Q Train over the East River, New York City

New York City. Sunset 4:43pm. Another bright spring day in November with a high near 70 degrees. Last night, I finished one of Stephen King’s early novels, The Long Walk, published in 1979 under his Richard Bachman pseudonym (a fascinating, almost avant-garde exercise in testing the dynamics of raw talent versus name recognition). I read it because the premise was so simple: One hundred boys must walk. If they fall under four miles per hour, they get shot. The last one walking wins the prize. I wanted to see how King pulls it off and, for the most part, he does.

I often overlook King’s ability to make a few hundred pages disappear in a night, which feels like an increasingly rare gift to the reader, given the glut of books with writers working so hard to remind you they are clever. And there are moments of excellent description, such as when the boys are followed by a “small evil-sounding high school marching band.”

Most of all, I’ve been thinking about his personification of the bloodthirsty crowd along the roadside, the villain that allows this slaughter to continue year after year. There was “only Crowd,” he writes, “a creature with no body, no head, no mind. Crowd was nothing but a Voice and an Eye, and it was not surprising that Crowd was both God and Mammon . . . Crowd was to be pleased. Crowd was to be worshipped and feared. Ultimately, Crowd was to be made sacrifice unto.”

This image struck a chord because it captures my anxieties about online living, the mental work required to avoid each day’s two-minute hates and think my own thoughts. But the internet is a cheap scapegoat. Tonight I helped my extremely offline elderly neighbor with some errands. Before I left her, she said, “Have you noticed how much evil fuckery there is in the world lately? These people seem to operate with impunity.” Seems like Crowd is everywhere these days—no choice but to walk through it.

Dalhous – He Was Human and Belonged With Humans

After the Affair | Blackest Ever Black, 2012 | More
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