I have long been fascinated by utopias. I remember taking a class on Utopias and Dystopias in 8th grade (I think) and reading Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. Now that I know more, I kind of can’t believe we read that, but when I was in 8th grade, we didn’t have the menu of utopian / dystopian novels that are available now. And I’m interested in the trend. I think it has to be more than just marketing. If you believe that arts reflect or respond to society, what do you make of the run of utopian stories, not just at the young adult level but everywhere, even from authors who don’t usually spend time in the area (Chang-Rae Lee, for example)?
In any event, that’s why I grabbed this book. Right away, Reece challenged my thesis that every effort has failed. He doesn’t equate ending with failing, which is a debate I might have with him. Nevertheless, I enjoyed following his road trip through communities, some of which I knew about (in fact, I live in a failed / ended attempt at a utopian community) and others that were completely new to me. At times, the book feels like looking at pictures of someone else’s road trip, but it’s mostly engaging, as Reece moves back and forth between his visit to the community (or what remains of it) and the community’s history.
I have to admit that I was (pleasantly) surprised when he ended his road trip in. . . Cleveland. He cites Ohio Cooperative Solar and Evergreen Cooperatives as evidence that America’s most radical idea is alive and kicking today. I think that’s why I enjoy the notion of utopias. They require such hope.