Friday, February 12, 2016

World made by Kunstler

     Yin. Yang. Yawn. That, in a nutshell, is my winter reading routine. I have a cushy old chair beside the woodstove. A chunk of firewood stands upright next to the chair. It makes a perfect stand for my coffee cup. A couple of dogs snooze on the couch facing the stove. This is my nook and while it may sound idyllic, it's not without its challenges.
     After a cold day working outside it's heaven to settle into the chair with a hot drink, a good book and the fire crackling. The yin of comfort. But soon enough the warmth, relaxation and reading become a soporific yang. Eyelids get heavy, attention fades and my head nods. That's the yawn.
     But I'm made of stern stuff and do my best to cope with these hardships. Fortunately I've had help from James Howard Kunstler. He is the social critic and prolific author of a shelf-load of books. His canon has been the focus of my winter evenings and his disruptive ideas and engaging storytelling have helped keep me awake.

     Kunstler is probably best known for The Geography of Nowhere, a critique of what he calls our "crudscape". He takes acerbic aim at suburbia, sprawl and the tyranny of the automobile and often hits the mark. He followed up with Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and other works spotlighting problems of (and solutions to) our oil addled, car centric, technologic world.

Two sides of Greenwich - Big Box sprawl and a charming residential street

     He also writes fiction, including a post-apocalyptic World Made by Hand series of novels.There are three currently published with the fourth and final installment due out this spring. Read these and you might think you recognize some of the characters, almost as if they were your neighbors. And this is literally true since the story takes place in Washington County and the settings are only thinly veiled and slightly rearranged. Kunstler has lived in Schuylerville, Saratoga and Greenwich and he observes the local area and its people with telling perception.

The look and feel of World Made by Hand

     I'm sure Battenkill Books can get you any of the authors titles and you'll also find a smattering of his work in local libraries. He also maintains an interesting website. Check out his photo tour of Greenwich and the comments it elicits or follow the creation of his productive and inspiring backyard garden. There is his blog, podcasts, "the eyesore of the month" and, surprisingly, a gallery of his paintings. The guy is a torrent of ideas and creativity and you can see this firsthand at North Main Gallery in Salem. They are hosting an exhibition of his art with an opening reception on Saturday, February 13 from 2 - 5pm. Combine this with a visit to Steininger's or Jocko's and you've put life, color and taste into the dead of winter! 

Place at the Table - Washington Square Deli

                                                                                                                                                                          If you decide to do a walking tour of Greenwich, as Kunstler does on his website, you're going to work up an appetite. I'ld recommend a stop at the Washington Square Deli for their selection of homemade soups, chili, subs and sandwiches. They always have lunch and dinner specials and the antique ambience of their cozy dining area adds to the enjoyment of your meal. Plus you'll be sitting within sight of their dessert counter! We often stop in for road trip provisions when exploring southern Washington County. Great way to start or finish an outing.

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