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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A bracing dose of reality for an unreal world." -- Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics

"...erudite, eloquent ... with good humor about the hilariously grotesque North American nightmare of car-addicted suburban sprawl." -- Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse

"Prepare to be enlightened, infuriated and amused." -- Gregory Greene, Director - The END of SUBURBIA

"... so enlightening yet casual that the reader feels like they're eavesdropping into the den of Kunstler's prodigious mind." -- Andrew D. Blechman, author of Leisureville

"After several years in serious conversation with guru Kunstler, it's clear that Crary has more than earned his chops in the peak oil and resource-lifestyle conversation." -- Lindsay Curren, "Transition Voice," Dec. 12, 2011

Online to On Paper - Review by Greg Fry, Spotlight News, November 14th 2011

Each week, Duncan Crary and James Howard Kunstler take to the web to talk about the world, and what’s to come in communities across America.

Crary has taken those insightful and sometimes unconventional conversations and turned them into a new book. “The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler…The Tragic Comedy of Suburban Sprawl” is a collection of more than 100 hours of recorded conversations with Kunstler over a span of four years that have turned into a popular podcast and radio show.

“We’re in uncharted territory as far as media consumption and the book industry in general,” Crary said. “I think maybe this book is a nice example of how different media can compliment each other.”

Kunstler is a nationally known author, commentator and lecturer who travels around the country to offer his thoughts and analysis on issues related to suburban sprawl and the development of everything from shopping centers to housing in suburban areas. Crary first spoke with Kunstler, a resident of Saratoga Springs, while he was a reporter for The Spotlight. Their relationship continued as Crary’s career took off.

“I continued to interview him as a reporter for every newspaper or magazine I went on to work for,” Crary said. “I always felt like he had so much more to say, and there’s only so much you can fit into a clever sound byte.”
The two linked up for the podcast, which attracts 10,000 listeners each week, according to Crary. The relationship is one that meshes two distinct personalities. Crary described Kunstler as a “snarky, curmudgeonly, witty critic and commentator,” while admitting that he has been accused of being a smirking, satirical sidekick on the podcast.

By the time their conversations are completed, the two have tackled issues facing communities across the nation, while taking in the problems facing the country with a grain of salt.

“Part of it is being able to laugh at ourselves, and some of the pain we cause ourselves,” said Crary. “When I laugh at these things, I’m not trying to come off as feeling superior. I understand why people make the choice to live in suburbia. There are a lot of reasons. I’ve heard them all, and some of them are compelling. But, you’ve got to be able to laugh at the fiasco we’ve gotten ourselves into right now as a country and a culture.”

The shows, which are the basis for the book, are filled with discussions of topics as global as the consumption of fossil fuels and as local as the growth of towns and cities. Crary contends that there is more interest these days in talking about the important issues.

“People are getting more concerned about the quality of the buildings and the businesses in their town, because the price of gas is getting more expensive, and the price of everything is getting more expensive,” said Crary. “People are getting laid off and they’re worried that they are going to be trapped in some neighborhood or environment where they can’t access anything to function in their daily lives.”

During their shows, Crary and Kunstler use issues facing the Capital District as a basis for their conversations, but find a way to attract a national audience that finds similarities in their own communities.

“I wanted to take the essential conversations that I’ve had with Jim over the years and present them in a book form to reach a larger audience,” said Crary.
More information about Crary’s book and the weekly podcast can be found at kunstlercast.com.



The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler Review by Alan David Doane, the ADD blog, November 9th 2011

I am jealous of hell of author Duncan Crary. Might as well admit it right up front.

In my 25 years in radio, I interviewed Jim Kunstler maybe a dozen times, usually short chats to get a sound bite for a news story about local development issues in the Albany/Saratoga Springs/Glens Falls, New York area that I spent my entire radio career broadcasting in and around. A couple of times I did longer interviews with Kunstler, the author of a number of brilliant books about culture and cultural collapse, including the non-fiction landmarks The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency, and a pair of hugely entertaining and thought-provoking novels, World Made by Hand and The Witch of Hebron. A year ago, I profiled his appearance at a local book fair. I admit it, I enjoy reading Kunstler’s writing, and I enjoy picking his brain every chance I get. But Crary is the visionary broadcaster who got the idea to sit down with him week-in and week-out for a wildly entertaining and informative podcast, The KunstlerCast.

In Crary’s deceptively compact new book of the same name, you’ll find the ultimate primer to everything Kunstler, as the author has mined scores of the duo’s podcasts to create an indispensable document of James Howard Kunstler’s personal history, philosophy, observations and predictions.

Crary doesn’t put on kid gloves in their interviews, for example tackling head-on the popular perception that Kunstler was wrong about Y2K (he wasn’t; it could have been a global catastrophe, but because it was a comprehensible, solvable problem, the disaster was averted). There are even a few passages where the pair don’t seem quite simpatico on some issue or other, and Kunstler’s bristling fairly electrifies the page. He’s a crusty curmudgeon, as readers of his weekly Clusterfuck Nation blog no doubt are aware, but Kunstler’s sharp edges are greatly mitigated by the fact that he is a blunt, no-bullshit observer of our times and our culture, and the book nicely encapsulates just why I’ve held JHK in very high esteem over the past couple of decades.

Readers new to Kunstler will come away with a much better picture of his place in our culture. He is frequently dismissed as a “doom-and-gloom naysayer,” but it’s impossible to come away from these discussions with Crary without understanding in full that Kunstler believes once we get past the long emergency we are now fully engaged in, we could come out of it on the other side with a better world, operating at a more human scale, with smarter priorities and strategies for living. In fact, we have no choice, if the human race is to continue. The Happy Motoring Era, as Kunstler calls the past century-plus of cheap energy and cheaper lifestyles, is now racing so quickly to its conclusion that we are all dizzy from the ride and no longer able to deny that we see where this is all going. There can be imagined no better map and guide than The KunstlerCast book. Stick one in your go-bag and take it on the road with you in your inevitable post-apocalyptic trek through the wasteland that was once America. Let it keep you company as you Occupy your hometown. Put it on the shelves with the rest of your intelligent, forward-looking and wickedly funny books. But whatever you do, buy it and read it. You’re lost without it.


From the Author

For four years, I talked with a very interesting man named James Howard Kunstler. This is a record of what he told me.

A technical note

(From "Intro," The KunstlerCast)

When I first conceived of the idea to produce a book based on a podcast, I thought I had invented the world's laziest way to write a book. My idea was: stick a microphone in front of a well-known author, record, transcribe and publish. What follows was not so easy to produce. And it is not a verbatim transcript with my conversations with Jim.

This is an edited reconstruction of a dialogue that spanned many years. It is based on transcripts of our weekly dispatches, which unfolded in no particular order, so I have selected, reordered and edited for length and clarity the exchanges I felt were most important. With a few slight exceptions, I have left Jim's words as they were spoken, cutting only for length, redundancy and to splice related thoughts together. I have taken more liberty with my own words, mostly to provide smoother transitions.

It is a strange thing to be credited as the author of a book based on a long conversation in which another person does most of the talking. I am more like the host of this book, which eventually wrote itself.

--Duncan Crary
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865716935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716933
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,342,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Duncan Crary is a journalist, editor and new media producer. He is the host and producer of "A Small American City," a program about life in Troy, New York. From 2008 to 2012, he hosted and produced The KunstlerCast, a popular weekly podcast featuring James Howard Kunstler (author of The Geography of Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and World Made By Hand), Crary has recorded face-to-face podcast interviews with dozens of noted authors, including: Sir Salman Rushdie, Christopher Hitchens and E.O. Wilson. Duncan Crary lives in Troy, New York.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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NEITHER is good.
Robert David STEELE Vivas
Been a fan of James Howard Kunstler since I saw him on Franklin Lopez's Vidcast and read The Long Emergency.
Robert G. San Socie
If you listen to the podcast, you will most definitely benefit from reading the book.
Scott D. Mittelsteadt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
THIS IS AN OCCUPY BOOK. It illuminates legitimate grievances being talked about by Occupy.

First, having read The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, I urge anyone interested in this book to buy both. They are completely different. This book is not a substitute for the first book.

Second, although the "author" Duncan Crary takes great pains to minimize his role, I have dealt with massive transcripts and historical artifacts covering long spans and would say that he has done a heroic job--he has excelled--at pulling out "just enough, just right" pieces and ordering them into the following section (since Look Inside the Book is not available, I list them):

Geography of Nowhere
End of Surburbia
American Culture
Architecture
Getting There
The City in Mind
Urban Polemicists
Parting Words

This is an unconventional book in size, a squarish 6" by 6"), and an excellent travel companion. I read it flying across the Atlantic.

The key word in this book is DESIGN. That word is absent from all planning in the USA today.

Kunstler, the primary voice in this book, is creative and caustic in his rendered judgments.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on November 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
James Howard Kunstler is a journalist turned social critic and the author of numerous books, most prominently The Geography of Nowhere and The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century. These two books address the seemingly disparate topics of urban planning and the global oil economy, but to Kunstler and like-minded readers, they are troublesomely knit together, intensifying the problems that each causes. For the past three years, Kunstler has talked each week with on these and connected topics with his co-host, Duncan Crary, who has now produced a partial record of their discussions -- a collection which will no doubt please Kunstler's fans, while offering those unfamiliar with his work their first taste of it.

Although his modern work ties to his predictions for the post-oil future, most of Kunstler's nonfiction works fall within the realm of urban criticism. Americans who have never encountered his ire may be staggered by how much of their world he holds in scorn. Just what is it about the modern city and suburban sprawl that he finds so appalling? In a word, everything. The opening sentence of The Geography of Nowhere, in which Kunstler attempts to summarize why he wrote the book, is a paragraph long. The growth of American cities and later, the 'edge' cities that grew out of suburbian sprawl, has centered on the automobile, and the result is the decline of public transit like rail lines in favor of highways -- infrastructure built on the promise of cheap gasoline, and frightfully ugly to behold. Its decentralization destroys the integrity of human communities and is in part responsible for the rising obesity problem in the U.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert G. San Socie on November 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
Duncan Crary has put together a well written and finely thought out book as a companion to one of the best Podcasts on the net!!! Both book and podcast cut a trail through the clutter of media corporatism to bring us something media loves to hide--simply truth. Far from doom and gloom it asks us to look at the world as adults and not drink the Techno Kool-Aid. Been a fan of James Howard Kunstler since I saw him on Franklin Lopez's Vidcast and read The Long Emergency. Have read all his books and plays that have been published. So sue me! The Gem was finding Duncan & Jim's Podcast to round out the books with current news and updates that make the writing more vivid in a fast paced changing world. That is some ways never seems to change. This book will be sent to my friends that are not into podcasts. Great Work Young Duncan Fight On! Not being a writer,just a reader and listener, I hope this review helps turn more people on to a fun book and a entertaining an informative podcast. Pull up a chair and get caught up with the latest "gam."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on December 10, 2011
Format: Paperback
Ten years ago, I discovered James Howard Kunstler's "Geography of Nowhere" and it changed everything about the way I saw my life going forward. To this day, although I drive to work, I live in a walkable, urban area - a true mixed-use neighborhood of multi-families, corner stores, coffee houses and farmer's markets. I don't remember why I picked it up - only that I then read every book written by J.H. Kunstler (aside from his fiction). Now, ten years older, and a bit more critical, I am reading the KunstlerCast, covering much of the same topics. I am no longer the starry-eyed twenty five year old, but now more well-read, older, having lived more and seen more ... I have a more critical eye.

Fair disclosure - Mr. Crary himself sent me the book for review, which I thank him for here. But you should know that it has no effect on my review here.

As a book of interviews, I will tell you that it's a lot more readable than a lot of non-fiction out there. Kunstler's sense of humor really comes through. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the Crary and Kunstler develop. Crary's introduction, explaining his first encounter with Kunstler, brought back memories for me of my own discovery of the man's work. I love the format of this book - interviews and occasionally callouts of particularly interesting or funny thoughts. I hate to say this but you could probably skip the books and just read this, if you were short on time.

Reading this book reminded me of what most of America is like, because as even JHK admits, Massachusetts and Boston are somewhat special, having been so heavily settled in the early centuries after the Europeans arrived, there was little room to add sprawl. On a day to day basis, I do not see the kind of sprawl discussed in this book.
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