The protagonist of Jenny Offill’s new novel, Weather, is Lizzie Benson, a graduate school dropout turned college librarian who is armed with random information and really good at suggesting ways to survive an impending apocalypse. The staff at Literary Hub, deeply concerned about our own insufficient preparation for any kind of trouble whatsoever, wanted to ask Lizzie a few questions. Here’s what she had to say.
Literary Hub: Are there any skills we should start cultivating now?
Lizzie Benson: The preppers will say learn to start fires, build shelters, shoot guns. Or you could make yourself useful by training to be an EMT or a farmer or a mechanic. But Chris Begley, an anthropologist who is also a survival skills instructor warns these practical skills will not be enough.
“Any of the plausible scenarios for disaster, like unchecked climate change, will involve billions of survivors. We will find ourselves in large groups in rapidly changing situations, and we will have to negotiate that… Kindness and fairness will be more valuable than any survival skill.”
LH: Is it too late?
LB: Winston Churchill asked the Rabbi Of Ger how to win the war. The rabbi told the British prime minister: “There are two possible ways, one involving natural means, the other supernatural.”
The natural means would be if a million angels with flaming swords were to descend on Germany and destroy it. The supernatural would be if a million Englishmen parachuted down on Germany and destroyed it.”
LH: And for us?
LB: Substitute a million citizens for a million angels. Substitute the fossil fuel industry for Germany. We will need to commit to sustained collective action until it is destroyed.
LH: What should we be stockpiling?
LB: Toilet paper, lipstick, cocoa mix, friends.
Weather is out now.