Except The Impossible Things

These quotes are from Trawl, a 1966 novel by B. S. Johnson, further evidence, if any were needed, that a hatred of dreary employment runs through our literature, being so close to the human heart.

What I made money from [seemed] irrelevant, arbitrary, and I felt it should not be. One thing I did decide, was sure about, was that was that I was not going back to being a bank clerk as I had been in the six months between leaving school and being called up: I could not stand any of the work, the people, the atmosphere. But what I would do I just did not know, and could not think: and I could not even think of anything I would like to be, except the impossible things, like a writer, or a film director, or just rich.

I had gone at fourteen to a school which specialised in turning boys into clerks and accountants, and girls into typists and secretaries: and could therefore keep accounts, type, even do shorthand, though very slowly, and was fitted, even trained and qualified after a style, to be a clerk in some sort of office: which fitting was dismaying to me after my experience at the bank. The point was that such work involved repetition, often quite complex repetition, but nevertheless the same sort of thing day after day after day.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

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