The End of the World Book
by Alistair McCartney
University of Wisconsin Press. 320 pages, $26.95
AS A KID, I got lost in the 1976 edition of The World Book Encyclopedia. Like me and, I assume, many other boys like us, Alistair McCartney spent his youth obsessed with his favorite encyclopedia set, and he has returned to it, as if he’s been haunted by it all these years. It’s a strange, intriguing narrative, mixing fact and fiction, the banal with the apocalyptic, and the nostalgic with the bizarre.
The alphabetically-arranged sections have unassuming names, but some of the entries are stunning in their wit, wisdom, and sharpness. Some are poignant; others are downright disturbing.