The stated intent of his book is to provide guidance for civilians who find themselves in dire emergencies, and it opens with a salvo meant to inflame the latent paranoiac in us all: “Potential dangers lurk everywhere these days. Disasters strike in war-torn regions and far-flung locations — but with alarming regularity, they also seem to inch closer and closer to home.” According to Emerson, battling these dangers is a matter of developing a set of practical skills and habits, such as wearing Kevlar shoelaces, carrying a covert mobile phone and brushing up on your Molotov cocktail recipe. (The secret ingredient is a fuel-soaked tampon.) In fact, what separates a Navy SEAL from the common civilian might be a distinct lack of squeamishness. Not only is Emerson blasé about inserting rectal concealments large enough to contain a map and a compass, but he also recommends stashing operational gear inside roadkill corpses, where nobody is likely to look for it. Unless, of course, they’ve also read his book.
I am greatly enjoying Molly Young’s new column on self-help books for the New York Times, if only because I never knew how much joy I would get from reading the phrase “fuel-soaked tampon” (emphasis mine, of course). I, personally, love self-help books; I usually avoid the more ridiculous end of the trend spectrum (I see, you French Women Don’t Whatever and Women Who Lurb The Blergh) and stick to the classics, but perhaps on Young’s recommendation I will expand into the “grave peril” genre of self-help. I have tampons! I could get my hands on some fuel! The possibilities are endless, if I work hard and believe in myself.