The Book Of Survival by Anthony Greenbank

April 29, 2018 10:08 pm by Crocodile

If this book was made today it would be designed to ramp up your anxiety, because that’s what everything does nowadays. Instead this book (cover notwithstanding) is pretty calming! Because that’s what you need to do in an emergency- be calm. It’s completely unlikely you’ll have this book in an actual emergency, and it’s unfathomable that if you did you’d pause to look something up. But hopefully you’d remember the two key elements, which get repeated in some form throughout the book– Be Calm, and Might As Well Fight Like Hell. There’s nothing about buying any special gadget, using a common thing in a clever way, or being especially prepared. there’s very little extraneous or overly-specific information, so each tip is pretty easy to remember or even ingrain. And most importantly, there’s a lot of calm, methodical thinking about Being Calm and also Fighting Like Hell.

The book is organized into chapters based not on location but based on need. Too Hot, Too Cold, Too Crowded, etc.. The first chapter is Too Lonely, which is a great place to start. This practical suggestion to try prayer refers to the fact that you probably don’t know all the words to any given prayer, and that’s OK. Also contains a great (nearly) secular variant.

Something really nice about this book is it includes What If You See A Ghost and What If You See An Alien Walking At You From Its Spaceship. It doesn’t make fun of you for thinking these things might be possible, because that’s not helpful! It gives you a calm set of things to do and not do, and attitudes to have and not have.

OK, maybe it makes fun of you a little bit.

But this one doesn’t think you’re crazy! Was it the author or the editor who made it seem like aliens are more real than ghosts? I could easily picture a mass-market paperback editor removing a line about aliens being made up, in 1967, with a keen eye towards their audience.

If you’re a worrying sort of person, but to a minor degree, I would recommend this book, as it might make you feel that troublesome situations are in fact manageable. If you’re a very worrying sort of person it might spin you out just to consider digging out an ice cave or whatever.

I think this is a great bathroom book because you can open it at random and read a little thing and feel a little more like whatever it is you’re dealing with or might potentially deal with, you can handle it.

I got this book probably at a library book sale and probably for a dollar and almost certainly to use the illustrations in a zine. But then I eventually read the whole thing and enjoyed it! I probably have this same relationship with a lot of material items– I picked it up as collage material then just plain got into it.

Book reviews tend to hinge on the question of should you read this or not, or more cynically, should you buy this or not. I guess you could buy this book if you wanted to (there’s a few $4 copies on ebay as of this post), but I think the things I would like to stress in this review are more in the category of notes to the creator than to the consumer:

  • You can make something for a mass market context that has a basically arbitrary organizational scheme.
  • You can make something that survives it’s initial sales window purely because the pictures are cool and/or it looks kind of weird. This goes for books, records, anything with a visual component. looking gimmicky can work against you but “some visual interest” is important!
  • You can make something that isn’t stressful!!! Youtube is great at the stress-relief video format, why isn’t there more stuff like this? Not necessarily calming but at least calm. I mean, I know why- all sales is designed to make you feel horrible, whether it’s anxious, paranoid, or inadequate. But isn’t some part of art still not sales? is everything sales now? It’s tiresome. I mean, this book has a stressful cover, that’s the sales component, but then once you’re in it’s like “Breathe. Look around you.”
  • You can make something where the goal is not for the reader to read it all in one gulp. “I couldn’t put it down” is common praise but some of my favorite books on the planet I pick up and put down constantly. Some of my favorite books I’ve had for years and still haven’t read every word yet. I understand that some things are best enjoyed when you  charge right through them, but not everything requires or would benefit from this approach. There are many ways to read something, and I mean “read” not only as in “interpret” but as in “your eyes move across the page and you say the words to yourself”.
  • Much of the writing in this book is in terse sentence fragments. OK to break rules if it makes sense. Even in mass-market context.
  • Stay Calm
  • Fight Like Hell

This book was published by Signet Books, this is the second printing, paperback, 1967, $.95. $.95 in 1967 money is $7.19 in 2018.



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