The wonderfully fluent young author of The End of Nature (1989) here softens the lamenting, doomsday tone of that book,...



The wonderfully fluent young author of The End of Nature (1989) here softens the lamenting, doomsday tone of that book, counting on impressions of sweet nature to bring us to our senses. By contrasting the shallow information he absorbed by watching more than 1700 hours of cable video--the entire output of the Fairfax, Virginia, cable-TV system--to the deep knowledge he gained from a short camping trip in the Adirondacks, McKibben advances the subversive idea that TV has actually made us less informed by blinding us to the subtlety and power of unmediated experience in nature. ""Time for a swim. I ease myself down from the rocks into the chilly water, feeling the mud between my toes."" Again and again, McKibben contrasts such quiet, plainly stated sensory impressions, the fruits of 24 hours spent alone atop an anonymous mountain, with the meaningless jumble of ""information"" that pours forth daily from the one hundred channels of the largest cable system on earth. The items he reproduces from TV--extracted from shows ranging from CNN to McHale's Navy to Wild Kingdom--are harrowing in their dumbness or their dramatic exaggeration or their disconnection from reality. What's worthwhile, though, are the arguments that McKibben weaves from these video scraps: that we must abandon mindless consumption for a stable, sustainable economy; that we can learn to draw emotional comfort from being part of a community; that we can learn to savor the physical and aesthetic pleasure that comes with enduring a little rain and cold and effort in our lives. Most of all, McKibben persuades us that there is ""another real world"" out there that also broadcasts around the clock--and that it has the power to transform us if we can stand still long enough to listen to its faint and ancient call. Suffering from bouts of verbal overkill, but, still, a brilliantly lucid and effective challenge to the myth of the Information Age.

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 081297607X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992