In 1958 the American writer Shirley Jackson, today best known for her novels and short stories of mystery and horror, published a new work, The Sundial, about the retreat of an affluent family into their palatial home as they prepare for the end of the world. Jackson describes how the world outside “was to be plundered ruthlessly for objects of beauty to go in and around the house; infinite were the delights to be prepared for its inhabitants.”

Post-war North American affluence pales into insignificance beside the excesses and gross consumption of today’s consumer societies and the habits ...


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