11:28:13 The Moneyless Man, a book review

If one mashes up Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854) with reality TV, you'd likely get the drift of English Mark Boyle's The Moneyless Man (2010), If that sounds snarky, consider that in one day alone before starting his year-long money fast, Mr. Boyle gives, or agrees to, some 20-odd media interviews. And for twelve months eating mostly nuts, berries, and dumpster-diving scores; Mr. Boyle keeps two links to the outside world: cell phone plus laptop, powered by a hand-cranked battery charger. Without daily blog dispatches of what it's like to live hand-to-mouth, spending not a red cent, would this be so much Descartes' tree falling in a forest without witness?

I don't "buy" into Mr. Boyle's Chicken-Little jeremiad: If we don't stop using money and adopt what he learned from "a year of freeconomic living" (skirting what I saw as doses of freeloaderism), we'll see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: monetary collapse of a consumerist society, irrevocable environmental pollution, climate change flameout, and energy bankruptcy from Peak Oil overshoot.

[book cover]

Still, I did find the narrative voice engaging, with touches of humor.

Sometimes the humor is unintentional: When Mr. Boyle begins his year of living in a donated 14-foot trailer, he has a ladyfriend, Claire. He's known her a week. Somewhere in the months of his foraging and living hand-to-mouth, he notices a fraying in the relationship. Duh?

Or the yawning contrast with the original. Thoreau lived deliberately with Nature and essayed some earned lessons about a life of purpose and challenge. He gave the world enduring literature. More prosaic Mr. Boyle chides the civilized world for wasting water on flush toilets. Why doesn't everyone dig holes for temporary composting toilets and make humanure? Boyle even has it in for babies and disposable diapers.

Mr. Boyle wrings out as much self-promotion for his freeconomy scheme as traditional and social media will grant him. Like any fanatic, Mr. Boyle believes if we discard human progress of the last few millennia--public health advances too--then we'd be living happy, idyllic lives as vegan foragers with the uncomplicated freedom of owning nothing, sharing everything. Everyone's a friend and everyone promises to "pay-it-forward."

Surely, in his personal experiment, a time or two when he shat in the woods, Mr. Boyle might have speculated it could also turn out otherwise: Everyman for himself, and as Hobbes conjectured, life is "nasty, brutish, and short."

The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2010, 206 pp., ISBN: 978-1-85168-781-7.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.

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