Monday, October 08, 2012

Dark Mountain 3: An Interview with Dmitry Orlov

For the past few weeks, I have been reading through the third Dark Mountain anthology. It is a lovely book, and has a maroon color and tough hardcover binding that makes it look a little like my old high school English anthology ("Voyage to Literature" or whatever it was), which I never returned and discovered years later was full of wonderful stories.

The Dark Mountain book, too, is a pleasure to hold and look through. Pretty much everything I have read so far—the essays by Hannah Lewis and Charlotte Du Cann, the interviews—has been worthwhile, and "Dark Ecology," an essay by Paul Kingsnorth, is on its own worth the price of admission.

Or would have been, had I paid for the book—they sent me a copy for free because it contains some of my work, an interview with the writer Dmitry Orlov, who currently lives in Boston and sat down with me for coffee a few months ago. For the curious, this lecture is probably a good introduction to his work, and his book, Reinventing Collapse, is well worth reading.

Orlov is a formidable man, and our interview is a little dance between my not particularly well-informed good spirits (for whatever reason, I am happy most of the time), and his dark, witty, and more knowledgeable analyses. A sample:
AA: A quote from your book: “We may be hurtling towards environmental doom and, thankfully, never quite get there because of resource depletion...” This might be a mystical question, but is there some sense in which the planet will not allow itself to be destroyed? Do you have any sort of faith in that?

DO: No. We could generate gas by setting spent coal pits on fire. That will take care of the rest of the ecosystem. We could have open pit nuclear reactors using not just the spent fuel, but the nuclear weapons. We could make the whole place radioactive just for the sake of keeping the industrial systems and the military systems going a little longer. There's really no limit to human stupidity. If people set their minds to destroying this planet, I'm sure they'll manage to do it.
Any of my readers who have been interested in the reviews I've published with Dark Mountain would, I think, find the book worth owning. It is a little expensive, especially for people outside the U.K., but it's a beautifully produced volume, one that I'm proud to be part of. Like "Voyage to Literature," I think you won't regret keeping it around.



Thursday said...

From what I can tell Dark Mountain has been inspired to a certain degree by the writer David Abram.
His books The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal are quite essential. Abram bases a lot of his work on Owen Barfield whose own books Saving the Appearances and Poetic Diction are essential too.

Barfield's close friend C.S. Lewis builds on Barfield in books like The Abolition of Man and the wonderful introductory essay to his book on 16th Century literature "New Learning and New Ignorance."

You might also be interested in the anthropologist Stewart Guthrie's book Faces in the Clouds. It is the groundspring of all the work on the cognitive study of religion, but it is also the best book on the figure of personification I have ever read. It also deals with some of the same issues

Akshay Ahuja said...

Many thanks. I've read The Spell of the Sensuous, which was impressive and beautiful, but also disturbing for me, considering my addiction to text. I've never heard of Barfield, but will look him up. Lately I've been reading some of the Christian social criticism that gathered around the French magazine Esprit near the middle of the last century. (Emmanuel Mounier and Berdyaev were both inspirations for Dorothy Day, whose memoir is one of the subjects of my next DM review, which should appear in a week or two.) So maybe I'm headed in this direction anyway -- many thanks for the recommendations, and for reading.