John Rember

My girlfriend’s parents gave me a book for Christmas. It had a stranger cover and a less than compelling title: MFA In A Box. I cracked it anyway, and proceeded to fall in love with a writer as funny as he is bleak; John Rember.

I’ve followed Mr. Rember’s column on writing, which he produces from his home in Idaho’s Sawtooth Valley, for a few months now. The following excerpt, from an autobiographical essay by Mr. Rember is indicative of the mixture of hilarious candor and self-described aprés moi le deluge cynicism he employs to such withering effect. The man’s writing is compelling, bracing, and more than a little bit sad.

A few years ago I started writing a monthly column for a paper in Ketchum, Idaho. For some time I’ve been an après moi le deluge kind of guy, although for me the deluge wasn’t nuclear, biological, or chemical. I just thought, based on my teaching experience, that secondary education was getting worse and worse in this country, and that a tsunami of over-enthusiastic mouthbreathers — eruptus adenoidae erectus in the literature — was going to make it impossible for civilization to function. More and more it looked like morons were the only people running things, mostly because they were the only people with simple enough world-views to want to.

Anyway, I called my column End Notes, because I could Google “End of Days” and have my pick of four million or so apocalyptic stories. Jesus was riding in at the head of an angel hit squad, or a 14-mile-long asteroid was about to crash into Los Angeles, or the Star-spawn of the Dread Cthulhu was rising out of the Marianas Trench. These things were fun to write about and fun to make fun of, but after a year or so the Doom of the Month Club turned mean.

Jim Kunstler’s The Long Emergency and Jared Diamond’s Collapse were the books that started me researching and reading Richard Heinberg, Dmitri Orlov, John Michael Greer, Guy McPherson, and William Catton. Charles Hugh Smith graphically educated me on economic collapse. All these writers are to the future like blind men are to an elephant, each grasping their sure bit of truth. My late arrival to the party allowed me the benefit of multiple perspectives on the beast.

But it was the credit crisis of 2008 and the subsequent frenzy of incompetence by our elected officials that finally convinced me that Julie’s and my carefully-chosen annuity-and-Internet-fueled rural niche, the one that was supposed to last us the rest of our childless lives, wasn’t going to work out as planned. Our savings would become worthless. The electricity would go out. We’d freeze to death in the dark. Marauding hordes would shoot us as we escaped the house they had set on fire.

I made jokes. “I’m in favor of marauding hoards,” I said. “Let the food, gold, and ammo come to us.”