If you haven’t read Kunstler’s book “A WORLD MADE BY HAND” you might want to get hold of a copy. It has managed to stir up some interesting debates.
Freeacre’s instant criticism was the demeaning and non dimensional role of women in a post apocalyptic age, for which I must agree. There are numerous web sites that have been critical of the novel, and for much the same reason. Here is one of the better analysis of that book that I have come across. http://sharonastyk.com/ The comments on the article and the book are also interesting. On Kunstler’s web site, he answers some of those criticisms which, frankly, I find to be fatuous.
The problem with criticisms of novels (an authors speculation about a non historical event or future events) is that the criticisms often revolve around what was said or not said, not the story or the skill of the writer. It is not history, nor even necessarily a valid prediction about the future. It is a particular author’s ability to tell a fictional story and keep you reading it, and if you like his style, to buy his books and make money for his living. We also have authors that write novels that center around historical events, that use data from those events to create a story about those events, but it is still fiction.
I know people that will not read what they consider to be fiction. Of course, we know that a lot of “non fiction” is very fictional. If you have any doubts about this, dive into a bunch of the early anthropological “non fiction” reports on indigenous people. Among those that will not read fiction are those that only read technical manuals and research reports. Know quite a few of them also. Again, much of their reading, although touted as real world data, is in fact fiction, especially when the conclusions are realized to be a non-secuitur (a conclusion that does not follow from the inference).
So why read novels at all? Right off the top, if they are engaging and well done, they are entertaining. But at a deeper level, often they contain insights about human behavior and motivations. This is also true of movies, novels with pictures. I am sure all of us have had experiences with movies that did not hold our interest or were soon forgotten, and the same can be said for the book forms also.
One form of the novel that I am familiar with in the extreme and enjoy immensely is the Science Fiction (SF) genera. These are novels that explore life into the future and sometimes into the mystical, magical and absurd. The newer SF that has been out in the last number of years I often don’t bother to finish. My impression is that the authors are being paid by the word instead of content, and often the content is totally absent or so weak and disjointed that it is a waste of time to finish the book. Not even good entertainment value.
However, well done fiction contains ideas and insights that can be valuable to the reader. Often they contain an analysis of human motivations that can be useful. In regards to “A WORLD MADE BY HAND” (WMBH) we might criticize Kunstler for making many of his characters shallow, particularly women, but looking about our society today, can’t we say that now? On this blog site we tend to be highly critical of the shallowness and self serving behavior exhibited by citizens and leaders alike. Should we expect a different perspective from our stories in movie and book form? For me, books and movies that depict all of the characters as either shallow or overly complex personalities do not hold my interest. Even in documentaries that are supposedly snapshots of real life contain extremes one way or another and are expressions of the writer’s prejudices and agendas.
We have been watching a number of European made films lately. Some have actually been based on American life. It is interesting to me to see how these film writers perceive us and the generalized writing difference. Generally, in my view, European films seem to be divided into slapstick comedy or deep introspection and psychological examinations into behavior. This introspection is largely absent in much of American Hollywood films that instead focus on action and complex plots. There are exceptions of course in both cases. It is also interesting to me to see Asian movies and how they emphasize a completely different perspective, honor, loyalty and single track objectives in a social dynamic that is very foreign to us.
A friend recently brought over for our examination a couple of issues of “Nexus” magazine. There is also a web site by the same name (http://www.nexusmagazine.com/) that has a few articles that were in the magazine you can read without registration. But the magazine is much more interesting because of ads and some of the really far out articles in it. This publication has what I would call ‘wing nut’ stuff in proliferation. Obviously, if you had sufficient interest, you could look for other sources for verification of the information, but off the top, it is a whole lot of short fiction novels written as if it was a documentary or fact. Our bookstores, news stands and the internet have quite a bit of this kind of writing for you to look at. The problem is the verification. Most of this kind of information content simply cannot be checked out, for a variety of reasons. Of more importance to me are the questions; If it is true, what can I do about it, or what impact will it have on my life and those around me and how should I prepare for whatever it is? I tend to look at such information from the standpoint of being an interesting novel concerning the future that may or may not turn out to be true.
A number of years back, there were numerous writings talking about peak oil. To a large extent, these writing were considered to be fictional novels by the mainstream news and population. As it has turned out, it appears to be more of an accurate predictive data presentation. Many writings from years back have been treated the same and many were accurately viewed as novels. Remember all the writings about Y2K?
But, back to WMBH. This novel falls into the classification of ‘apocalyptic novels’. A huge catastrophe has happened and killed off a large percentage of the population and the novel revolves around how the people that are left organize themselves to keep going. In many respects, it has the appearance of being rather realistic, despite the author’s treatment of women. Different enclaves of survivors may very well do it different under their particular circumstances. Looking at how humans deal with emergencies throughout history, I would say it is quite realistic. Greedy and power hungry people still work at being greedy and powerful. How humans deal with that in a future scenario is what I am interested in. In WMBH, Kunstler has a set of answers. We shall see if we live long enough to experience it.