Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
That’s Uncle Karl, of course, being all charitable and such about the power of religion to soothe the alienated modern soul on its lonely, one-way flight through time. But whither religion (whither, for that matter, the ‘soul’, or ‘whither’?) in the era of Sunday Shopping and Round-trip all-inclusives to holidays in the sun? Marx’s contemporary, Matthew Arnold, invoked culture as the heir apparent to religion, so if you can buy into that and you’ve got any room in that overstuffed carry-on of yours, why not pack a novel, perhaps even this one? Don’t worry, the pills on the back cover won’t get you busted at Customs and Immigration: relax, Max, they’re prescription.
Oh, if religion is opium, then the novel is small beer indeed, however formidably the Thomas Pynchon west coast double IPA might strike your palate, or the David Foster Wallace Heady Topper from out east might get all up in yer noggin. But if the novel is beer, then W.D. Clarke’s White Mythology is a bottle of Bud Light® Lime, abandoned (after one l’il sip) in the armrest of a stray foldaway chair several miles up the coast (and down-market) from Tom Robbins’ oceanside condo.
You know the place, just veer left when you pass T.C. Boyle’s Rat Asylum and Human Behaviour Lab. If you reach Herman Hesse’s Magic Theatre, you’ve gone too far, pal—make a U-turn and pay attention, G-ddammit: it’s a hidden entrance, but public access, just keep that dog of yours on a leash at all times if you know what’s good for you. Then settle yourself down in the sand, adjust your toosh in the chair, take a sip (goes down easier than you thought, but what’s that aftertaste?), and look to the horizon…Why, there! Yes, it’s a chummy, life-affirming albatross, one who got away, warbling his throaty warble of freedom and urging you to join in! And what’s that in the sand? Whoever left you that beer thoughtfully bequeathed you a kazoo as well, so adjust your tone, man, chill out, let the waves tickle your feet, and sing along:
Oh life’s a beach, and then you fry,
Nasty, brutish and short,
And I don’t know why,
But pushin’ and sho-ov-in’s
More common than lo-ov-in’:
A crooked worm crawls through
Mom’s apple pie….