17 August 2016

A Note on Drop City

     T. C. Boyle has given what appears to be a realistic view of a hippie commune of the 60's and 70's.  Having never lived in one but growing up in the 60's, it has a ring of truth.  The other half of the book is about a character and new wife who live off the land in Alaska.  They become neighbors when the commune's commune is bulldozed by the authorities in California and the financer of the commune's uncle moves from Alaska to Seattle.  The juxtaposition of the book is living in isolation alone or in a pair and the living in a commune where everything is shared.  Two extremes meet; neither one very appealing.

     Living off the land is one of those fond illusions of those who want to play mountain men or pioneers where they do nothing but shoot a buffalo or two and the women do all the actual work.  It works for a few, but an entire country doing it and there are no buffalo to shoot anymore and you may actually have to raise a cow or two to get you through the winter.   There is nothing romantic about raising a garden in Alaska where the mosquitos will carry you away if you stop moving and you have to keep your dogs healthy so they can pull the dog sled through miles of brush checking your traps for protein.

     Then you have the commune where many take no responsibility to keep things together or to do any work, where there is little sanitation and no amenities, where passers-by and gawkers come on weekends to romanticize a life style they know nothing about but think there would be plenty of sex and that would make up for all the other deficiencies. It is clear from the book and our history of utopian settlements that someone has to be in charge. Neither of the alternatives presented by Boyle are very attractive when you get past the idealized version you have in your head about either.