No one has much of an appetite for more gloomy prognoses these days, but this one has the virtue of more urgency even than falling real estate prices and governmental paralysis. It's about how our most fundamental habits -- what we eat, what we drive, what we burn up, what we dispose of -- are not merely hastening our extinction but grossly out of line with those of our brethren at the other end of the economic spectrum.

World Watch has a useful November-December recitation of reasons why it behooves us to change our ways. Alan Durning wields the shaming statistics here: "Only 8 percent of humans, about 400 million, own cars. ... {The poorest} one billion people do most of their traveling ... on foot." The rest, 3 billion people, travel by bus and bicycle. "The typical mouthful of food travels 1,300 miles from farm field to dinner plate" in the United States. The industrialized world's typical citizen "uses 15 times as much paper, 10 times as much steel, and 12 times as much fuel" as his developing-world counterpart. "Seven percent of consumer spending in the United States goes for packaging."

The magazine is a voice of clairvoyant good sense about the global environment in all its aspects, swimming in facts and full of a prophet's romanticism in its call for a dramatic new world order: "Accepting and living by sufficiency rather than excess offers a return to what is, culturally speaking, the human home: the ancient order of family, community, good work and good life; to a reverence for excellence of craftsmanship; to a true materialism that does not just care about things but cares for them; to communities worth spending a lifetime in."

Also in this issue, a separate story on appropriate alternatives to cars. World Watch, 1776 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Six issues, $15.

Shoen Tell

One of the ways the rich are different is that when they kill each other, they do it memorably. Here's another pathetic case confirming that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Telluride, Colo., last August: Eva Shoen is murdered, and it looks like a professional hit. Her husband, Sam, is one of two sons of U-Haul founder L.S. Shoen, a self-made tycoon but essentially an ineffectual father (though a passable fatherer -- he had 12 children by several wives). Through a combination of bad business sense and bad blood, this naive and moody patriarch has had the company wrested from him by Sam and his younger brother, Joe. And U-Haul, a quixotic enterprise at the outset, is getting beaten by Ryder in the truck rental field L.S. Shoen invented and dominated for decades.

John Tayman has written a commanding narrative that leaves the question of who killed Eva Shoen utterly unresolved, if a good deal more interesting than it might otherwise be. The story is an inspiring breath of journalism in the new M inc. (Issue No. 3, November).

Bar Sinister

Novelist Stanley Elkin has a most peculiar fetish. He collects little bars of soap stolen from hotels and other swank places -- five or six thousand little bars of soap. His confession in the November Art & Antiques is a wild lather of endless sentences and quaint digressions, a search for scents and sensibility across a continent of hotel bathrooms.

Rudolph the Red-Ink Reindeer

Christmas is a dread subject in a nation of holiday neurotics, but here are some facts worth putting in your mental stocking right now. One in five Americans bought his or her first 1990 Christmas present before last year's decorations came down. (Who are these people?) One in four adults under 30 won't finish shopping until Christmas Eve; older people are more budget-minded and early in their gift-buying. We spent $474, on the average, on Christmas presents in 1988, and one in five spent more than $1,000. People who shopped without paying much attention to their spending spent $81 less than those who set a budget for themselves (and then exceeded it). Serves them right.

American Demographics (November) also has a full report on what we spend on what, year-round, from housing to groceries to movies to (just barely) reading matter. Chapters

Story, the great old dominant literary forum of the short story, was revived and spruced up a year ago and is publishing excellent work in attractive surroundings. In the new autumn issue, look for a Tennessee Williams story from 1939 -- the first he ever published -- and a welter of muscular work by Larry L. King, Alan Cheuse, Kate Braverman, Robert Ward and Alice Adams, among others. A nice touch: Instead of the usual biographical lines ("... teaches in the MFA writing program at ..."), the writers get a chance to say a few things about the story: how it came to be written etc. Story, Box 396, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. Four quarterly issues, $17.

The Wittenberg Review is a new journal of undergraduate college writing -- chiefly essays -- from across the country, with a governing board of pooh-bahs, (Robert Coles, Benjamin DeMott, Martin E. Marty, Eleanor Clift) and evidence of a generous budget. The work is fine, and diverse: "Archie Bunker: American Folk Hero?" "Nipponism in Japanese Painting 1937-45," "Integration, Segregation, or Education?" For information (or a free subscription), write the magazine in care of Wittenberg University, Box 720, Springfield, Ohio 45501.

Saul Bellow doesn't give many interviews and doesn't give much when he does. But he made an exception for his friend Keith Botsford, publisher and editor of Bostonia, a superb bimonthly general-interest magazine published for a wider audience by Boston University; Bellow teaches at John Silber's university part of the year. In the November-December issue, Bellow talks, under Botsford's dogged questioning, about what he was doing and thinking while he was a young man -- about Marxism, the Bible, French Canada, Partisan Review, John Berryman, anthropology, Tolstoy and the "decline of desire." Next time, Bellow from age 34 to the present. Bostonia, 10 Lenox St., Brookline, Mass. 02146-9919. Six issues, $12.50.