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on June 11, 2011
Although Dignity is easily read in an afternoon, I suspect it will remain a part of my consciousness much in the same way The Whole Earth Catalog has since 1968. One might say these fictional characters are kinder, gentler Luddites; and to a certain extent this is true, but it should be understood that the Luddites of 19th century England did not revolt against progress in general, but against the economic and social harm of automated looms that resulted in the loss of jobs for many skilled textile workers.

Rather than burn the mills and factories as did the followers of Ned Lud, the mysterious "B." and his disciples withdraw from the rat race, move off the grid, and forsake the Internet (including Wonkette) as modern society collapses around them following the housing crash. This movement to a communal, agrarian lifestyle poses the same threat to the powers that be however, and the hell hounds of capitalism are set on the peaceful communities.

The storytelling mechanism, a series of letters written over several years and delivered to the clandestine communities by courier to avoid detection, sometimes lacks continuity, but allows the reader to avoid too much character development, emphasizing that the movement is the main character.

Highly recommended!
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on June 9, 2011
Over the years, Ken Layne's become one of my favorite authors (I would say bloggers, but I'm guessing I would be asked to leave the community). His sarcasm and acerbic wit have provided any number of laugh-out-loud moments. I still remember my favorite phrase that he ever wrote, which was, "...because it sort of sounds like these are terrible times for the Consumer -- who, by executive order, officially replaced the U.S. Citizen back in 1983."

While I love his current events-related writing, this work is nothing like any of that. Yet, still, it's excellent. Sure, you can detect commonalities between his half-decade of posting and Dignity. For example, even though he manages not to use the phrase "Anusburger" there's an obvious undercurrent of disdain for factory farming and such practices. But even those Layne-esque (you heard it here first) sentiments are just part of a larger narrative that is positive and interesting and hopeful - not to mention compelling. The novel's format itself works well for the effect he's trying to achieve and it ends up being quite a page turner. I grabbed it on a Kindle App this morning (my first ever eBook) and didn't put it down until just now. I don't want to go into detail about the world he creates, but it's fair to say that there's a lot more that could be written on the topic. It's not an entirely original concept, but his execution manages to avoid the usual post-apocalyptic cliches and focus on a more uplifting tone. Only at one point does a midget riding a giant march into the novel and take control of a community, for example.

I would be remiss if I didn't leave at least one sarcastic comment, so I'll end by saying that the best prank ever would be to camouflage copies of this novel in covers for The Turner Diaries and film the resulting confusion.

Thanks, Ken. Looking forward to more!

p.s. - We listen to Dignity all the time at a bar here in Bangkok. Excellent tune and a good choice for your title.
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on January 30, 2014
Ken Layne is clearly a major talent, with a real nose for the zeitgeist. Hard to imagine a story more germane to our times, and one which doesn't just criticize the current state of affairs but offers a vision of how else we could live. Layne encourages us to take a step back and look at ourselves without sounding bleatingly preachy. Utopian perhaps. But dignified. Reading this book should get you a bunch of points taken off your carbon footprint tally.
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on May 28, 2011
Ken Layne has long been one of my favorite political/social essayists and even if I've been disinclined to read anything on Kindle, I made the exception with his novel, "Dignity", because it isn't yet available in print and I was interested to see if he's as interesting a novelist as he is a pundit. "Dignity" does not disappoint. I found it difficult to put down (even on Kindle).

I want to share this book with several people (none of whom own kindles) and am looking forward to getting several copies for this purpose as soon as it is made available.
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on June 10, 2012
I have never been a big fan of epistolary novels. However, I was drawn into this one immediately. It's not so much a story as it is a meditation on our modern lives. It was my bedtime reading this past week, which was a wonderful time to read it, as it had a very calming, relaxing effect on me, by which I mean it kind of "re-set" me; helped me to appreciate what I have in my life, and inspired me to live a life more in touch with nature and other people. I see myself returning to it again and again when I need some philosophical inspiration. I highly recommend it.
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on April 27, 2015
Poignant, provoking of thought. The distance of experiencing this possible future via letters does rob it of emotional connection. Still, I respect the intent of putting the reader in the midst of this series of missives between people trying to connect when the status quo has collapsed.
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on August 8, 2011
Finishing off this fascinating yarn during the latest chapter of the ongoing Global Financial Apocalypse, it was easy to forget that I was reading fiction. Layne has long impressed me with his prescience at Wonkette, and now he offers an utterly believable glimpse of the future American landscape that seems to be already taking shape - with an outlook that isn't nearly as bleak as you might expect.

Idyllic but not overly idealistic, the tight-knit agrarian communities envisioned in Dignity are a hopeful, plausible alternative to the blight of sprawl and the degrading lifestyle it entails. The details of this speculative society are sometimes spare, but no less tantalizing. Set against a backdrop of amorously depicted Southwestern vistas that Layne ensures retain their natural majesty despite the rapacious scars of land developers, the movement described in N's letters mirrors its intent: to live as a pencil sketch upon the land, rather than permanent marker. Dignity is not so much a comprehensive guidebook to a sustainable utopia, but a trail sign suggesting a better way forward.

Layne leaves the reader plenty to contemplate, and I hope to carry at least some Dignity with me long after my Kindle's screen goes blank for the last time. I suggest you do the same.
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on October 19, 2011
An unusual and welcome take on a version of "post-apocalyptic" America. Wonderful to read and beautifully told. I haven't finished it yet, but felt compelled to comment as I get more and more into it. I will update when Im done :)
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on May 22, 2011
but I did enjoy this story very much. I definitely recommend it to anyone who has an hour of time to read something on their electronic device.
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on June 1, 2011
Absolutely perfectly gorgeous, and much less cynical than I'd expect from Ken Layne. He limns a movement for the future, or for now.
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