:: Article

Burroughs Meets Amis

By Andrew Stevens.


HP Tinker, The Swank Bisexual Wine Bar of Modernity, Social Disease, 2007

HP Tinker does a very convincing impression of a semi-effeminate and well-groomed Mancunian writer labouring under the misapprehension that he is the accidental by-product of Simon Prosser’s “controversial attempt to genetically engineer a brand new radically hip Brit Lit author by cloning the narrative technique of William Burroughs with the social largesse of Kingsley Amis.” Therein lies the first clues for both the kind of book that The Swank Bisexual Wine Bar of Modernity represents (it’s not ‘gay interest’, Amazon take note) and Tinker’s metier and broader literary agenda.

Regarding the literary kingmaker’s cynical attempt to garner yet more profit for the Penguin Books conglomerate, Tinker quips (of himself) “Somewhere – dear God – the experiment went horribly wrong.” Yet, appropriately enough for a fit of self-mockery, the notion of ‘horribly wrong’ is entirely subjective and in this case simply, well, wrong. Horribly wrong would be yet another ‘hip-lit’ foisting on the 3 for 2 tables via an obligatory appearance at a certain West London ‘literary nightclub’. True, Tinker has been lauded in the past by the literary pages of England’s broadsheets and I’ll borrow from their praise when they say his prose “fizzes with the kind of zany, surreal conjunctions that recall Barthelme and Pynchon in their prime.” Yet attempting to outline this book to the uninitiated is akin to describing that bizarre dream you had last night to your partner once you’ve woken from it. Yes, the word ‘surreal’ is often used in the context of HP Tinker, as in the dream-state signifier, but with such glorious synopsises as “Paul Gauguin considers himself moderately in love with Jacqueline Du Pre” and “due to the greatest hits of Tina Turner a woman’s feelings are never truly considered”, what else could you expect? The man’s reverence for Francis Bacon goes far beyond sharing a fondness for rather fetching leather jackets.


The Britlit motif continues unabated in masterpieces like ‘Kandahar’, which does proclaim:

“Currently, the favourite TV programme on Kandahar State Television is Johnny Spastic starring Matt Dillon as Johnny Spastic — a show which is beamed twice weekly into over 12,000,000 homes direct from Zadie Smith’s subconscious.”

Tinker is not afraid of wry pops at other targets either, suggesting a versatility all his own, as the same story shows:

“Although there are no homosexuals in Kandahar — and homosexuality does not officially exist here — it has not been outlawed. In fact, new homosexuals are now actively being recruited to run media-friendly virtual tapas bars and funky post-coital noodle eateries…”

Not wanting to critique the author himself too much or stray from the book at hand, Tinker has cropped up at various points over the years in British litmags. He first came to mine and others’ (most notably Nicholas Royle, who then commissioned him for a collection) attentions in Ambit and then in 3:AM. In spite of broadsheet goading, he shows no signs of playing the game and writing a novel that can be cynically marketed as author product, hence this collection of surreal messages from another world being published on the defiantly indie Social Disease (the name alone suggests a match made in heaven, or Chorlton-cum-Hardy possibly). HP Tinker is a yet to be discovered national treasure, though this book should for all intents and purposes point people in the right direction.

Andrew Stevens is contributing editor to 3:AM and lives in London.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, May 24th, 2007.