The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler by Duncan Crary

by: EJ on 11/10/2011
Posted in: Peak Oil

Duncan Crary's recently released, The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler , explores the  “Tragic comedy of suburban sprawl”.

“James Howard Kunstler plainly has a lot to say about the state of the world. And while much of it is bad, bad news — aggressively, congenitally, perhaps even fatally bad — he speaks with such vim and vigor that you find yourself nodding in agreement rather than looking for a noose. Duncan Crary wrangles these free-wheeling conversations masterfully. A bracing dose of reality for an unreal world.”   — STEPHEN J. DUBNER, co-author of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics

Sprawl. It’s ugly, isolating, and environmentally disastrous.

But when James Howard Kunstler and Duncan Crary get together to analyze it, suburban sprawl is also pretty funny... in a tragic way. The KunstlerCast is  a book-length interview based on four years of conversations between Kunstler and Crary, which first “aired” on the popular weekly “KunstlerCast” podcast.

Sometimes caustic, often controversial and always provocative, James Howard Kunstler is one of America’s most outrageous commentators on the collapse of the American dream. His best-known books include The Geography of Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the post-oil novel World Made By Hand.

The topics covered in The KunstlerCast are serious and often dire, such as:  America’s failures in urban design and architecture; the coming age of fossil fuel depletion; and the desperate need to repair our passenger rail system as a means to travel without cars. But these intergenerational conversations between Kunstler, 63, and Crary, 33, are often leavened by their signature sharp wit and cheerfully pessimistic humor as the Boomer and Gen X’er try to sort out where their culture has been and where it’s heading.

 “It’s sort of evolved into a comedy act,” Kunstler says of his approach to critiquing life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. “Samuel Beckett put it well when he said ‘Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.’ Our built environments cause us so much unhappiness, so much distress, that they’re a source of comedy.”

 Crary says it’s Kunstler’s self-described “malicious sense of humor” that keeps him coming back for more gams with the social commentator, year after year.

“No matter the subject, Jim always has something to say that’s either funny as hell, deeply profound, or both,” Crary said. “And lately, it’s become impossible to ignore his assertion that suburbia is ‘a living arrangement with no future.’ But his message about the future prospects of North America’s small cities — like the one I live in, Troy, N.Y.  — gives me much to hope for.”

 As a podcaster, Crary has recorded more than 100 hours of conversations with Kunstler for their Internet radio program, which attracts 10,000 weekly listeners from around the world. Though The KunstlerCast book is based on transcripts from those recorded dispatches, Crary has thoughtfully selected, re-ordered, and edited for length and clarity the exchanges he felt were the most important.  The result is a highly readable, well-organized, comfortably paced dialogue that just might be the most important conversation you ever eavesdrop on. 

You can listen to and learn more about The KunstlerCast, at

The KunstlerCast book is not only very enjoyable to read for its content, it’s also fun just to look at it, hold in your hands and flip through. Its wee size, 6 in. x 6 in., and brightly colored glossy cover make it an eyeball-snatching treat that simply must be examined more closely.  Each chapter header contains delightful and intriguing cartoon-style illustrations by artist Ken Avidor.


“If books were made out of Cheez Doodles, this is what they would look like,” said Crary of The KunstlerCast book. “Bright orange, bite size, and sure to leave a finger-licking residue on the minds of all who touch it.”



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