I’ve just finished reading (in galleys) World Made By Hand, a novel both disturbing and poignant set in a possibly too-near future by James Howard Kunstler, due out in spring 2008. Immediately before that, I’d read, with amazement, Denis Johnson’s new novel Tree of Smoke.
Last night I returned to the nonfiction pile and got engrossed by Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America, by Cullen Murphy. After that will come a newly released reflection by former AP worldwide correspondent Mort Rosenblum, titled Escaping Plato’s Cave: How America’s Blindness to the Rest of the World Threatens Our Survival. Just below that awaits a new novel, The Empanada Brotherhood, by John Nichols, author of the New Mexico trilogy that started with The Milagro Beanfield War. The bedside table also holds Goings On About Town, the newest book by photographer Sylvia Plachy. Another that just arrived, though I’d already read it in galleys and recommend it, is Time of Grace by biologist Ken Lamberton — the final installment of his prison trilogy. And finally come two books that I missed when they first appeared, because I was submerged by the one I was writing myself: Before the Dawn: Recovering the History of our Ancestors by Nicholas Wade, and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Alan Weisman’s article “Polymers are Forever,” which appeared in the May/June 2007 Orion magazine, is an abridged excerpt from his book The World Without Us. He lives in Tucson and teaches at the University of Arizona.