Reading Cultural Texts As Scripture…

Read and read again.

Read After Burnout


One of my greatest friends is The Stand by Stephen King.

The Stand was first published in 1978 and I first read it in 1980. Since then, he has edited it about twice and rewritten aspects to reflect the change in the cultural environment of the United States.

When I was a student, I can remember mentioning to my English Literature lecturer that I thought that King was an excellent writer. The Lecturer, smiled at me with something that weighed a little over a tonne of condescension. She laughed as she stated that King was not a real writer. I didn’t laugh or smile.

I never talked to her much after that and would bluff my way through her seminars in a manner that was apparent to all and sundry. Fortunately for me, this lecturer was only there for a year before returning to the States. She did teach…

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Reading Cultural Texts As Scripture…


One of my greatest friends is The Stand by Stephen King.

The Stand was first published in 1978 and I first read it in 1980. Since then, he has edited it about twice and rewritten aspects to reflect the change in the cultural environment of the United States.

When I was a student, I can remember mentioning to my English Literature lecturer that I thought that King was an excellent writer. The Lecturer, smiled at me with something that weighed a little over a tonne of condescension. She laughed as she stated that King was not a real writer. I didn’t laugh or smile.

I never talked to her much after that and would bluff my way through her seminars in a manner that was apparent to all and sundry. Fortunately for me, this lecturer was only there for a year before returning to the States. She did teach me one thing, FECUNDITYwhich she used lavishly in her description of Gabriella Garcia Marques’ One Hundred Years of Solitude– a true writer. I still have to read that book.

The Stand is an old friend. I read it every five or six years. I go back to it in the same way one might go back to the place in which you grew up. My affair with everything apocalyptical probably came from King, well some of it anyway. The landscape of my youth was clouded by the coming apocalypse. It never came though. There was the threat of nuclear war, Aids, over-population, and ISIS (so called), but it has never ended. Neither has my love of The Stand.

I picked up a copy of this book just before the weekend and started to read it once again. Some people never go back to books once they have read them. Some people never review a film once it has been watched. I do both. The mind-readers out there will tell you that it will be connected with my psychological hoarding, a need to never let go of the past. I believe this to be true, as this book testifies. For somebody who can launch into new experiences and, as a consequence,  leave behind old ones, I am a strange contradiction. But there are artefacts that I treasure; books, books, books.


The latest edition of The Stand has new chapters and some new characters. All of these are peripheral to the main events yet they work in a way to freshen up the novel for a new audience. Where King falls down a little is where there are obvious anachronisms that have been born out of temporal revision.

My favourite character, Larry Underwood, a musician about to make it big before Captain Trips seizes his platform, is mixing his tracks with Neil Diamond. Now, I am not one to put Neil Diamond down, but a new audience wouldn’t really know him. If they had heard of him, it would be in the same way that would have heard of somebody once called Noah. That to one side, the book gripped me once again and I spent huge swathes of the weekend lost in its many pages. Once more, I was back to the time when I was eighteen, still wet behind the ears, hoping beyond reasonable hope that I would amount to something in my life. I was afflicted with that good old Jesus syndrome.


The Stand is like reading me and the time that has gone into making this person who I am today???

That’s ellipsis with question marks! Ain’t that something?



My favourite characters in the book are Larry Underwood and Nick …  Larry because he is a tragic figure who is haunted by his own doubtful character and who wants to be good, but often does bad things. “You ain’t no good guy!” He hears from women who would have been complete strangers if he hadn’t slept with them. I like Larry because he is a little bit like I was when I was young, self-centred, hedonistic, and a dreamer. He wanted  to do the right thing in a world which was not right. He failed. So, he just went along with the process and carved out his own little stretch of land where he could hide from his troubles and the eyes of his judges.

Larry is an artist who has always struggled to be heard properly. He hasn’t had the breaks and when one sashays his way it is blown away by a combination of genetic engineering and ‘the end of days’ conducted by Randall Flag. Old Randy is the Devil in-definite-carnate. And poor old Larry, and the rest of the world, is swept away by this janitor from Hell.

Larry is a guy who has always been good, at heart, but indifferent in actions. The last stand of good against evil is one in which he will play a major role, surprising himself and others with his bravery and selflessness. At the end of it all, Larry is a “good guy”, but dies in the process. So, is this Jesus thing in my DNA or has it been placed there by the writers I worship?

If I was a lawyer, I would possibly say that this particular case ought to go to litigation. Through their poetry and prose, these writers have led me all the way along a narrative that quite possibly would not have existed if they hadn’t caught my imagination and used their works as pseudo scriptures for a half-wit like me to believe in.

Or is it that I was always predisposed to this type of existence and that I chose the literature that best reflected me?


Thank goodness that I never liked Jane Austin – although with zombies it is a lovely treat.






Turn Of The Wheel

It’s been almost a year since I finished my first journey of recovery and discovery. I thought that it had all gone amazingly well and that my life was set for a new and adventurous course that would be fuelled by writing.

I’m still puttng in the fuel , but my life is still in the same place.

Not for me, the meteroric rise to fame. Not for me, that epiphany of discovery. Not for me, that moment in the sun where, for a brief time at least, people begin to sit up and listen. The wheel may have turned, but the tide has not.

“Oh, woe is me.”

Count Your Blessings.


Part of me was going to write something like, this is a lovely idea.


There is always a BUT with me. It’s as if I have a corn or cheese detector governing my responses to totally ordinary sentiments. The rest of the world lives by these sentiments, so why do I so frequently reject them?

“It’s not the number of breaths we take, but the number of moments that take our breath away.”

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

“You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.”

“Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody is watching.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”
I think that it becomes obvious after reading this short list that the speaker, or the
listener, would struggle not to be physically sick upon uttering or hearing these fired
across the gaping space between motivation and inspiration.
A year has come and gone. I don’t think that I have moved on. Just now, I got a call from a
supply agency offering me a day’s work at a truly horrible school. After a little
consideration, I said, no.
And that made all the difference.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

But how will I get home from there?

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…

images-171 Robert Redford In Three days of the Condor

One of my favourite films of all time. Obviously not ‘all time’ as they have only been making movies for less than a century and a quarter, but time enough. Its central premise is that a ‘CIA book-reader’ (yes he gets paid for reading books so as to uncover plots being hatched around the world) discovers one such plot and sends his report to Langley, the CIA headquarters. He hears nothing back so goes out to buy his office-mates, also paid book readers, their lunch-time sandwiches. Job Done!


Not quite so hasty!

When he is out ordering pastrami on rye, assassins walk into the offices disguised as ordinary workers such as postal men. They then set about killing everybody in the office. Even, the girlfriend of our central character, Robert Redford no less. Having done what they came to do, the assassins leave.

The main assassin is a sanguine, almost sad figure who does this kind of thing because the world is a bad, dark place and it makes no difference if he is part of the darkness or not. With everyone dead, job done!


Not quite so hasty!

What about Robert Redford with his sandwiches?

Robert, being the same Robert from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, is a little bit of a rebel. He may be working for the literate branch of the CIA, but he has definitely got Democratic leanings. He doesn’t always follow the rules. It is this streak of nonconformity that saves him. In thespian circles, it is known as using the back door exit. He went out of the back door, jumped over a dividing wall and got to the sandwich shop without getting the drenching that he would have gotten if he had used the front. The front of the building was being watched. So, out hero escaped two showers, one of rain and one of bullets.


The rest of the movie concerns itself with the way the reader uses his limited skills, the previous acquisition of knowledge, to turn the tables on the assassins who belatedly realise that they had not quite finished the job. Job most certainly not done! The don’t anticipate that a book reader can do anything other than shuffle leafs. Enid Blyton he is not. He uses his unquestionable intelligence to hunt the hunters and in doing so gets to bed an attractive woman whom he has previously never met before. A job well done for Seventies Man! 


Not quite!

You see our chief assassin has gained some respect for our hero and sort of helps him in his mission to uncover a conspiracy plot that runs all the way to the head of the CIA.They, the naughty little devils, were planning to overthrow certain oil-rich states in the Middle-East. At that time, fuel was being rocketed through the economic ceiling by the inscrutable OPEC states. The West needed its cheap as chips gas to continue with its democratic mission to rule the world. So, a good idea as long as nobody found out about it. As Nixon would have testified, good ideas turn into bad ideas is Robert Redford is around with any buddy be they Paul Newman or Dustin Hoffman.

images-187 images-188

Three Days of the Condor is a moody old movie that builds on the tensions of its time. I have watched it perhaps on fifty occasions and will now return to it as soon as is possible. I will have to put down a book or two to do so.

Now, the point of this post is that times change but things also stay the same. The carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, is supposed to usher in a season of harmony and peace to all men, but it won’t. There will be plots and bombs, arseholes with assassination on their agendas, and the general misery that surrounds all seasons to be jolly.


That’s why Max Von Sydow had that expression upon his face.




New Authors Welcome


From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

George Orwell       Why I Write

So, I’m tripping through the internet. It’s early in the morning. I slept badly last night with the start of an illness which wasn’t an illness, or the start of one. It was the continuation of my life; the fear that I had reached a natural cul-de-sac.

So I wake up this morning, not full of the joys of my existence but full of its abject woes. There is nowhere else to go and nothing to try and no way of getting out of this sack.

Still, I turn to writing. I have nothing to say, but wish for somebody to hear me. Yet, I am wondering why I possibly, ever realistically, thought that I could write.

So, I get onto the trusty Apple and launch myself into the untrusty world of the internet.

My only armour is my question, why do I write?

Like lots of writers, I write because I believe that I need to write.  I write because I have a need to say something. I write because it is a task and a challenge. I write because the world has brought me to a place where my only dream springs from my only nightmare; I cannot write.

So when I am on the great plain of knowledge, and I search for reasons as to why I write, I come across Orwell and realise just how good and dedicated one must be to reach that goal of becoming a writer.

And a number of advertisements raise their heads and see me coming:

  • New Authors Wanted
  • Publish Your Own Book
  • Book Submissions
  • Looking For A Publisher

The list is endless…

So, I am here and now, there and then, where and why? 

Why do I write?

I want to be read.


They write for different reasons:

“I want to write because I have the urge to excel in one medium of translation and expression of life. I can’t be satisfied with the colossal job of merely living. Oh, no, I must order life in sonnets and sestinas and provide a verbal reflector for my 60-watt lighted head.” – Sylvia Plath

“Writing is my way of expressing – and thereby eliminating – all the various ways we can be wrong-headed.” – Zadie Smith

“I don’t know why I started writing. I don’t know why anybody does it. Maybe they’re bored, or failures at something else.” – Cormac McCarthy

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor

“Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself…It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.” – Harper Lee

“Writing eases my suffering . . . writing is my way of reaffirming my own existence.” – Gao Xingjian


The Boolocks That Kipling Wrote…


In truth, the certainty of anything is temporary. Time flies, it waits for no man, it is a healer and a destroyer.

Time could be on my side or it could be playing for the other team. After a lifetime of treating life as a tapas bar, I find my choices now limited to a decision to stay or go. If, and for a two letter word it is massive, if I stay there will be changes and I know that my wife is not good with changes. If could mean that we are thrown into the abyss of uncertainty again and if could be the undoing of everything we have worked for, including our marriage. If we move here, there will be a household of ifs, each demanding our attention. If is a cliff edge that presents us with a possible panorama of possibilities and potential anxieties; we could move to the edge and take to flight or we could plummet.

This is where my father comes in again. For my eighteenth birthday he brought me a framed copy of Kipling’s famous poem, If.

If you can dream and not make dream your master,

I f you can think, and not make thoughts your aim

 Yes, I get it. I was supposed to dream but not to become a dreamer. This, I failed in. I was expected to think and not make thoughts my goal in life. I failed in this too. Sorry, Dad, but by your reckoning I have never have become a man. The conditional would never allow me to graduate from teenager to manhood.

I dream and I think, therefore I am (a two-penny tosspot). And yet, IF stands in my way. IF, IF, IF. All a bloody bit IFFY is you ask me, but you won’t because the pun is too bad or you’ll never get to read this bloody whatever it is.


IF you and your friends do read this, then I’ll be a MAN.  


Storm Clouds


The last lesson of the day arrives with an uncertain outlook. The crew of Prometheus always know that there are three critical moments for the outcome of a lesson:

  1. At the start of the lesson.
  2. At the end of the lesson.
  3. During the lesson.

Friday’s flotsam was beginning to wash up outside of the classroom. They have a well-worked routine when it comes to supply teachers. A scout is sent ahead to investigate the conditions whilst the rest of the group join in with the general melee that is collecting on the corridor.  I think they have a crude grading system for what a supply may look like. The system probably goes from clueless to anxious to cantankerous (those being the ones who try to establish some order). Having been in the school for almost six months, a few of the students recognised me. During that time, I had developed an outer layer that was reinforced with the non-taking of bullshit. The kids entered the classroom really quite well.

As with Year 7, Year 9, Year 10, and Year 11, Year 8 can be a funny year.

‘The storm blew up from the depths of hell and filled the world without warning. the clouds rolled in thick and black, and an angry stain spread across the sky like spilled oil.’

It was to be a creative writing task.

“The storm clouds had not covered the distance between entering the room and being seated at their desks. I hand books to a couple of quiet students and asked them make sure that everyone had one. Apart from several silly squalls were setting a different tack until I adopted my favourite teacher voice, the one that gets attention. Captain Evans was  in charge and his ship ran without mutinies. 

They had survived storms like this before, Captain Evans reassured himself. There was nothing that he had not seen, but deep within him a lone voice disagreed, somewhat. Deep in the rawness of his soul, Captain Evans was understanding what lay before his eyes. he braced himself for the arrival of the giant wave, a wall of merciless indifference that could rip bow and stern asunder. 

The moment had passed when they could ave outrun the coming leviathan, so the only thing left was to face the thing head on.

He gave the orders to lower the sails. His crew worked quickly, their nerves brittle under the strain. Knots were tied and then re-tied as only moments remained before the precipice would be above them. the howling wind slowed and, trapped in the palm of the beast, they waited. Each began to say their prayers, even the ones without a god to speak to, and then…”    

The bell went.