my students' notions of continual technological progress.

They cannot imagine a world where the screens go dark and stay dark, where chatting to friends involves talking over a fence, and where getting a meal means a trip to the garden or root-cellar.  While I tend to agree with them that Jim might underestimate human ingenuity in the face of a prolonged energy crisis or economic downturn, I likewise think my Millennial students and their Boomer and Xer parents are a bit naive about progress. They don't see clearly, or often enough, how every technological innovation brings with it unintended consequences, even as it fails to deliver every miracle we might expect (I'll shine your flying car if I'm wrong).

World Made By Hand and its sequel, The Witch of Hebron, are bracing speculative fiction, and I'm glad Jim found time, between gigs as far afield as Sweden and Australia, to be a gracious and receptive respondent.

The podcast can be found at iTunes podcast listing (search for "Kunstlercast") or from the Kunstlercast site.

Now, if the reader will excuse me, it's time to get some wood I split and fire up the wood-stove. I'm not kidding. For now, at least, blogging and wood-splitting exist side by side. In 20 years, I suspect our world is going to look more like Kunstler's and less like William Gibson's or even the banal utopia of the sofa-bound YouTube addict.

No comments: