Selections from the 10 volumes published by the Dark Mountain Project give readers a taste of the organization’s mission: “to play host to voices seeking honest engagement with questions that might be intractable.”
In 2008, two British writers, Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, put together a manifesto calling for the “uncivilisation” of the Earth, with the idea that the roots of the “social, economic and ecological unravelling” prevalent in the world today “lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves.” Attracting like-minded writers and artists, they began putting out a series of hardcover journals with what they considered alternate stories to the conventional ones. The majority of the contributors are British; a strong minority are American. To general readers, many of these contributions will feel like relatively conventional academic essays. The essayists sing the praises of the Luddites and of “inhumanist” American poet Robinson Jeffers, whose vision of the centrality of nature and the marginality of humans resonates with that of the Project. The book also includes poems; photographs and reproductions of artworks with commentary; interviews with a Soviet economist and a “neo-Luddite”; a memoir of growing up in Appalachian coal country; and experimental fiction. The fiction and poetry tend toward the mythological, and very little of it includes people other than the author or central narrator. One of the most intriguing pieces, John Rember’s “The Unconscious and the Dead,” succeeds by revealing two very different people, a professor and his dying student, to bring a personal side to what could have been an abstract topic. A few pieces add welcome touches of humor in what is often a bombastic and overly earnest anthology.
Worth sampling if not ingesting in one sitting, the collection provides a comprehensive introduction to a provocative vision of the contemporary state of human connection to—and disconnection from—nature.