Enjoying the Apocalypse
Last summer a good friend of mine sent a group of us an email writing that she felt we should discuss and decide upon a plan for where to meet up if the end of the world were to come. The responses that followed, which were mostly intended, I think, to lighten her mood, turned the plan of a drill into a game, testing our survival skills, and ending in camping under the stars. I found the planning of bandage rationing and nuclear fallout shovelling genuinely exciting, and therefore gave some serious thought to whether this indicated a mental disturbance or if I had just always wanted to be a Girl Scout. Or, worst of all, I was a Sci-Fi nerd.
I am a devoted fan of The End of the World as a theme in books and movies, and would list cheesy volcanic, asteroid, mega-tsunami films amongst my guiltiest pleasures. (I have to say no thanks to Zombie movies- love the empty streets and re-establishing of societal rules from behind the barricaded door, hate the gray skin tone and skull-sawing. Ew.) What I love is a catastrophe with a real scientific article or documentary with which to follow up and and add to my paranoia. There are massive caldrons of magma, irritable tectonic plates, and an earth covered with oceans that can swallow massive populations without even noticing what they had done. We can take some comfort in knowing that we’ll probably never see much worse than a temporary power outage. At the same time, a certain kind of comfort can also be taken in knowing that the asteroid could be barrelling through space right now, obliterating every irritation of our daily lives. So, relax and enjoy the story, and go to work in the morning knowing that there’s no real need to lose sleep over typos and late payments when the whole town could be covered in twelve feet of volcanic ash tomorrow.
Here at the library you can find everything you need to bring the thrill full circle- watch an exciting two hours of the end of the world, then read up on how accurate the filmmakers’ science actually was. If you’re really inspired, you can even pick up a few things to help you prepare.
Whether you consider it a break from or to reality, may I recommend a little of the End Times for your summer enjoyment.
Volcanic mass destruction?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy- This is not for the faint of heart, but as difficult as it is to read some gruesome parts, it is much harder to put the book down. A man and his child are on foot, trying to get south to safety after an explosion (presumably the volcano underneath Yellowstone.)
The Book of Eli– a film from 2010 in which Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis battle evil and cannibalism in a dusty and brutal post-apocalyptic U.S. There are also compelling questions of literature, religion and power.
The Stand– Possibly one of Stephen King’s best, in this dark and lengthy novel approximately 90% of the world’s population gets wiped out by a strain of super-flu.
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (read on audiobook by Emily Bauer, who truly makes you feel that you’re hearing the story in study hall.) A slight change in gravity and tidal patterns sends the fifteen-year-old story teller’s life into upheaval. I particularly enjoyed the detailed description of the asteroid hitting the Moon and the details of the craters becoming clear as it was pushed closer to Earth.
The Day After Tomorrow– This movie is one of my personal favorites- obtuse governments and massive tidal waves disrupting the social order, and of course the hero and heroine finding true love in the public library.
It seems to me that the best way to get through the apocalypse is a bit of creativity, positivity, a sense of humor, perhaps a little preparation. It can’t hurt to know how to build a lean-to or store drinking water in a cactus, can it? Consult Anyone Can Live Off the Land by James Ralph Johnson, a serious Boy Scout and marine who can tell you how to build a fire in the rain and cook up a high-protein meal from the forest floor. Also pick up one of the Man Vs. Wild DVD series of Bear Grylls– an English adventurer and writer who even knows which kind of shellfish to use as sunblock.
Now that you’re informed and prepared, perhaps you would enjoy having some of Weird Al Yankovic’s songs from his latest album, Alpocalypse, as you walk for months searching for (or perhaps avoiding) other survivors. Or there is everyone’s favorite account of planetary destruction, The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Unlikely and likeable heroes float and fly through space with an improbability drive and a point-of-view ray gun, battling bureaucracy and depression. Classic.
Miriam Lee is the Technical Assistant to the Adult Services Librarian at OWL, and recommends being always prepared with a nail clipper, a can opener, waterproof matches, a towel, and of course, your library card.