Culture: How to make good money in bad times
Sunday 12 April 2009
On the face of it, Neil Strauss, the American journalist, has lost his marbles. After the success of The Game, his bestselling book about transforming himself into the world's most successful pick-up artist, he has reinvented himself again, this time as a survivalist. In his new book – called Emergency – he describes the rigorous, three-year training he has undergone in preparation for the imminent collapse of Western civilization.
"I don't want to be hiding in cellars, fighting old women for a scrap of bread, taking forced marches at gunpoint, dying of cholera in refugee camps, or anything else I've read about," he says.
This apocalyptic outlook is always bubbling away under the surface of contemporary life, but is rarely embraced by someone as respectable as Strauss. Not only was his first book lively and well-written, but he is a regular contributor to the New York Times. Why has he succumbed to this doomsday outlook?
In newspaper interviews, he says it is the combination of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the global economic crisis that has convinced him just how fragile our way of life is. "All it would take is one war, one riot, one dirty bomb, one natural disaster, one marauding army, one economic catastrophe, one vial containing one virus to bring it all smashing down," he says.
This is so implausible – the West has survived numerous wars, countless natural disasters and several economic catastrophes – that a cynic would conclude he has embraced this paranoid philosophy in order to sell books. It seems to be working, too. Emergency has spent the last month on the New York Times bestseller list and no doubt it will sell copies here, too.
But his commitment to the cause appears to be genuine. He has been stockpiling food in his house in Los Angeles and he keeps goats in his garden. Not only has he supped with people like Mad Dog – "absolutely the man to see about knives" – but he has drunk the Kool-Aid as well. I don't suppose he will be the last well-regarded author to start thinking this way, either. I predict a wave of bestsellers about the end of the world in the near future.
Emergency, by Neil Strauss, is published by Canongate at £11.99
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Watt's father says TV presenter killed herself because she was in constant pain
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 San Francisco TV news crew attacked by armed robbers during live broadcast
- 4 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
- 5 Miami defendant sobs in court as he realises he and the judge attended the same school
Bad luck, One Direction: Paul McCartney doubts success of The Beatles will ever be matched again
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
The Crystal Maze: Richard O’Brien confirmed to return as more details revealed about show's rebooted format
Guillaume Tell's gang-rape scene caused uproar at the Royal Opera House – but the portrayal of extreme sex and violence on stage is nothing new
Britain's best outdoor cinemas to visit this summer from Somerset House to Luna Cinema
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture