Book Review – Keep Walking, My Friend, And “The Long Walk” By Stephen King
“The ultimate game show would be one where losing contestant was killed”. – Chuck Barris, Game show creator, MC of the Gong Show
On May 1st of every year, there is an ultimate endurance event that happens in Maine, United States. You probably have never heard of it.
Hundred boys from different states start walking together. They have to maintain speed of 4.0 miles per hour. Or they get a warning. After three warnings, your are… well, out of the Walk. You are shot by one of the accompanying soldiers (I almost said cadre). If you walk without a warning for an hour, one of your warnings disappears.
That’s it. Until one winner remains.
The ultimate Prize is “whatever you want for the rest of your life”. Although many winners often die shortly after the event, due to injuries.
Breathe easy now. The reason you probably have not heard of this event is that it’s fictional. (Well, at least for now.)
The Long Walk was first published in 1979 under the pen name Richard Bachman, who was later revealed to be no one other but Stephen King himself. This is the first novel Stephen King ever wrote, starting his work on The Long Walk, while he was a freshman in the sixties.
When a friend told me about the main premise of the book about a year ago, I put it on my reading list immediately. A book about a gruelling multi-hour physical contest with no happy ending? Yes, please.
This was Hunger Games meets Goruck.
Oh, the potential for parallels! The Death Race (ha! maybe they will start shooting Death Racers after three warnings), Goruck Selection, and the World’s Toughest Mudder (myself only having done one of these three).
SOME TAKEAWAY POINTS:
1. Any unthinkable physical effort comes with an undeniable air of spirituality.
“That’s the day’s business. Thinking. Thinking and isolation, because it doesn’t matter if you pass the time of day with someone or not; in the end, you’re alone. He seemed to have put in as many miles in his brain as he had with his feet. The thoughts kept coming and there was no way to deny them.”
Some have referred to the novel as one of the simplest metaphors for life. You walk until you are either shot, drop dead or win.
You push your body hard enough, you start thinking about meaning of life. And yes, you have to push through the discomfort every day in order to sustain life. Life IS harder than death.
2. In the end, you are alone.
“No worries about money, success, fear, joy, pain, sorrow, sex, or love. Absolute zero. No father, mother, girlfriend, lover. The dead are orphans. No company but the silence like a moth’s wing. An end to the agony of movement, to the long nightmare of going down the road. The body in peace, stillness, and order. The perfect darkness of death.
How would that be? Just how would that be?”
I have thought about this point for a while in different contexts. And yes, despite it sounding incredibly negative, I truly believe that at our essence, we are alone. Notice the implication… if I am ultimately alone, then I’d better be enough. Good enough. Kind enough. Loving enough. Enough.
3. You better know why you are walking. If you don’t know, you won’t make it.
“It’s like practicing pole vaulting your entire life, and then getting to the olympics and saying, ‘what the hell did I want to jump over this stupid bar for?”