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Artwork by Sardax

CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

by Andrew Gallix

COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

FURTHER ADVENTURES OF MARK AMERIKA 07/30/2002


Digital artist Mark Amerika, founder of the Alt-X Online Network ("where the digerati meet the literati"), has just launched the 2.0 version of his latest Internet art work, FILMTEXT, as part of the Art Gallery exhibition at SIGGRAPH 2002. This upgraded version of FILMTEXT features new digital video, animation, original soundtracks, and a customized FILMTEXT reader. The work was created in collaboration with Internet Flash artist John Vega of dancingimage.com and the sound artists Twine. FILMTEXT is a digital narrative created for cross-media platforms. It has been exhibited as a museum installation, a net art site, a conceptual art ebook, an mp3 concept album, a series of live performances, and a looping DVD. In the initial 1.0 iteration of the net art site, commissioned by Playstation 2 in conjunction with Amerika's "How To Be An Internet Artist" net art retrospective at the ICA in London, Amerika referred to FILMTEXT as "the third part of my new media trilogy," following his two other major works of Internet art, GRAMMATRON and PHON:E:ME, which have been exhibited in major venues such as the Whitney Biennial of American Art and the Walker Art Center. For more info on Mark Amerika's groundbreaking work read our two interviews: the first one (by Guillaume Destot and Andrew Gallix) took place in Paris in 2000; the second one was conducted by Richard Marshall in London last year.



GRAY MATTER 07/29/2002


Our friends at Spike Magazine have posted Will Self's introduction to Alasdair Gray: Critical Introductions and a Bibliography (British Library) edited by Phil Moores: ". . . Suffice to say, Gray is in my estimation a great writer, perhaps the greatest living in this archipelago today. Others agree. I've only just now looked up Lanark, his magnum opus, on the Amazon.com website (this dumb, digital, obsolete computer multi-tasks, as do Gray's analogue fictions), the sales were respectable, the reader reviews fulsome. One said: 'I owe my life to this book. In 1984 I was marooned in the Roehampton Limb-fitting Centre, the victim of a bizarre hit-and-run accident, whereby an out of control invalid carriage ran me over several times. The specialists all concurred that I would never walk again, even with the most advanced prostheses they had on offer. After reading Lanark by Alasdair Gray, such was my Apprehension of a New Jerusalem, arrived at by the author's Fulsome Humanity, tempered by the Judiciousness of his Despair, and the Percipience of his Neo-Marxist Critique of the Established Authorities, that seemingly in response to one of the novel's own Fantastical Conceits, I found myself growing, in a matter of days, two superb, reptilian nether limbs. These have not only served me better than my own human legs as a form of locomotion, they have also made me a Sexual Commodity much in demand on the burgeoning fetish scene of the South West London suburbs.' Any encomium I could add to this would be worse than pathetic. . . ."



THE MISSING LINKS 07/24/2002


Umberto Eco writes in The Guardian about the difference between light fiction and literature: "I've read that there have been animated discussions in France over the protests of the town of Villers-Cotteret -- the birthplace of Alexandre Dumas -- at having the ashes of their author moved to the Panthˇon in Paris. I fear that in Italy, many would also protest if this great popular narrator (it's a bit of a stretch to ascribe to him this kind of canonisation) were to be buried next to those who are already canonised by way of scholastic decree. But in truth, we are not the only ones who have a difficult time discriminating between literature and the so-called 'light fiction'. Certainly, light fiction exists and encompasses mysteries or second-class romance novels, books that are read on the beach, whose only aim is to entertain. These books are not concerned with style or creativity -- instead they are successful because they are repetitive and follow a template that readers enjoy. If this is the case, then did Dumas aim to write light fiction, or did he not even worry about such things -- as some of his critical and controversial writings would suggest? He had 'slaves' who helped write numerous books and he wrote lengthily to earn more money. But with some works, he was able to create characters we can define as 'legendary,' who populated the collective imagination, and who are copied and retold as happens with such characters of legend and fairy tales. . . . (A)re there virtues in writing which are not necessarily identified with linguistic creation, but are part of rhythm and shrewd dosage, and cross the boundary, albeit infinitesimally, between literature and light fiction? The novel, like a legend, begins in the language, in the sense that Oedipus or Medea are typical characters and are exemplary simply because of their actions even before they become the great Greek tragedies. Similarly even Red Riding Hood or the characters in African or Native-American mythology function as models of life beyond the poetry which overtakes them and creates another layer to them. . . ." On a similar note, AC Grayling wonders -- again in The Guardian -- if it is possible to reconcile high culture and social equality: "Think, wrote the cultural critic Eunice Lipton, 'about Michelangelo, van Gogh, Rodin, Picasso, Pollock. Could these artists be lesbians, Asian Americans, Native Americans?' Her point was that if they had been any of these things, they would not have been recognised as 'artist-geniuses' (her term); and this by implication shows that the notion of high culture in the western tradition embodies everything that is exclusive of other cultures and elitist within its own. . . . Can people of left-liberal political sympathies believe that high culture has special and superior value which justifies state support for theatre and grand opera, but not for pop concerts or darts competitions? On the face of it the answer is surely 'Yes'; even if, after the characteristic British manner, left-leaning votaries of high culture -- of opera, Shakespeare, Rembrandt exhibitions, Beethoven concerts, contemporary art and dance, 'serious' literature whether contemporary or classical -- occasionally mask their interest under an appearance of irony, given the risk that such interests run of being branded affected or pretentious. . . . Is there a difference in intrinsic artistic merit between a Rembrandt and an Australian aboriginal painting? Suddenly other thoughts press. If a European or American says 'Yes' to this too, is he or she being guilty of ethnocentrism, of privileging the culturally parochial productions of Dead White Western Men, and thus of cultural, racial and gender bias? Or bring the question closer to home: if one says that Iris Murdoch's novels are literature and Agatha Christie's novels are not, is one making an unjust and unjustifiable comparison on the grounds that to presume to rank these authors is in fact to rank their readers in a way that is snobbish in one direction and condescending in the other: for if the latter's readers enjoy her work, and find the former's novels a trial to read, who has the right to say they are choosing the worse? In Matthew Arnold's definition, culture is 'the best that has been said and thought' -- and, it should be added, done -- in respect of all that matters in intellectual and artistic life. The term's second and broader anthropological meaning is very different; it neutrally embraces everything about the way things are done in a society, among which its most highbrow interests are only a small part. These latter have accordingly come to be called 'high' culture to differentiate what is most valued and esteemed by those supposed to be in a position to judge; and the term is therefore expressly discriminatory. The question therefore becomes: does an enjoyment of high culture involve a justifiable form of discrimination? I think most would still think that the answer is 'Yes', but it no longer suffices to say so without comment. Since the 1960s the politics of culture have been embodied in the debate about standards and relativism. This debate, acerbic and ill-tempered, is one corner of the larger contemporary battle over 'political correctness', whose primary concerns are gender, ethnicity, oppressive language, 'cultural imperialism' and elitism. The PC battle has made it harder for people of leftwing and liberal views to be votaries of high culture without feeling the need to defend the preference. One good result of that, at least, is that it obliges them to think more carefully when they do so. . . . In one corner of this fight lies the question of high culture in literature and the arts, automatically defended by the Right - who, it is clear, sometimes do not know what they are talking about, since much in high culture is profoundly subversive of what they cherish: think of the anticlerical Voltaire, the adulteresses Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina, Madame Butterfly living in sin with Pinkerton, the liar Odysseus, the communistic New Testament, and endless examples besides, which, if they knew of it, would certainly affright America's gun-and-family-loving right. Nevertheless they defend high culture by reflex; it is they who raised an outcry when a rumour was started that Shakespeare was to be dropped from school syllabuses and the literature curricula of universities such as Stanford -- the rumour was false, and almost certainly a canard of the Right itself, who by the same token vigorously defend the notion that culture is fundamentally a matter of the canonical great books (and by extension great art and great music) of the western tradition. . . . (T)here is an important difference between questions of the intrinsic value of literary or artistic works in any culture and their social significance to the people who produce them. A cairn of stones, or a figurine of a goat or a goddess might have religious meaning for a community, and be venerated by it, without having or pretending to have artistic merit. But an attentive eye can see the difference between a rough carving and a fine one, whatever its social or religious significance. . . . (A)dopting undiscriminatory attitudes and language does not mean having undiscriminating tastes and standards. This is the key: a sense of the quality of any work, of fineness of observation, of skill in production, of wit, insight, and psychological acuity, of inventiveness and discernment, is not the special endowment of any class, or ethnicity, or of either gender. A capacity to see these qualities in human cultural productions, especially a developed or (which is the same thing) critical capacity, does not automatically amount to an offensive and exclusive cultural snobbery. It simply means a heightened awareness, and a concomitantly increased enjoyment of what it encounters when it encounters quality; and when quality is at issue, the capacity in question tends to be general and inclusive. This last point is demonstrated by the multiple roots and catholic embrace of western culture, which is very far from being monolithic despite currently being the only culture that blames itself for excluding and disvaluing other cultures. . . . These considerations should be enough to dispel the impression that valuing the high culture of the west is somehow tantamount to disparaging other cultures by comparison. The remaining problem is the belief -- more accurately, a usually unstated instinct -- held by some on the left that cultural aspiration is itself a form of betrayal, either of working-class roots or the battle for equal respect in one's own society. . . ." This is precisely the sort of article that should be of interest to Steve Mitchelmore who recently complained about the state of contemporary fiction in Spike Magazine: "For the last couple of years, in my experience, fiction has lacked something. I suspect it's not fiction's fault. Maybe I'm looking for something that isn?t there, but the last time I fell in love with a novel, and I think this is the best description of what happens, was in the mid-90s." The rest is really funny, classic Mitchelmore: "(Matt) Thorne says 'So many writers I know started thinking seriously about writing after reading (Bret Easton) Ellis.' Writers thinking about writing afterreading? It all sounds rather intertextual and reflexive. . . . Next is a novel by an unknown, Scarlett Thomas. Her book is 'packed full of pop-references' and, Thorne claims, 'defines a particular moment in time'. A moment in time? Well I never. . . ." Gadfly, one of the best cultural zines around, has ceased to exist. Go here to find out why.



AYLETT ON 3AM 07/19/2002


Steve Aylett, whose latest novel The Velocity Gospel was recently published, mentioned 3A.M. Magazine as one of his favourite websites in a Guardian interview. Mr Aylett described 3A.M. as being "for people who are genuinely into books and ideas -- a million miles from 'Guardian recommends'."


CLERKENWELL LITERARY FESTIVAL 07/19/2002


Richard Marshall will soon be bringing you news of this week's Clerkenwell Literary Festival organised by The Idler in conjunction with Pilchard Teeth. The festival runs until July 21.


GATHERING OF THE TRIBE 07/19/2002


Bertie Marshall and George Berger (or "Gerard" as Richard calls him) met up for the first time on July 16 before going to Clerkenwell where Mark Manning (expensive jacket), Martin Millar (two young groupies) and Steven Wells (loud voice) did readings. The whole thing was very incestuous and therefore highly enjoyable: all three authors have been interviewed by 3AM, George Berger (or "Gerard" as Richard calls him) knows Steven Wells who knows Richard who knows everybody, plus Richard (cool Attack! T-shirt) and Bertie (early exit) share the same surname.


3AM TOP 5 07/19/2002


Nicholas Royle, the brilliant author of The Director's Cut is currently listening to:

  1. "Sleep III" from Apart by Paul Schutze
  2. "Away" from Heathen by David Bowie
  3. "Night Shift" from Juju by Siouxsie & the Banshees
  4. "Mysterium" from Invisible Nature by John Surman & Jack DeJohnette
  5. "When Do I Get to Sing My Way?" from Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins by Sparks




THE SOUND OF BLISS 07/03/2002


The future of music criticism is at Tangents. Take Alistair Fitchett's beautiful article on July Skies' Dreaming of Spires: ". . . This fascination with a mythic past is of course terribly English, and terribly Suburban English at that. The white middle classes retreat to the suburbs and to the Country, 'escaping' to those imagined spaces of a green and pleasant land. As a result of all this, Suburbia has always had a somewhat suffocating patina. Especially for 'youth'. It's there in those tales of Jagger and Jones in the early days of the Rolling Stones. It's there in the Punk abandon of the Bromley contingent, out to shock Suburbia and society with their swastika armbands and sex shop leather and PVC clothing. And it's there in Patrice Chaplin's classic Albany Park, which is one of the greatest novels of youthful escape from the suburbs ever penned, although she has to defer to the sublime Shena Mackay as the mistress of suburbia, naturally. The Kinks too of course tapped into all of this perfectly between 1966 and 1970, reaching their peak on the '68 classic Village Green Preservation Society. . . . In 2002, we have July Skies. July Skies sound nothing like the Kinks, but the feel, the underlying ideas and essences seem to me to be very similar. I like the sound and the idea of July Skies mostly because it's apparently about making a present out of fragments of a past that are rarely visited by Pop artists -- are rarely visited by 'youth'. I love it because it's the sounds of stretching out and of riding through country lanes seeing the world that's out there. It's the sound of Pevsner's English architecture; it's the sound of Stanley Spencer's Upham; the sound of walking the coastal path and peering into long-abandoned fortifications, dreaming of what might have been but probably wasn't. I love it because it's the sounds of my travels up and down the Exe Valley, dreaming of the last of the steam powered trains. July Skies' singular sonic sculptor Antony Harding has said he was inspired by the guitar sounds made by Slowdive, but I never much liked Slowdive so I wouldn't know about that. For me, July Skies is more the sound of Seefeel without beats, with the only rhythm that of long breaths and butterfly wings beating in the sun. July Skies is the sound of Fuxa less their Felt keyboards; is Deebank's preacher in New England with slightly less polish; is Vini Reilly daydreaming of Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children. Is the sound of stained glass windows in the sky, no less. . . . It's that sense of eerie regret and melancholia that makes July Skies so special. Because for July Skies it's not so much the artefacts of England's past that appeal so much as ghosts. Because where the likes of The Smiths rose to infamy in the '80s by making such distinctive cultural references to a past inhabited by the likes of Billy Liar, The Leather Boys and Twinkle, Antony Harding instead refers to inanimate things that people landscapes, where the inference of meaning is left intentionally in the whispers of imagined ghosts. The ghosts, perhaps, of pilots in abandoned airfields, or of highwaymen left dangling in the breeze from the hanging tree. Or maybe just the ghost of the smile you saw in a pair of pale blue eyes one summer's evening so many years ago it feels like yesterday. . . ."


IDLERS OF THE WORLD UNITE 07/03/2002


Billy Childish's excellent Buff Medways are playing at The Idler's party on Friday 5 July at 66 Chandos Place, Covent Garden, London WC2. The Buffs are on at 10.30pm.



CLERKENWELL LITERARY FESTIVAL 07/03/2002


England's most cutting-edge litfest Clerkenwell runs from 16-21 July. Toby Young and Richard Strange will speak on 16th, Mark Manning (soon to be interviewed in 3A.M.) and Martin Millar will be there on 17th. On 18th Bill Drummond asks "Is God a Cunt?" In the evening you can listen to the likes of Billy Childish and Alex James (Blur). Other highlights include Stewart Home (19th), Keith Allen and John Cooper Clarke (20th).


NANCY BOY & THE HUNTER S THOMPSON CONTROVERSY 07/03/2002


Thanks to Tara Junger who sent us a copy of this fax (see picture) and to Liz Berry who sent us a couple of links on the same subject. Oliver Burkeman has just published an article on the Hunter S Thompson controversy in The Guardian: "The letters first started arriving in the mid-1990s -- courteous, neatly-typed missives showing up in the in-trays of hotel managers, tourist attractions and airline customer-service departments across the US. In some cases, the writer was a prospective guest with special requirements -- would it be all right if he dressed as a giant shrimp while gambling at the blackjack tables of the Flamingo Hilton Inn in Las Vegas, for example? (The answer was no, by the way: 'We feel that because of the high level of activity created by the outfit, it might be too distractive.') Could he travel on a Greyhound bus dressed as a slab of butter, for professional reasons? (Yes.) Or on a Hawaiian airline dressed as a rotting radish? (No, although judging by recent reports, it is not certain that the security screeners would have noticed.) Other times, the letter writer had lost something the last time he visited -- including a Prussian sword which had embarrassingly fallen out of his trousers while using the urinals at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago. Other times, he just made an offer so selflessly kind as to be sinister: would the Baseball Hall of Fame be interested in receiving the toenail clippings of a certain star player? (They would indeed.) But in every case, they bore the same spidery signature: Ted L Nancy. The mystery of Mr Nancy's identity has surfaced sporadically in the US ever since -- speculation which has not harmed the sales of three compilations of his letters -- but it has come to prominence more than ever this week thanks to the furious intervention of one of Nancy's 'victims', Hunter S Thompson, the high priest of gonzo journalism. Thompson exploded at Nancy's written request for (spot the running joke) toenail clippings to be displayed in a Hunter S Thompson mausoleum he planned to open. And now, Thompson says, he has just been asked to sign a form allowing the correspondence to be used in a Ted Nancy television show. . . ." Hunter S Thompson's theory is that Ted L Nancy is none other than Jerry Seinfeld: ". . . 'Don't give me any more of yr. dunce-shrugs, either,' he wrote to his agent, 'because after a few nights of heavy facsimile exchange and pre-dawn phone calls, I discovered that this Nancy Tar-Baby is actually Jerry Seinfeld & this whole whore-faced pissing contest I've been roped into revolved around some addled-brained TV scheme he's pitched to ABC... will not permit my name to be used by Seinfeld or any other hackneyed comedic lint-head he's in bed with.' British humorists have been here before -- most notably with The Henry Root Letters, pseudonymously composed by the writer William Donaldson -- but what makes the Nancy letters unique are the impeccably polite, earnestly detailed and ultimately absurd replies he gets from a corporate culture where the lip service paid to the ethic of customer friendliness is more vigorous than anywhere else in the world. . . ."

MARK MANNING AT 3A.M.! 07/01/2002


In the 80s, Mark Manning was the lead singer in Zodiac Mindwarp & the Love Reaction. Since then, he has written a string of books including Bad Wisdom (Penguin) co-written with Bill Drummond, Crucify Me Again (Codex) and Get Your Cock Out (Attack). To coincide with the publication of Collateral Damage: the Zodiac Mindwarp 2001 American Tour (Creation Books) Richard Marshall has interviewed Mark Manning. Look out for it very soon in your sizzling, soaraway, summer 3A.M.. In the meantime, here's an extract from the press release that accompanied Manning's Fucked By Rock: The Unspeakable Confessions of Zodiac Mindwarp: "Hailed by The Cult's Ian Astbury as 'the biggest thing this century' when they exploded into existence in 1986, Zodiac Mindwarp & the Love Reaction were the most outrageous rock band on the planet, sex and drug-driven metal mayhem drenched in leather, fur, and psychedelic swastika chic. Now, at a time when music journalists are heard lamenting: 'Current music is so boring -- or at least, the people making it are," (Alexis Petridis, in The Guardian), Fucked by Rock -- the official autobiography of Zodiac Mindwarp (aka Mark Manning) -- is unleashed. . . . Mark Manning manages to recall astonishing, often shocking episodes from a decade of debauchery, derangement and brain-damaging excess. Written in his highly-acclaimed vitriolic style, this is a scream from post-rock purgatory and a breath of fresh air to all hell-raising starved music aficionados."


BILLY CHILDISH AT 3A.M.! 07/01/2002


Look out for three classic Billy Childish poems in 3A.M. Magazine very soon. Childish's band, the Buff Medways, were recently featured in the NME ("A Hero's Welcome" by Pat Long, 29 June): "Named after an extinct chicken and loved by the White Stripes and Kylie, Billy Childish's band are the weirdest must-see band at Glastonbury this year. With his Lord Kitchener moustache and World War One private's demob uniform, Billy Childish looks more like a gardener from The Edwardian Country House than England's Last True Punk Rocker. In a vegetarian cafe in central London on a sunny afternoon, this folk hero and autodidact greets NME with a military handshake: heels clicking together, head nodding slightly. It's an almost supernatural gesture of politeness from a man responsible for songs like 'I've Been Fucking All Your Daughters And Pissing On Your Lawn'. A poet, artist, producer and musician of astonishing profligacy, over the last 24 years the 42-year-old former Stephen John Hamper has made around 2,000 paintings as well as writing two novels and countless books of poetry. He's also played on over 100 albums -- averaging four a year -- with a multitude of lo-fidelity, high-cult value kitchen sink garage bands, including Thee Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars and Thee Headcoats. . . . Now his new group, The Friends Of The Buff Medway Fanciers Association -- The Buff Medways for simplicity's sake -- find themselves in the curious position of being cool, thanks to the patronage of fans like Jack White and The Hives, In fact The White Stripes are so enamoured of Childish that they wanted him to appear on Top Of The Pops with them, daubing one of his brutally naive paintings while they ran through 'Fell In Love With A Girl' for the teenies. Stranger still, Billy Childish will be joining the likes of Mis-Teeq and Rod Stewart in making his inaugural appearance at Glastonbury with The Buff Medways. In the New Bands Tent. . . ."


3A.M. WRITING COMPETITION 07/01/2002


Deborah Staab has won the Harper/Collins-3A.M. Sam Lipsyte competition in the poetry category. Deborah Staab is a native New Yorker and a graduate of NYU. After a few years freelancing in independent film as a prop master she moved to Chicago to work as a magazine editor for two years. She now lives in picturesque Queens, NY and does all sorts of freelance work to pay the bills. Congratulations, Deborah!


COURTIA NEWLAND AT 3A.M.! 07/01/2002


More summer goodies from 3A.M.. Richard Marshall brings you an interview with novelist Courttia Newland. Here, he talks about his new book, Snakeskin: "It's a detective thriller. A guy called Irvin James is a private investigator. He gets hired to find the killer of a Labour MP's daughter. Her dad reckons she's been killed by a far right political party called The Foundation, and so Irvin wanders around London looking to solve it. The similarities between this and the other books are that it's set in the same world. If it was in a timeline it would be in now. 2001. In the same world as Scholar and The Enemy Within. Scholar came out round about 97. Society was about 98. He's the older brother of a character who appears in Scholar. I think I'm going to link all the books. All of them will be linked somehow. The same world."


SAM LIPSYTE FEST 07/01/2002


We continue our Sam Lipsyte fest with an extract from an excellent interview which appeared in Beatrice: ". . . I started a novel that dealt with some of these themes and settings, but it just wasn't the right narrative, and the voice wasn't working. Then...I remember the breakthrough. I was writing in an illegal sublet, a storefront room on Varick Street where I'd have to padlock myself in because all I had was an accordion gate. At one point a car exploded on the street, and my room quickly filled up with black smoke, and I almost died trying to unlock the gate and get out. Afterwards, I was thinking about the genre of book where the narrator's in trouble. And I got to thinking, what's the worst that could happen to a narrator like that? And I thought of that doctor joke, 'We have some good news and some bad news.' It's such a simple joke, but there's a million variations you can make on it. And it's filled with dread, but it also can be so funny. . . ."


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