:: Nonfiction archive ( 2000-2005, click for articles pre-2006)

Stefan Zweig’s pity in a modern setting published 05/03/2014

A close friend of mine gave me Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity over the summer saying it was a book by a “writer’s writer”. Hackneyed as that may sound, I cannot think of a better way to describe Zweig’s hyperconscious prose. The novel destroyed me in the best way possible. I experienced the rare feeling of being taken almost against my will as a reader to a dark familiar place, a place consciously evaded.

Elias Tezapsidis on Stefan Zweig‘s Beware of Pity

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Waterloo fragments published 04/03/2014

I watch the old Eurostar terminal creep in as I walk to the last carriage of the train. Sometimes, when I arrive a bit late, and jump on the first carriage available, I even get to capture it through a slow tracking shot. When this happens it is as if I am watching an uncanny film, one in which the main haunting is my own arrival twelve years ago. I know it is a matter of time until I even catch myself walking down the abandoned platform, carrying only a small bag, looking scruffy and skinny and a bit happier than lately. It will be eerie and humbling, I know. ‘However long you’ve been here,’ the abandoned platform will say that day, ‘you will always be still arriving.’

By Fernando Sdrigotti.

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Derek Jarman’s King’s Cross published 02/03/2014

In 1987 Derek Jarman filmed a promo in King’s Cross, creating footage that would be used by the dance music duo the Pet Shop Boys in the video for their song ‘Rent’ (released October 1987). The film features Rupert Adley (aka ‘Spring’, who also played in The Last of England) alongside an angelic-looking Pet Shop Boy, Chris Lowe. The shoot took place in the summer, in and around the underground station ticket hall – before the same station was devastated by fire in the evening rush hour on the 18th November 1987, killing 31 people; an event later commemorated with a humble plaque on the ticket hall wall.

Ben Campkin examines Derek Jarman‘s filmic footprint on 1980s King’s Cross.

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The Prophetic Silence of Bolaño’s ‘2666’ published

A proper understanding of existence is that we are not its purpose. Bolaño writes to that impressive fact. His esotericism is a matter of asserting this anti-providentialism. It results in a change of consciousness. Yet as an author there is a lingering requirement to order and structure that rejects happenstance. Bolaño’s writing knows that there is a creative imagination ordering and processing. But the new consciousness it springs out of is one that withdraws from saying what purpose it has, or if there is any.

Richard Marshall on Bolaño’s ‘2666’.

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Reports from Latin America published 01/03/2014

The first thing I did when I learned I was coming to Latin America was to draw up battle plans for my political novel set between there and the UK. I researched the writers I wanted to read and learn about (Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, Chile’s two Nobel Prize winners foremost amongst them, but especially the master of wild late 20th and early 21st century fiction, Roberto Bolaño), listed places of interest (the Andes, Casa Rosada, Terra del Fuego, the Atamacama desert), and researched the museums and archives (Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, Neruda’s museum in Valparaiso, Gabriela Mistral’s hometown in the Elqui Valley). I had a title, Once a Great Leader, and a concept. I even had a beginning. All of which, my quote reminded me, might not last to the end of the flight across the Atlantic. Which is fine, as long as you breathe deeply, don’t expect a pregnancy to last three weeks, and learn to make plans as you go.

Rodge Glass‘ reports from Chile for 3:AM, as he researches his novel-in-progress, Once a Great Leader.

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Cover Letter published 22/02/2014

Vagueness like this serves programs in creative writing that are built around the development and exploitation of cults of personality in “popular” professors and in “star” students (the ones who have “it” when they walk in the door). In such programs students sign up for courses “with Professor (name),” not courses “in (technique).” Such programs consider it inappropriate to require Professor (name) to address any particular subject matter; they also typically abstain from requiring students to acquire any particular skill or fluency. Might such policies stem from the lack of criticality suggested by the wording above, where at a relatively early stage of their coursework (e.g. “intermediate”), students are expected to be producing “poetry”? A more realistic view of writing must allow that the very best literary artists mainly fail to write anything remotely so good as “poetry.”

By Daniel Bosch.

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ZOMBIES ‘R’ US published 12/02/2014

Increasingly the zombie has come to figure as a fateful symbol for the mass of subjectiveless techno-humans under capitalism, lumpen, nightmarish non-beings whose otherness has been completely internalised, then smoothed out and returned minus interest as soulless entertainment; not so much undead as hypermediated and alive under severe globalised constraint; couch potatoes sorely afflicted by ‘breathing corpse syndrome’ or ‘partially deceased syndrome’. Hypocrite voyeur do you recognise yourself?

Michael Hampton ponders Zombies.

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Post-National Me published 07/02/2014

I had no idea this had been said about Bolaño, and the article didn’t say who’d first used the phrase ‘post-national fiction’. But immediately my ears pricked up. I had that experience so many of us do when we find that particular book, or story, or writer, who touches a nerve so strong that it feels as if it covers us completely. Like our whole bodies have morphed into a funny bone and the world has briefly come, even just for a second, sharp into focus. I read this line about Bolaño and thought: that’s me! I’m post-national! Or at least, I desperately want to be! I’d not thought it through yet but the sentence hit me in the gut, and it did so because like every other writer, everywhere, ever, I’m obsessed with myself.

By Rodge Glass.

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William Burroughs and the Dreamscapes of the Dalai Lama published 05/02/2014

The dark satires of William S. Burroughs deal, above all, with overcoming the limits of ordinary consciousness through word-as-virus, drugs, magic, sex, telepathy, writing, and, of course, dream. Back in 1962, Burroughs was famously praised by Norman Mailer as ‘The only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.’ Neither Mailer nor Burroughs is alive today. If Burroughs were alive, he would be a centenarian. He was born on February 5th, 1914. His writing intersected with my life in 1970, when I was sixteen: Naked Lunch was like a depth charge in the mind-stream.

An essay by Des Barry, to mark William Burroughs‘ 100th birthday.

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Neither Scylla nor Charybdis: Gauging Crisis published 27/01/2014

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While Alex Rosenberg suggests that literary scholars have overextended their expertise by trying to read literature into science (or science into literature) without a real understanding of what science is, William Deresiewicz’s scathing article decries the reductionist reading (and what historians would refer to as ‘upstreaming’ or a whiggish interpretation of history) performed by a political scientist and science writer seen as not possessing a sufficient understanding of literature—nor, probably, of history. The problem with Rosenberg and Deresiewicz is the way in which they rush to pass judgment, using a few straw man examples (and an effort at disciplinary gate-keeping in the case of Rosenberg) to condemn entire areas of scholarship.

By Clarissa Lee.

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