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February 1975

Brand, “The Latest Whole Earth Catalog,” and “Whole Earth Epilogue”

“Indispensable! No lesser word is adequate to describe this unusual pair” of books.

Indispensable! No lesser word is adequate to describe this unusual pair out of the Green Revolution by the Realist (or so says midwife and editorin-chief, Stewart Brand—who has to be one of the sanest people in the world).

The Last Whole Earth Catalog sold well over 1,000,000 copies. Comes now Whole Earth Epilog—probably the first “son of Whole Earth”—and The Updated Last Whole Earth Catalog. Utility, relevance to independent education,quality or low cost, and availability by mail are the criteria for listing in the Catalog and Epilog. The two compliment and are necessary to each other.

Insulating yourself from government’s inflation addiction will be much easier with Epilog and Mom in hand. Brand and Co. provide as well friendly joys to mask the bitter pain—easily the best bathroom reading in town. A slaphappy sanity comes painlessly through these practical and hilarious pages.

Composting Privy. (Why use water and costly electricity to get rid of a valuable commodity?) How To Grow Marijuana Indoors Under Lights. (You, too, can have Hefner’s problems.) The Apartment Gardener. The latest poop on domes and other shelters. Wind powered, water powered, and guano powered generators of all types. Every unimaginable handicraft.

Food: Growing it. Buying it. Cooking it. Putting it up and taking it down. Making beer and wine with it. No fewer than five sources of dehydrated, freeze-dried, vacuum-packed foods against the deluge. Sensible articles on the whole Chinese Fire Drill.

Sex. Childbirth. No Childering. Babies. Health. Dying. Law and Preventative Lawyering.

Travelling, from foot to flashing it in the air. Suppliers, why and why not. Haven’t you always wanted to hang-glide or surf-sail? Balloon? Dive? An introduction to a with-it, loveable manufacturer who dramatizes his tents, sleeping bags and backpacks with loverly nekid ladies. (Listed not for the ladies, but for the superiority of his products. However, the pro vita enthusiasms of Epilog come through in a higher than average set of illustrations.)

A section on “communications” (catalogs, devices, philosophy, calligraphy, book design, publishing, reference, library, literature, poetry, art, photo, film, video, music, hi-fi, electronic music, radio, computer, math, economics and business) is a most tautly economic survey of this many-splendored field. Catalog-Epilog elegantly display the bare-bones beauty of technical discipline.

As for a philosophy of politics, can there be a more spare statement than:

Capitalism has already established the physical mechanism of circulation—of distribution and transportation—that is needed to maintain society without any state apparatus. This physical mechanism of circulation can be vastly improved upon, to be sure, but it would still be as workable the day after the revolution as it was the day before the revolution. It needs no police, jails, armies or courts to maintain it. The state is superimposed on this mechanical system of distribution and actually serves to distort it by maintaining an artificial system of scarcity. (Post Scarcity Anarchism, 1971.)

Useful, incredibly fun; you buy into a network of good friends with these two exercises in good sense, good humor, and good vibes. Reviewed by George von Hilsheimer / Survival/Epilog (318 pages) / LR Price $4 / Catalog (447 pages) / LR Price $5