THE END OF THE WORD | Blogging a dead horse

Blogging a dead horse

Is a barrel of naked monkeys more fun than a barrel of hairy ones?


It is the end of the word! Is that a typo I see before me or something far more insidious? Lawrence Gray examines the unexaminable and comes to a deeply digressive conclusion.


I had a Whatsapp message the other day saying it looked like the end the word. And I thought, hmm, maybe that is true. I mean, nobody believes a single word that emanates from anyone nowadays.

She, who amusingly for me is a born and bred Transylvanian, typed those words because I mentioned that I had been on a trip to the supermarket and that Johor Bahru was like a ghost town. The roads were empty, the car park at the mall was empty, and all the shops were shut bar the Supermarket. I roamed around the place with a mask on, wondering who spat on the handle of the trolley last, listening to various jolly songs of forlorn love from the sound system. Other men similarly roamed the zombie zone, checking lists and phoning their wives when they could not find what they were supposed to find. I spent an hour searching for a cauliflower and some instant yeast for fear my failure was deemed a moral failing, but to no avail!


As for shortages, beef and eggs were off the menu. And for some reason, the particular spaghetti I usually desire had been snatched up. But there were plenty of other varieties, the sort that one avoids because al dente rapidly descends into mulch. Bread was non-existent but huge donuts were piled high. Similarly Chocolate was in abundance and this being a Muslim country, plenty of booze. I noted that the non-halal section was looking rather naked but for those big frankfurters that taste like rubber tyres. One really cannot imagine that there are people who eat them. There were bananas a plenty, pineapples and all those odd Asian fruits that don’t quite taste like anything in particular but have funny smells. If I was a mushroom connoisseur I would be taking this opportunity to expand my fungus palate and grab buckets of the weird and wonderful that tend to stick in the gaps between the teeth and make one think one is not quite cooking them right. Somehow, these mushrooms just do not go well with Waitrose back bacon, two fried sunny side ups and fried tomatoes and Heinz beans.

Needless to say, I stocked up on plenty of chocolate, Ambrosia creamed rice and packets of Lays Crisps. If I could have found some Angel Delight, my cultural cravings would have been satisfied. I figured that if the plague was going to attack me, I had better build up a layer of fat to burn off while the fever raged.

I am pretty confident in my chances, because, despite the alarming rate of attrition, road accidents, seasonal flu, dengue etc etc similarly rage about me with equally alarming statistics and I’ve learnt to live with those odds, so why not Covid19 as well? The alarming nature of this one is that as smallpox, measles and European flu, destroyed swathes of Native Americans and Tasmanian Aborigines, this one might do the same to my tribe. Although I cannot help feeling that somewhere in my thirty years in Asia, I must have had its sister virus ravage me and thus left some smidgeon of immunity. I recall a feverish night gasping for breath trying to stay alive by practicing my scuba diving technique for getting some air into lungs after a breath full of water. When confronted by alarming health issues I tend to send my mind into odd arenas where I concentrate on such as quantum uncertainty, relativistic time, and how to become a Grandmaster of on line Risk, whilst practicing the art of breathing underwater when the air supply has run out.


The last word one says is supposedly embodied in the meditative OM, though I cannot help but feel that it is more likely to be FUCK! However, M does bring me a writerly transition back to the End of the Word, my apocalyptical nuance of a blog title that distracts me from contemplating too closely what the end of classical civilisation must have been like. I imagine that a few hundred years from now someone might fail to rediscover an old computer hard drive and rekindle some kind of renaissance. Knuckles dragged along the ground will I fear, drag forever. If ever you have managed to keep those old Zip Drives you carefully archived your life’s work on, it is highly unlikely that they still work, and most certainly will never survive the layers of ash that seem to extinguish ancient civilisations.

As a writer I have remained in social isolation for my entire life, so frankly the present quarantine is just another day at the office. It also means that whenever the thirteenth letter in the alphabet is invoked I think of Murphy, Molloy and Malone of Samuel Beckett’s oeuvre. He was particularly fond of writing about social isolation. Malone lies in bed with a pencil. Molloy writes his report while food is left outside his door. And Murphy sits tied to his rocking chair contemplating his mind.


If one is going to be a failed writer, one longs for the failure that Becket managed. He may have ended up writing
Worstward Ho, but he nevertheless had great faith in the word, in fact one might call the word his religion.

No, the End of the Word, conjures up something else, an end of meaning, a journey into the wordless void where any sound will do and all sounds are misheard and the very act of writing is not just pointless, but impossible; if only because of the constant distractions this firestorm of irrelevancy hurls into our inbox and bleeping lists of notifications while military convoys conveying bodies mysteriously travel along Italian roads and I unload the last toilet roll from the back of the X-trail.

Which brings me to the ex-pat writer that all inhabitants of Malaysia should do well to dip into, nonetheless for the reason his works were once banned here:
Anthony Burgess.

He was the orphaned remnant of a family wiped out by the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918, and wrote The End of The World News, a title derived from his hankering after the BBC while teaching in Ipoh during the 1950’s.

He interpreted it in an apocalyptic manner, writing a novel that melded three disparate texts, one of which was the libretto of a musical on Trotsky, another a play on Freud and the third a sci fi story about the end of the world. Alas not the word, to optimistically side-step my subject, because in the plot, the other two texts were the only saved works from Human Culture, i.e. meagre though they were, somehow, holistically, or shamanistic, their words contained all human culture.

Burgess was a writer of playful wordplays, thankfully more accessible than his hero, James Joyce, with whom we dive into the depths of psychotic wordiness in
Finnegans Wake.

All one can say to that is:
which is the sound of the Liffey or something.

I am sure Anthony Burgess made money out of
Third Programme lectures about the Babylonian melange of languages that James Joyce manufactured in order to create a literary representation of Jungian’s Collective Unconsciousness in the form of a dream of an Irish publican who may or may not have been a child molester. His initials being HCE, occasional turning up in the work as Havers of Children Everywhere, which has a sort of Pedo edge to it. I’m sure Joyce is just waiting for MeToo to hunt out the micro-aggressions.

But here still is the faith in the word, the belief in its magic. Say the word and you shall be free! But given our experience of the mad
instawebbook mess of all opinion claiming superiority over all other opinion, and our access to the inner workings of experimental uncertainty that mathematicians and scientists now admit to, coupled with the charm and showmanship of the conspiracy theorists that grab our attention, the magic of the word is nothing positive but more, dare I say it, a virus that aims at controlling us. We are, in short, zombies with a parasite that keeps us trudging on through the wasteland in search for other brains to devour.

Which brings me to William Burroughs!

Batsoup Crazy
Pangolin Pie Crazy
Spit on the Floor Crazy

One just has to love him, even if one would not invite him to the dinner table, not because of contagious possibilities, but rather difficult conversational ones, unless one exchanges notes on hallucinogenic substances. If one reads Martin Amis on the man, and I am sure you have, one realises that Bill spent an awful lot of time staring at the sky waiting for the odd bird to flutter across it, whereupon he said something interesting, and then rambled incoherently while the empty desert sky failed to do much else than burnish the tone of his speaking voice. He was a writer of startling bits, as Amis said, and a lot of odd stuff. If he were alive and young, he would be running an alternative news channel and being quoted by populist presidents worldwide.

Amis was a writer of lively words about characters alarmingly close to my own, such as indy film-maker John Self who got lucky once, and Richard Tull, another writer close to my heart who found not fame and fortune but rather himself speaking at gatherings of writers seeking to rework Jane Austen as a feminist and remove all gender specificity from the English language. History, thus becomes, Themstory and Mankind, an oxymoron.

But it is in the ramblings discourses on Burroughs scrappy method, where one finds by the simple process of folding the page of a book in two, the alarming discovery that hidden in all texts are secret codes, messages from the lizard gods that are breeding humans to fuel their
Orgone Factories.

Thus, just as the sky is blue, we are being programmed to exist in our imaginary world, ignorant of reality, fodder for the feasting gods, something that did not escape the notice of the Wachowski brothers, makers of the film The Matrix. Both of whom are now sisters fighting the patriarchy and proving my Grandmother correct in her assessment of everything saying there’s none so queer as folk. Which reminds me, as the evening curfew kicks in, I am sure I have a copy of the Matrix somewhere. What a pity the third film was probably one of the worst really expensive movies ever made.

Everything, as Burroughs and Hasan I Sabah says, is permitted because nothing is true. It is all illusion, make believe, and art. But the word is a disease and success will write
apocalypse across the sky.

Sorry, I am getting carried away watching crazy writer videos instead of getting down to the task in hand and writing a long digression. In short what I meant to say of my title was, the end of the word is but a typo. The truth is, it is merely the end of the world: which is nothing to get worried about. I haven’t been totally wasting my time as no doubt the purchaser of a novel of mine, or the viewer of my only feature film, or observer of some background TV noise might just about agree before the food runs out, the water dries up, and then the Internet and then the electricity cuts out. After all, in the end, everything will get sucked into a great black hole. Which sounds like a good time to make a cup of tea and delve into the tub of chocolate I purchased to weather out the raging storm. I was here, I’ll say, as the great magnet in the sky sucks up the last free bot.