Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
THE SOUND OF A SIXTH-FORM GODDESS 02/19/2002
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Jonathan Coe whose latest novel The Rotters' Club will be published in paperback in March, is releasing an album on Bertrand Burgalat's French record label Tricatel. The album is released today in France. Jonathan Coe writes on the Tricatel website that "it's probably true to say that there is no other record quite like 9th and 13th. Which is not to say that Louis, Danny and I have succeeded in reinventing the wheel. Just that, for me, this peculiar collection of melodies and recitatifs represents a small but significant step towards one of my long-held goals as a writer: finding a new way of integrating music and the spoken word. Reading to a musical accompaniment is, I have discovered, more liberating than restricting. Just as Georges Perec found a strange kind of freedom for himself in writing a novel without using the letter 'e', so the creative mind is wonderfully concentrated by knowing, for instance, that the extract you are going to read must last exactly 52 seconds, and must contain a natural pause to allow that lovely vibraphone figure to be heard. In this way, you discover new rhythms in your prose, beats and pulses that you didn't know existed. The other joy of making this album has been the excuse it has given me to hang around in recording studios, which has always been my idea of paradise. Don't ask me why. Time passes differently in these womb-like environments, hermetically sealed off from the cares of the outside world. . . . My own musical tastes are eccentric, I freely admit. They were formed in the 1970s when the first record I bought (aged ten) was a Bill Haley compilation, followed rapidly by Bolan Boogie, The Slider and a few other masterworks by my then-heroes T. Rex. At around the same time my father brought home an album of Ravel's orchestral music (although he only ever listened to 'Bolero'), and I fell in love with the 'Pavane pour une infante défunte'. So, from an early age, I had a passion both for the formal simplicity and solid beats of pop music, and the plangent, bitter-sweet harmonies of the French impressionists. Soon, I was looking for music which might combine these elements, and the closest I could find was on the outer, quirkier fringes of the British progressive scene in the mid-70s. While being bored to tears by the pseudo-symphonic excesses of Yes, ELP and their ilk, I nonetheless became a devotee of Caravan, Hatfield and the North and a handful of other bands whose names are dangerous to mention even today. However, I confess, here and now, like a bishop who admits that he wears women's underwear beneath his robes (thank you, Bertrand Burgalat, for that analogy) that I still enjoy listening to this kind of music, and indeed with the very title of my new novel The Rotters' Club I have formally 'outed' myself as a Canterbury aficionado. . . . The music of the 1980s, like the politics, didn't appeal to me: I found it brittle and shrill and ungiving. For a few years The Smiths provided some crumbs of comfort, with Morrissey's irony-laden melancholy and Johnny Marr's brilliant melodic gift (they were much better songwriters than Lennon and McCartney, in my view). But then I stumbled upon él records, Britain's great musical secret of the 1980s, home to Bid and Marden Hill and The King of Luxembourg and a cluster of other acts who proved that pop songs could still be written with style and feeling and classical elegance. And also home, of course, to Louis Philippe. At the time I discovered Louis' music, there were two things happening in my creative life. The student band for which I had written songs and played keyboards was on the point of collapsing, and my novels were beginning to be published. I was writing my third, in fact: The Dwarves of Death, a comic roman noir about a cocktail pianist who fails to solve a murder mystery and, more importantly, fails to get the girl. With all the hubris of youth, I thought it would be a good idea to include one of my own piano compositions in this novel: and so I made my hero, William, write a tune called 'Tower Hill', which is actually printed in the text. In one scene he attempts to play it in public, but he's too drunk, and he screws it up. Danny Manners gamely 'performs' this scene on our record, while still managing to bring out (for which I thank him) whatever scraps of lyricism and melodic appeal the tune contains. A few years later, having given up on my musical ambitions, I made contact with Louis Philippe when I wanted to use some words from his song 'Yuri Gagarin' as the epigraph to my next novel, What a Carve Up!. . . . My character Michael Owen shares Louis' hero-worship of the legendary cosmonaut, so we thought it would be appropriate here to combine another of his songs, 'Destination Moon', with some readings from my book in which Michael looks back on his youthful enthusiasm. . . . After What a Carve Up! I wrote The House of Sleep, a novel haunted by images of the restless sea, 'stretched towards the horizon, sickly green and heaving with endless disquiet'. The music on my headphones while I wrote it was not La Mer, however, but more often 'Sea Song', by Robert Wyatt, 'Sea Lady' (a fabulous Kenny Wheeler/Norma Winstone tune) and 'Fires Rise and Die', one of my favourite Louis Philippe songs from his 1987 album Appointment with Venus. He sings it again here, in a version even better than the original, I think, and towards the end of the song his daughter Camille reads, or rather whispers, the final broken sentences of my novel. Actually the words here are by Jean Pavans, because Camille is reading from his brilliant French translation. Whatever the authorship, I think the language and the harmonies, on this occasion, meld perfectly. The House of Sleep also contains my only poem, a sonnet called 'Somniloquy', which took me at least six months to write. A brief discussion of this item at Louis' house ended with our host declaring that it could never be set to music, while the unflappable Danny simply withdrew to his flat and reappeared a few days later clutching a sheet of manuscript paper, having achieved, through one of those casual acts of alchemy of which only he seems to be capable, the very thing that the rest of us had considered impossible. In this lovely, eerie setting, Francis Poulenc climbs warily between the sheets with Bernard Herrmann. (I don't know if this ever happened in real life, but it should have done.) I was still writing The Rotters' Club when we made most of these recordings, so we weren't able to draw as much as we would have liked on this, one of the most musical of all my novels. My schoolboy hero Benjamin is fatally torn (as I was, twenty years ago) between wanting to be a writer and a composer and, like William in The Dwarves of Death, he thinks that music might be the key to winning the girl of his dreams. Like William, he's wrong. 'Three Views of Cicely' introduces us to the object of his obsession, a sixth-form goddess to whom there could be no better introduction than this feathery Latin instrumental, so seductive and irresistible, but with a touch of madness in those string arrangements to suggest that we might actually be dealing with something (or someone) very spooky indeed. Louis and Danny get a chance to read from the novel on this track, and the divine Cicely is voiced by my friend and fellow-novelist Esther Freud, once an actress herself and still blessed with one of the silkiest voices in the business. . . . And now, at last, to the main course on our menu: the short story "9th and 13th", which first appeared four years ago in The Time Out Book of New York Short Stories, and made its French debut last year in the Nouvelle Revue Francaise. . . . This story was commissioned by another writer friend, the novelist Nicholas Royle, and arose out of a lunchtime conversation about whether it would be possible to compose an entire short story in the conditional mood. All I could manage, in the end, was to write about two-thirds of the narrative that way, which accounts for the preponderance of 'would haves' and 'should haves' throughout the text. In fact, now that I come to think of it... In a Conditional Mood... that's a great title for an album, isn't it... My next collaboration with Louis and Danny, maybe. . . ."
Expect to hear a lot about Toby Litt in the coming weeks. His new collection of short stories, enticingly entitled Exhibitionism, will be available (in Britain) on 25 February. The BBC has posted a great introduction to Litt: "Toby Litt is the kind of author you see in stylish men’s magazines, clad in McQueen and looking rakish or gazing intently past the camera against a backdrop of the M23. He is the perfect modern gentleman; intelligent with enough sense to see the benefit in taking risks, good looking although familiar and has the ability to surprise with every fresh adventure he sets his imagination to. With a new collection of short stories soon to be published, Toby Litt steps into the arena of the grotesque, glamorous and glitzy, welcoming onto the stage the return of characters from earlier collections including the Boots Please-Use-A-Basket-Girl, Mr Kipling, a fluffy pink bunny rabbit and even a fictionalised version of himself in an encounter with Michel Foucault and a brandishing iron. . . . Toby Litt is the author of Adventures in Capitalism (1996), a set of short stories which he wrote whilst studying creative writing under Malcolm Bradbury at the University of East Anglia: 'I didn’t start novel writing until I left university and I didn’t write that many stories until I went on the writing course. I decided to write them then because when you handed them in there was no excuse. . . . Also I’d heard that Ian McEwan wrote a story in a week so I thought I’d try and write a story in a week. Or more'. Litt laughs: 'I wrote a lot!' The collection earned him the Curtis Brown Award for most promising student of that year and Secker & Warburg published it shortly afterwards. Beatniks (1997) was published a year later and is now in development as a full-length feature with Kevin Loader, producer of [Hanif Kureishi's] The Buddha of Suburbia. . . . His second novel Corpsing was published in 2000 (Hamish Hamilton) and like Beatniks is also being developed as a film, this time by Industry Entertainments and with screenwriter Paul Mayersberg at the helm. . . . His novel Deadkidsongs (Penguin, 2001), an original and shocking journey into the dark heart of boyhood brought Litt an acclaim which now associates him with London’s new cool literati. . . ."
MORE BUZZKUNST 02/16/2002
Chris Jones reviews the forthcoming ShelleyDevoto album, Buzzkunst, on the BBC's website: "There's no denying the certain frisson that occurs when you see the two names on this album joined again. To put it all in historical context, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto haven't worked together since 1976's Spiral Scratch EP by the Buzzcocks. . . . Here at last is the consummation of Manchester's finest sons' early promise. It's the work Shelley did on underrated classics such as Homo Sapiens which inform this timely release with its fantastic early eighties synth vibe. Drum machines clatter, bass moog lines burble and Devoto does his half-intone/half-sing thing with aplomb. The lyrics are suitably obtuse and playful, with just the right amount of post-industrial alienation to re-awaken that eastern block new wave spirit. . . . The throbbing instrumental pieces ("God's Particle" is a stunner) recall the best work of what used to be termed "Art Music". Kunst indeed. It really is as though time has stood still for these two ambassadors of glacial doom, and that's essentially a good thing. Many of their contemporaries would have approached this project as some sort of cringeingly inappropriate excuse to either appear relevant or rewrite history to their own advantage (an easy listening remake of "Boredom", with Robbie Williams on guest vocals anyone?). As such it's very good indeed to see these two men coming to terms with their age by not trying to match modern trends but by giving an exemplary demonstration of what they were, are and always will be good at. . . . We can only hope that this isn't a one-off. This is Kunst with a capital K." You can download two extracts from "Stupid Kunst" and "Strain of Bacteria", and you'll find more tracks at Cookingvynil.com as well as live footage from the ICA reunion gig. At the Buzzcocks site, there's a track-by-track review of the album by Mr Devoto himself.
THE DESIRE OF OBLIVION 02/16/2002
Is JG Ballard's Super-Cannes the first "essential novel of the 21st century"? Read the BBC's article to find out: "When British author JG Ballard first finished his infamous book Crash, his publisher stuck a telling note on it claiming, 'this author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish." This did not adversely affect Ballard's huge success as a writer. Despite regularly being referred to as a science fiction writer, Ballard says what he is really doing is 'picturing the psychology of the future.' . . . Surprisingly this futuristic tale owes much to the suburban surroundings that Ballard lives and works in. 'I've always felt that out in the suburbs one finds the real England -- out here with takeaways and video rental culture people are better off as their imaginations can follow their money,' he told to BBC World Service's Meridian Masterpiece programme. This belief coupled with the author's concern that England's 'obsession with the past is a sign of English failure,' leads Ballard to predict that the culture of business parks and executive housing will be the future of the world. . . . Ballard described his growing fascination with 'the human capacity for self destruction - people become impatient with the existing order of things'. Adding that in an age of self-help books, 'the urge for destruction as a way of redefining oneself is very strong'. He said: 'My fear is that in a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom'. . . ."
Warning: this news item has nothing to do with Niall Griffiths' excellent novel entitled Sheepshagger. The British press recently got all excited about the strange story of a young man who was witnessed having sex with a goat in public! Alastair Taylor reports in The Sun: "Stephen Hall, 23, lassoed the animal with his belt at the Paradise allotments near his home. As the packed Hull to Bridlington train stopped at signals, dozens of passengers stared out in amazement. In seconds, police switchboards were jammed as horrified commuters used their mobiles to report what they had seen. The female goat was one of a number left to graze near the allotments, Hull Crown Court was told. . . . Two members of the public pinned down Hall while a stream of officers raced to the scene. Jobless Hall, from Hull, was initially arrested by the Humberside Police Dog Section. A vet who examined the goat said it was 'subdued' by the assault but was not suffering long-term injury. British Transport Police Detective Inspector Dave Crinnion, who investigated, said: 'I saw the goat the next day -- it did not seem too upset but it is difficult to tell.' . . ."
A PUSHCART FOR TOM 02/16/2002
The Paumanok Review has nominated Tom Sheehan's memoir, "The Dumpmaster's Boy", for a Pushcart Prize XXVII. As the editor said, 'This represents the best of the best.' His memoir appeared in a 2001 issue of The Paumanok Review. Tom, we're dead proud of you.
OOH THE SLOTH 02/16/2002
A big thanks to Mr Sloth who edits the excellent Pulpfiction.com for plugging our interview with Mark Amerika: "This is a good interview from Paris in which fellow literary superstars discuss postmodernism, novels, censorship, and the Internet." Cheers mate! Hope to see you soon. (The picture of Mr Sloth comes from Pax Acidus, another brilliant publication.)
NIGHT TRAIN 02/16/2002
A new literary (print) magazine called Night Train will be launched in September 2002. They are looking for submissions.
IRON LADY: BRITAIN'S UNWITTING NATIONAL DRAMATURGE 02/14/2002
Tim Lott's new novel Rumours of a Hurricane is attracting a lot of attention in Britain. Andy Beckett writes in The Guardian that "Novels about Britain under Margaret Thatcher have been much rarer, then and since, than anyone who lived through the social upheaval and melodrama might have expected. Perhaps it has been because Britons are still getting used to the new country she created. Or perhaps it is the reluctance of many British writers to engage, in even a mildly political sense, with the strange and rackety modern nation all around them. Or maybe it is because Margaret Thatcher scares them. Memorable fiction that explicitly addresses what she did to Britain between 1979 and 1990 can arguably be listed thus: What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe, Downriver by Iain Sinclair, and possibly Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. What is more, all these books add plenty of other elements -- black farce, old London mysteries and the world of the modern heroin addict respectively -- to their descriptions of people being buffeted and changed by the proclamations from 10 Downing Street. References to the obvious landmarks of Thatcherism are kept reasonably sparing. Tim Lott, by contrast, gives us all of them. The Belgrano sinking on the front page of the Sun. Council tenants buying their flats. The picket lines at Wapping. Essex Man. Negative equity and 'city-trader braces'. . . . Lott's novel follows Charlie Buck, a printer at the Times, from the night of the 1979 general election to the winter of 1991. . . . When Charlie and Robert meet again after years of estrangement, it happens at Wapping during a riot. Charlie, entering middle age fearfully, cowers as the police charge the pickets. Robert spots him and shields him, but there is a swagger to his granting of mercy. The fading of union power and the new assertiveness of the police are interesting, relevant themes, and so is the passing of the initiative from father to son, but the scene feels too forced a way of giving them dramatic life. . . . [T]his is a novel with a backdrop done in broad, populist strokes. It accepts the Thatcherite view of British history -- that the 1980s simply had to happen -- as much as it challenges it. Hopefully, the novels to come about New Labour will be a bit more complicated."
Margaret Thatcher, whose marble statue (by Neil Simmons) was recently unveiled, played an important part in reviving the British stage, according to Mark Lawson: "While the prime minister between 1979 and 1990 liked to invite identification with a previous war leader, the truth is that the one unarguable connection between Thatcher and Churchill lies not in British politics but in theatre. It was the election of Margaret Thatcher which led Caryl Churchill to write her 1982 drama Top Girls, an inventive reflection on right-wing feminism, which was revived in London this week [in January 2002], when it was deservedly acclaimed as a modern classic. . . . [T]he question of why a play dates from a particular period is complicated. While some writers are inspired by headlines or anniversaries, others affect timelessness or deliberately revisit styles or subjects from the past. It's far more significant that Sir Anthony Eden was in Number 10 when John Osborne's Look Back In Anger was premiered than that Harold Wilson was premier when Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead made Tom Stoppard famous. The Osborne was part of a rebellion against an England-in-aspic which Eden typified; the Stoppard could have been written any time between 1955 (the date of Beckett's Waiting For Godot, which influenced it) and now, when updatings of Shakespeare are a Hollywood staple. The lasting power of Top Girls is that Caryl Churchill took from the time of the writing a debate -- over whether feminist principles could survive the exercise of power by women -- which was topical but has also endured. Indeed, the drama is arguably more revelant now, when a female prime minister looks like a historical blip and the main parties have all been led by men for 12 years, than when high heels had clicked over the Number 10 steps for the first time. A political period consistently discouraging to theatre as a business and an art also inspired Churchill's next major play Serious Money -- her 1987 piece about City greed -- as well as David Edgar's Maydays (1983), Howard Brenton and David Hare's Pravda (1985) and Hare's The Secret Rapture (1987). The latter, like Top Girls, examines a powerful, rightwing woman. Although it would have given Mrs Thatcher bad dreams during her three hours nightly sleep to know it, she was virtually an unofficial national dramaturge, bringing almost as many new plays into existence as Kenneth Tynan. . . . So, if we were to hand out awards to politicians for their influence on theatre (perhaps the prizes might be called the Tonies) the title for best new play-maker would be shared between Lady Thatcher and Senator McCarthy. Though both regarded dramatists as dangerous lefties who ought to be starved of state funds, they were inadvertently responsible for remarkable plays. It's a dilemma for playwrights in the ballot booth. More naturally sympathetic to leaders who might pay for theatre, they might -- history suggests -- be better off with politicians who set out to make theatre pay."
POSTPONE EVERYTHING 02/14/2002
The great Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa once said: "Postpone everything. Never do today what you can likewise do tomorrow. In fact you need not do anything at all today and tomorrow. Live your life, don't be lived by it." You heard what the man said. Now live your life by it.
3A.M. TOP 5 02/14/2002
3am muse Kimberly Nichols is currently listening to:
1) Pete Yorn: "Not A Girl"
2) Paul Oakenfeld Mix: "Jungle High"
3) Sleater Kinney: "The Size of Our Love"
4) Matthew Sweet: "Someone To Pull The Trigger"
5) Rachel Grime: "Egon & Gertie" (from Music for Egon Schiele)
WE ARE GETTING CLOSER 02/10/2002
The Angry Brigade were a "quaint Pythonesque version of their more murderous continental counterparts, Germany's Red Army Faction or the Red Brigades in Italy," writes Martin Bright in The Observer: ". . . In the series of 25 bombings attributed to them [the Angry Brigade] no one was killed (one person was slightly injured), but they were a serious embarrassment to Edward Heath's [Conservative] government. For a brief period between August 1970 and August 1971, the authorities were unable to stop a group of left-wing adventurers bombing the homes of Tory politicians, as well as government and corporate offices. . . . It didn't take long for a mythology of hippie outlaws and their molls to develop around the two couples from Amhurst Road. This was helped in no small degree by the Angry Brigade's own ironic propaganda: one early communiqué was signed 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and another 'The Wild Bunch'. The prurient drooling began even before the four had been identified. 'Girl slept with bedside arsenal' claimed one tabloid, while another screamed, 'Dropouts with brains tried to launch bloody revolution.' . . . Even the broadsheets couldn't resist. On the weekend after their trial was over, The Observer used the by-now iconic pictures of the two 22-year-olds as an eye-catching addition to its table of contents. What the press didn't know was that every time they used the images, they were contributing to a defence group fund. In a move that demonstrated a canny understanding of the media's thirst for images of pretty girls, Creek and Mendleson had a set of photographs secretly taken during the trial and gave the copyright to friends to manage.
This year is the 30th anniversary of the Angry Brigade trial, which lasted from May to December in 1972. . . . The reason the story of the Angry Brigade has never fully been told is that none of the main protagonists have ever spoken about what really happened all those years ago. . . . Now, for the first time, one of them has broken that wall of silence. Hilary Creek, who was 22 at the time of her arrest, believes the time has come to scotch some of the more lurid myths that surrounded them. 'I was sick of sitting by and waiting passively for the next slap in the face from the mass media, who rarely reported anything but the prosecution case,' she says. 'But I thought I didn't really have the right to grumble if I didn't try to do something to rectify the situation myself.' . . . At Essex University she became involved in the revolutionary politics that dominated the life of the campus and eventually drew her into open conflict with the British state. She is central to the story of the Angry Brigade. In the week before her arrest, she travelled to Paris where she met representatives of the French underground movement in the Latin Quarter. The police alleged she also collected the 33 sticks of gelignite found in the flat at Amhurst Road. I have met Creek on two occasions and what is most remarkable about her is that her politics have remained largely unchanged over 30 years. She supports the anti-globalisation protesters, but stays away from demonstrations, knowing it would do the cause no good if it was associated with a convicted terrorist. . . . Speaking now about the Angry Brigade bombing campaign, she says it was a distraction from the main political thrust of the movement. But the bombs are a difficult issue to avoid and it is the only moment during our discussions that she comes close to losing her temper: 'You use the word "bomb", but be careful about using it because nowadays that's such a value-loaded term. You think of Omagh, you are not thinking half a pound of gelignite that causes small structural damage. It is important to put things in perspective. What nobody picked up on was that it wasn't the bombs themselves that they were worried about. It was the fact that it exposed the vulnerability of the system. How could someone go and do in the back door of a minister? It wasn't so much the criminal damage, it was the fact that it made them look stupid. Basically, I'm not ashamed of anything I have done,' she says. 'Going from the student protests at Essex to the organisation for the Vietnam war demonstrations, squatting and the early women's movement. Some of the things we did I am proud of and we still see the effects now.' She argues that most of the work of the movement that was linked to the Angry Brigade went largely unseen. Creek and her friends were involved in campaigns that were considered subversive three decades ago, but now sound entirely mainstream: winter-heating campaigns for the elderly, schemes to set up adventure playgrounds in inner cities, and shelters for the victims of domestic violence. 'There was a lot going on and each of us had our own particular area. But there was no organisation that you could in any way coerce. It was just people helping and supporting each other. There was discipline, there had to be, but they didn't know where to attack us. I think that's why their action against us was so extreme. Because what we were doing was a new form of politics and anything new is frightening for the state.' . . . As the anniversary of the trial approaches, interest in the case has started to grow. There are already plans for an Angry Brigade documentary and a radio docu-drama has been written based on the trial transcripts. There are still many unanswered questions. How much lasting damage did the Angry Brigade do to the radical Left in Britain, or did they have no real political significance at all? Did the police really plant the arsenal at Amhurst Road and did their success in getting a conviction mean they did it again? And were the young radicals really terrorists or would it be more accurate to describe them as political saboteurs? Thirty years on, the jury is still out on the Angry Brigade." We also learn that one of the former Angries -- Anna Mendelson -- now publishes poetry under a nom de plume "to considerable acclaim". For more info go here.
IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS RHYTHM 02/10/2002
In Tangents you'll find two interesting reviews of In the Beginning There Was Rhythm, a new punk funk compilation released on the Soul Jazz label. Rupert Loydell continues "to be intrigued by how much interest there currently is in the late 70s, punk and post-punk. This CD tries hard to make a case for cultural cross-fertilisation and the entrance/introduction of funk into punk. The trouble is that for me, apart from 23 Skidoo and The Pop Group, this is all very uptight white rock. It may have rhythm, but it certainly hasn't got a hint of soul in it. Most of it seems to me to be more allied to the nervous guitar scrawl of new-wave guitar bands like Television or early Talking Heads than any world musics. There's the synth-brigade Human League and Cabaret Voltaire, scratchy guitars and political polemic of A Certain Ration and Gang of Four, the avant-garde This Heat and Throbbing Gristle, the joyous naiveté of The Slits, the disciplined funk of late 23 Skidoo. Let's be clear: I like most of this stuff, like it a lot. . . . But it doesn't make a case for the theory. It needs to be a triple CD to do that, I reckon; needs to spread its net far and wide, and back and forth in time. The Pop Group became Rip, Rig & Panic: now they had funk, as did their mutant offspring Maximum Joy and Mark Stewart's solo work. The Slits need the company of the Raincoats and Essential Logic I reckon -- not just as women-led/constructed bands, but as a movement in themselves, a different approach to the punk ethic of taking up the guitar and learning 3 chords. Where are Public Image, surely one of the most rhythmic post-punk bands? What about Magazine and early Simple Minds?. . ."
Kevin Pearce writes that "Context is everything. It can't be said often enough. This is why the appearance of In The Beginning There Was Rhythm on Soul Jazz records is so important. Seeing this collection of daring pop music alongside the Studio One compilations, the New Orleans funk sets, the Philly Soul collection, the Art Ensemble of Chicago and ESG seems right. Whether he takes an interest in such things or not, I would like to think Paul Morley would be delighted at this twist of fate. He did, after all, try hard to create a new context in the early '80s for groups like Cabaret Voltaire and 23 Skidoo, with great enthusiastic pieces for the pop press. . . . So, it will be interesting to see what ramifications this compilation has. Will it be a one-off curio, or the start of serious attempts to document a very important and very cool period in pop? . . ."
MARY GEORGE OF ALLNORTHOVER 02/10/2002
Rupert Loydell reviews Lavinia Greenlaw's Mary George of Allnorthover in Tangents: ". . . Mary George is a teenage girl, already feeling in the wrong place -- her father is gone, the village seems to suppress and contain, especially in the drought summer of a late 1970s year. . . . It's a classic growing-up story, full of teenage angst and self-doubt. Towards the end of the book, Mary makes herself into a punk/goth, putting an image together for herself, from things she's read about and seen. But elsewhere the larger themes of the book, and badly handled 'big scenes' are overstated and the detail and mood shattered. A punk concert, initially superbly described and full of teenagers slowly mutating into something else, rock bands realising they must change their hairstyle and how fast they play, suddenly turns into an unbelievable street fight, with cliché riot police everywhere. . . ."
SMOKING & WRITING 02/10/2002
Recently read that Romanian poet Marin Sorescu once said: "I don't know why writers think giving up smoking is so much healthier than giving up writing. One should do both." I gather he did neither.
EROS & THANATOS 02/10/2002
Check out the latest issue of The Absinthe Literary Review which has just been posted. It includes the winner of their Eros and Thanatos competition and Jason DeBoer's column.
3A.M. TOP 5 02/10/2002
3A.M. Editor-in-Chief Richard Marshall is currently listening to:
1) Billy Childish and the Buff Medways : "Sally Sensation" (out on Gibbet 4)
2) Stewart Home and Colours 180 Degrees Of Hell Live: "Deviant Watchmakers" (out on Sabotage Editions)
3) Dolly Parton: "Marry Me" (From the Little Sparrow LP)
4) Frank Sinatra: "Bewitched" (From The Rat Pack LP)
5) Bob Dylan: "Mississippi" (From Love and Theft LP)
6) John Zorn: "Erotico (The Burglars)" (From The Big Gundown: John Zorn Plays the music of Ennio Morricone)
THE FR LEAVISES OF ROCK 02/10/2002
As a child, I couldn't wait to go down the newsagent's each week to purchase the latest copy of Sounds or the New Musical Express (usually both). The weekly rock press which has done so much to shape the British rock scene is now on its way out. Fiona Sturges writes in The Observer that "Reading about pop used to be as significant as consuming it. But these days music is omnipresent, available to all and thus stripped of its mystery. Pop has become an extension of the entertainment industry and acquiescent music journalists have become its cheerleaders, content to stand on the sidelines rather then wade in and get their hands dirty. If you want proof take a look at the publishing statistics. In the past decade, the music press has been in decline, losing both its authority and its commercial appeal. Melody Maker and Select magazine have closed along with a handful of lesser-known titles. The New Musical Express, the weekly paper preparing to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary, would appear to have won the war except that it too is losing readers at an alarming rate. Last year's circulation stood at around 70,000 -- 47,000 down on 1996 and 230,000 down on the mid-Sixties. So what went wrong? In their heyday, Melody Maker and NME, or the inkies -- so-called because the poor printing quality meant they turned your fingers black -- contained the most vital and provocative appraisals of pop. Some of it was agonisingly awful, but reading them made you feel like one of pop's insiders. Debates that raged in NME and Melody Maker spilled over into the schoolyard and college bars: the Stones v the Beatles; mods v rockers; prog v punk. The war between Oasis and Blur, played out through the inkies in the mid-Nineties, even made it on to the Nine O'Clock News. It was in the Seventies that music writing became a serious business. Punk arrived and, in embracing it, the NME raced ahead of Melody Maker both in terms of sales and credibility. A fresh crop of writers was recruited from the underground press who, taking their lead from the Beat writers, Tom Wolfe's New Journalism and relentlessly hip rock publications such as Rolling Stone and Creem, heralded their heroes and struck furious blows at the pop orthodoxy. It was a time when readers looked to individual writers to shape their opinions. Who was writing was almost as important as who was being written about. Rock journalism was urgent, exciting and loaded with arrogance. Writers such as Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray liked what they liked and everything else was garbage, a tunnel-visioned but impassioned critical approach similar to that of the literary critic F. R. Leavis. If the Seventies was the golden age of the music press, the Eighties was the beginning of the end. Sounds, the first paper to take punk seriously, had appeared in the late Seventies and opened up the market. The music press went from having two major players to a scrum of weeklies, monthlies and glossies. . . . The late Eighties saw the fortunes of the inkies partially revived by the arrival of baggy. As the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays put the urgency back into pop, the hacks followed suit. . . . Crucial to the downfall of the music press is that it no longer has the monopoly on pop. A quick surf on the net provides all the information you might need on your favourite band's movements. Tour dates and album details are posted on websites long before the music press gets hold of it. Radio has also played its part. Now you can hear a single weeks before it's reviewed in the press (many of Britain's best-known radio DJs, including Steve Lamacq, Marie-Anne Hobbs and Stuart Maconie, are former inkie writers). In the past 15 years broadsheet newspapers have also wised up to pop's broad appeal and increased their coverage. . . ."
HYDE PARK OF REVIEW OF BOOKS 02/10/2002
A new online literary journal called The Hyde Park Review of Books has just been launched "as an antidote to the incredibly shrinking book review section": "Our goal is to provide the largest review forum for the discovery of quality fiction and nonfiction from authors and publishers often overlooked or under reported on by other review publications." Check their excellent selection of reviews including mine and Greg Farnum's. And when you're done, check out Mr Farnum's East of New York column at Web Del Sol. His latest column focuses on poetry from Afghanistan.
GRASS CONTROVERSY 02/10/2002
John Hooper wonders in The Guardian if Günter Grass, "the literary guru of the European left, [has] undergone a sudden hardening of the arteries? Germany's Nobel prize-winning novelist has pounded the hustings for the Social Democrats and stood up for liberal and radical causes in almost every major public debate in his country during the past 30 years. Yet this week he has embraced, not just one, but three causes that were previously associated with the right, if not the far-right. In an interview published yesterday in the weekly newspaper Die Woche, the brooding, pipe-smoking writer lambasted the government's efforts to outlaw the neo-Nazi National-democratic party of Germany (NPD) and said he favoured lifting a ban on the republication of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. But what has most startled his compatriots is Grass's choice of subject matter for his latest novel, published this week. Im Krebsgang highlights the suffering of German refugees fleeing from the Soviet army at the end of the second world war. The title, which roughly translates as "crab-wise", is an allusion to the way crabs move slowly backwards when threatened. . . ."
CHASING THE DRAGON 02/01/2002
Original New Romantic Steve Strange is back in action with a trendy new nightclub in old London town called Chasing the Dragon. It opened on 17 January. The Chasing the Dragon night is held every Thursday at Opium: 1a Dean Street, London W1 (Tel: 020 7287 9608, Fax: 020 7437 3500). Check out this unofficial Chasing the Dragon mini site for more info:
". . . Musically, the night will follow a fiery trail from Indonesia to Scandinavia, New Zealand to Peru. Chasing the Dragon is to be set to a truly inspirational & international soundtrack, from Tibetan Chant to Latin Beats. The music will be 'modified' live with synths, samplers and filters to create a magical soundscape so beautiful and exotic, it lends itself perfectly to Opium's décor making it a wonderful atmosphere in which to relax and converse. Around midnight things start to hot up as the DJ's become more 'Pig Lingo' with sensational pop and dance tunes from around the globe, Canto Pop meets Moroccan Rap in a Hula skirt & Sombrero! From time to time very special guest performers will appear live. Traditional dancers, classical instrumentalists, folk and devotional singers from across the world will be invited to perform. These Artists will be amongst the best in their fields and form an important part of the cultural celebration that is Chasing The Dragon. Rose EGO has hosted and created some of the UK's best-known club and social nights over the last twenty years. She has been at the forefront of fashion and groundbreaking British talent with clubs including The Best of British at The Ministry of Sound, Limelight, Camden Palace, Turnmills, Club Royale and Café de Paris."
If your girlfriend has just left you (which is my case), don't miss FUCK VALENTINE'S DAY at -- where else? -- Chasing the Dragon: "Steve Strange, Mathew Glamorre and Rosemary are hosting another wicked evening. . . . Don't be down if you haven't a valentine as with all the lovely people that come down we are sure you will meet a soul mate for a quick bit of hanky panky! . . . Of course if you are lucky in love then come down anyway and experience some of the best entertainment that London has to offer. Tables can be booked by calling Opium directly on (020) 7287 9608."
HAMILTON ON JOYCE 02/01/2002
The British Museum is going to display Richard Hamilton's illustrations to Joyce's Ulysses. For more info go to the BBC's website: ". . . The British Museum is exhibiting Hamilton's collection of drawings inspired by the Irish writer's modernist masterpiece from Saturday, the 80th anniversary of the book's publication. The exhibition, Imagining Ulysses, also coincides with the artist's 80th birthday, on 24 February. The exhibition assembles all the studies and prints produced by Hamilton since he began the project in 1948. Commissioned and organised by the British Council, it also features a special display of first edition Joyce books and ephemera from a private collection. The event is the first solo exhibition given to a living artist at the British Museum since 1974 when Henry Moore's illustrations to WH Auden's poems were exhibited. . . . Richard Hamilton is best known as the father of the pop art movement in Britain. In fact, it was one of Hamilton's collages -- entitled Just What is it That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? -- that gave rise to the term 'pop' in a visual-arts context. The collage included a figure holding a lollipop on which the word was written. . . ." (Illustration: Barmaids Miss Douce and Miss Kennedy from the "Sirens" episode of Ulysses.)
ON THE WEB FRONT 02/01/2002
The February issues of Taint Magazine (including an extract from Sam Lipsyte's latest novel), Stirring, Spark-Online and Pif have all been posted. They're all highly recommended as usual.
3A.M. TOP 5 02/01/2002
3am co-editor, columnist and writer HP Tinker is currently listening to:
1) Morrissey: "Sunny" (single 1995)
2) John Lennon: "Crippled Inside" (Imagine 1971)
3) Beck: "Nobody's Fault But My Own" (Mutations 1998)
4) Bob Dylan: "Positively 4th Street" (single 1966)
5) The Strokes: "New York City Cops" (Is This It 2001)
LIONEL ROLFE 01/31/2002
Journalist and author Lionel Rolfe will appear at a publication party for the launch of the third, expanded edition of his Literary LA. The party takes place at Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Avenue, in the Los Feliz section of LA) on Sunday 3 February at 4pm. Check out this interview with Mr. Rolfe.
3A.M. TOP 5 01/31/2001
3am co-editor and webmaster extraordinaire Jim Martin was asked to give his current top five fave tracks. He obviously can't count, but he sure can write:
1) Smiling Politely: "The Waltz" ("My band," says Jim, "we made an open air recording the other night and I am totally getting a kick out of listening to myself").
2) The Beastie Boys: "Shadrac" ("From the Pauls Boutique album oh-so-long ago").
3) Blind Melon: "Galaxie" (from the nearly unheard of Soup album).
4) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: "The Carny" ("If anyone ever comes up with a more creepy sounding song, I don't think I could stomach it").
5) Nirvana: "Rape Me".
6) The Dead Kennedys: "Pull My Strings" ("Don't buy the CD! All of the DK CDs being sold now are a nasty scam with none of the proceeds going to Jello Biafra or Alternative Tentacles").
7) Bif Naked: "Lucky" ("There are probably women that could better fill out my dreams of the perfect lass, but I haven't met any").
8) Suicidal Tendencies: "Cyco Vision" ("As a bass player, I stand in awe of the riffs in this song").
9) Craig Armstrong: "Escape" ("A friend of mine turned me on to this. Craig Armstrong is a strange and unique musician...").
10) The Jim Carrol Band: "People Who Died" ("Just picked up the CD, and I can't hear this song without imagining a young Leonardo DiCaprio wiping snot off his face and begging his mother for money to buy smack. You can't buy moments like that").