WMBH reviewed by Holmes

This is a Review of WMBH written by Holmes.

“World Made By Hand” by James Howard Kunstler
Random comments and informal review by Holmes

Before tackling the novel in its totality, a few nit picks observed along the way…

p.54: Britney’s parents were “incinerated in Los Angeles”.
p.71: Britney’s father “did not survive the Mexican flu”.
(You just can’t get good editing help these days.)

Chapter 23: Jane Ann lights up the bowl — blatant homage to Dylan’s “Tangled up in Blue”. What Bob Dylan says in a single sentence, JHK takes an entire paragraph.

Chapter 26: Brazenly nicked from Steven King. (I don’t know if I can go any further.)

{Dark interval of introspection regarding my personal integrity, when I consider abandoning the read. But thanks to thal, I persevere.}

Chapters 44 and 45: Absurdly square, yet capably-paced slapstick (this part of WMBH, with appropriate voice over narration, would make a perfect 1960’s-style cinematic trailer). Here, in these chapters, JHK does his best Tucker Max imitation. The protagonist (finally) (sort of) cuts loose at Bullock’s shindig, briefly self-actualizing as a fiddle-playing, pot-smoking, cider-guzzling, somehow-still-laconic, post-apocalyptic Woody Allen knock-off gone vaudevillian.

I guess everyone is going to get exactly what they deserve in JHK’s version of the future.

Case in point: The bizarre love triangle-mongering 40-something Jane Ann, at the end of the story, is rather unceremoniously left as a dangling thread. Her unlikable and unworthy husband Loren recovers from his kick in the crotch (which he likewise deserved), thus conveniently giving Robert complete justification for throwing his lot in with the younger petite blonde who predictably, and as predicted by Jane Ann, “came to his bed”. (A classic literary device designed to deflect criticism, namely, having a character in the story spill the beans regarding something really predictable that is about to happen.) Robert, following the personal trajectory of the protagonist in the novel “Warwolf”, sequences through various families, each one arguably better than the one before… or at the very least, there’s an implication by JHK of fungibility in this regard. As the man says, it’s all good! “Besides, the little blonde can gut a fish! And Jane Ann’s wine was never that good anyway. And I needs to respect my good buddy Loren’s feelings. Bwahhhhhhhhh, haaaaaaa, haaaaaaaa.”

In the aggregate, JHK recounts a nearly perfect idealization and simultaneous objectification of women. Maybe he’s just a romantic realist at heart?

Robert… some hero. If he had a lick of sense, Robert never would have gone up to try and arrest the hillbilly overlord (a stone-cold killer to be sure, notwithstanding his endearing and disarming affinity for swilling booze and grilling chicken) armed only with paperwork. As character arc, Robert acquires common sense at the expense of personal heroism and avoids getting a steel-toed boot in the nuts by keeping his mouth shut. Then, he ultimately abandons the rule of law as a consequence of his new-found empathy with Brother Jobe, thus completing his descent into purely craven good old boy status. Disgusting. If this is the future, please send the nuclear bombardment toward L.A. as soon as possible. But it’s just fiction, so why should I care? I guess I just wanted to see the character agonize over (or maybe even resist) these blink-of-an-eye transformations a bit more. You might say they were forced on him. Maybe that’s the whole point. A grim future where there are no heroes, just ordinary people who get along however they can, finding ways to coexist with morally ambiguous or even repellent circumstances.

With regard to enhancing the authenticity of his scene descriptions, to his credit, JHK displays a decent amount of superficial familiarity with horses and mules. His familiarity with upstate NY “fauna and foliage”, insects, etc. is first rate and superbly well described — perhaps the strongest aspect of this book. JHK’s vision of what music will be like in the future is entertaining. I also enjoyed his prognostications regarding dentistry and medicine in general.

I found it annoying how he berated religion so often, but only because he declined to really wade in more meaningfully on the subject and certainly not in any way that was truly germane to the story. Religiosity was not a driver of plot-steering conflict at all, except for the lame haircut batteries which resulted in Brother Jobe’s arrest and temporary incarceration.

And what was the point of the cookie-eating Mama Cass with psychic powers? Is this JHK’s feeble attempt to suggest that psychic phenomena are real, and ironically within the honeycomb-like heart of some Bible god religious cult? Shock value? WTF?

Having endured 300+ pages of mostly predictable meanderings attempting to pass themselves off as a plot, anemically developed themes and abysmal characters, I’m comfortable saying that I and half of the regulars at CFN could write better fiction than this. Regardless, I remain a fan of JHK.

One Reply to “WMBH reviewed by Holmes”

  1. 300 short pages.

    I think the most disturbing part of Holmes’ review was that it left one craving more. This is why he will be an editor by Monday.

    Jessica Alba Napoleon Elba. Who gives a shit as long as you are true to yourself.

    But what was the island they sent him to after Waterloo? Saint something. Who remembers?

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