Matt's Reviews > Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream

Twelve by Twelve by William Powers
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's review
Mar 07, 2011

did not like it
Recommended for: Nobody
Read from March 02 to 07, 2011 , read count: 1

The concept seemed interesting enough: live in a 12x12 structure for a prolonged period of time and tell the tale of it. The problem is that Powers only spends 40 days in the structure (not nearly long enough) and spends most of the pages rambling about his worldview and why it's so much better than yours.

The narrative portions of the book are interesting, and I considered giving this book two stars because of it, but three factors prevented me from doing that.

1: Powers compares those who don't share his view of how to take care of the environment to Nazis. He compared the killing of the environment to the murder of Jews under the Third Reich. He compared those who ought to know what happens in agro-business to those who lived near Buchenwald and ought to have known of the camp's horrors. Powers did not only mention this once, but alluded to it frequently throughout the book.

2: Powers thinks he knows what is best for everyone, even people he's never met. He thinks because he went on some worthwhile and productive mission trips to developing countries that he knows what is best for them. He thinks that people in the third world already have "enough." In other words, he calls the Western world overdeveloped and the rest of the world as simply developed. He felt that his "preaching" for better clinics and schools as well as more efficient agriculture to those who desperately need these things was too much; that they already had enough and were happy as they are now. Easy to say from New York City.

3: After reading about 200 pages of Powers' angst and how he is fighting the very society that is killing this earth a la Hitler (of which you are a part), he mentions that he has a daughter in Bolivia. It turns out that he and the mother never really intended to be together and Powers goes on to say how much he misses the daughter. I certainly do not doubt Powers' love for his child, but it's hard to sympathize after 200 pages of condescending prose and Nazi comparisons.

Unless you want to be angered by writing that seemingly sets out solely to stroke the author's ego, I would recommend skipping this book. Close to the end of the book, Powers writes: "Walking the aisles of the organic Adams Market, I looked around and saw what I might become: a holier-than-thou progressive, carving an identity niche out of being so darn responsible." Unfortunately, Powers' use of the future tense here is inappropriate.
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