“Don’t worry, Matthew, it’s not the end of the world.”
Little did she know that it was not only the end of it but the beginning of the End. My love of all things apocalyptical was the springboard for my evolving religiosity and political beliefs. The end was a clean sheet, a time to wipe away and start again, a second chance. It was a world that had shed its cares and dreads. It was the real deal.
There is a book that I return to every five years or so and I have been doing this since I was in my late teens. The book is Stephen King’s The Stand and each time I set out on its adventure I am in a dual world of King’s post Captain Trips survivors and in the world of the novel’s soundtrack, the stuff I was listening to as I first read it: Murray Head, Pink Floyd, Kate Bush and Billy Joel. Okay, that took some balls to admit to Billy who appears to have been shorn of popular friendships since Uptown Girl. Nevertheless, the soundtrack is still playing as I remember the novel which I still hold as one of my favourite reads of all time.
I can see you. I can see the pompous looks upon your faces as you read this. There may even be members of the dreaded English teaching fraternity amongst you and I know your type. Nothing is worth a jot if it is popular. Populism is the commercial root of all evil. It is an artistic sell-out, a supplication of one’s soul to the god of mammon and the masses. I recently worked in a department full of such teachers whose sole purpose in life was the building of their own ivory towers and the belittling of all those who dared to disagree with their general elitist views of the world of academia. These were teachers in a secondary school that was careering out of orbit and towards special measures. Their world was one devised in aspic and worshipped as the one and only truth. At a mere glance, they could gauge a person’s intellect or lack of it. And there was never a day when they would not all gaze collectively back to a golden age of learning within their department, although nobody knew the specific dates when this happened. They would have been aspirant writers if they had ever had the bravery to put type to paper, but this didn’t stop them from seeking out and reviewing the attempts of others so that they could feast on a gang-like ridiculing of anything that did not make their literary grade. This applied as much to students as to staff. This pack of hyenas may have been one of the final reasons that I walked.
So, oh pompous ones, I like to read Stephen King. And I return to reading some of his books on a regular basis. I don’t read Jane Austen and I don’t think that Shakespeare is the pinnacle of all writers, thinkers and philosophers. I like Shakespeare but I couldn’t eat a whole one.