FROM THE EDITOR
When I was 12 years old, I was given a book by my elder brother called The Outsiders. On the cover was an image of a bunch of scowling young men in scuffed leather jackets. It wasn’t really the sort of book you give to a young woman on the cusp of puberty but still, I read it, mainly because there wasn’t much else to do in those days. (No YouTube. No Instagram. No female-orientated gaming consoles. I mean, really… can you imagine?) This book, however, changed my life. Because while it was indeed a novel about a group of teenagers toughing life out on the streets of Oklahoma, it was also a book about the dead end of childhood. I was floored. Literature has a funny habit of doing that – exposing the world and all its complex, unspoken ways long before parents or friends or even lovers have had a chance to break it to us. I learned about sex long before I had it (thank you, Judy Blume’s Forever, the one battered copy passed around my classroom like a relay baton). I learned about love – and the loss of it – through F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, just as my own heart was breaking. I learned about injustice by reading To Kill A Mockingbird, and about loss and regret through just about every Raymond Carver short story out there. Words on a piece of paper may not be as thrilling as a flashy filter or a pithy cat meme, but they can be more powerful. Because books (and features like the ones you find in this magazine) help us make sense of the outside world, while forcing us to look inside ourselves. So why am I sharing this with you? Because, not so long ago, I received an email from a young English teacher who, she explained, was faced with no longer being able to offer English literature at A-level. When I asked why not, she said it was because of a lack of interest. No one appeared to think it was ‘useful’ any more. (This, by the way, isn’t just the case in the quiet corner in which she lives, but across the country.) But ‘useful’ has many guises. On the surface, books and words and thoughts passed from one mind to another may not appear to give us the ‘competitive edge’ we all crave in today’s world. But that is to miss the point entirely. Because to stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, we need people who can look inwards as well as those who can look outwards. We need thinkers just as much as we need doers. And we need writers and students of A-level literature just as crucially as we need coders and brilliant scientific minds. It’s the very reason why we need left-wing politicians just as much as we need right-wing ones, and why in meetings we need a devil’s advocate just as much as we need a cheerleader. Difference drives conversation, and conversation drives momentum. And really, there’s nothing more useful than that.