The Perfect Near-Future Novel To Get You Through The Recession

Need a book to get you through another year of unemployment, glacier melts or maybe even another oil crisis? World Made By Hand could do the trick.

The soft-apocalypse novel, by the sometimes kooky upstate New York social critic James Howard Kunstler, was well received when it came out in March 2008 — it drew blurbs from environment guru Bill McKibben, and author Alan Weisman (The World Without Us), who called it "as provocatively convincing novel set in a future possibly as near as tomorrow."

But even before the paperback was out, this novel about a world that's wound down and devolved after a few bombs, a tanked economy and a major resource shortage, had taken on a new level of poignance and prophetic power. It describes that world close-up, as it affects an honest man living a kind of post-Fall village life, without the portentuousness of McCarthy's The Road or the mystical mumbo jumbo of other apocalypse novels. Instead, it's bluegrass and homemade beer.

Life becomes very seasonal, and globalism is over: All the food and drink is local now, though it's not exactly a Michael Pollan-Chez Panisse paradise. Tribalism, ignorance and religious zealotry make a comeback, as well as community, loyalty and some of the nobler aspects of the human story.

The speed by which science-fiction can turn into daily life — and vice versa — has been accelerating of late. Kunstler's understated novel shows how fast it can happen and how complex it all becomes.

The World Made By Hand [official site]