Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
VELOCITY GOSPEL: STEVE AYLETT READING 06/27/2002
SEND CORRESPONDENCE TO:
One of our favourite writers, Steve Aylett, the author of The Velocity Gospel who was recently interviewed in 3A.M. Magazine, is doing a reading in Redhill (UK) on Wednesday July 3 at about 7.30pm onward (organised by Hammicks). The venue is the Toby Carvery, 2 Redstone Hill, Redhill RH1 4BL (near plat 3 exit of Redhill station). Admission is free.
3A.M. SITE OF EXCELLENCE 06/24/2002
The best weekly e-zine for professional writers Inscriptions Magazine has chosen 3A.M. Magazine as its Link of the Week: "Consider yourself hip to the lit scene of today? Do you appreciate edgy and fresh fiction and poetry? 3AM Magazine delivers a fine feast of commentary, reviews and information on what's hot in the world today -- from politics and music to literary and genre fiction, you won't mind staying up to dive into this fine intellectual fare." Cheers mates, we're well chuffed!
SAM LIPSYTE WEEK 06/24/2002
The Harper/Collins-3A.M. Magazine writing competition is over, and the winners will soon be announced and their work posted. In the meantime, enjoy our Sam Lipsyte week, starting with extracts from this interview (conducted by Michael Kimball) which appears in the latest issue of taint Magazine: ". . . I never sit down and say, Boy, do I have an important story to tell about alienation and oppression in late capitalist society or something like that. I figure that shit forces itself in anyway, and if you keep writing some kind of story has to emerge. It can't not emerge. And it's probably the story you should be telling. It might not be a classical narrative, but we maybe have enough of those, anyway. Characters come to me as voices, different modes of speech. Who they are comes from there. I'm not really sure what plot is. Somebody told me once but I forgot. . . . The Subject Steve was an entirely different, failed novel until I got 'Bastards said they had some good news and some bad news.' Something about the sound of 'Bastards said' seized me, not just for its acoustical elements, but its ability to so economically establish stance or voice for the narrator. Two words in and you know where the speaker is situated in relation to his world. So I went back and rewrote the entire book. Nothing remained, because nothing from before had any connection to that lingual event. You have to have it, but it doesn't always present itself. Most of my writing time is spent without it, struggling with deadness on the page, disgusted with myself. . . . Either I'm disgusted with myself for squandering precious hours by not writing, or for writing crap. That deadness can be worse than the blank page. At least with the blank page you can fool yourself into thinking you're on the verge of something great. . . . I love rephrasing, rewriting. I love to delete. Maybe it's the only time in my life I feel in control of anything. It's like music, finding the space between the notes. And something happens in revision. You discover what the thing was you were trying to do in the first place. It's only then that you can ask yourself if it's something worthwhile. . . . When it's going well it's often a compulsive experience. Like having a secret lover or a drug habit. That's all pure feeling. Objective questions will of course intrude. Has this been done this way before? What is it exactly I'm trying to do? These are good questions, but I have to be careful. I'll start thinking like a critic, as opposed to just thinking critically. . . . But the compulsive experience, that's just how I sometimes formulate it, probably because I've been fairly compulsive in other aspects of my life. I have trouble stopping. I don't want to leave the party. I want to cling to a feeling that vanished ten minutes ago. So I keep trying to recreate the conditions for those experiences. In life, this can lead to trouble. I tend to ride the horse until it drops dead under me. But in fiction you get to make a world and a language for it. . . . When I'm in it, as it were, the ego sort of drops away, time stops, fear dissolves, and it's not quite me anymore, this fairly pathetic guy in his apartment with all his ordinary bullshit hopes and neuroses. It feels like somebody else. . . . Somewhere Genet describes jacking off to his prose as he composes it, trying to draw the experience out, luxuriate in it, one hand on his pen, the other in his lap. I'm hoping to try that someday. Then, when somebody accuses my work of being masturbatory, I can say, 'You don't even know.' . . ."
HARPER/COLLINS-3A.M. COMPETITION 06/24/2002
Tom Bradley is the first winner in our writing competition. A copy of Sam Lipsyte's The Subject Steve will soon be making its way to Japan, congratulations!
The online writing community trAce will be holding its second international conference on writing and the Internet at the Nottingham Trent University on 15-17 July. Incubation 2 will be "a significant opportunity for writers and other creative and academic practitioners to extend their professional development, learn new skills, and interact with some of the leading writers and researchers working online today. It is also a very useful networking event with opportunities to meet like-minded thinkers from around the world." There will be delegates from the UK and the United States, but also from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ghana, Holland, Ireland, Nepal, Nigeria, Slovenia and Uzbekistan. The main speakers are Lizzie Jackson (BBCi), Talan Memmott and Robin Rimbaud. (Photo: Sue Thomas, Artistic Director, at the Sorbonne, 2002.)
Paul Boutin writes about electoclash sensations Fischerspooner in Wired: "The latest pop act to emerge on the U.K. charts is an American act that calls itself 'an experiment in entertainment,' one whose lab gear consists of an iBook, a fabulous wardrobe and a firm commitment not to waste energy on keeping it real. 'We're definitely a post-Napster band,' said Casey Spooner, singer for the New York City-based Fischerspooner. . . . In addition to their campy, catchy synth-pop music, Fischerspooner are equally known for their theatrical live performances, choreographed but chaotic spectacles featuring Spooner's ever-changing costumes, an MC who doubles as wardrobe assistant and over a dozen singers and dancers. But in contrast to pop stars like Britney Spears, who defensively insist they do all their own singing onstage, Fischerspooner shows -- which reportedly cost up to $250,000 to produce -- celebrate the joys of lip-synching. 'There's a mix between playback and live vocals, but this is basically how every major pop performer does a live show,' Spooner said. 'Once you become aware of the idea of playback, you realize it's how most people experience most musical performances. In movies, on TV shows, even concerts, everyone is lip-synching.' Dropping that pretense, he said, was part of Fischerspooner's founding ethos. . . . Former indie-rock guitarist Fischer took it upon himself to create the band's music entirely on a Mac with no outboard equipment. But the duo quickly jettisoned the idea of taking Fischer's laptop onstage after watching live electronic acts in the vein of Chemical Brothers. . . . Spooner says the band's backing-track gambit appears to have paid off at recent shows in London: 'People come up after the shows and say, 'I swear to God, that sounded even better than the CD,' even though they know it was the CD.'
REAL MEN 06/24/2002
Read Hari Kunzru's brilliant article on Fight Club: "There is a scene in the recent film of Chuck Pahlianuk's novel Fight Club where Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, who play the founders of an underground network of bare-knuckle boxing clubs, are strap hanging on a trolley car. Their faces are bruised and scarred from vicious fighting. They occupy the aisle with absolute self-assurance, emanating an aura of threat. Pitt's character spots a Calvin Klein underwear advert, and laughs at the model's rippling torso. 'Real men don't look like that', he sneers. Norton agrees. The ordeals they undergo at fight club, the pain they inflict and have inflicted on them, have allowed them to discover a surer foundation for masculinity than that represented by the ad. 'The gyms you go to,' writes the novel's narrator, 'are crowded with guys trying to look like men, as if being a man means looking the way a sculptor or art director says.' The brief scene on the trolleycar is one of the most troubled moments in recent Hollywood cinema. No one watching can forget that Pitt's acting career was kickstarted by the scene in Thelma and Louise where he takes off his shirt to reveal a worked-out chest and washboard stomach identical to that his Fight Club character derides. Pitt's spectacular (and spectacularised) upper body, which is constantly on show in Fight Club (yellow-lit, oiled and scarred, a direct visual descendant of Bruce Lee's in Enter the Dragon), means more in this context than a lame piece of movie casting. It shows Hollywood's basic inability to cope with Fight Club's question about the meaning of manhood in service economy America, and points up a formation analysed by Susan Faludi, in her recent book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the Modern Man. Faludi charts the decline of successive visions of masculinity based on communal responsibility and public participation, 'The old model.. showed men how to be part of a larger social system; it gave them a context and it promised them that their social contributions were the price of admission to the realm of adult manhood.' She argues that this kind of masculinity has been replaced by an 'ornamental culture', brought about by the acceleration of capital, a spectacular media and the hyper-competitive individualism valued so highly in American culture. . . . This community of centred, self-knowing men, is specifically predicated on the destruction of the ornamental body. Time and again the book returns to the appalling physical consequences of the fights, the destruction visited on his own flesh being a particular fascination of the narrator. . . . Fight Club is about waste, in the Bataillean sense of expenditure without goal, without hope of return or recuperation. Although the fighters aim to win, there is no sense of competition, no league tables, no winning or losing in the sport-war-money sense that American cultural cheerleaders view as the secret of their global success. At fight club, your individual achievements are meaningless. 'You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.' Having the shit kicked out of you can be as therapeutic as doing it to someone else. The main issue is not success, but affect. This brings Pahlianuk into imaginative territory shared with Douglas Coupland and Brett Easton Ellis, both of whom describe a society where hierarchies of value have been flattened, leaving behind numbness and absence. . . . Ornamentalism is a way of being a man fitted totally to the needs of the twenty-first century economy. Ornamental man is atomised, mobile, expresses his masculinity through consumerised display, and submits shyly to a scrutiny that is no longer definable as a male gaze ogling women, but has become a genderless capitalist eye disciplining male and female, gay and straight alike. The corporate gaze, checking out the size of your packet. Above all ornamental man is productive, sweating hard on the pec deck, working late at the office, eating healthily and getting it up that extra time to please his ornamental but demanding Cosmo-reader girlfriend. This is the true danger of Fight Club. Nihilistic male violence is, by definition, anti-productive. Our society is mobilising itself at all levels to promote economic efficiency. It is also, seemingly by coincidence, mobilising to prevent 'antisocial' masculine violence. Once valorised as 'bravery' and formalised through male-controlled institutions, this quintessentially masculine impulse towards chaos is now the object of intense state pressure. From the football terraces and street muggings, to the poor academic and disciplinary record of the current generation of schoolboys, unchannelled masculine energy is seen as the biggest threat to the internal security of a new society which prefers to fight its wars outside its borders, and relay them home by television. . . ."
I was looking forward to Wimbledon which always provides us with a good excuse to post pictures of Anna Kournikova. Unfortunately, she's just been knocked out in the first round by fellow Russian Tatiana Panova. Both the BBC and the Evening Standard tell you where to eat and drink while in Wimbledon. 3A.M. Magazine is glad to see that the Standard recommends the Rose and Crown (where Swinburne and Leigh Hunt used to hang out) and, our favourite, Hartfields Wine Bar.
YET YET MORE MISSING LINKS 06/24/2002
New Romantic ace face Steve Strange is involved in a new nightclub called Rouge at Rouge: every Friday at 144 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H, 10pm-4am, £15 (enquiries: 020 7798 8107). Check out Blitzed!, Steve Strange's recently-published autobiography. Curioser and curioser: Pete Clark writes in the Evening Standard about Richard Strange's autobiography, Strange: ". . . He probably achieved his highest profile as Kid Strange, guiding light of the Doctors of Madness, an angry pre-punk combo who influenced more musicians to change their thinking than punters to part with money for their records. Strange later ran the equally influential Cabaret Futura club in Soho in the early Eighties and more recently has made a career in the movies, with a forthcoming appearance in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York promising to be a highlight, provided it does not end up on the cutting-room floor. . . ." Mitzi Szereto will be reading from Erotic Fairy Tales, A Romp Through the Classics at 8 pm on Wednesday 10 July 2002 at The Drum Arts Centre in Birmingham, England (144 Potters Lane, Aston). Admission is free. Surprisingly enough, The Clash have been voted top punk band by readers of the NME. The guys at Limb By Limb are launching a new paper and website called The Poke: "The Poke is a team of about twenty young comedy writers, illustrators and animators, some of whom are relatively undiscovered, others who have contributed to English shows, newspapers and sites like Tvoghome, the 11 o'clock show, Have I Got News For You, Dead Ringers, The Sun, The Star and The Guardian, to name a few." The Poke newspaper will be launched at this summer's Edinburgh Festival: "It has news at the front, sport at the back, regulars in the middle, and is a satire on newspapers, rather than being news satire itself. More Spike Milligan than Chris Morris, we aim to be the wanking tramp of publishing." The decision to include American authors in the Booker Prize (now called the Man Booker Prize) has led to a great deal of controversy in British literary circles. More than 20,000 new age travellers, druids etc gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice in true pagan fashion. Umberto Eco believes that satire is at risk: ". . . There are two venerable institutions behind the idea of free satire: the court jester and the carnival. The court jester had the right to say the most outrageous things to the king. Everything was permitted during carnival, even the songs that the Roman legionnaires would sing, calling Julius Caesar 'queen', alluding, in a very transparent way, to his real, or presumed, homosexual escapades. The difference is that the court jester was allowed to say anything he wanted, but only at court. If he had said those same things in any one of the town squares, at any other time of year, he would have been hung. And the carnival 'licence' lasted only a few days -- during the rest of the year, some things just could not be said.
We realise that the spreading of political satire -- and even non-political satire -- is part of a typical phenomenon of our time, which is the constant 'carnivalisation' of life. Carnivalisation of life is the power of having a comedic film or show on television every day, several times a day. Carnivalisation of life is an American political convention where the participants, including the candidate, are dressed and act as though they were on a Broadway stage. Carnivalisation is the political forum on television in which the politician says presumably serious things, while standing next to a scantily clad woman, who talks about the calendars she appears in. The ultimate carnivalisation of life is when Pope John Paul II, the venerable and virtuous old man, participates in a concert for young people where a rock star with a bared belly-button sings to the crowd - something that would never be allowed in a Vatican audience. Carnivalisation of life is the loss of the boundary between what is serious and what is performance. . . ." Matt Thorne's article on Richard Hell is reproduced here. Marco Pirroni who played with the Banshees during their first gig before becoming a member of The Models and Adam and the Ants has a new website called Distortion With Attitude. Jennifer Macaire's Time For Alexander is now available from Jacobyte Books: "Alexander the Great has just beaten Darius for the second time, and Ashley -- a time-traveling journalist -- is sent to interview him. Jennifer Macaire has woven a mesmerizing story of love, treachery and a desperate fight for love, set against the background of Alexander's conquest of the world." Our friend Lionel Rolfe was recently the subject of an article in the prestigious Guardian newspaper: ". . . Now [Aldous] Huxley's days in California are recalled in a new book and given a special echo by the 25th anniversary of an organisation founded by his widow, Laura, who is still energetically putting into practice some of the Utopian principles articulated in Island. The book is Literary LA, by Lionel Rolfe, son of the pianist Yaltah Menuhin and nephew of Yehudi. An LA-based journalist and writer, Rolfe has compiled an entertaining collection on writers including Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, Malcolm Lowry, Charles Bukowski and Huxley. Rolfe, author of Fat Man On The Left, raconteur and journalist, met Huxley shortly before the writer's death and recalls that he had said that he stayed in LA because of 'inertia and apathy'. Yet the writing he did there has a fabulous quality to it. Huxley, as Rolfe explains, also wrote for Hollywood, adapting Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice for the screen and turning his short story, "The Giaconda Smile", into A Woman's Vengeance, starring Jessica Tandy. Rolfe wrote, too, about Huxley's second marriage to Laura Archera, an Italian violinist, film editor and therapist, and how his life with her saw him veer in more and more 'mystical directions'. . . ." Don't miss the latest issue of Failbetter.com, one of our favourite literary webzines. You'll find excellent fiction by Julianna Baggott, Lynn Kozlowski, Nelly Reifler, Bill Spratch and Shawn Aron Vandor along with poetry by Barry Ballard, Suzanne Burns, and M. Sammons, plus an interview with Robert Cohen. Highly recommended.
Richard Hell, who was recently interviewed for 3A.M. by Richard Marshall, has posted a short but moving tribute to the late Dee Dee Ramone: "I was surprised to hear about Dee Dee but it's amazing how quickly something that's already happened seems inevitable. I'm not really that intrigued about the circumstances. I just assumed he was using, without it seeming important to know. But people seem curious about it. My best information, reliable enough for me, is that he really wasn't doing narcotics and hadn't for years, that this was an aberration and that's partly why it was an overdose -- he had no tolerance. But I don't know any of it for sure. I'd hardly seen him since the seventies, but there was a year or so around 1975 when we spent a lot of time together. He was a riot. His permanent number was to be the dumb belle. He was so funny. It was like Marilyn Monroe. It was a kind of defense, obviously, everybody has them, but mainly it was his style. He was neurotic and temperamental too (and I think those things probably increased with age as usual). And he was pretty! Boy did that hair sparkle. He had this hygiene thing. He used to take four or five showers a day. I always thought of him as the core of the Ramones. Of course everybody was vital in that group . . . my impression was always that Dee Dee was the main songwriter, that the purity and spirit and catchiness of their best songs were Dee Dee's talent and instincts at work. His mixture of nonstop furious aggression as a bass player with his young-kid dumb sweetness and (funny) honesty was the essence of Ramoneness too. It was Dee Dee who shouted out 'one-two-three-four' as fast as he could to get the songs going. It's inevitable that Joey's end will get more attention probably, since he was the lead singer and Dee Dee left the group a few years before, but Dee Dee was the exemplary Ramone to me. I think he had the biggest influence on other bands too, as a songwriter, bass player, and stage presence. Sid Vicious definitely idolized him. . . . [A] few years later after we'd been good friends for a while when I did an interview with the band for a story I wanted to write about them (before they had a record contract) and Dee Dee was explaining about the songs they'd written and he told me the first song they'd written was 'I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You,' and then 'I Don't Wanna Get Involved With You,' and 'I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement,' etc., etc.: I Don't Wanna this and I Don't Wanna that... And Dee Dee goes, "'We didn't write a positive song until 'Now I Want to Sniff Some Glue.' I don't know what else to say. It's strange to see us dropping away. But not that strange I guess." (Photo: Dee Dee Ramone, left, and Richard Hell in 1975.)
IN PRAISE OF DUBIOUSLY OFFSIDE GOALS 06/20/2002
Reverend Jeremy Fletcher has written a prayer for tomorrow's quarter final match against Brazil:
"Arise, O Lord, and let not Brazil prevail over us,
Put them in fear O Lord.
Rise up, O Lord, lift up your hand,
Confound the might of Ronaldo and Rivaldo
And put Ronaldinho to confusion.
O God, if nothing else, award us a dubiously offside goal in the last minute,
That the world may know that you are our God,
And through you we will triumph over our adversaries,
This time making it all the way to the final,
Even if it is on a Sunday and no one will go to church.
Photo from The Sun, where else?
AUTHENTICALLY DRUNK 06/20/2002
Melissa Denes interviews Alan Warner (who has just published The Man Who Walks) in The Guardian: ". . . He is a rangy, big-boned man of 37 -- large hands, long legs, impressive cheekbones -- with a sudden maniacal laugh. He likes a drink, and though he was up all hours with his editor last night, orders a midday Guinness and whiskey chaser at the gloomy wood-panelled bar. We talk about his new book, The Man Who Walks, a strange story about two Scotsmen -- the Nephew and the eponymous Man Who Walks -- who are following one another aimlessly, drunkenly, through the Highlands. There is no plot as such, but a lot of weird tales along the way: a British Rail stewardess who's eloped with her trolley, an American film crew location-scouting for a new version of Kidnapped, a stray dog with a band of paint around its middle. . . . Warner talks about the book with great affection, as if it were written by someone else, but agrees that it's not a straightforward read -- he never meant it to be. 'It's an anti-novel, with anti-heroes. You're always attacking the form, taking the piss, in a sense. I can't think of a writer I respect who doesn't do that. And I've always been drawn to weird scenes and unstable personalities.' . . . Growing up in Oban on the west coast of Scotland, Warner never dreamed of being a writer. He knew he wanted to get out -- everyone did -- but literature, real literature, had to be about Paris or Rome or London, not people running wild in the hills. You couldn't make art from Oban and the miscreants, deviants and no-hopers who lived there. You certainly couldn't write a whole novel about a 21-year-old shopgirl who can scarcely read and thinks the Costa del Sol is the nearest thing to heaven on this earth. When he eventually did write this book, Morvern Callar, at the age of 25, it sat in a box in his bedroom for over a year. He just didn't think it was publishable. . . . Since then, of course, Warner has proved himself wrong several times over, writing a series of books that centre on just this off-kilter world, a semi-fictional Oban, and Morvern Callar has become a modern classic. The breakthrough for him came, he says, with the publication of Duncan McLean's book of short stories, Bucket Of Tongues, in 1992, and Jeff Torrington's Swing Hammer Swing! which won the Whitbread the same year. Both proved that there was fiction to be made from contemporary Scotland, that there was poetry and pathos and a dark humour at work in Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond. It was suddenly clear to Warner that Oban was brimful of material, and that Morvern Callar was a real book. He wrote a "shy" letter to Duncan McLean, and subsequently sent him a portion of Morvern Callar. McLean called his agent and within days the book had a publisher. So the book that had been shelved by its author for 18 months was sold inside a week. The early to mid-1990s saw something of a renaissance in Scottish fiction. Irvine Welsh published his debut Trainspotting in 1993, and the following year James Kelman won the Booker for How Late It Was, How Late. Morvern was published in 1995. Warner recalls being invited to a photo shoot for the New York Times magazine, along with Welsh, McLean, Gordon Legge and Kevin Williamson, and eventually being thrown out of the free bar provided by the paper -- they wanted their Scottish writers authentic, but not too authentically drunk. The article that accompanied the photograph saluted 'a new beer-soaked, drug-filled, profanity-laced, violently funny literature'. . . ." Read Paul Quinn's review of Alan Warner's latest novel in the Times Literary Supplement and Ali Smith's in The Guardian.
TRACTATUS ILLOGICO-PHILOSOPHICUS 06/20/2002
There's an interesting article by Brian McGuinness in the TLS: "Sir Michael Dummett once said 'We have yet to come to terms with Wittgenstein', and twenty years on, fifty years after the death of Wittgenstein, it still seems to be the case. His work is constantly referred to and yet it is hard to find doctrines set out systematically in the books published under his name, except in the one non-posthumous publication, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus ; and that ends with a declaration of its own senselessness. . . . 'Wittgenstein and . . .' has become a fashion for book titles, succeeding to the '. . . and Language' that the philosopher himself wryly expected (for he did not think of himself as a 'philosopher of language'). But what he was really about, what he would be at (as Macaulay said of Kant), we do not feel we have really grasped. . . . Gilbert Ryle was right to say, when asked whether he had been influenced by Wittgenstein, 'I've learnt a lot from him'; but to go on doing so, we need to understand finally the genre or genres to which his writings belong. The work under review should assist us enormously in this task. That work, if such it can be called, is a set of CD-ROMS. . . . The collection does not include the published works of Wittgenstein, but only the manuscript or (more usually) typescript material on which those publications were based. . . ."
YET MORE MISSING LINKS 06/20/2002
The latest Britlit sensation, 32-year-old Hari Kunzru has won the Betty Trask prize. South African author JM Coetzee has received a Doctor of Letters (honoris causa) courtesy of Oxford University. Twelve hitherto unseen portraits by Lucian Freud have been unveiled at Tate Britain. Ceca, Serbia's most popular pop star and widow of the late warlord Arkan, played a gig in Belgrade in front of some 100,000 spectators. Fanny Burney has been granted a memorial window in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the 250th anniversary of her birth. Harold Pinter, Irvine Welsh, Seamus Heaney, Louis de Bernieres and Germaine Greer will be among the 550 writers taking part in this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival (10-26 August). "Contamination", a novella by the aforementioned Irvine Welsh is published in The Weekenders, an anthology of British fiction and non-fiction about the plight of war-torn Sudan. Irvine Welsh's new book -- Porno (see photo) -- will come out in August. Vic Godard of Subway Sect fame, who collaborated on a musical with Irvine Welsh, will soon be releasing a new album entitled Sansed.
MORE MISSING LINKS 06/19/2002
The Webby Awards have been announced. Jamaican born dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson has made it into Penguin Modern Classics. You can now read Billy Childish's recent interview in Dazed & Confused online. Gareth Malham, a 26-year-old graduate from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England, has sold his soul online for 10 quid! Tim Firth has written a musical based on the career of top ska band Madness. Tim Parks talks about Italian football in Spiked. All the latest news on Fatboy Slim's World Cup roadshow in Japan. Radiohead joined "thousands of protesters" this afternoon "in a mass lobby of [the British] parliament to help mobilise 'people power' against global trade laws." This cracks me up every time: classic!
GABBA GABBA HEY IN THE SKY 06/19/2002
Most of you have already heard the bad news: Dee Dee of The Ramones died of an overdose on 6 June. He was 49, the same age as Joey Ramone who died last year of lymphatic cancer.
JUNE 21 06/18/2002
Come on England!
MOORCOCK IN 3A.M. 06/18/2002
No, it's not a double entendre! Look out for Richard Marshall's second interview with Michael Moorcock which will go online very soon: the Americans' "historical experience is that you can get away with invasion and genocide. In this they share something with previous imperial powers. They are extending this lesson into the Middle East and are now using the same propaganda from their Dept. of Dirty Tricks against Cuba, in order to muddy the waters for Jimmy Carter during his visit there. Anyone the current administration is unhappy with, usually because their own trade interests or domestic vote is threatened, they characterise as 'evil', wickedly planning to manufacture nuclear bombs or, if that is patently ludicrous, bio-weapons, aimed at attacking the US. The only biological attack on the US so far has come from domestic sources, some even believe the CIA or FBI. The only suicide attack has come from Saudi Arabians. I have more confidence in the average voter's common sense than the US media or their awful politicians, but I very much hope these people will be locked up before they do any further harm, either in the Americas or abroad."
FIRBANK ON ACID 06/18/2002
Cult writer Michael Moorcock reviews Steve Aylett's The Velocity Gospel (the second novel in the Accomplice series) in The Guardian: "One of the best of these new absurdists is Steve Aylett. His early mysteries were like Hammett on bad acid, in which fast-talking detectives solved metaphysical crimes and sported weapons firing philosophical concepts rather than bullets. . . . Only an Alligator was the first in a new fantasy trilogy featuring the city of Accomplice. . . . The Velocity Gospel is the even funnier sequel. . . . You can't afford to skip through Aylett's idiosyncratic eloquence, and there's no easy way of further summarising the story without reducing it to something else. So much depends on tone and inference. The plot races as fast as it thickens, and reaches its existentialist resolution as Barny shacks up with Chloe. 'I love it here' are his final words. We are promised more fun ahead. Reminiscent of Ronald Firbank's The Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli or Sorrow in Sunlight, Aylett's language is often the substance, the narrative. You are lost unless you accept the logic of his characters, the sardonic rhythms of his prose. And as with Firbank, you tend to begin an Aylett feeling that you've been dropped into the annual party at the loony bin, but after a few pages his weirdly angled vision takes you over. By the end of the book it all seems perfectly logical, while the world around you is definitely askew. . . ." The quirky genius was at the Writing on the Wall festival in Liverpool yesterday.
BRACEWELL'S INNER CHILD 06/17/2002
English novelist and cultural commentator Michael Bracewell is publishing The Nineties: When Surface Was Depth (Flamingo) on 1 July. You can get a sneak preview in this week's Observer: ". . . [I]n the Nineties, once the designer consciousness of the late Eighties had given way to the quest for spiritual hygiene and social responsibility that pumps the heart of New Labour's New Britain, the nurturing of our inner child by any means possible achieved a new fashionableness -- at the expense, perhaps, of our inner adult. In their search to counter the chaos, the stresses and strains of the Nineties, a whole generation of consumers toddled into early middle age with the infantilist reflex to surround themselves with small, safe and simple things that reminded them of their childhood -- toys are us. This vivid strain of infantilism, as bright and alluring as the stripe of chemical flavour in a block of raspberry-ripple ice-cream, seemed to begin as an act of recoil, bang on cue, some time around the Black Monday stock-market crash of 1987, with a yearning for small, comforting things: reassuring little treats from childhood or adolescence. The American trend analyst Faith Popcorn has identified this drift towards designer infantilism in a pair of catchphrases - 'cocooning' and 'pleasure revenge'. If 'cocooning' is the adult's return to the security of childhood, 'pleasure revenge' is the child lashing out against constraint by being naughty. In other words, having built our simple, health-conscious and innocent adult cocoons, we suddenly break down from the boredom of it all and eat a load of chocolate, smoke a packet of fags and get blind drunk. Which is a state of 'naughty but nice' that was seen in the phenomenal success of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, as a portrait of a young urban woman who is comically caught between her conscience and her desires. A generational response to the problems of growing up in a society presumed to be increasingly complex and dangerous was to treat the perks of childhood -- fizzy pop, cartoons, Spacehoppers, sweets, funny socks and toys -- as a source of inspiration. The infantilist's revenge against the matt black and brushed steel of the Eighties, the 'cartoon kitchen' was also enhanced by a vogue for retro-kitsch that sources from the childhood and early adolescence of thirtysomethings and reveals itself in such accessories as adult fridge magnets (for pin-ups or poetry), soap that smells of bubblegum, collections of Japanese robots and Thunderbirds models that double as pop-cultural antiques. All of which could be enjoyed while swigging down a bottle of alcoholic raspberryade. The claret and Stilton, in many an adult household, was replaced by Alcopops and butterscotch popcorn. . . . Children's products and entertainments were equivalently 'dumbed up' to an adult level. Beginning with the rise to power of Viz comic in the late Eighties, the appropriation of cartoons by adults, to serve as both a satire and an easily digestible form of entertainment -- you could call it visual comfort food -- was seen in the new wave of American cartoons that acquired a cult audience in the UK. As RugRats was both popular entertainment for children and a comedy of recognition for adults, so the solely adult cartoons such as King of the Hill and South Park derived much of their comic power from the serving up of a traditionally children's form of entertainment as a kind of last gasp of punk nihilism for adults who grew up with the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. Foul-mouthed, surreal and championing anti-social outsiderdom, these adult cartoons allow us to laugh at our own rage at the adult predicament. . . . Pop, as ever, charted the landscape of the national mood. In the case of BritPop, the dominant sound of the decade, the phenomenon combined an infantilist nostalgia for the popular culture of its practitioners' adolescence, with the born-again maleness of laddism nouveau. . . . The maleness of BritPop took the healthy irreverence of the young Beatles and mixed it with a dollop of Viz comic's reactionary humour. And, once again, both BritPop and the laddism of Viz -- or Loaded -- seemed to be yearning for the freedom of a second adolescence in a younger and less complicated Britain. BritPop put forward a pop ethos that Blur summed up in the title of their CD Modern Life is Rubbish. With a founding theology of apolitical infantilism, the movement had distanced itself from both the multiculturalism of dance music and the white nihilism of grunge. What BritPop promised, with a disingenuous simplicity that belied its subtle protest, was some catchy tunes and a rattling good time. In a pop cultural climate that revived archaic notions of gender and sexuality by turning young men into lads and young women into 'babes', BritPop was attempting to reclaim a lost innocence on the one hand, but indulging a new hedonism on the other. . . . And so BritPop, in many ways, was like a suburban teenage party as it might be reconstructed by today's young adults from their memories of youth. . . . As is traditional in English popular culture, from Mick Jagger's charming of the British aristocracy, the yobs were calling the shots to the snobs. What did become evident, however, was that by invoking both the sound and sensibility of English popular culture of earlier eras -- be that the high psychedelia of Sixties opulence or the cheerful cheesiness of Seventies kitsch -- the ultimate destination of BritPop's targeted revivalism was a kind of 'virtual' pop, in which the stars and the fans appeared like holograms of their distant and mutated originals. . . . Enter the massed armies of Mockneys, the Lads, Ladettes and Babes -- the football's coming home, none-of-that-low-fat-malarkey, Trainspotting, fever-pitching, text-messaging, Wap-phoning, Girlie Show and two smoking barrels. Enter, Attitude! A breath of fresh air, perhaps, or the fashionable face of anti-intellectualism. . . ."
RULAND RULES! 06/17/2002
US punksters Irritable Colon have recorded a song about 3A.M.'s Jim Ruland, author of the Message From the Underworld column and all-round folk hero on the punk-literary scene. Here's an extract from the lyrics (sung in a convincing mockney twang):
Jim Ruland, he's a stand-up feller.
Cries at screenings of Old Yeller.
Jim Ruland he's no goose-necked clown.
Lives in L.A., where the air's always brown.
Jim Ruland's Irish, matter of fact.
Composing prose is really his knack.
Just don't ever laugh when he's on stage.
He'll beat you right down with his bloodthirsty rage.
YET ANOTHER LITERARY WUNDERKIND! 06/17/2002
According to Tim Adams in The Guardian, 18-year-old Nick McDonell is "the most exciting new writer since Bret Easton Ellis": "There are some things that 17-year-old boys should not be able to do. They should not, say, be able to introduce themselves to girls that they believe they are in love with without their words coming out all together in a madman's gibber. They shouldn't be able to walk away from an argument sensibly persuaded of the other point of view. They shouldn't be able to avoid cutting themselves shaving before big nights out. And they shouldn't be able to write exceptional satirical novels. Effortlessly. In their summer holidays. And have them published in nine languages. Nick McDonell, now 18, is the author of Twelve, a smart, sharply written fable of drugs and violence among New York's gilded youth. Hunter S. Thompson has suggested that he is afraid that with this book McDonell will do for his generation what he did for his. . . . There have been a few precedents for McDonell's precociousness: Scott Fitzgerald was 21 when he wrote This Side of Paradise; Bret Easton Ellis 18 when he wrote Less than Zero. But still. The original date we set for this interview had to be changed because it clashed with the author's high-school graduation. . . . Nick McDonell was probably born to be a writer. His father, Terry, was a celebrated editor of Rolling Stone magazine, and Esquire, and is currently the editor of Sports Illustrated -- perhaps, his son suggests, the best job in the world, at least for getting tickets. . . . His mother, Joanie, is a novelist and screenwriter. Morgan Entrekin, his publisher, and owner of Atlantic Books, is also his godfather. At the American launch party for Twelve, Entrekin announced that he had known Nick since he was 48 hours old. Hunter S. Thompson, it turns out, is an old family friend, and so are P.J. O'Rourke and Joan Didion and Jay McInerney and almost every other writer whose name comes up. 'So,' he says, 'it's like I'm on top of this monstrous fucking mountain of nepotism. Shoot me now'. . . . 'Hunter gave me that nice quote, but I don't like hang out with him, he's really a friend of my father's. One of the things that made me do this I guess, that made me give up my summer and write a thousand words a day, and get up every morning at eight and sit down at my desk and not let myself get up until four in the afternoon and have no fun was that very thing. I mean I had the kind of parents who said go ahead and write a novel, and even if it doesn't get published you know it will be a good experience. But I felt like this ridiculous rich kid sitting down to write a novel, like, who the hell did I think I was, this stupid cliché. And the only way to vindicate that was to make it good, you know, to really sweat at it.' Some of this guilt fuels the violence of his book. It tells the story of a group of preppy teenagers who spend their ludicrous allowances on the latest narcotics (including the fictional twelve), whose parents are too busy and too wealthy to care much about them, and who fantasise a lot about their street-smartness -- there are two wonderful walk-on characters named Timmy and Mark Rothko who employ an incomprehensible rap ('That's wack, man. Let's biggity bust'). The book is narrated mostly through the eyes of White Mike, a private-school drop-out turned drug dealer, who preys on the habits of his peers, most of whom meet nasty ends. I wonder if he'd surprised himself by how dark his book turned out to be. 'In the end I was a bit like "Whoa..."' he says. 'I never really thought I had any malice toward anybody, but I guess people in that book are all the people who are not my friends. I don't like most of the characters in the book. That worries me slightly but also I guess it was a way of justifying the enterprise. All these great writers that I seem to be suddenly compared to like Bret Ellis wrote books about the spiritual debilitation of the wealthy youth. And here I am, like, a wealthy youth. So partly the book is about not wanting to become a crazy privileged person. And I guess that's why it got dark. That's why I killed everybody. To stop myself being crazy. If that makes any sense.' . . . He describes, too, a little abashed, how he is - as well as being a celebrated novelist -- also a gifted athlete. He is part of his family's thirteenth consecutive all-male generation and is, he suggests, smiling, 'the fastest white kid in the city'; he can do backflips, and to prove the point gets up and does one on the path; he runs high hurdles in state competitions, plans to concentrate on triple jump at Harvard (where he goes next year). In fact, he says, it was his sporting life that inadvertently led him into fiction. 'I played football; I was a running back, and I took a hit and I had a hairline fracture in my leg which no one spotted, and I was playing basketball all winter and it got worse. And then I was long jumping, about 20 feet, and I landed one time and there was this big crack and all the bones were jutting out of my leg. So I was off school for a while, and it changed my athletic career a bit; and suddenly I guess I needed a new outlet for this energy.' He hadn't written too much before, though he had always been surrounded by books, just the odd bad short story. But he had the idea for his novel in March (he'd turned 17 in February) and he'd finished it by the end of last summer. 'It just came to me all at once, bam!' he says, 'and I wrote the plot down in one go. I hope I still have that piece of paper -- it might be nice to look back on someday. It was about all the things I was thinking about a lot of the time, and suddenly I had 80 pages and then I just kept on going.' . . ."
BIBLIOTEKA ALEXANDRIA 06/17/2002
Serbia's first international literary review, Biblioteka Alexandria, founded by Dusan Velickovic in 1988, have just posted their latest online issue (number 24): "Included among our new articles are a short story in English, 'Visit From High Places,' by the Danish writer Jens-Martin Eriksen and Richard Byrne's review of Peter Bergen's critically-acclaimed book on bin Laden and al-Qaeda, Holy War, Inc. and an interview with Peter Bergen (in English and Serbian). Our latest online issue also includes a Serbian translation of a lengthy fragment from The Law of Peoples, by John Rawls." On June 20, they will be posting a special issue on globalisation.
6 MUSIC 06/17/2002
Have you discovered the joys of 6 Music yet? You can listen to the BBC's new digital station wherever you are through the Net. Chris Hawkins' shows are particularly recommended: Tuesday to Friday (0000-0700) and Sundays (1400-1700). As I speak, they're playing a classic Blondie track. Yes, it's that good. Tomorrow, they're celebrating their first 100 days on air.
THE MISSING LINKS 06/13/2002
"Leading authors have named 17th-Century Spanish story Don Quixote as the best work of fiction ever written, ahead of works by Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. The romantic satire, written by Miguel de Cervantes, won 50% more votes than any other book in a poll of some of the world's most acclaimed writers. Salman Rushdie, Norman Mailer and Nadine Gordimer were among the authors to give their views on what were the best and most important novels, stories and plays in history." The Guardian sent reporters to several London bookshops to test the staff's (in)competence: "At Foyles, the book-lover's bookshop, I approach the counter with a copy of James Joyce's Ulysses. 'I bought this book the other day,' I say, 'and I want my money back. It's full of typing errors and there's no punctuation.' The assistant is pale and wears glasses. He takes the book and turns, at my bidding, to the 100-page monologue at the end. I explain that it doesn't contain a single full stop or comma. 'I think it might be a proof copy,' I say. 'Mmm,' he says. 'That doesn't sound good.' He flicks ruminatively through the book and 'mmms' a bit further. I point to the word 'jawbo' on page 330. 'That's not a word,' I say. 'Mmmm,' he says. 'It's rare that publishers make a mistake like that. If it's a proof copy, we will, of course, recall it.' He looks at me kindly. 'I expect it made it rather difficult to read.' . . ." Ben Okri, who was born in Nigeria and won the Booker in 1991, wrote a short poem for the Nigeria v England match. McSweeney's have a launched a Stephen Dixon week on their website to celebrate the publication of his novel. Billy Bragg writes in The Mirror that "World Cup fever and the Queen's Golden Jubilee have triggered a wave of patriotic fervour in England, with both the Union Jack and the flag of St George both proudly displayed. Yet what these flags symbolise are two separate identities. The England football team represent the country as it is -- vibrant, multicultural and forward looking. The Union Jack always seems to be in the hands of those who wish to look back to our imperial past. . . ." You can read an extract from Orange Prize winner Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. The Hay Festival, the world's largest literary festival which Bill Clinton described as the "Woodstock of the mind", has just come to a close. To mark this year's Hay Festival, Lesley Glaister, Maggie O'Farrell, Andrew Miller, Sebastian Barry, Emily Perkins, Howard Jacobson and Michael Faber contributed to a baton story which you can find here.
ORTON DOWN UNDER 06/11/2002
Van Badham is directing a new production of Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw (starring Tim Allen, James Beach, Paula Gaul, Jen Hamilton, Brian Hiscocks and Glen Woolgar) in Stanwell Park near Sydney, Australia: "WILL the eminent psychiatrist make good his promise to wear rubber? WHY does Mrs Prentice scream at the mention of a policeman's helmet? WHO is the woman being carried to the shrubbery? And just WHICH part of Winston Churchill is the Sergeant so keen to get in hand? The clothes are off and the straightjackets are on in a comedy of anarchy which is seriously 'insane'." The next performances are on Thursday June 13, Friday June 14 and Sat June 15 at 8 p.m.: CWA HALL, Stanwell Park. Tickets: $17/$12. All tickets $10 on Thursday June 13 (tel: 4294 4060). Director Van Badham says that "The production is very clean, and the stage design (by Phillippa Welfare) is particularly good -- she has managed to make it all work in a very small space. . . . I've been surprised just how well Orton is known in Australia myself. My own personal history with Orton is based on being forced to Prick Up Your Ears by my cousins when I was 12 -- they thought the gay content would freak me out. As it was, I fell in love with the movie, and with Orton, and had conquered the opus by turning 13. I think maybe a few of the jokes were lost on me then, but then you find more with each reading at any age, don't you? The movie is very well known here, and the curious Australian habit of feeling obligated to live in England for a couple of years when you're in your twenties I think creates an Anglophilia more susceptible to the temptation of Orton than the Spice Girls and pork pies. Since I began directing the play, Ortonomaniacs have uncloseted themselves everywhere -- even in the industrial city where I live, his appeal is huge, and our Butler production is doing very good business. The only major problem I've encountered has been in reception to the play not from Edna Wellthorpe types (and, rest assured, we have duly posted our letter of complaint from Edna to the local paper) but from within my close circle of female friends. At interval on opening night my best friend hissed 'Rape jokes are never funny' which upset me no end. . . . In the production we've been very sensitive to play up Mrs Prentice's claims of rape as an obvious lie to protect herself. The only conclusion I can draw is that there will always be audience members who go out of their way to find something to oppose in Orton because his targets are establishments and orthodoxies wherever he finds them -- right, left or indifferent."
THE REST IS SILENCE 06/07/2002
THE OUTSIDER 06/06/2002
Top U.S. writer Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn, has published an article on Spiderman in The London Review of Books: ". . . [S]pontaneous applause from an auditorium full of children is not a thing to be cynical about -- especially, I must risk saying, when that audience is 80 per cent inner-city blacks, as this one was. That they knew that Spider-Man was for them -- the film has no black faces -- probably speaks to many things. At least one of these is a key element of the Spider-Man myth: no matter how blandly mainstream and popular this character becomes, and no matter how whitewashed of ethnicity the name 'Parker' has always been, Parker-Spider-Man is always an Other. Spider-Man's official creator, Stan Lee (typically, for his generation of showmen, a de-Judaicised 'Stanley Lieber'), has boasted: 'Spider-Man's costume covers every inch of his body . . . any reader, of any race' -- if not gender -- 'in any part of the world, can imagine himself under that costume.' But, quite satisfyingly, Parker doesn't don that costume for the first sixty-five minutes of the film's running time (my own informal measure, by wristwatch). His white skin is thoroughly on view. No, it's the pre-existing backdrop of Superman and Batman's deep whiteness that establishes Spider-Man's metaphoric blackness. Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne live in palaces of privilege and operate from fantasy cities, Metropolis and Gotham, while working-class Spider-Man is a bridge-and-tunnel person, from Queens, in the real New York. Spider-Man's good intentions get misrepresented in the media, and he gnaws over this injustice, wondering why he ought to help anyone when he's never been given a hand up himself. Spider-Man is always short of a buck, Spider-Man don't get no respect etc. . . . Furthermore, Spider-Man, as a dashiki-wearing instructor at a Brooklyn day-care centre once explained to me and a group of other (multi-hued) children, wasn't actually invented by white people at all, but derived from an African legend of a spider-demon of the jungle, a trickster figure. Everyone knew this, it was as basic as Elvis Presley's music having originated in black sources. . . . Like Colin Wilson's Outsider or A.E. van Vogt's Slan, Spider-Man was a wunderkind-outcast identification available to anyone who'd mixed teenage grandiosity with even the mildest persecution complex, let alone real persecution. . . ."
3am TOP 5 06/06/2002
3A.M.'s flash fiction editor Utahna Faith is currently listening to:
- "Jet Boy, Jet Girl" - The Damned (The Best of the Damned).
- "We're Having Much More Fun" and "Breathless" - X ("More Fun in the New World").
- "Voodoo Baby" - Love and Rockets (Hot Trip to Heaven).
- "Jeepster" - T-Rex (Electric Warrior).
- "Lover, You Should Have Come Over" - Jeff Buckley (Grace).
THE WHY CHROMOSOME II 06/06/2002
Never trust a white man with dreadlocks.
BELGRADE CALLING 06/05/2002
There's an interview with Serbian playwright Biljana Srbljanovic here. Born in Belgrade in 1970, she teaches drama history and her plays have been performed all over Europe. La Chute will be staged at the Bussang festival from August 1-24 (tel: 03 29 61 50 48). For more info on Serbia, read our interviews with Dusan Velickovic, editor of Biblioteka Alexandria, and Philip Hammond.
SAVE RADIO 100! 06/05/2002
The Dutch government has decided to sell off the FM wavelength to the highest bidder and is trying to get rid of non-commercial, alternative stations like Radio 100. Protest if only to save William Levy's Dr Doo-Wop programme (see photo).
ALL HAIL THE NEW ELAN 06/05/2002
Poet and short story writer Greg Farnum, who edits the brilliant East of New York literary news column at Web del Sol (with my good self), is now in charge of ELAN (The Electronic Literary Arts Newsletter): "Web del Sol's expanded ELAN will be bringing subscribers frequent updates as it tracks the electronic footprints of literature on the net. . . . The idea of the newsletter is to alert readers to what's new and interesting on e-zines, the net versions of print literary magazines...and whatever else is relevant so long as it's on the net." Greg insists that "Subscriptions, which are free, are also said to enhance your sex life." Contributions and suggestions welcomed by the editor.
THE ANTI-NATURALS ARE BACK! 06/05/2002
Our friends The Anti-Naturals are back in full attack with a new, improved issue (number 20!) of their Fifteen Credibility Street which now includes music and video. Kudos to The Anti-Naturals!
AWRIGHT DAR(JEE)LING? 06/05/2002
Techno superstar Moby is to open a tea shop in New York called Teanany: "[T]he cafe, which will serve 80 different types of the beverage, is one of hundreds of shops devoted to the cuppa springing up across Manhattan. One trendy new eatery in Madison Avenue sells special green tea from Japan for up to £15 an ounce. . . . Tomislav Podreka from Long Island based Serendipitea said in New York tea had become the new wine. 'Tea and wine are the only two 'foods' that cover 95% of the palate pie,' he said. 'A good Darjeeling drinker will know the difference between a spring, summer and autumnal flush.' . . . Miriam Novalle, owner of New York's T Salon, said the beverage has become so popular among celebrities that she had been asked to cater at VIP events pouring tea instead of Champagne."
3A.M. GIRL 06/05/2002
As you no doubt know, 3A.M. Magazine has launched a modeling competition. Ladies: take a picture of yourselves posing like Sardax's scantily-clad writing girl at the top of the Buzzwords page and mail it to us post haste. Alternatively, you can pose as the beautiful creature pictured here sitting at a table writing a love letter to the editors of 3am. All the best pictures will be published. The very best in both categories will become 3am's official models. Here is an entry from delightful Deborah M. Staab who's bound to be a contender for the top spot. Deborah is a graduate of NYU and a native New Yorker. She has worked on independent films and
commercials as a prop master, an art dept. coordinator, and as an assistant location manager, besides holding jobs as a waitress, a hotel clerk, and a magazine editor. She has been writing professionally for two years. Currently, she resides in Queens, NY and does whatever odd jobs come along to pay the bills.
BACK IN THE USSR 06/04/2002
According to Autodafe, the magazine of the International Parliament of Writers, Russian novelist Victor Pelevin is "currently the subject of a campaign being conducted against 'degenerate' literature. His readers are being encouraged to exchange copies of his books for more 'wholesome' Russian classical literature." Check out Leo Kropywia's excellent interview with the author in Bomb magazine. On the 1992 privatisation vouchers which the government sent to all citizens: "Mr. Yeltsin's government said it was my share of the motherland and, symbolically enough, it amounted to the value of a vodka bottle. I responded with an act of symmetrical symbolism: together with my nation I squandered it on alcohol." On Russian engineers and workers: "In Russia, when you are trained as an engineer, you spend several years studying theoretical physics: from mechanics and electricity to elementary particles. And this training is quite deep and serious. After you graduate from your institute you are assigned to some factory where you have to work for three years (at least it was like this when I was a student and factories were still working). What happens next is they give you a crowbar, a padded coat and a cap with earflaps, and you are entrusted with the leadership of three stone-pissed proletarians (you can't use the term 'worker' here as they never work). And your task is to remove ice in the backyard. That was the metaphysics of engineering in Russia. I say 'was' because these days nobody removes the ice anymore." On the lessons he learned from reading Mikhail Bulgakov: "At that time I wasn't reading books to draw lessons from them. On the contrary, I often skipped lessons to read the books I liked." On philosophy: "[Tomislav]he most compelling Western philosophers in my life were Remy Martin and Jack Daniels. They compelled me to do many things I otherwise would never think of. Seriously, I don't take professional philosophers seriously even when I understand what they say. Philosophy is a self-propelled thinking, and thinking, no matter how refined, only leads to further thinking. Uncoerced thinking gives us the best it can when it subsides down and halts, because it is the source of nearly all our problems. As far as I'm concerned, thoughts are justified in two cases: when they swiftly make us rich and when they fascinate us with their beauty." On Russian literature: "The only real Russian literary tradition is to write good books in a way nobody did before, so to become a part of the tradition you have to reject it -- a condition necessary but not sufficient. . . . If you try to write something long and coherent about Russia, you won't be able to do it: even if your first sentence is about Russia, your second and third will have to be about something else. And ultimately you will end up writing about yourself." On The Unspeakable: "The very idea that words are inherently reductive comes into existence within the realm of words and is comprised of words. If you say that there's something that can't be spoken about, you contradict yourself because you are already speaking about this unspeakable thing. The only difference is that you use the words unspeakable and unsayable to speak about it. I think that unspeakable might be the only possible one-word oxymoron. Words can never be reduced to themselves because they simply don't have anything that could be called a self. They only come into relative existence as objects of your mind and their meaning and emotional charge may vary significantly from one person to another. What exactly can they be reduced to? Words are the only way to deal with the mind, as mind is also a word and you can only tackle one word with another. However, it doesn't mean that there's nothing beyond words. But it is beyond words only when we are silent about it from the very beginning."
AMERICANS IN PARIS 06/02/2002
American expat jazz combo Rene Miller's Wedding Band are playing a gig at the Sentier des Halles (50 rue d'Aboukir 75002 Paris) on Wednesday 5 June: "Since forming in Paris in Autumn 2000 René Miller's Wedding Band has made its presence known on the Paris music scene. The group started playing together in the streets and have become one of the hardest working bands in town. The members of the band are all Americans who live in Paris and have worked with some of the biggest names in jazz and blues including Phil Woods, Lena Horne, Steve Lacy, Corey Harris, and the late Stanley Turrentine to name a few. The Wedding Band have created a unique sound which blends jazz, blues, gospel, dixieland, and even pop music into an emotional, energetic, gritty ride down Bourbon Street. The band recently completed their second CD, Fete De La Musique, produced by well-known Paris producer Pajaro Canzani and have sold over 10,000 copies. . . . Recently the group was the subject of an eight page fashion photo spread for the French magazine Mariée and also starred in a television commercial in eastern Europe for 'Pop' cellular telephone service. Last year the band was cast in the film What Time Is It Over There? which premiered at the Cannes film festival 2001. The group is planning to tour in Europe later this year and will begin to record their third CD early next year." The gig starts at 8pm (to book phone: 01 42 61 89 96). You can listen to the band here.
Neal Ascherson writes in The Observer that "In 1977, the country was in severe post-industrial decline. Now, a quarter of a century on, much of Britain is enjoying unprecedented prosperity. So why do we still seem to be gripped by anxiety?": ". . . Back in 1977, more than 6,000 people came to a Communist Party 'People's Jubilee' party at Alexandra Palace in London. At that time, the party still claimed to have 28,000 members, all presumably committed to do away with the monarchy when the correct historical moment arrived. The Socialist Workers' Party found it hard to meet the demand for their 'Stuff the Jubilee!' buttons. Above all, and to the ecstasy of the media, the Sex Pistols hit the top of the NME chart with their jubilee anthem ('God Save the Queen/ the fascist regime...'), which was instantly banned by Boots, Woolworths and WH Smith. . . . Driving south from Edinburgh, as the jubilee neared its climax, I was impressed by the bunting in the Scottish Border burghs, but realised I had seen nothing as soon as I reached the first English streets at Longtown. The place had vanished under red-white-and-blue billows of flag and ribbon, and every small town southwards was the same. At Ellesmere, in Cheshire, a gigantic crown was floating on the lake (as if a 40ft queen was about to rise dripping from the water) and the little girls wore Union Jack knickers. Hilltop beacons were lit from one end of the kingdom to the other, in spite of the downpours ('Singing in the Reign' went the headlines). A Welsh butcher set out for London to sell his own jubilee contribution: red-white-and-blue sausages. The Government even claimed that sales of jubilee medals and crown-coins would cover central expenditure on the celebrations.
Travelling around Britain in 2002, it's a very different tale. The national contrasts remain: Winchester had received about 25 applications for street parties by the beginning of last week, while in Glasgow I could hear of only about eight -- and most were from Orange lodges, which have their own agenda. In 1977, huge Glasgow crowds had turned out to greet the Queen, with some estimates -- certainly exaggerated -- putting the numbers at more than 200,000. When the Queen came to Glasgow nine days ago, she had a friendly welcome from a few thousand people in George Square. But England is quieter, too. As an old Pakistani shopkeeper said to me in Blackburn: 'It's natural enough, mister. She's not as glamorous as she was in 1977, and she's not as old as her mother was when she died. It's like an in-between jubilee. Anyway, everyone has many other things to worry about now'.
And yet the English, unlike the Scots, can still measure history by jubilees. When I asked people in England, north or south, how their nation had changed in the past quarter-century, they seemed to glance up at an invisible icon on the wall. When she was young, we were young. When her children began to grow up and experiment with life, we were worrying about the decay of old rules and values. When her family gave her an 'annus horribilis' and her castle went on fire, we were learning what it meant not to have secure jobs and to live dangerously. When the royals went through that 'bad patch' of unpopularity, especially after Diana died, we were wondering if we liked what we had become, and what it meant to be English. A jubilee can be a measurement of time, and of change. At the silver jubilee, Britain was felt to be in a rotten way. There was gross decline, relative and absolute; everything seemed dirty and worn out. Inflation had reached more than 30 per cent only two years before; the pound had given way, and the Government was borrowing billions from the International Monetary Fund. Only the new discovery of oil in the North Sea promised relief: somehow, some time. The golden jubilee feeling is wary but far less fatalistic. In 1977, it was 'change and decay in all around I see'. Today, people perceive change, a lot of it for the worse, but not decay. . . . Three questions recur when it's a matter of sizing up a quarter-century. They are: what have we lost, what have we gained, and what has stayed much the same? The third is the hardest to weigh up. Habits or institutions that fail to change when everything else has may, of course, be healthily durable. But they may be fossilising. Or they may turn out to be dead behind their painted skin. . . ."
Euan Ferguson "catches the mood in London as Britain starts the Queen's jubilee weekend -- the longest bank holiday in history": "Some weekends last more than a weekend. Some last forever. Older generations have spoken and written of summer weekends in 1939, when the sun seemed wary of setting, hesitant to let history carry on. And as Britain began the longest holiday in its history, there was the feeling, yesterday, of a special time: people will remember this time. They may remember it for a thousand different reasons; gone are the days of 1939, when England's collective memory seemed to be of mown grass and a lazy aircraft circling somewhere overhead. Memories of the June 2002 weekend will be more prosaic, more diverse. The Irish fans queuing outside north London pubs at 7am to watch their team draw spectacularly with Cameroon. The English fans wandering the streets at teatime, heavy with hangovers and sunshine after a day's World Cup-watching. The passionate monarchists filing eagerly, hugely curious, into the rarely seen back gardens of Buckingham Palace for last night's jubilee Prom at the Palace, after an afternoon spent straining to hear the distant sounds of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa rehearsing for her performance of 'Dove sono' from The Marriage of Figaro. The many tourists, splendid in their indifference to royalty, still caught up in the preparations outside the palace, and caught up in the sunshine. But memories there will surely be. . . . The palace gates opened shortly after 4pm and the first of an estimated 12,000 crowd, most of them as much fans of music as the monarchy, began filing into the gardens, sure that this night, and the next three, will stay with them for a long time. . . ."
Other links to check out: We Are the English, The English National Party, Spizz's England 2000, the BBC's World Cup site and the England Supporters site.
ENGLISH GRAFFITI 06/01/2002
Te BBC reports that "One of the UK's most talked-about new artists has thrown an illicit street party centred around a giant portrait of the Queen as a chimpanzee he had painted on a wall. Several hundred people turned up to the party, billed as Graffiti, Hostility and the Jubilee, thrown by subversive graffiti artist Banksy. . . . Banksy, who boasts of turning down offers of work from Nike, Microsoft and Coca-Cola, has become one of the most elusive but infamous artists in the UK with his politicised street art. The party, in Southwark, central London, on Thursday, saw the giant portrait of the Queen stand alongside pictures of royal guards with their trousers down and rioting businessmen. He had painted the murals before the party started -- but disappeared by the time any of his fans or the police turned up. Posters advertising the party, showing a policeman with his middle finger raised, told followers that details of the location would only be released on the day. Fans were only given two hours notice of the location. It passed off peacefully -- but police threatened to make arrests if a sound system in the back of a van was switched on. . . . The London party also saw woman dressed as Queen Elizabeth I selling copies of Banksy's new book, Existencilism. . . . The party followed a similar event at the start of May to launch an exhibition of alternative royal portraits, including Banksy's chimpanzee. It also included work by the artist who created the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen record cover, and saw a pinata -- or model -- of the Queen smashed to pieces."
"Singer Billy Bragg has said he is 'appalled' by Sex Pistol John Lydon's opinion of the monarchy. Former punk Bragg said that the punk band's lead singer had sold out because of his support for Jubilee celebrations and his praise for the Royal Family as 'good earners'. At the launch for the re-release [of "God Save the Queen"] Lydon criticised Bragg as 'the middle classes' Coco the Clown'. Bragg, famous for his 1980s hit New England, has anti-Jubilee single Take Down The Union Jack at number 22 in the charts. He told BBC Breakfast: 'When I saw [Lydon] on Richard And Judy a few months ago saying the Royal Family do some good for the country, Bill Grundy must have been turning in his grave. And as a former punk, I am appalled that he should say that.'
3A.M. TOP 5 06/01/2002
3A.M.'s Bertie Marshall is currently listening to:
- "Aftermath" - Tricky (Ruff Guide compliation).
- "Cascade" - Siouxsie and the Banshees (Kaleidoscope).
- "Godspeed" - Patti Smith (Easter, bonus track).
- "Northern Star" - Hole (Celebrity Skin).
- "Pantomime Horse" - Suede (Suede).
PARIS IN SPRING 06/01/2002
Today marks the beginning of Kilometer Zero's third season of the Venue, "a cabaret show of literary readings, story-telling, music, art and YOU on stage at the open-mic. . . . This season we bring the event under our own roof, at the Chateaudun squat, and have the frothing content of the next issue of the magazine spilling onto the stage. Spoken literature by authors of Paris, throbbing brains and festering hearts, music from talent star-bound and underground, politics and stories, confessions and convictions at the open mic, and audience engagement at every level." The Venue takes place every sunday of June (June 2, 9, 16, 23, & 30) at 51 rue du Chateaudun, 75009 Paris (nearest metro: Trinité, line 12).
The Kilometer Zero Theatre Company's production of First Love by Samuel Beckett opens at the Akteon Théâtre tomorrow and runs for two weeks until June 15: "The celebrated Dublin actor Kevin Malone is taking his performance of the piece from the Crypt Theatre in Dublin, and bringing it to Paris, and thus his tour will combine both the author's birthplace, where the story is set, and the city in which Beckett was able to live and work, spend most of his life, and write First Love. It was originally written as a short story for a series of four novellas, and tells of how a young man, stranded after the death of his father, wanders homelessly . . . until he comes to comprehend his love for Lulu. . . . It is hard to think of an actor with a more surprising history than Kevin Malone. Having worked as a professional drummer for many years, playing with, among others, Keith Richads and Ronnie Woods and alomst every Irish artist you can remember, seven years ago Kevin put down his sticks to enrol at the Liberties College of Drama in Dublin. Since then he has acted in theatres all over Ireland and London in works by as many different writers, and we are honoured to present him now for his Paris debut." First Love: 3-15 June 2002 (excl. 9 June). Akteon Théâtre, 11 rue du Général Blaise, Paris 11e (nearest metro station: St-Ambroise). Performances start at 9.30 pm. Reservations: 01 43 38 74 62. (Photo by Andrew Gallix: graffiti in Montmartre, Paris, June 2002.)