For Immediate Release
Contact: Duncan Crary
J.H. KUNSTLER PODCAST OFFERS BINGE-READY ‘PREQUEL’ TO S-TOWN PODCAST
- Famous Author Named in Suicide Note Had Encouraged John B. McLemore To Leave Woodstock, Ala.; Move to Montpelier, Vt. or Ouray, Colo.
- Phone & Email Correspondence With Deceased Over Years
- 100s Hours of Spoken Word Podcast Episodes With Kunstler Offer Insight into McLemore’s Worldview
TROY, N.Y. (5/31/17) — For fans of the S-Town podcast who are hungry for more background, an earlier podcast series titled The KunstlerCast offers hundreds of hours of binge-ready content that McLemore himself was immersed in.
On a bonus KunstlerCast episode today, author James Howard Kunstler shares his reaction to learning that he was among the names mentioned in McLemore’s suicide note, which was read during the final chapter of S-Town. Over the years, Kunstler had received several calls and emails from McLemore, an avid reader of his work.
“For those who really want to explore John B. McLemore’s worldview and what shaped it — his fixation on climate change and economic collapse, his rants on sprawl and the built environment, and especially his disdain for tattoos — all the source material that inspired him is in James Howard Kunstler’s podcast,” said Duncan Crary, creator and former host of The KunstlerCast. “In a way, The KunstlerCast is like the ‘prequel’ to S-Town that serves as a background to the kinds of thoughts and issues McLemore was clearly immersed in.”
As revealed in Chapter VII of S-Town, McLemore names James Howard Kuntler in his suicide note, along with other writers of economic/societal collapse. But Kunstler only learned of McLemore’s suicide after Crary brought the S-Town story to his attention.
Kunstler, who is best known as the author of “The Geography of Nowhere,” (1993) “The Long Emergency” (2005) and the “World Made By Hand” novels, said he heard from McLemore somewhere around 2009, first by email and then later he started calling the author after finding his phone number online.
“He was flamboyantly Southern and he sort of played up on it. And I enjoyed talking to him,” Kunstler said.
Mostly they would talk about economic and world issues, “But eventually he started talking to me about the town itself that he was living in and how he called it ‘Shit Town.’ And how everything in it was busted, rusted, shot up, broken, deformed, messed up, ruined — you know, in some way that everything including the human personalities and families and relations in the town were all in some kind of terrible condition,” Kunstler said on the podcast. “It all seemed kind of emblematic of the ruined condition of the flyover heartland of America that ended up voting for Trump.”
Kunstler said he tried to suggest to McLemore that maybe he should move away from Woodstock, to a place like Montpelier, Vt. or Ouray, Colo.
“I said that with the full recognition that people’s home places are very important to them even if they have an extremely destructive neurotic relationship with their home place and all the people in it. They don’t give those things up easily,” Kunstler said.
“He did talk a lot about thinking about killing himself. And, I’m very attuned to relationship rackets that people construct and I recognized that as a possible racket, you know, just a way for him to hook me into, you know, caretaking him psychologically and I really didn’t see that as my role. So I attempted to kind of minimize that. And I just didn’t really buy into it too heavily. I know I suggested to him that it might not be a good idea and that there might be reasons for him to keep on living,” Kunstler said. “In my own defense, I did not get so involved with this guy’s life that it took more than 20 minutes every two weeks for me to talk to him and …. I understood that he was suffering. But I didn’t get hyper-involved with him. I just understood that he was an unhappy person of—with some talent and some brains who lived a distance from me in a terrible place.”
While S-Town reporter Brian Reed presents good reason to believe McLemore may have suffered from mercury poisoning, which could have led to his suicidal ideation, he was also clearly distressed about climate change, economic collapse, resource scarcity and societal failures, which happen to be the main focus of Kunstler’s body of work.
DOOMERS & DEPRESSION
A 2009 New Yorker profile of Kunstler and his peers, titled “The Dystopians,” implied he is a doomer, though Kunstler rejects the label when applied to him, describing himself instead as “cheerful.”
“I’m convinced that we are headed for a reset of the terms of civilization. And I think an awful lot of people would feel that they would like that, that they would like to be in a civilization that wasn’t so cruel and oppressive to them and I don’t even mean in the crudest political terms. I mean in the sense of all the everyday crap that we’re burdened by,” Kunstler said. “I think a lot of what is often labeled as Doomerism or the Doomer psychology is a wish to get to some kind of civilizational serenity or stillness … where you don’t feel like you’re assaulted and bedeviled and beset all the time by all this stuff– you know, by everything from the phone ringing to the idiocies of robot business transactions.”
During the podcast, Crary reads aloud to Kunstler a Dec. 23, 2014 review of The KunstlerCast posted to iTunes in which the anonymous writer, using the handle “Marlowinc,” describes what Kunstler has to write and say as “frickin’ depressing!” while his podcast guests “just add fuel to the flames of hopelessness.” The reviewer goes on to mention “having my cyanide capsules ready,” which is the exact method of suicide used by John B. McLemore of S-Town in June 2015. (Crary does not believe the review was posted by McLemore.)
Kunstler’s message, in response to those who feel depressed by his nonfiction works is to read his four “World Made By Hand” novels.
“The point of those novels was to depict the aftermath of an economic collapse in a way that would make people feel OK and hopeful about whatever reset we moved into,” he said. “I recommend they read them. And they’ll get a picture of a world that has changed, in which not everything is changed for the worse. There are a lot of compensations for living in a world without commuting and a world without — where you have nothing but canned entertainment to fill your idle hours. There’s a lot in there and it was presented that way for a purpose, so that people would feel a little more courageous about entering that new paradigm when the current one kind of loses its mojo.”
S-TOWN & KUNSTLERISMS
Earlier in the podcast episode, Crary plays clips from S-town that contain some of the phraseology and expressions Kunstler is known for — some of which are spoken directly by McLemore, while others are Reed’s paraphrasing of McLemore.
Some examples include:
In Chapter I, McLemore uses the term “Clusterfuck of Sorrow.” Kunstler’s popular blog is titled “Clusterfuck Nation.”
In Chapter II: Reed paraphrasing McLemore: “our country wasn’t worth defending.” Kunstler coined this expression in his 2004 TED Talk, titled “The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs,” in which he famously said “We have about 38,000 places that are not worth caring about in the United States today when we have enough of them, we’re going to have a nation that’s not worth defending.”
Also, in Chapter II, Brian reed narrates: “Later, John will take me on a tour of Bibb County, and this worldview will be on full display. He’ll rattle off a constant stream of grievances as we go. Historic buildings are being demolished overnight. Dollar Generals and Wal-marts are popping up in their stead, serving a populace that is getting fatter and more tattooed by the day.” This sums up Kunstler’s general commentary on the built environment in America, which he first famously described in “The Geography of Nowhere,” (Simon & Schuster). Later, in August 2008, Kunstler’s rants about the proliferation of tattoos went viral on the Internet, first in response to his “Eyesore of the Month” feature, next in a Clusterfuck Nation blog entry, and finally in a dedicated episode of The KunstlerCast, all released during the same month. In that podcast, Kunstler said tattoos have been historically been “the domain of cannibals, whores and sailors” and a marginal activity attempting to “invade the center and I am all for keeping the marginal on the margins.”
ABOUT THE KUNSTLERCAST
From February 2008 through August 2012, Duncan Crary hosted and produced more than 215 episodes of The KunstlerCast, featuring conversations between himself and James Howard Kunstler on a wide range of topics. In later years, the show would sometimes include other authors, such as Richard Heinberg (also named in McLemore’s final note). All of those episodes can be located and listened to at KunstlerCast.com.
In Nov. 2011, New Society Publishers released a book, authored by Crary, that presented the best content from those conversations, titled: “The KunstlerCast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler…the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl.”
Advance praise for The KunstlerCast book:
“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
To read a transcript of the May 31, 2017 KunstlerCast: S-Town episode, visit:
Or to read the transcripts for the S-Town episode, the Tattoos episode and the Doomers episode of The KunstlerCast, visit: http://kunstlercast.com/transcripts
For information about the KunstlerCast book, visit: http://kunstlercast.com/book
For a complete listing of the Crary years of The KunstlerCast, visit: http://kunstlercast.com/shows
To listen to newer episodes of The KunstlerCast, visit: http://kunstler.com/podcast/
To read Kunstler’s April 10, 2017 thoughts on John B. McLemore’s passing, visit:
For more information and high-resolution publicity images, visit http://kunstlercast.com/book/art
Contact: Duncan Crary, DCC@DuncanCrary.com