Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
JAMES JOYCE BANNED 11/27/2001
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John Ezard writes in The Guardian that "A mere 250 words scattered through a book of half a million yesterday led to a ban on the British publisher Macmillan's 'reader-friendly' edition of James Joyce's Ulysses": ". . . This was the second ban in the history of Ulysses. The first, by the Home Office in 1922, was for its 'filth and obscenity'. Yesterday the problem was copyright. The Macmillan edition, published in 1997 and thought to have sold 20,000 copies, was a bid to widen readership. It re-punctuated and altered some 8,000 words -- those misprinted by French typesetters in the first edition. . . ."
DON'T TOUCH THAT DIAL 11/27/2001
If you're into The Strokes and The White Stripes like us, you should check out The Hives from Sweden on Alan McGee's excellent Poptones label. You can download several tracks from their John Peel session until December 22. The band are touring the United States, Canada and the UK -- for details go here.
REBEL INC 11/26/2001
Stephen Khan writes in The Guardian that Rebel Inc -- the "magazine turned publishing house that gave the world its first glimpse of Irvine Welsh's drug-fuelled novel Trainspotting" -- is set to "join the cannabis revolution by opening an Amsterdam-style café in Edinburgh" (Scotland): "Rebel Inc was launched from an Edinburgh bookshop by Kevin Williamson with the help of emerging writers such as Welsh in 1992 and ran extracts of their books. Now Williamson will throw open the doors of his coffee shop early next summer. Hoping for a tenth anniversary launch date of 1 May, he is billing it as an urban retreat where cannabis users will be able to relax in a culturally stimulating environment. 'The coffee shop will be called Rebel Inc and will be a cultural centre where art and literature can flourish,' Williamson said, adding that book launches could take place there. 'What we want is a pleasant environment -- the opposite of a drunken pub' . . . The right to use the name Rebel Inc for publishing purposes was leased to Edinburgh's Canongate but that runs out at the end of this year, when Williamson will move the organisation into a new phase that will see the cultural centre at its heart. 'The café will be part of the cultural movement that is Rebel Inc. Rebel Inc has never just been about books and the next stage in its evolution will include the internet and multimedia publishing.'" Kevin Williamson, author of the groundbreaking Drugs and the Party Line (Canongate), is interviewed at length in Steve Redhead's Repetitive Beat Generation.
CULT LITT 11/26/2001
Young English novelist Toby Litt has just published the ebook version of Deadkidsongs. A short story collection, entitled Exhibitionism, will follow in February 2002. Toby Litt has also been writing a series of articles on cult fiction for Penguin's website: ". . . [C]ult books are books that are overrated. In some ways they're books that take over peoples lives; in the most extreme cases they invest so much in them that there's a feedback loop going on and they start to see that book in their own lives. It's not a straightforward relationship in which you read a book and you put it away. Obviously this is enviable in some ways, but if someone's reading is reduced to just one or two books, then that's obviously quite distorted. I think there is a stricter way you can look at it. These are books that have survived and gone through quite tough times in order to survive. In some ways I would like to be strict and say a cult book needed to have been out of print at some point for at least 10 years, but I don't think that's possible. People now describe books as 'cult' on publication. . . ." Toby Litt reckons that the ultimate cult book of all time is probably The Bible.
DEAD SEA SCROLLS 11/26/2001
Catherine Pepinster writes in The Independent that "Publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls -- 15,000 papyrus documents discovered in the desert that have changed scholars' views on the Bible -- is finally being completed, after more than half a century of bitter squabbling, censorship and academic controversy. Fifty-four years after the first of them was found in a cave in Qumran, on the north-western shore of the Dead Sea, publication of all the scrolls and fragments has been completed in 37 volumes. All but two have been published in scholarly editions, and those two are being edited. The scrolls are believed to have been written by a Jewish sect sometime between 200BC and early in the 1st century AD, and the first were rediscovered in a cave by a shepherd boy in 1947. The theory is that they were hidden there in 68AD during the Jewish revolt against the Romans. Others were found in nearby caves during the 1950s. The completion of publication is a landmark for academics and for Christians and Jews, whose most dearly held beliefs have been challenged by the scrolls -- including that of the Virgin birth of Christ, which arose from the use of the word for virgin in early Greek versions of the Bible.The scrolls reveal that this was a mistranslation: the original Hebrew word used simply meant young woman. . . ."
LIVE WRITING 11/26/2001
Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Olen Butler has just completed "the first live webcast of the writing of a short story". Alex Webb of the BBC writes that "Professor Butler, who holds the Michael Shaara Chair in Creative Writing at Florida State University, did not just publish the story on the internet -- but set up three cameras so that he could be seen writing every word of the story. . . . 'Students of literature have never had the opportunity, until this project, to see every comma stroke of a writer. In the arts, painters always had access to the masters, they looked over their shoulder and watched every stroke of the brush. . . . My writer friends think I'm nuts, but as a teacher I know how important this is.' . . . Mr Butler, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his story collection A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain, believes students of creative writing can learn crucial things about the creative act by watching a writer writing. And he says the site had 11,000 hits in the 17 days it took to write 'This Is Earl Sandt'."
A SEASON IN HELL 11/25/2001
One of the founders of Punk, Richard Hell, is interviewed in Gadfly Online about his latest book Hot and Cold. David Dalton writes that "Richard Hell was the primal Punk, the ur-Punk: the spiky-haired one. The torn t-shirts, the safety pins, the era-defining 'Blank Generation' -- much of the incunabula of Punk came from him. But the wasted boy in the shades who once wrote 'Please Kill Me' on his t-shirt and drew a target on it in case you needed help, did not, like many of his peers, self-destruct, nor did he aspire to the role of the high olde Punk loon like Johnny Rotten. But for them, as Hell points out, there was no exit. Richard Hell, primary artifact of punkology, has always seen himself as part of a more ancient guild: that of the eternal bohemian, the seeker after strange truths, chronicler of the eeriness of existence whether in Lawrence, Kansas with William Burroughs or in neon-blinking motels. . . ." In this fascinating interview Hell explains how he survived years of excess: ". . . I lived long enough despite all my self-destructive behavior that I came to a point I had to either accept my fate of being alive or put a fucking gun to my head out of self-respect. I couldn't go on whining forever." About the Sex Pistols, he states that "there were a couple of years there where they could do no wrong. It was everything you could possibly want from a band." Lydon, however, has become "a parody of himself" which is "what happens to old rock and roll people": "That's the danger. Because rock and roll is for kids and when you have to depend on that persona after the age of whatever -- maybe you can get up to 35 with it -- you're most likely gonna be a parody. I think that's what's happened to him. . . . It's hard to maintain any credibility in rock and roll terms as you outgrow yourŠ because rock and roll is about explosions of energy and sex and that's just not gonna be true after 35 or 40." Hell also goes on to talk about how he modelled his proto Punk persona on Rimbaud: "It¹s all hard to put in sequence because it was so long ago but the way I remember it, that definitely occurred to me real early, also the Hell from Season in Hell reference. The way I remember coming up with the haircut was this analysis which was what is it about rock and roll haircuts that makes them work. Like the Beatles. And my conclusion was that it¹s grown men more or less wearing haircuts that five-year-olds of their generation wore. What kind of haircut, I thought, did I have when I was five or six? All the kids I grew up with had a kind of crew cut called burrs. It was a ship-to-shore crew cut that grew out because you didn¹t go to the barber that often and it became all ragged. That¹s the way I remember coming up with it but I think the Rimbaud thing kicked in quickly. The issue of the literary magazine I was publishing when I was about twenty had a big picture of that photo of Rimbaud you¹re talking about and a well-known picture of Artaud in the asylum who also has a haircut that¹s very similar." Check out Paul Dougherty's incredible site where you can download two black and white video clips of Richard Hell in Television (1974) and The Heartbreakers (1975).
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM THEIR FRIENDS 11/25/2001
Our friends at Sendecki are looking for quality submissions for their December issue. Send 3-5 typed poems by email with a short (200 word) biographical statement before December 30. Submissions must be pasted into the body of your e-mail: appended files will not be read. Put "sendecki.com submission" and your name in the heading. Don't forget to include your e-mail address. Things to avoid? "The trite and the sentimental. Archaic language, and the self-consciously 'poetic'. Inverted syntax. Rhyming, unless it's done well. Political propaganda. Harlequin romance. Song lyrics. Haiku." What do they like? "Modern & Post-Modern forms: i.e. Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, H.D., Mina Loy & after. Blaise Cendrars, Artaud, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, etc. etc. etc." Send your subs here.
THE ROXY CLUB REVISITED 11/24/2001
Don Letts was the rasta DJ at the legendary Roxy Club in London, back in 1977. As there weren't enough punk records, he started spinning reggae tracks which have now been collected in an excellent album called Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown. Letts also managed all-girl band The Slits and went on to play in Mick Jones' Big Audio Dynamite and make several films including Dancehall Queen as well as countless videos. The Don was recently interviewed in The Independent on Sunday where he lamented the gentrification of Notting Hill and mentioned his old mate Mick Jones: "I see Mick all the time, party down, walking around, London town. He's been making his own short films lately." The Independent have also published a rave review of Letts's reggae anthology. You can download MP3s of Letts talking about the early Punk days on Carlton TV's Routes of Rock website.
On 20 November, the Prince of Wales inaugurated the new British Galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum in old London town: "The galleries aim to tell the story of British culture from the days of Henry VIII to the reign of Queen Victoria and mark the museum's most ambitious project in 50 years. Highlights include Henry VIII's writing desk, James II's wedding suit, the Three Graces by Canova and the famous Great Bed of Ware, mentioned in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. . . . The Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, wrote a poem, entitled Just Looking, to mark Tuesday's event."
ZADIE SMITH GOES BACK TO SCHOOL 11/23/2001
Last year she received as much hype as The Strokes, and like The Strokes she has, so far, lived up to all the hype. Zadie Smith, author of White Teeth, is going back to school according to Emma Yates in The Guardian: ". . . Smith is to publish her follow-up to the critically acclaimed White Teeth next September, but then plans to start an MA at Harvard university. She told the Daily Express: 'I want to study some more, then become a professor. I'm lucky, I know it's a luxury not everyone can afford. I did my degree at Cambridge and wouldn't want to go back there or anywhere else in England, so I picked Harvard.' The 26-year-old, who last year won the Whitbread First Novel award and The Guardian First Book Award for White Teeth, has not discounted writing another novel, but intends to focus on an academic career. 'There are millions of great writers around, so I definitely don't think I have a duty to write,' she said. 'I might do another book in the future, but I'll concentrate on teaching.' Does she realize there are millions of academics out there?!
EXQUISITE CORPSE MARATHON READING 11/20/2001
A marathon reading organised by Exquisite Corpse, will take place on Friday November 30 from 7 to 10 pm at the Spanish Moon Tavern in Baton Rouge (on Highland under the I-10 Bridge crossing the Mississippi). Readers will include writers from the last ten online issues of The Corpse: Andrei Codrescu, Utahna Faith, Daniel Finnigan, Robin Becker, Dave Brinks, Megan Burns, Skip Fox, Andrea Garland, Bill Lavender, Andy Young, Mark Spitzer, Richard Collins, Rex Rose, Carl Freedman, Katie Kidder, Nat Hardy, Leigh Collins, Jean C. Lee, Dan McNamara, Jeff Smithpeters, Plamen Arnouglestein, Ina Pfitzner, Sharon Andress and more. Pictures are of writer Utahna Faith and artist Daniel Finnigan (whose works will be displayed at the Corpse Marathon). Exquisite Corpse regular Bill Levy, who has appeared several times in 3am Magazine, will be reading some of his poems in Paris at next Sunday's Kilometer Zero event which will take place at the Caveau de La Bolée: 25 rue de l'Hirondelle 75006 Paris (nearest metro station: St Michel).
THE NIGHT OF LEISURE 11/20/2001
English magazine The Idler is holding a Night of Leisure at the V&A in London on 30 November. Novelist Will Self, who has just published Feeding Frenzy (an anthology of restaurant reviews) will be interviewed on the differences between leisure and pleasure. There will be music by Black Box Recorder and a Punch and Judy show courtesy of Oscar Thompson better known as Steve Ignorant, lead singer with anarcho-punk band Crass back in the early 80s: "When Crass stopped I thought about making a solo album about Punch and Judy. I made a Mr.Punch figure out of wood for inspiration and ended up making a complete set of characters. From there I started performing Punch's Opera, otherwise known as The Dominion of Fancy and I've been doing it ever since." You can purchase Oscar Thompson's Mr Punch figure as part of an Internet auction in aid of the Dial House Trust, "a centre for dynamic cultural change" that used to be home to Crass. More on this asap.
Tom Paulin? Poet and critic. Tales of Tom Paulin? "An ongoing online experimental project in an abstract non-linear hypertextual framework" by 3am favourite HP Tinker (see picture with Picasso's goat). tompaulin? An English band (see photo) you can hear live on the John Peel show tonight. tompaulin play the Spitz in London on 5 December, the Fuzz club in Sheffield on 13 December. Check out their latest album The Town and the City.
BYRNE BABY BYRNE! 11/15/2001
The former leader of The Talking Heads, David Byrne, is interviewed in Gadfly Online about his book The New Sins recently published by McSweeneys: "I enjoy a lot of the humor and fun in the McSweeneys stuff. I know from reading the appendix that has been added to Dave Eggers' book, he goes on and on about how it is not ironic, and he refuses to use the I-word. He gets into definitions of what irony is and how it's not technically irony. Aside from that, yes, there's a certain amount of humor in a lot of it. There's a sense of playfulness and openness to unconventional approaches to writing. But in doing something unconventional, it still needs to be entertaining. . . ."
SMALL SPIRAL NOTEBOOK 11/12/2001
A new literary webzine called Small Spiral Notebook premiered on November 1. You'll find decadent fiction (including a story by our very own Californicator Kimberly Nichols), inspiring non-fiction, evocative poetry, a message board and event listings. "I basically started Small Spiral Notebook because I grew tired of seeing amazing writers not getting published in traditional literary journals," explains NY-based editor-in-chief Felicia Sullivan. "In addition, I grew fairly tired of seeing fellow writers and myself receive rude rejection letters in the mail. With Small Spiral Notebook, everyone who makes the bold attempt to submit their work is an art star. If we do not accept it, we make every effort to explain the flaws in the piece in order to help the writer get better at their craft. Since I personally have enjoyed a modest level of success with my writing this year [including at 3am], I really wanted to create a haven for others to attain that as well. We plan to introduce online writer workshops, guest editors and feature and showcase independent events so the 'small guys' get a voice."
The Small Spiral Notebook launch party took place in NY on November 9 (see photos).
Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections is reviewed by James Wood in The Guardian: "Jonathan Franzen is the slightly damaged child of Don DeLillo's peculiar relationship with American culture. DeLillo's Underworld has been the most influential American novel of the last 15 years. Underworld might fairly have been called The Connections. It seeks to represent the interconnectedness of American society by picturing it as a web threaded on strings of paranoia and power -- a kind of Bleak House of the digital age. It combined an old-fashioned solidity and social realism with the prospect of the American writer as a cool cultural theorist, writing riffs and knowing essaylets about the power of the image in American society, about TV, crowds, garbage, the military-industrial complex and so on. But there was a problem with DeLillo's example. His novel was a Dickensian novel without any humans in it. . . . Franzen realised something like this when he read Underworld, and pledged to put the matter right by producing, in his novel The Corrections, a book of DeLillo-like breadth and intellectual critique which was centred on human beings. . . . So The Corrections is itself a correction, and as such it succeeds marvellously. . . . Franzen's emphasis on the human is welcome, and doubtless explains the novel's enormous popularity in America (where it has been a bestseller since it appeared in September). . . . [T]he book is frequently distinguished and challenging, and it was thus a surprise when Oprah Winfrey, not previously known for her taste in big postmodern novels, chose it for her televisual 'book club'. Franzen naturally accepted her invitation -- such a decision commonly means royalties in the millions of dollars -- and then complained to journalists that he felt he was being controlled and manipulated by Winfrey. Nervously, he explained that he felt that his book belonged to a 'high art' literary tradition, while many of the Winfrey choices were sentimental and trashy. Winfrey then rescinded her invitation to feature Franzen on her show. Franzen was soon being pummelled all over America for his 'ingratitude'. He had committed perhaps the worst American sin, elitism; and the second worst American sin, a lack of proper respect for the forces of commerce. He duly apologised for claiming his book as high art, and told newspapers that he and Winfrey were actually united in the great joint jihad of eliminating distinctions between high and low novels. The media beast, duly mollified, moved on to anthrax. . . ."
There's also an interview with Jonathan Franzen (by Emily Eakin) in The Guardian: "In 1996, Jonathan Franzen made a reckless public vow. He did it in the pages of the American magazine Harper's, in a bitter, eloquent, intensely personal essay entitled 'Perchance to Dream: In an Age of Images, a Reason to Write Novels'. The big socially engaged novel was dead, he declared, killed off by TV. Serious postmodern novelists like Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo were doomed to irrelevance. Contemporary readers wanted entertainment, not news, engaging stories, not ideology. Franzen did more than just diagnose the problem. He implied that he could solve it. He made a promise to deliver a book that had it all, a novel that was intimate, socially engaged and compelling. . . . 'I raised the bar,' he concedes now. 'And boy, it was really high stress.' We're at a restaurant in Greenwich Village, eating crabcakes. He tells me how, having written the Harper's essay, he locked himself away in his spartan studio on 125th Street in East Harlem to write. Some days, in order to keep his mind 'free of all clichés', he wrote in the dark, with the blinds drawn and the lights off. And he wore earplugs, earmuffs and a blindfold. 'You can always find the 'home' keys on your computer,' he says in an embarrassed whisper. 'They have little raised bumps.' He lived like this for four years. 'I don't think you know how weird I am,' he says nervously. The Corrections finally hit American bookshops on 5 September, propelled by extraordinary hype and expectation. It became an immediate, unequivocal success. . . . It sounds suspiciously simple. But this, it turns out, is Franzen's big idea: characters are what the contemporary novel lacks -- and what can save it from oblivion. And come to think of it, he has a case. In stuffing their books with formal gimmicks and oracular pronouncements, male postmodernists turned the social novel into an act of intellectual machismo and long ago showed characters the door. The job of creating memorable characters became women's work, the forte of writers such as Anne Tyler and Annie Proulx. Franzen aims to bring these traditions together. If The Corrections delicately probes the ambiguous blessings of a society dedicated to pain-free living and chemical quick-fixes, then Franzen in person is more explicit. 'Alleviating suffering is very good, but it comes at the cost of what I would call a narrative understanding of one's life,' he says. 'You don't need to have a story anymore. Your story becomes: the chemicals in my brain were bad; I fixed those chemicals. From a humanitarian standpoint, that's great, but it makes for a less interesting world.' . . ."
INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON LITERATURE AND THE INTERNET 11/11/2001
An international conference on literature & the Internet, organised in conjunction with the Nottingham Trent University (England), trAce online writing centre (see our interview with Sue Thomas) and 3am Magazine, will be held at the Sorbonne on March 15-16 2002. If you would like to take part, read the call for papers.
BLUNT INSTRUMENT 11/11/2001
Miranda Carter just published a new biography of British art historian Anthony Blunt, a character right out of a Le Carré novel. Blunt enjoyed a wide (and apparently only partly deserved) reputation in academic circles, and was an outstandingly successful socialite, one of the beautiful people of his time. He would get drunk with scholars and Lords alike, and his (homo)sexual life had something frantic and glitzy in its variety. He was the initiator of an international reapraisal of French 17th painter Nicolas Poussin, and of painting of that period in general. But -- more interestingly for us Philistines -- he was recruited by Kim Philby in the thirties and worked actively for the NKVD between 1941 and 1964, passing on as many as 1,771 documents to the then Soviet regime. He was utlimately discovered, and offered a deal, under unknown terms, which left him free of his movements, and was interrogated for eight years by MI5 . Not what you'd call a humdrum life. Read a review of this book here. (This Buzzwords piece was written by Guillaume Destot.)
LONDON MAGAZINE TO RISE FROM ITS ASHES? 11/11/2001
The London Magazine which folded up after the death of Alan Ross who had been the journal's editor since 1954 may soon rise from its ashes if Christopher Arkell confirms his intention of buying it off Ross's widow. Arkell is known for his editorship of the London Miscellany, a conservative, anti-European magazine with a soft tooth for Tony Blair-bashing. His personal connections with Russia may mean that the London Magazine could become a showcase for contemporary literature from that part of the world. (This Buzzwords gobbet comes courtesy of Guillaume Destot.)
We've already told you all about Upstairs at Duroc and new kids on the block Kilometer Zero, but so far we have never had the opportunity to mention Frank, the most famous English-language literary journal in France: "Based in Paris, where culture, language, history, and creative energy all converge, Frank has published over 1000 writers, poets, translators, and visual artists from over 35 countries since the early 80s. Deeply committed to the increasingly-important need to combat ethnocentricity, Frank publishes fiction, poetry, cultural interviews, and compelling art from wherever people create." Their latest print issue (18) is available from their elegant brand new website. Highly recommended.
In England, the Guardian First Book Award 2001 shortlist has been published. France's most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, has gone for the second time to Jean-Christophe Rufin for his historical novel Red Brazil. Rufin, the founder of the Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian association Médecins Sans Frontières, said that he had "cried like a baby" when he found out he had won. His first novel The Abyssinian was awarded the Goncourt in 1997. The winner of the Prix de Flore will soon be announced. Merry Prankster Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, died on November 10 at the age of 66. Vanessa Thorpe writes in The Observer: "A founder member of the subversive group the Merry Pranksters, he drove around America in a brightly painted bus called Further and established himself as one of the key figures of the psychedelic counterculture. The trip was inspired by Jack Kerouac's travelogue On the Road and Kesey took along Kerouac's former sidekick, Neal Cassady, as his driver. The Pranksters' adventures -- or 'happenings' -- included gate-crashing a Unitarian Church conference and even staging Kesey's own apparent death. Their legendary journey, ostensibly to visit the World Fair in New York and to mark the publication of Sometimes A Great Notion, was chronicled by Tom Wolfe in his 1968 account The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. . . ."
ROYLE LONDON 11/04/2001
One of my favourite English writers, Nicholas Royle, author of The Director's Cut has written a series of fascinating articles on London in contemporary fiction and films. The first one is based on the theme of arrivals and departures: ". . . When shooting Cold War thrillers in the '60s, it was mandatory to include a shot of traffic flowing over Westminster Bridge. (Nowadays, the preferred shot is of the MI6 building by Vauxhall Bridge, though traffic hardly flows over any of the bridges any more.) Also made in the '60s, swinging London pictures would be incomplete without a montage of strip clubs and neon signs; Soho having since been sanitised, they now look somewhat dated. Recent cinema's most enchanting representation of the district must be Michael Winterbottom's exquisite Wonderland (1999), filmed vérité-style with hand-held 16mm cameras in venues such as Duke's Café on Old Compton Street. Soho is the setting for much of Robinson (1994), the first novel by writer and filmmaker Chris Petit. Petit takes the 'shivering, naked heart of the city' and makes it his setting for a study of disintegrating personalities. The narrator is a film editor whose career has run aground when he meets Robinson, a shady but charismatic Soho character. The narrator's fascination with Robinson grows into obsession as the pair frequent Soho pubs and the narrator avoids going home to his wife. 'My horizons shrank until it became hard to leave the area. It felt as though I would be breaking a spell.' Soho becomes a special, idealised place, like Alain-Fournier's lost domain or M John Harrison's Egnaro; indeed, it has its own 'border post', the archway at the western end of Manette Street where the narrator and Robinson first meet, at which 'all obligation could be left behind'. Petit's first feature film, Radio On (1979) -- an English road movie that found in the Westway a stretch of macadam worthy of the genre -- created a fusion of electronic/new wave music and dreamlike monochrome cinematography to enhance the ambiguous qualities of its locations. The David Beames character parks his old Rover opposite the Plaza cinema in Camden (demolished in 2000). Later, he stops at Gillette Corner off the Great West Road, then heads west out of town on the M4 past the Agfa building at Brentford listening to David Bowie's 'Always Crashing in the Same Car'. One of the film's most haunting shots is of the car leaving the Westway to join the M41. The camera is way up above, on top of one of the tower blocks near Latimer Road, granting us an aerial view of Shepherd's Bush that encompasses the old Franco-British Exhibition Halls and White City's Central Line tube depot. . . ."
Royle's second article deals with the theme of the London Underground: ". . . Geoff Ryman's 253, set on the Bakerloo line between Embankment and Elephant & Castle, was published online in 1996, later appearing in a 'print remix'. The title refers to the number of passengers there would be on a Bakerloo line train if every seat were taken, plus the driver. Ryman uses 253 words to describe each character and tell us what they are thinking. . . ."
The third article is about the streets of London: ". . . Walking the streets is the best way to spot the links between different locations. In Geoff Nicholson's novel Bleeding London (1997), Mick Wilton falls in with Judy Tanaka, who used to conduct walking tours for a man named Stuart London, who conceives the idea of walking down every street in London, scoring through them in his A–Z as he goes. Odd, really, that he doesn't use a Nicholson Streetfinder. . . . Still in print is Maxim Jakubowski's London Noir (1994), a crime anthology. The title of the editor's own contribution, '71-73 Charing Cross Road', is double-edged with irony: the address is that of his own Murder One bookshop. It's the saddest piece, and one hopes it draws only lightly from experience. Stories by Derek Raymond and Mark Timlin are shot through with the spirit of London. When Christopher Fowler's Dutch filmmakers are casting a film in an old warehouse in 'Perfect Casting', actor Peter Tipping arrives in the Edgware Road 'skirting filthy puddles to locate a small turning between the kebab shops and falafel bars'. . . . If the last decades of the old millennium belong to any London writers above others, it's those who dig beneath the surface of our metropolitan existence and fiddle around in the interstices of history, those who conjure strange new tales out of the zone between myth and reality; the Mythical Realists, if you like. Peter Ackroyd, with his compelling popular blend of London past and present, is one. JG Ballard, with his unique, increasingly popular and now even respectable blend of science fiction, surrealism and fetishistic obsession, is another. Crash (1971), Concrete Island (1974) and High-Rise (1975) are classic London novels, although technically Crash is more a London Airport (as was) work. The concrete island where Robert Maitland is marooned after his Jaguar leaves the road is the one we see in the aerial shot of Radio On. There are two more names that have been conspicuously absent from this chapter so far. The first is Iain Sinclair's. Welsh-born, Dublin-educated, East End-naturalised, Sinclair worked as a book dealer and parks gardener, self-publishing his own darkly intuitive poetry. . . . The most uncompromising writer around, Sinclair calls his work 'future memories'. Acknowledged by Ackroyd, he has become the London authority (at least before Ackroyd's London: The Biography), a Newsnight conscript, merciless iconoclast, his blistering attack on the Dome (Sorry Meniscus, 1999) as inevitable as the failure of the great blister itself. To extract locations from his output is pointless: they're present on every page. Speculations about the mythology of London run as deep in his fiction as the city's lost rivers. . . . Michael Moorcock . . . is said to embody a thousand years of London's literary history. His Mother London (1988) is probably the best London novel of all time. If your tight schedule permits you to read only one title recommended in this chapter, then it should be Mother London; happily, the recent publication of a supposed sequel, King of the City (2000), means that it's back in print. . . ." I recommend you check out The Time Out Book of London Short Stories edited by Nicholas Royle.
JG BALLARD 11/04/2001
The aforementioned JG Ballard's
Complete Short Stories comes out in England on November 5. Jason Cowley writes in The Guardian: "Reading this book of collected stories, spanning more than 1,000 pages and 40 years, is a peculiarly enriching experience. Every sentence Ballard writes is absolutely characteristic. Ever since he began publishing stories in the mid-1950s, in low-circulation science-fiction magazines such as New Worlds and Science Fantasy, he sought to find new ways of writing about our emerging consumer society, not as other sci-fi writers did through speculating about space travel or the far future, but through constructing his own cool, detached psychopathology of post-industrial society. The drowned worlds, scorched cities and overgrown jungles of his early fiction; his concentration on the new media landscape of celebrity and stylised catastrophe; his exploration of the connections between sex, eroticism and death; his fetishism of motorways, cars, technology and high-rise buildings -- Ballard wrote about the twentieth century in its own idiom, at a time when most other literary writers were no more than grappling with the same old tired clichés of the English class system. Those who complain that he repeatedly writes the same book, that he cannot do character or convincingly animate women, misunderstand a writer who is less a formal storyteller than a prose surrealist. The motifs in his work are abandoned airfields, drained swimming pools, crashed cars, flooded lagoons, overlit motorways. His male heroes -- doctors, pilots, architects, engineers -- are emblematic last men, moving uneasily though flimsy, disintegrating worlds (in their impassive striving they recall the sad urban dreamscapes of Edward Hopper). Through his interest in medicine, science and psychoanalysis, Ballard understands how powerfully we are driven by irrational and unconscious forces, that we are often no more than mysteries to ourselves. . . . As a detainee, between the ages of 12 and 15, in the Lunghua prison camp in Shanghai, Ballard watched as Chinese soldiers were decapitated, as the streets of Shanghai were bombed by low-flying aircraft and as his fellow internees were harassed and brutalised. In Empire he writes of returning to the International Settlement where his parents lived in colonial seclusion to find the houses inexplicably deserted, and of watching the distant glow of the atom bomb explosion in Hiroshima, 'that spectral mushroom cloud'. . . . If Ballard is an anti-utopian writer, a pessimist of human nature, it is because by the time he returned to England, as a young adult after the war, he had seen and experienced the worst of the world and of man's potential for depravity. He was without hope or illusion, his imagination forever after to be shadowed by the ruined towns, abandoned aircraft, crashed cars and arbitrary disappearances and injustices of his childhood. And so, as the political philosopher John Gray has written, Ballard's fictional achievement is to have communicated a vision of what fulfilment might mean in a time of nihilism. And who would argue that ours is not a time of nihilism and that Ballard is not the ideal chronicler of our disturbed modernity?
THE VILLAGE VOICE LITERARY SUPPLEMENT'S 20th 11/04/2001
The Village Voice Literary Supplement celebrates its 20th anniversary by asking writers like Dennis Cooper (who is interviewed in 3am Magazine), Rick Moody, Greil Marcus and Aleksandar Hemon who chooses Danilo Kis's A Tomb For Boris Davidovich: "It was published in English more than 20 years ago, but it went out of print, which is unfathomable to me. Fortunately, it's been recently reprinted by Dalkey Archive Press, so I can vote for it in this survey. This is easily one of the greatest books of the 20th century, connecting fact and fiction, memory and history in revolutionary, beautiful ways. It single-handedly renders all the creative-writing whining irrelevant and exposes as insufferable aging white-male hacks' musings about the way 'we' live. Read it and learn."
WHERE WERE YOU IN 1976? 11/04/2001
Excellent Punk webzine Towerblock publish a fascinating diary of English Punk events back in 1976.
BURN BABY BURN! 11/04/2001
Every year on November 5, British people celebrate Bonfire Night: "If Britain does have an answer to the States' Fourth of July or France's quatorze juillet, it is Guy Fawkes' Day, another of those old quasi-religious, quasi-national holidays, this time marking the day in 1605 that the papist Guy Fawkes was foiled in his attempt to blow up parliament."