So an acquaintance said to me after he had come to hear Hugo Williams and I read at The Bicycle Shop. 'I'm a working class boy,' he says. 'Literature is not for me.'
Well, Hugo is Eton and glamorous in a sort of Bohemian theatrical top-notch sort of way, and if you're feeling sensitive about these things, then he is just a toff, and writes toff literature, because literature is for toffs.
It wasn't always like this, of course. The great project at the beginning of the 20th century - the WEA project, the Everyman project, the Penguin project - was to bring litterachewer to the masses, because litterachewer was not simply a class signifier, but the written experience of being human, and that written experience had been denied those without education. Certainly it carried its class origins with it, just as it carried its gender, ethnicity, and personal genes, but then educated people die too. They too are born, get sick, lose people, fall desperately in love, are disappointed in love, cheat and are cheated, grow old, wet themselves, and go ga-ga. The fact that they had eddication doesn't prevent the human cycle running them over. The human cycle is the great leveller.
The best most terrifying poem about ageing is by Hugo Williams. When I Grow Up is savage and funny and sad. It is not the poem of an Old Etonian. It is the poem of a man contemplating indignity and death. It is not litterachewer, it's a poem, and, frankly, class doesn't come into it at the point of contact.
There's no point in choosing your reading on the basis of social rank alone. Don't tell me that a working class boy is beyond litterachewer, that it's all posh talk and nothing to do with him. To think that is to bring shame to your class. Read John Clare, read Robert Bloomfield, read Blake, read Rosenberg, read Harrison. Read bloody Lord Byron! Don't just stand there, looking gormless and cross. Read something! You might learn something!