:: Buzzwords Archive: May 2009. Click here for the latest posts.

Music to get killed by (published 20/05/2009)


Cathi Unsworth (recent pieces at 3:AM by here and here) writes to tell us about her “very fruitful collaboration with my longtime pal Pete Woodhead”, co-composer of the Shaun of the Dead soundtrack: “I particularly liked the process of doing the sound effects with him as if we were working for BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Having scored a real horror movie and being the David Lynch fan that he is, Pete shifted into my thoughtspace completely with this evocation of the last few minutes of a woman about to be murdered.”

You can listen to the collaboration, a prequel to Cathi’s new Jack the Stripper-themed novel Bad Penny Blues (Serpent’s Tail) here.

3:AM Asia: Otherworldly ecstasy (published 18/05/2009)


3:AM contributor Roland Kelts has a new column up at the Japanese Daily Yomiuri, devoted to Takeshi Koike’s Redline, which he assures me is set to become big globally soon. The Yomiuri columns are only on their site for a limited period, so will run here also:

At this year’s edition of the Tokyo International Anime Fair, Tohokushinsha Film Corp. devoted nearly its entire booth to Madhouse’s long-anticipated auto-racing adventure Redline–even though it may take nearly another year for the film to be released theatrically.

Redline has been in development for six years, and has been whispered and yawped about via the Internet for at least three. Even Hayao Miyazaki’s hotly pursued projects don’t usually garner prerelease fanfare for half a decade.

As I noted in an earlier column, Tohokushinsha provided me a DVD prescreener of the partially completed film, which I watched during a turbulent flight from Los Angeles into a New York snowstorm–ideal conditions, it turned out, for the wildly kinetic, rough-and-tumble action on the screen, where race car drivers both human and intergalactic were competing in the most dangerous Formula One-style franchises known to man, or alien.

I found the visuals riveting, almost grotesquely so, but this shouldn’t have surprised me. Redline is directed by Takeshi Koike, best known internationally for “World Record,” his installment in The Animatrix, a DVD released in 2003 featuring nine animated short films based on ideas from The Matrix, the Wachowski Brothers’ hit Hollywood film. The Matrix, of course, was itself something of an homage to anime and kung-fu movies, and “World Record” returned the favor with glee, combining an imaginative, elliptical narrative with exquisitely rendered graphics.

I sat down with Koike last week in Tohokushinsha’s head offices in Tokyo. A slight, very youthful-looking 41, Koike fits the profile of so many artists in the Japanese industry–humble, frank about his work and utterly unruffled by either attention or praise. He smiles easily at flashes of humor and reacts with genuine surprise at the mildest of compliments. In other words: Koike behaves like a craftsman.

When I pointed out that both “World Record” and Redline feature competitive events–track in the former, car racing in the latter–Koike said he loves the expansive rawness of the physical being in motion.

“When you see it on TV, it all looks so smooth and beautiful. But if you freeze the frame, the faces and single expressions can be kind of ugly, whether they’re athletes or machines. I’m interested in that tension. And the tension of competition. The pleasure of animation is about bodies in motion. And competition makes that more intense.”

Koike’s art, which freeze-frames Francis Bacon-like expressions of emotional candor, seems pitch-perfect for an era characterized by so-called reality shows like Survivor and contests like American Idol. To view the face of a human in the throes of competition, agonizing over the exertion and the potential for humiliation or glory, seems to speak to our collective need for intimacy.

Koike said he and his chief collaborator, screenwriter Katsuhito Ishii (The Taste of Tea), want Redline to reach a new kind of global audience: suburbanites, country folk and those not so wired into the grid of global pop, but who might spend their weekend hours polishing the fenders of their cars and dreaming of otherworldly ecstasy.

My 3:AM Asia co-editor Steve Finbow also has a piece in the Japanese press this week, with a review of the recent translation of Ryu Murakami’s Audition in yesterday’s Japan Times. His earlier 3:AM review for it is here.

3:AM Reloaded (published 17/05/2009)


Punk as fuck, what you (may have) missed on 3:AM recently:

Fiction: ‘Vignette’ by Leslie Braley, ‘Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart’ by Janine Bullman (from Punk Fiction), ‘The Field: An Excerpt’ by Gary O’Connor, ‘Blue Wicked’ by Richard Owain Roberts, ‘Dying A Death’ by Melissa Mann (performed at the Recession Session).

Poetry: from Robert Louis Henry, Suzy Devere, Eric David Lough, Rosie Breese.

Reviewed: Richard Marshall on Tony White’s Albertopolis Disparu & Max Dunbar on Dave Cullen’s Columbine.

Non-fiction: Sam Jordison on the Recession Session & Kirsty Allison on the Rise of the Nu Mohemians (c/o 3:AM Asia).

Music: Cathi Unsworth on Lydia Lunch & Johnny Marr on Punk:

So much has been said about punk’s revolution in music and fashion that the story of its revolution via the printed word has been overlooked.

There had always been a huge aspect of punk informed by literary culture; Television’s Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell started out as young poets and essayists, with the former taking his name from the French symbolist poet and Hell taking his attitude and image (now credited as the invention of the punk look) from Arthur Rimbaud.

The band who are widely regarded as the first ever punk rock group got their name and greatest song from books – The Velvet Underground was a paperback by Michael Leigh and of course ‘Venus in Furs’ was inspired by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch’s book of the same name.

Credit, Debt and Forgery (published 16/05/2009)


Tom McCarthy is profiled in today’s New York Times:

When Tom McCarthy agreed to review Clancy Martin’s first novel, How to Sell, for us, he was tempted partly by the book’s setting inside the world of crooked jewelers.

“I’ve got a longstanding fascination with the way in which economics haunts literature, and vice versa,” he said in a recent e-mail message. “You can trace the history of this haunting from Joyce, whose writing is obsessed with credit, debt and forgery, right back through Shakespeare, whose Merchant of Venice should be required reading for all economists — especially now.”

McCarthy’s own first novel, Remainder, took up the “problem of counterfeit” (as he puts it in his review) by having its narrator stage elaborate re-enactments of mundane events, thus grappling with questions of reproduction and authenticity. These questions are nothing new for McCarthy, an artist as well as a writer, whose artworks often draw on the history of literature. “Right now I’ve just installed a ‘Black Box Transmitter’ in an art institute in Germany. It sends out looping sequences of poetry created by cutting up and mixing together stock market prices, weather forecasts and lines of Hölderlin. Radio really interests me at the moment. I’ve just finished a novel about early radio and its relation to poetry and death. Technology is always haunted, too: that’s what makes it so sexy.”

An extract from Tom’s review of Clancy Martin’s How to Sell:

“The novel is a good, pacey and ultimately unchallenging read. Why couldn’t they just say that on the cover? ‘Entertaining, zippy and unchallenging — X, author of Y.’ The reason they don’t, of course, is that, as with the whiskey-soused prospective purchaser, there’s a bigger sale being made: we’re being asked to buy into the notion that lively storytelling and more-than-adequate craftsmanship constitute great, ‘classic’ literature. I’m not so sure. To bastardize the Latin, emptors need to sober up and exercise a little caveating over that one. I suspect that real, high-karat literature, with its complexity and ambiguity, its general slipperiness, is sitting in another box, one opening to a dimension that How to Sell doesn’t breach (and, to both its and its author’s credit, doesn’t itself actually claim to) — or, to use a fittingly ur-geological metaphor, that it’s lying buried in a rock-seam that this book walks comfortably over the top of but leaves unmined.”

[Illustration by Joe Ciardiello.]