If Ronald Firbank were a peak-oil fanboy . . .

. . . he would probably have written cocktail-party banter along these lines:

"I heard a most interesting broadcast today," Mrs. Kelso said firmly. Fluffy entered the room carrying a dead mouse.

"Funny, I never noticed that place on the ceiling before," Irving said.

"If you’re looking at the place I am," Fabia said, "I think it’s the shadow of the knob on that lamp."

"You look terribly uncomfortable, Mr. Bush," Mrs. Kelso said. "Why don’t you sit on one of the less ornamental chairs. In the broadcast I heard," she went on, "a scientist explained how very close our planet is to being drained of its natural resources. He seemed to think it quite likely we would run out of them before men have learned how to harness solar energy or the tides, in which case we would all either starve or freeze."

"Oh, Mildred," Irving said, "he sounds like that discredited alarmist to me."

"I’m sure it made very good sense as he explained it," Mrs. Kelso said. "The first thing to go will be coal."

"We could all go down South and live, until the food started running low," Alice suggested pleasantly.

"Collard greens with salt pork? Not for me thank you," Fabia said.

"I don’t think it’s a joking matter," Mrs. Kelso said.

"Are these goblets Bohemian glass?" Marshall asked.

"Of course I don’t know why I’m criticizing you," Mrs. Kelso said, ignoring Marshall. "Being an inveterate apartment dweller, I’d be totally hamstrung if the electricity or the gas were to go off."

From chapter 3 of John Ashbery and James Schuyler’s A Nest of Ninnies (1969), which one hopes the NYRB folks will soon restore to print, along with their lovely editions of Schuyler’s sublime Alfred and Guinevere and his silly What’s for Dinner?. (Of course, and for the record, it probably won’t in fact be coal that goes first.)