Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation

Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation

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by James Howard Kunstler
     
 

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James Howard Kunstler’s critically acclaimed and best-selling The Long Emergency, originally published in 2005, quickly became a grassroots hit, going into nine printings in hardcover. Kunstler’s shocking vision of our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders alike, and stimulated widespread discussion about

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Overview

James Howard Kunstler’s critically acclaimed and best-selling The Long Emergency, originally published in 2005, quickly became a grassroots hit, going into nine printings in hardcover. Kunstler’s shocking vision of our post-oil future caught the attention of environmentalists and business leaders alike, and stimulated widespread discussion about our dependence on fossil fuels and our dysfunctional financial and government institutions. Kunstler has since been profiled in The New Yorker and invited to speak at TED. In Too Much Magic, Kunstler evaluates what has changed in the last seven years and shows us that, in a post-financial-crisis world, his ideas are more relevant than ever.

“Too Much Magic” is what Kunstler sees in the bright visions of a future world dreamed up by optimistic souls who believe technology will solve all our problems. Their visions remind him of the flying cars and robot maids that were the dominant images of the future in the 1950s. Kunstler’s image of the future is much more sober. With vision, clarity of thought, and a pragmatic worldview, Kunstler argues that the time for magical thinking and hoping for miracles is over, and the time to begin preparing for the long emergency has begun.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With characteristic curmudgeonly enthusiasm, Kunstler brilliantly if belligerently shows us what a pickle we’re in and how inept we are at dealing with it. As Kunstler writes: “Our lust for ever more comfort, pleasure, and distraction, our refusals to engage with the mandates of reality, our fidelity to the cults of technology and limitless growth, our narcissistic national exceptionalism—all propel us toward the realm where souls abandon all hope.” He offers astute critical histories of both political parties, narrating the Democrats’ decline into “the party of nothing in particular,” and how the fundamentalism of Southern “poor agricultural peasants” combined with car culture to create the right-wing “official party of stupidity.” Equally disturbing, he proposes that our financial system may already be in permanent collapse, that the promise of natural gas abundance is based more on desperation for fossil fuel than reality, and that Mother Nature may be exacting revenge. Not surprisingly, his best-case vision for the future mirrors his unsettling 2008 novel World Made by Hand, complete with the end of feminism. Surprisingly, Kunstler concludes with homely advice worthy of a graduation speech: “Demonstrate to yourself that you are a competent person who can understand the signals that reality is sending to you... and act intelligently in response.” Agent: Adam Chromy, Moveable Type Management. (July)
From the Publisher

Praise for Too Much Magic:

“James Howard Kunstler’s new much-publicized critique of humanity, Too Much Magic, predicts peak oil, the death of the automobile and the fall of the global economy as we know it.”—Huffington Post

“In his latest book, Kunstler zeroes in on the central narrative of our time: that we are a highly evolved and technologically sophisticated civilization that will use our ingenuity and engineering expertise to come up with a solution to all the problems we face . . . In Kunstler’s view, this is a childish fantasy. . . . Kunstler believes that we are living on borrowed time—our banking and political systems are corrupt, our fossil fuel reserves are dwindling, the seas are rising—but we’re still partying like it’s 1959.” —Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone

“Kunstler . . . delivers a cold slap to the fantasists who believe technology will save us. . . . A sharp demand to disenthrall ourselves.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[Kunstler’s] views are not a popular or welcomed position in America today. . . But his views about the future appear more and more to be being validated by current events. . . . In his new book, Too Much Magic, Kunstler updates his prior writings on Peak Oil stating how Americans’ long-held, ill-conceived belief that new technologies can always conquer our problems is leading us into a period of great denial and subsequent anger. . . . His new book and his prior works are worth the read. Throughout his work, he offers the surprisingly positive idea an energy limited future might well bring about many of the the things the nation at large claims to crave.”—Examiner.com

“James Howard Kunstler describes himself as an ‘all-purpose writer’, and boy can he write . . . [he makes his subjects] interesting and useful to the reader, without talking down to, or boring us. . . . Too Much Magic, like The Long Emergency, is destined to become a Peak Oil classic.”—Kathy McMahon, Energy Bulletin

“I highly encourage you to read the book, and to check out Kunstler’s other works.”—Urban Times

“Kunstler’s writing is remarkably lucid, readable, incisive, accurate, and telling, making it the absolute non-fiction page turner of 2012 . . . It is a MUST READ! . . . The definitive book for anyone who is done with fairy tales and who is ready to meet the world where it really is.”—Transition Voice

“Kunstler is a big fan of paleo-futurism. In 2001, there was no space odyssey. We are almost to 2015 and it is unlikely there will be any of Doc Brown’s flying cars or hoverboards. The future of 2000 has not lived up to the hype of those imagining the future in 1950.”—Occidental Dissent

“Kunstler delivers a sobering message about what a post-oil society might look like and how we got ourselves into this situation . . . Too Much Magic is both a history lesson and a warning. The warning concerns how we as a society will have to deal with a world where cheap, plentiful oil is a thing of the past. The history lesson is all about how we came to live in such an oil-dependent society bent on expanding its suburbs to infinity . . . [A] rather sobering (and, at times, frightening) book that may keep you up nights . . . If nothing else, reading this book will get you thinking about serious societal issues, and you will likely learn something as well.”—KAZI Book Review

“With characteristic curmudgeonly enthusiasm, Kunstler brilliantly if belligerently shows us what a pickle we’re in and how inept we are at dealing with it.”—Publishers Weekly

“Anyone who has read Kunstler’s previous work will no doubt already be guessing that Too Much Magic is lively, curmudgeonly, and highly readable, as indeed it is.”—The Archdruid Report

“American journalist and novelist James Howard Kunstler has become widely known in urban planning and energy circles for his articulate and acerbic observations on contemporary American society and its sundry addictions, delusions and dysfunctions . . . a sharp critic of energy-sucking, big-box landscapes.”—Winnipeg Free Press

“Whether your comfort beverage of choice is herbal tea or single malt Scotch, you'd be well advised to lay in a large store before settling down with James Howard Kunstler's disturbing portrait of the U.S.'s impending decline, Too Much Magic. . . . Kunstler methodically skewers what he asserts is the misguided thinking of people like Ray Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near) who reassure us we can somehow craft benign, inexpensive fixes that will permit us to continue in a lifestyle roughly resembling the one we enjoy today. . . . a disturbing picture of the decline of American society, as our current lifestyle collapses in upon itself.”—Shelf Awareness

“Kunstler is refreshingly uninterested in spinning a bad situation. He is willing not only to read the data about resources without illusion but also to assess the state of the culture without the triumphalism so common in the affluent world. . . . He’s not claiming a crystal ball and isn’t interested in specific prediction, nor does he have a tidy list of solutions. Instead, he points out that we can’t expect to tackle problems until we recognize them."—Media with Conscience

Library Journal
Back in 2005, Kunstler's The Long Emergency highlighted the imminence of an oil-dry future as it moved through 150,000 copies and sold to nine territories. Since then, Kunstler has been asked to speak at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences and annually welcomes 700,000 unique visitors to his website. Here, he looks at the drawbacks of various alternate technologies, arguing that, pie-in-the-sky optimists to the contrary, technology doesn't have easy solutions to the energy crisis. A big book for the publisher that's poised to make waves.
Kirkus Reviews
With the era of cheap energy and easy credit now over, novelist and social critic Kunstler (The Witch of Hebron, 2010, etc.) delivers a cold slap to the fantasists who believe technology will save us. Seven years after his much-discussed jeremiad The Long Emergency, the author returns to recount the evidence supporting his predictions about our radically altered future. The still-unfolding financial crisis kicked off in 2008, exploding populations, climate change (anthropocentric or not), peak oil, and the inadequacy of alternative methods to power societies are all cited as signs we've entered the zone where our customs and habits must change so as to avoid a complete breakdown. The dangerously stressed systems that underpin the society we've known since World War II--"agriculture, commerce, manufacturing, transport, finance, the oil-gas-coal industry, the electric grid"--are too large, too complex and too expensive to sustain any longer. Followers of Kunstler's writings and attendees of his many lecture appearances will recognize the take-no-prisoners style, the harsh invective directed at familiar targets--cars, planes, skyscrapers, Wall Street, suburbia--and the pleas on behalf of walkable cities, trains and farms built to human scale. The added feature here is the scorn he directs at those who refuse to recognize the severity and dimensions of the crisis he describes. He trashes the "delusional groupthink" of Google executives who confuse energy with technology; he abuses industry leaders who promote so-called "clean" coal, shale oil and gas to extend our fossil fuel addiction; he chides self-described "greens" for wildly overestimating the readiness of alternatives or renewables to fill the breach; he lambastes both political parties for their irrelevance; and he berates futurists like Ray Kurzweil for their "techno-grandiosity," for magical thinking, and for their steadfast refusal to accept that something that can't go on forever won't. A sharp demand to disenthrall ourselves, to instead face the future with "practical skill and something like common sense."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802120304
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
06/19/2012
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

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