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

The black-hats-and-porter generation (published 28/09/2009)

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The story goes that when Brendan Behan was asked to come up with a slogan for Guinness, he sat around for months drinking the free samples they’d sent him and came up with ‘Guinness makes you drunk’ (the famous slogan – ‘Guinness is good for you’ – was devised by Dorothy L. Sayers). Did you know that the first mention of the black stuff in literature came courtesy of Charles Dickens? I didn’t, but Alan O’Riordan’s article in the Irish Times traces the literary connections to Guinness, from Dickens to Claire Kilroy, via Flann O’Brien and Sean O’Reilly:

Flann O’Brien’s mixture of stout and mullioned snug, written at a time when, as Derek Mahon has noted, literary pubs had as yet no pictures of Yeats and Joyce / Since people could still recognise their faces, their voices, has cast a long shadow. Or possibly a stain. There is an obligatory note, for instance, in Claire Kilroy’s All Names Have Been Changed , her novel of much stout and many writers. Her somewhat cliched great Irish writer, Glynn, even has a “smattering of buff matter clung to his lapel” – a definite instance of textile intertextuality.

Kilroy is not alone in feeling the presence of the black-hats-and-porter generation; as Declan Lynch has noted: “I never pass McDaid’s without getting some race memory, of a time before I was born, when Behan and Kavanagh and Myles used to drink in these places, when alcoholism was regarded as little more than a form of self-expression, one of the few you could get away with.”

Sean O’Reilly, in The Swing of Things , even has an alter ego becoming the drink: “Pints appeared in front of him. He drank them down like they tasted uniquely of himself, brewed from every failure in his life.”

Sláinte.

Dublin’s a stage (published )

If, like Some Blind Alleys, you think Dublin is a “a cultureless shithole compared to Berlin and Oslo”, you’ll want to look away. For, hot on the heels of the Dublin Writers Festival and the Fringe Festival, comes the Dublin Theatre Festival, with friend of 3:AM Elizabeth Rose Murray keeping you ahead of the pack as official festival blogger. Highlights include KAMP [above], The Birds & Pat McCabe‘s The Dead School. Running in conjunction with the festival, those people at Playhouse are transforming the iconic Liberty Hall into a low res TV screen from nightfall on.

Five for: Lara Konesky (published )

By Alan Kelly.

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1) Give me one word you’d want to fuck?
I don’t want to fuck any word that has the letter, “u” in it. To me, that letter is like a fat chick with no tits. Otherwise, most words look good to me. I am such a word whore.

2) What is the most annoying word you always forget to spell?
I misspell lots of words because it really is hard to type with these fake ass nails, Alan. Really.

3) Which is better: “Isn’t” or “Never, not Now Lara”?
“Never, not now, Lara.” I like a challenge. I will beat the shit out of, “never, not now, Lara.” Beat the shit out of it, and maybe marry it at some point down the road.

4) What does the word “literature” mean?
It means I don’t have to try as hard to get laid.

5) Write me a two sentence poem about this interviewer.
It’s sad because I am pretty sure you don’t want me
not like that
and if you did, I would probably be a bigger asshole to you, anyway.
So, all in all, I would be happy watching porn with you,
and ordering a pizza. Let me know if you change your mind.

Lara Konesky is an Ohioan poet and author of the collection Next to Guns, published by Grievous Jones Press.

3:AM Reloaded (published 27/09/2009)

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What you (may have) missed on 3:AM recently:

Fiction: ‘America Means’ by D.E. Oprava & ‘The Empiricists’ by Tiff Holland

Poetry: ‘Four Poems’ by Justin Hyde & ‘Four Poems’ by Ed Makowski

Interviewed: Alan Kelly puts five questions to Rue Morgue‘s Jovanka Vuckovic

Reviewed: Max Dunbar on the Tindal Street Press anthology Roads Ahead

Non-fiction: Andrew Stevens on The Exploited’s ‘UK82′ for ‘Friday I’m in Love, Roland Kelts on Yoshiyuki Tomino & AKB48 (courtesy of 3:AM Asia) & James Maker spends ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ with Harmony Korine’s Gummo:

Landing the Critic’s Prize at both the Venice and Rotterdam film festivals, Korine’s first directorial effort is set in his hometown of Xenia, Ohio — themed here as a tornado stricken dystopia in the Rust Belt. Gummo is a coruscating montage of Wild America’s feral, aimless, K Mart bound youthdom. We’re journeying into the inverse world of the Great American Dream. Of course, we’ve ventured down the crooked road to Weirdsville before, except that with Korine it feels like a genuine visitation.

In contrast, the contorted biology of Cronenberg’s metanarratives or Lynch’s preoccupation with the dualities of American society are intrigues of dark fiction. Korine is American Verité to their American Gothic. His dispossessed exist entirely within a recognisable landscape. If Korine is indebted to anybody, it is to the European auteurism of directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

The Missing Links (published 26/09/2009)

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Penny Rimbaud (formerly of Crass) performs in London on 28 September. * On Eduardo Paolozzi. * How novice authors promote themselves on the web. * Tindal Street Press‘s short story masterclasses. * Electric Literature‘s video series. * Huw Nesbitt reviews Tao Lin‘s Shoplifting in American Apparel: “Ultimately all this is, is a critique without end or goal; an infinite insult aimed at the entire universe that affirms nothing but would happily send everything to hellfire. In some respects, to have achieved that with such brevity is something to be marvelled at. In others, it’s merely a truly terrifying statement”. Tao is interviewed on Dazed Digital * Douglas Coupland on how he came to write Generation X. * Richard Hawley‘s “incredible command of colourful Anglo-Saxon”. * Second issue of the Lomography Magazine. * The last days of Dash Snow. * I hate the Beatles. * Brigitte Bardot, “existentialist icon”. * 3:AM‘s Utahna Faith in Exquisite Corpse. * Jon Robb on how The Damned were airbrushed out of punk history: “Even covered in cream Brian [James] looks cool as fuck”. * Tom Bradley in fine form. * James Maker‘s new blog. * Ex-Blondie bassist Gary Lachman on the occult. * Here is the promo video for Joseph Ridgwell‘s Last Days of the Cross. There’s a review of the book right here. * On Kevin Cummins‘s iconic Manc photography: “Not all Cummins’s work is in Manchester. But it’s all located. ‘Sometimes the band was almost incidental,’ he admits. ‘Like the Joy Division shot. That’s an architectural shot with a band in it’.” On mighty Man City: “There’s an apocryphal tale that he refused to fly United Airlines. ‘I said it once as a joke,’ he protests. ‘It was for ‘My Sad Mate’, the back page of 90 Minutes, the football magazine. I’ve never lived it down. The next time I went to a match, this lad came up to me and said, Nice one. I didn’t know those wankers owned an airline”. Nice passage at the end of the article too: “It [the book] opens with a picture of a patriotic mural for the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977: ‘We were all going to punk gigs, but we were in our own little world,’ says Cummins. ‘Everyone else was painting royalist emblems on the side of their houses.’ This book shows the ripple effect of those gigs. Thirty-plus years later, the book ends with another union jack mural but this time someone has added the slogan, ‘There’s no future in England’s dreaming’. Followed by: ‘John Lydon of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here‘.” * The Impostume on Trainspotting as Blairite escapism: “the fantasy projection of the Poorist middle classes, representing a brief, invigorating holiday in transgression they can return from replete with all kinds of sub-cultural capital, the clothes, the drugs, the music, the bars, the terminology.” * Evie Wyld‘s brand spanking new site. * Lechers and lecturers. * Sam Jordison on James Palumbo‘s “emancipated” prose: “There is no fear of, say, mixed metaphors here. Palumbo is brave enough to write sentences such as: ‘It recounts without pity the bonfire of vanities that has become our daily grind,’ again and again. He isn’t worried, either, by repetition. If people in his world are ‘alive with pleasure’, he will just say so. Even if he has used the same phrase several times before in the space of a few pages. Cliche is no obstacle. If he wants to call something ‘a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah’, he will. He is also bold enough to write sentences such as the following: ‘If at this moment the invisible voice transformed into a visible face, Tomas would note a quizzical look on its brow’. Can’t help giving you another killer extract: “Here’s a book with neither plot, point, intelligence, wit, originality nor elegance that has been forced down our throats thanks to the very things it purports to deride. Stephen Fry declares on the cover that it’s ‘absolutely amazing … it’s really remarkable!’ It can only be assumed that he is in on the sophisticated joke Palumbo has devised”.* Ben Myers signs with Picador. * Zines are back, again. * New issue of Wag’s Revue. * Ari Up of the Slits interviewed in the latest issue of Dazed & Confused. * Best literary tattoos.

[Follow 3:AM on Twitter for more links.]

Saturday Night at the Movies (published )

By James Maker.

Autumn 99 saw the release of Harmony Korine’s Julien: Donkey-Boy. Made under the aegis of the Danish collective, Dogme 95, its manifesto adheres to certain creative tenets to ensure a new kind of honesty and purity in filmmaking. This includes filming in natural light, dispensing with artificial sound, shooting scenes in chronological sequence and using hand held cameras. For Korine, motivated against the mediocre, formulaic milieu of American cinema, it signifies a liberating departure from the elitism of that genre. Starring Ewen Bremner, Werner Herzog and Chloe Sevigny Julien: Donkey-Boy is an unscripted, improvised story concerning a schizophrenic teacher and a school for the blind. Reviews are mixed. He explains his embryonic assault on the values of mainstream cinema:

“Cinema, as Herzog says, is still a form in its infancy. Like a baby where the first leg is sticking out of the uterus. It’s like we’re only just plopping out of the womb and already our sensibilities are jaded almost beyond repair. In a sense, my whole approach is fuelled by anger [at the denigration of this century's most powerful art form."]

Artist, photographer and novelist, in his short yet incendiary career Korine’s iconoclasm has largely engendered controversy rather than captivation. His first international foray was as writer of Kids. Directed by Larry Clark, Kids follows a promiscuous teenager unknowingly living with the HIV virus on a safari of unprotected sex with innumerable partners. It’s an ambitious attempt to characterise the enervated, amoral gestalt of adolescent inner city New York kids; dispassionately recording them as they smoke heroin, copulate and gangbang.

Its release predictably caused a furore in the far right Republican lobby of America, which accused Korine of exploitation and depravity, leading its distributors Miramax almost to the point of withdrawal. In truth, the origins of Kids can be traced back to the American teen movies of the late 50s whose spirit served a similar yet less-provocative purpose; Kids is a hardcore cross fertilisation of High School Confidential and Warhol’s My Hustler and is, ultimately, a very moral film about unsafe sex and the spread of HIV.

Landing the Critic’s Prize at both the Venice and Rotterdam film festivals, Korine’s first directorial effort is set in his hometown of Xenia, Ohio — themed here as a tornado stricken dystopia in the Rust Belt. Gummo is a coruscating montage of Wild America’s feral, aimless, K Mart bound youthdom. We’re journeying into the inverse world of the Great American Dream. Of course, we’ve ventured down the crooked road to Weirdsville before, except that with Korine it feels like a genuine visitation.

In contrast, the contorted biology of Cronenberg’s metanarratives or Lynch’s preoccupation with the dualities of American society are intrigues of dark fiction. Korine is American Verité to their American Gothic. His dispossessed exist entirely within a recognisable landscape. If Korine is indebted to anybody, it is to the European auteurism of directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Korine employs no theatrical exposition in the traditional sense and little in the way of a linear narrative. Xenia, Ohio doesn’t need metaphysics, drama or tornados — it’s already been bombed. Its citizens are irretrievably lost, perma-adolescent. Adults are inattendant — unless you count the boozed up bunch of armwrestling shitkickers who demolish their own kitchen furniture when their 12-pack runs dry.

So, Things To Do In Xenia When You’ve Got No Future: gluesniffing; drowning cats; disconnecting life support machines; tap dancing in the basement and gluesniffing. The incongruous or unusual becomes normality through recurrence. Certainly, one is gazing upon garden variety mid Western nihilism but, refreshingly, Gummo transfixes and fails to descend into longeur. Amid the realm of Death Metal, Satanism and mindbending vacuity there are episodes of unflinching tenderness, rendering this an intensely human film. And a remarkable one at that, for it is a skill to both repel and inveigle the audience simultaneously.

In a scene of unforgettable pathos, an adolescent prostitute with Down’s syndrome awaits clients from the incongruity of her toy-littered, bubblegum pink quilted bedside. Korine appears in one vignette himself, seated on a couch with a physically stunted black male whom he attempts to kiss while recounting the emotional severance of his mother. He resolves: “I’ll die on this couch with you.” A proclamation of love which, in that Ishmaelite society, is as despairing as a suicide note.

The appearance of Bunny Boy is, possibly, a metaphorical Korine. Variously playing the harmonium, skateboarding and frolicking with Chloe Sevigny, he appears to be a free radical against the prevailing barbarism until, in a parody of queer bashing, he is symbolically slain. He reappears — Lord of the Flies style — at the close of the film triumphantly holding aloft a rain-sodden, rigid cat.

If Todd Solondz taps the vein of dysfunctionality to reveal the erosion of family, convention and society in Happiness — a counterpart to the exquisite ennui of Ang Lee’s The Ice StormGummo is more a search and destroy mission on the post nuclear family. If Solondz draws from the reel-to-real school of the chronically dyspeptic Woody Allen, Korine hails from the party monster domain of James St James’ Disco Bloodbath.

Korine has been charged with wilful indulgence and, while undoubtedly true, that same indulgence is exonerated by realism. Besides, indulgence can be a superior quality. Interesting, because if the encumbrance of drama is in discovering the truth of things, both Gummo and Kids paradoxically grasp it with ease. The storytelling of big budget Hollywood, regressing ever further towards Gumpification, appears disinterested in the exploration and the cognisance of that quality, instead pushing us towards expectancies that are patently unrealistic.

Why should we be interested? Because we need experimentalism more than ever. Korine’s transgressive films concern themselves with the world of the disenfranchised. They might be unsettling or violent but I prefer his denomination to the carpetbombing catholicism of Jan de Bont or Paul Verhoeven. He, at least, stands for more reality and more accessibility within the industry.

He represents an Anti-Hollywood.
Which is good.
For Hollywood.

i a spirit not-dead-not-alive (published 25/09/2009)

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work by Will Ashon will be published by 3:AM Press in 2010.

[work on twitter + Will Ashon on signing to 3:AM Press + 2007 interview + 2008 interview + Artwork by Vim Cortez + Thanks to Nicolas Vitte.]