Walker Percy, in his novel Love in the Ruins, describes an apocalyptic America in which the Gross National Product continues to rise, yet the war with Ecuador has gone horribly awry, terrorized Middle-Class citizens wax nostalgically about the defunct Auto Age, and the political landscape has devolved from earnest ideological debate, to snarky verbal assault to out-and-out violence and social fracture:

These are bad times.

Principalities and powers are everywhere victorious. Wickedness flourishes in high places.

… Americans have turned against each other; race against race, right against left, believer against heathen, San Francisco against Los Angeles, Chicago against Cicero. Vines sprout in sections of New York where not even Negroes will live. Wolves have been seen in downtown Cleveland, like Rome during the Black Plague. Some Southern states have established diplomatic ties with Rhodesia. Minnesota and Oregon have their own consulates in Sweden (where so many deserters from these states dwell).

I am as optimistic an observer of pessimistic, apocalyptic reflexes as they come, but even I, I must admit, feel the welts begin to pop upon my temples when I see, for the umpteenth time in the space of a few breaths, more news about the recall of toys made in China. Aqua Dots laced with date rape chemicals, lead-smeared faces on plush Curious George dolls, lead-smeared pull-and-release toy cars, lead-smeared kids’ fashion sunglasses … they jump out as scary, Percine portents of America’s impending doom, don’t they? Or is it just me?

The vines began to sprout in earnest a couple of months ago. People do not like to talk about it. For some reason, they’d much rather talk about the atrocities that have been occurring ever more often: entire families murdered in their beds for no reason. “The work of a madman!” people exclaim.

If you’re looking for signs of the apocalypse, look, as Percy’s Dr. Thomas More does, at the little signs, like new white ivy vines sprouting through the country club bar and grabbing hold of a bottle of Southern Comfort, or the Virginia creeper overtaking the $500 lead statue of Saint Francis that his wife had ordered from Hammacher-Schlemmer. Or that weak, sickly grin on poor Curious George.  If you’re looking …

If anyone needs me, I’ll be drinking bootleg fizzes today.