:: Buzzwords Archive: June 2011. Click here for the latest posts.

3:AM Cult Hero: Dorothy Edwards (published 30/06/2011)


In 1934, aged 31, Welsh novelist Dorothy Edwards threw herself under a train. Her Wiki entry runs to a few sentences, and most of that quotes from her suicide letter. What we know about Edwards is that she was a Welsh nationalist who wrote in English, was an excellent linguist who lived for short spells in Vienna and Florence, was an accomplished singer and a pioneering Shavian, socialist and vegetarian who, on her return to Cardiff, was determined to make a living from writing.

Her short stories appeared in English and American magazines and were gathered into the magnificent collection Rhapsody in 1927, followed by the novel Winter Sonata in 1928. It was hailed by the critics as a work of genius and it brought her to the attention of David Garnett and the Bloomsbury group (there are pictures of Garnett and Edwards at Ham Spray House).


According to Elaine Morgan, Edwards behaved “as if the world of letters was a genuine republic – as if here at least the age of equality had already arrived. She was presuming a little too much,” for, tiring of her provincialism (they were particularly mocking of her dress sense), she was cast out and returned to Wales to work on another book which was, sadly, never completed.

Dan Rhodes has been championing Edwards for years, saying her short stories are “lesson[s] in how to write both well and slowly.” So, if there’s a moral to this story it would be a) the Bloomsbury group were not nice and b) you should listen to Dan Rhodes more often.

Further: Dorothy Edwards papers at University of Reading / A Shelf of One’s Own reviews Winter Sonata / Fleur Fisher on Winter Sonata / Verity’s Virago Venture on Rhapsody / ‘The Subversive Cinderella’ by Claire Flay [pdf]

Botched landscapes (published 28/06/2011)

Owen Hatherley on where urban policy under Blair went wrong.

Further: Owen Hatherley on Radical Thinkers / Hatherley interviewed by 3:AM / Karl Whitney reviews Militant Modernism / Richard Marshall on A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain / Max Dunbar on Uncommon.

Free University of Glastonbury 2011 (published 23/06/2011)


3:AM favourite Tony White will be performing at the Free University of Glastonbury tomorrow, and then doing a special one-off collaboration with UK acid house pioneer Richard Norris (of Jack the Tab-era Psychic TV, The Grid, Time and Space Machine etc) on Saturday at 5.30pm. The full programme is here.

Literature As System Failure (published 22/06/2011)


There’s a great interview with Tom McCarthy, by Astri von Arbin Ahlander, in The Days of Yore:

…Before coming to Columbia, I had been invited to come lecture and teach at other programs and I had always refused precisely because I think that the Hemingways and Faulkners of tomorrow are not in one of these programs; they’re in Berlin getting stoned and reading Dostoevsky. Or maybe not Berlin, maybe some place we don’t even know about yet!

One of the first things I said [before coming to teach at Columbia] was, “I cannot teach people how to write.” Even if you were Zidane, you couldn’t just turn up at a football academy and say, “Here’s how you do it kids,” for an hour and then go; it doesn’t work like that. You have to spend years and years copying Zidane and copying Pelé, and then maybe that will amount to something else. But I think Columbia is a lot about reading. I teach a reading course. It’s a seminar. They’re very bright kids and it’s very productive, but I’ve hardly read their writing.

…I know there’s a whole strand that goes on here and elsewhere which is craft. That is just something I don’t really want to get involved in. That’s just something you sit down and work out. It’s like masturbating or something. I mean, teach people how to masturbate? It seems like: Sit down, read Hemingway, read Robbe-Grillet, read Joyce, then copy it, do it again, do it a hundred times, do it a million times, read everyone. There are no short cuts to that, really.

…Read. Read, read, read. That would be the thing. Because, ultimately, it’s not about having something to say. It’s what Kafka said, “I write in order to affirm and re-affirm that I have nothing to say.” Writing is not about having something to say. It’s about an intense relationship with the symbolic. Which means being completely immersed in literature, which means in other literature, but also in the world and all its mediations. So, maybe that would be the advice: Go and get immersed.

…People who proclaim the end of the book just haven’t read their literary history. I mean, the first novel, Don Quixote, is about the end of the book. That is the premise of literature.

I think this is a unique thing about literature: It’s a medium that only works because it doesn’t work. Right? It’s always about the experience of failure. The people who have best theorized about what literature essentially is— like Blanchot, Derrida— they keep coming back to this: It’s a system failure, like a computer crash, like Macs used to be before Steve Jobs came back. They would crash every few minutes— that is what literature is. And so it has always been living out its own death.

The problem would not be if literature was doomed, the problem would be if it wasn’t. Then we would have something to worry about. That is the state the middlebrow novel is in; it is genuinely doomed. …

[pic by me.]

The Missing Links (published )


A fascinating article by Tim Parks: “[I]t seemed that the contemporary writers had already performed a translation within their own languages; they had discovered a lingua franca within their own vernacular, a particular straightforwardness, an agreed order for saying things and perceiving and reporting experience, that made translation easier and more effective. One might call it a simplification, or one might call it an alignment in different languages to an agreed way of going about things. Naturally, there was an impoverishment”. * Anne Carson on the right to remain silent. * Putting language to sleep in Finnegans Wake. * An in-depth interview with Lars Iyer. * Jonathan Lethem‘s “The Empty Room” in the Paris Review. * The philosophical possibilities of boredom. * The Blahblah Movement. * Black Flag on US TV, 1980. * Zizek, the hippest philosopher: “Flapping his elbows and lathered in sweat, Slavoj Žižek looks like a man in the final throes of radiation sickness doing the birdy dance” (Telegraph interview). * A tribute to Tony Wilson at Meltdown. * Revisiting Henry Miller’s Paris. * Roland Barthes: j’aime, je n’aime pas. * Sylvia Whitman on Shakespeare & Company. More here. * Rosa Rankin-Gee wins the inaugural Paris Literary Prize (watch video about the prize here/pix here/more info about the authors here/Adam Biles, one of the runners-up). * Toulouse-Lautrec‘s portraits of Jane Avril. * The inauguration of Rue Gaston Gallimard. * David Lynch to open Mulholland Drive-style nightclub in Paris. * Fuck yeah Beatniks. * The Daily Mail covers NY’s Mermaid Parade! * The Horrors on their new album. * n+1 on Edouard Levé‘s Suicide. * A 1978 video for Suicide‘s “Frankie Teardrop“. * The mystery behind Hemingway’s suicide. * Great video interview with Thurston Moore (plus blinding acoustic gig). * 3:AM‘s Karl Whitney walks the boundaries of Tallaght. * Former 3:AMer Tao Lin‘s “Drug-Related Photoshop Art”. More here. * Gerry Feehily in his goth days back in the day back in Dublin. * And God created Lady Penelope. * Dr Who Girls’ knickers. * The Clash in Manchester, 1977, and on Broadway, 1981. * A history of indie music. * Rebecca West and the Vorticists. More here. * Debbie Harry talks (and models) fashion (video, 1979). * Mutant Disco. * Steve Aylett and Stewart Home at Edinburgh Film Festival. * 33 literary Twitter feeds to follow. * Mad Men: the end is nigh. * Salman Rushdie on TV drama. * Owen Hatherley on Pulp and the death of the “literary-experimental pop tradition“. * 1950s BOAC promo film. * On Heidegger kitsch. * Helmut Newton polaroids. * Polaroid’s SX-70: the art and science of the nearly impossible. * Polaroid masterpieces. * Linda McCartney‘s photos. * An interview with the late David Foster Wallace. * Bret Easton Ellis vs David Foster Wallace. * The ghost of The Specials‘ “Ghost Town“. * Abandoned London. * Haunted retro. * More Mark Fisher. * Listen to Molly Bloom‘s soliloquy. * It’s a long way back to Germany: The Ramones on German TV, 1978. * How to drink like your favourite authors. * 13 fictional characters and their signature drinks. * Amy Winehouse living up to her name in Belgrade. * Spiderman to be killed off by Marvel, but Batgirl is back. * One for Mr Tinker: three new Morrissey tracks. * Happy 51st Psycho! * Hitchcock ads. * Home movies featuring Andy Warhol. * Julian Temple‘s Mantrap (featuring ABC‘s Martin Fry). * Writers choose their holiday reads. * Colin Newman of Wire discusses some of his favourite albums. * Will Self on walking. * Picture above from Mixbeat.

Big Sexy Meltdown (published 20/06/2011)

By Andrew Stevens.


To the South Bank’s Purcell Room for Meltdown on Saturday night, which this year was curated by Ray Davies. The lion’s share of punters were across in the festival hall for the Wire/Sonics double bill, but a more select crowd of scuzz aficionados were prepared to grapple with the intense set laid on by Big Sexy Noise, who more than lived up to their billing. Lydia Lunch provided vocals and intensity, James Johnston the windmilled guitars and feedback, Terry Edwards the demented sax and keyboards, Ian White the tight yet heavy drumming, soundtracking misery, money and mendacity. Between songs Lunch provided some less than constructive feedback on the lives and oeuvre of Pete Doherty, Courtney Love and Amy Winehouse as well.


Afterwards over a pint of red wine, ears still ringing, I caught up with the “scabrous” (according to the Observer) singer in the ridiculously cramped and packed aftershow, who remarked:

I had a great time. As a contrarian I really get off on that type of setting. Especially for Big Sexy Noise. An upscale theatre, the audience forced to squirm in their seats when they’d rather be up on their feet dirty dancing and grinding into the flesh next to them, while I bitch slap them a bit with some tasty cock rock. HOT!…




(photos: Kristal Images & Raul Ranz)