Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
ALL THAT GLITTERS . . . 03/27/2002
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English novelist Bertie Marshall attended Steve Strange's party last night: "Steve Strange's book launch party (for his autobiography Blitzed) was held @ Rouge, a three-tiered night club near Centrepoint in London's West End. Straight away I was reminded of the Marquee club in the late 70's: tawdry, bits of gold satin draped (ironically?) across the ceiling, huge colour photos like flags, of Steve thru the decades ... floatsam and jetsam of old London scene faces and the odd semi celeb tv actor . . . You expect to see someone famous and you see that the suburbs are alive and flinching. The party had no'vibe', the glamour tarnished but not in a good way. Steve's an old acquaintance, so I don't want to descend further into bitchery. The party in no way reflected his biography . . . Does a glamourous, notorious past lead to the same sort of future? He's a sweetheart, Mr Strange, for those who only know him fading to grey. I haven't read the book yet, so I can't comment. I'm just a wee bit disappointed that I had to warn old friends off via my mobile, that they might not want to be 'seen' at this bash. For me, the most exciting part of the evening was arriving on the back of a friend's motorbike!"
WHO IS ASTERISK? 03/26/2002
We received a strange message yesterday from a professional photographer who is trying to locate shadowy literary terrorist Asterisk, who has allegedly stolen "some of Hunter S Thompson's unpublished work." No one can apparently "figure out who he is." Rumour has it that Asterisk has recently started contributing to a London-based magazine called Excess, and was recently sighted in Paris. "I've contacted the editors of the publications that he's appeared in, but they all seem as clueless as everyone else," says our photographer. "I've read everything I could find by this mysterious writer and it's like nothing I've ever read before. In short, it's brilliant. He definitely has a voice of his own and I don't buy the 'theft' story." Neither do we. After a little detective work in the murky world of underground café society, 3A.M. Magazine can reveal that Asterisk is no other than Simon Thacker, a former member of the Neo-Hydropathe group of authors, who left Paris three years ago, and was last spotted riding his bike in typically-reckless fashion round sundry buildings in Washington DC.
3A.M. TOP 5 03/26/2002
3A.M. pin-up poet Utahna Faith is currently listening to:
1. "Post Girl" and "Fuck Dub" from Tosca's Opera.
2. "Babies" by Pulp from His 'n' Hers.
3. "People Will Say We're In Love" sung by Lena Horne on Stormy Weather.
4. "Save Me" and "Wise Up" by Aimee Mann from the Magnolia soundtrack.
5. "Honey" from Tosca's "Suzuki".
FIRST NOVELS 03/25/2002
Katharine Viner and friends read all the first novels to be published in 2002 for The Guardian: ". . . The plan had been to read every first work of fiction by a British author due to be published in 2002, and to choose from them the top 14 or so, from which Weekend staff would select the best five or six. We were looking for the most distinctive, most impressive first books, the great British authors of the future. So why did all the novels begin with hangovers? Pounding temples, memory loss and vows to avoid vodka in future were not the only infuriating recurring themes. Opening scenes in train or bus stations were also irritatingly common, although at least they suggested an impending journey, rather than a return to bed. Why were so many novels set in north London, and concerned with what these days is called 'ennui'? Why did so many writers describe absolutely everything in the same amount of detail, as if every sensation, every object, every feeling (the insides of mouths, eyelashes, the sound of a cup) were equally important? Why did so few have anything to say, even when they had beautiful writing with which to say it? Why did so many of the publishers' blurbs compare the author to Nick Hornby or Armistead Maupin? Why so many watery titles? And why, still, so many lists of what's in people's cupboards? . . . Perhaps we were a little unfair to the writers. We'd read 80 books, we were tired, and most authors get better as they go along (remember, The Corrections was Jonathan Franzen's third, we kept telling ourselves, and that Dickens' first was the irritating Pickwick Papers. . . . Then again, we could think of several British authors from the past few years who were good right from the start: Zadie Smith (White Teeth), Alex Garland (The Beach), Alan Warner (Morvern Callar), David Mitchell (Ghostwritten), Maggie O'Farrell (After You'd Gone), Trezza Azzopardi (The Hiding Place). . . .
Hari Kunzru's novel The Impressionist (Penguin) has been the most-hyped work of the entries, with rumours of million-pound advances and the author's impending celebrity. But our readers weren't put off, and loved the story of a mixed-race man's picaresque journey from end-of-the-Raj era India to the rightwing Oxford of the 1930s, then to Africa, and his struggle to define himself in the face of bewilderingly varied prejudices and arbitrary rules. . . . By far the most intense and gruesome work was Bodies (Cape) by Jed Mercurio, which we found particularly gripping. It's the tale of an optimistic junior doctor being ground down by the reality of his career, with desperate and often repulsive consequences. . . ."
3A.M. CONFERENCE: THE CASUALTIES 03/25/2002
Several people dozed off on the second day of our conference on new forms of electronic fiction including this academic from Sri Lanka in the blue shirt and seriously hung-over English novelist Bertie Marshall.
THE BELLIGERATI 03/25/2002
One of the leaders of the 1968 student protests in England turned novelist and filmmaker, Tariq Ali, writes that yesterday's leftists have "turned US military cheerleaders": ". . . Rushdie's decision to pose for the cover of a French magazine draped in the stars and stripes could be a temporary aberration. His new-found love for the empire might even turn out to be as short-lived as his conversion to Islam. What concerns me more is another group: men and women who were once intensely involved in leftwing activities. It has been a short march for some of them: from the outer fringes of radical politics to the antechambers of the state department. Like many converts, they display an aggressive self-confidence. Having honed their polemical and ideological skills within the left, they now deploy them against their old friends. This is why they have become the useful idiots of the empire. They will be used and dumped. . . . What unites the new empire loyalists is an underlying belief that, despite certain flaws, the military and economic power of the US represents the only emancipatory project and, for that reason, has to be supported against all those who challenge its power. A few prefer Clinton-as-Caesar rather than Bush, but recognise this as a self-indulgence. Deep down they know the empire stands above its leaders. What they forget is that empires always act in their own self-interests. The British empire cleverly exploited the anti-slavery campaigns to colonise Africa, just as Washington uses the humanitarian handwringing of NGOs and the bien pensants to fight its new wars today. September 11 has been used by the American empire to re-map the world. European continental pieties are beginning to irritate Cheney and Rumsfeld. They laugh in Washington when they hear European politicians talk of revitalising the UN. There are 189 member states of the UN. In 100 of these states there is a US military presence. For UN, read US? . . ." The author of Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses responded to Tariq Ali's article in The Guardian: "I woke up the other day to find myself, along with Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis, transformed by the British liberal media into a member of 'the belligerati', a term coined, to describe those who have supported the US campaign in Afghanistan, by the ex-revolutionary Tariq Ali, an enthusiastic advocate of the 'blowback' or 'America deserved it' analysis of the 9/11 atrocities. . . . The real 'belligerati', the hawks among America's makers of foreign policy, have made such mistakes before -- by supporting the Shah's tyranny in Iran, a policy which led eventually to Khomeini's revolution; by supporting the coup against President Allende in Chile, a decision which made possible the nightmare of Pinochet; and, more recently, by tilting towards the Islamist fundamentalists in Algeria. They are in danger of doing it again. If Saddam and his cronies are to be unseated, it's important to find a successor regime that doesn't require decades of propping up. . . . I can't speak for the others, but my own view is pretty straightforward. If America gets into bed with scumbags, it loses the moral high ground, and once that ground is lost, the argument is lost with it. . . ."
CUSTARD PIE IN THE SKY 03/25/2002
Infamous anarcho-pie thrower Noel Godin has flanned presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Chevènement. (Picture: Bill Gates, master of the world and former victim.)
A DAY IN PARIS 03/25/2002
Cat on tin roof, early evening.
MORE CHILD'S PLAY 03/24/2002
Ted Kessler has just published a lengthy, in-depth article on Billy Childish in The Observer: "Steven Hamper had a bold and brilliant idea in 1977, while working as a stone mason in Chatham Dockyard. He purposefully smashed his hand with a 3lb club hammer and declared he'd never work again. He was 18. He decided then that he no longer wished to carve identical blocks of stone every day. He wanted to spend his time more creatively. It didn't matter that he'd left school an undiagnosed dyslexic who was unable to read or write properly. Nor did it concern him that he'd been refused entry to his local art school through a lack of qualifications, or that he'd been banned from singing with the school choir because he was tone deaf. He was going to become a writer, a painter and a musician. To that end, he signed on the dole immediately. Two novels, 30 volumes of poetry, 90 albums, 2,000 paintings and one name change later, Billy Childish is still forging a unique artistic identity for himself near the banks of the River Medway in Kent. As such, he must rank as Britain's most prolific living artist, and a true Renaissance man to boot. . . . Twenty-five years ago, while clubbing his hand in that dockyard, Childish's own personal revolution was occurring in perfect sync with the punk tremors rocking Britain's youth culture. And while the rest of society moved on when the winds of fashion changed, Childish remained stuck. He embraced that ideal of amateurism and independence so tightly that his non-career continues to joyously celebrate financial failure. Nevertheless, he has a wide network of admirers across the world, particularly in the US, and draws on a celebrity fan club that includes the likes of Polly Harvey, Beck, Blur, REM and film director Larry Clark. Indeed, Clark, famous for Kids and the recent Bully, is currently negotiating with producers to make a screen version of Childish's autobiographical novel My Fault, and has asked Childish to write the screenplay. Cult blues rock duo the White Stripes are also new converts to the Childish cause. They asked Top of the Pops if Childish could paint live on stage with them while they performed 'Fell In Love With A Girl' recently. TOTP refused. 'Kind of funny that Kylie Minogue can have seven dancers with her and we can't have Billy Childish painting,' moaned singer Jack White on his website. In the end, White scrawled B CHILDISH on his forearm for the performance in protest. Yet despite such high-level patronage, Childish's work exists purely on an underground level. His books are printed by his own imprint, Hangman Books, or benevolent private publishers; his records are released independently and are often limited to 500 copies (he released more than 40 on his own Hangman Records, a label started with a backdated social-security cheque) and his exhibitions are usually one-man shows by private demand. He claims this proves that his sole goal is to communicate something to himself, that the only financial gain he seeks is to be able to reinvest in his next project (although as a recent father, he says he'd also like to be able to guarantee food and warmth for his family). He says his aim is to challenge the notion that success is measured by monetary or critical rewards, and it's a code of artistic honour that sets him apart from all his contemporaries. . . . 'I don't have ambition to be famous, which means that ambition doesn't dictate my work. My ambition is bigger than that. I belong to a tradition of art and creativity. I feel shoulder to shoulder with all the heroes past -- they're my friends -- and with the heroes of the future, too, including those that won't be recognised. I have no doubt that what I'm doing is right and what everyone else is doing is wrong. I believe in individual creativity and creativity being the heart and soul of mankind. I believe that we need a re-modernist revolution where creativity becomes what is important. That there is honour in that.' . . .
What Billy Childish is best known for, though, is for being Britart star Tracey Emin's ex-boyfriend, as well as her current enemy. Their stormy relationship, which lasted from 1982 to 1986, informs much of his output during this period. And he loomed large in her famous tent. Emin, meanwhile, played a prominent role in Childish's first autobiographical novel, the shocking and bare My Fault. He's also painted her, and a photo that he took of them together in bed from 1982 adorns the cover of his poetry collection, I'd Rather You Lied: Selected Poems 1980-98. . . A few years ago Emin invited Childish to an opening for Sarah Lucas, the conceptual artist. Childish refused. Emin demanded to know why he couldn't be more open minded. He said he'd spent his whole life avoiding parties, especially for conceptual artists. Emin snapped. 'Billy,' she shouted, 'your paintings are stuck, you are stuck! Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!' 'I'm stuck because I won't go along with fashion,' he says now. 'It's really pathetic. You're talking on the level of, "You're not wearing the latest gear, man.' But out of this disagreement the Stuckists were born. The Stuckists are a collection of artists who, until recently, were spearheaded by Childish and his friend Charles Thomson. They are, according to their literature: 'against conceptualism, the jingoism of Britart, and the cult of the ego-artist'. . . . Childish left the Stuckists amicably last summer, but for Emin the damage had already been done. Stuckism was the final straw. She left a message on Childish's phone saying they were no longer friends. 'Tracey can't have a friend who disagrees. She identifies herself with her work so strongly that she thinks she's the work. She's seriously deluded, because you can't be what you do. Britpack people like [Damien] Hirst, say that they're always artists, even when they shave. This is absolute rubbish. You can't be what you do, unless you're mad. A dustman isn't a dustman when he shaves. The Britartists are very, very intellectually challenged. Every single one of them. They won't discuss anything with me because they don't like losing. I believe the heart and soul of art is integrity of intent, not irony.' He shrugs.'I don't mind losing.' It's true, he doesn't. If there is one defining mark of his work, it's one of loss, of failure, of recognition of his limitations. . . . One can pick the lock of Childish's personal history with alarming ease. Not through probing questioning or from a sudden urge on Childish's behalf to purge himself confessionally. But because it's been embedded in all of his work since the late-70s. Spend any time with his material and you soon discover how he was sexually abused by a family 'friend', aged nine. You learn he was mercilessly bullied by his father, and by teachers and pupils. How his dyslexia forced him into remedial class and how he started drinking heavily as a teen to disguise how disturbed he was. You hear how he's seen ghosts, spirits and, once, a large black panther walking in woods behind his home. . . . 'People like Damien Hirst saying painting is dead proves that he's joined in with the teachers at school who want you to do maths all day. They don't want anything with depth or inner growth. Look at the Britart advertising vodka and gin. It's evil. My father's alcoholic, I'm alcoholic, my brother and grandparents. You've got art selling that? It's the ultimate cynicism.' . . ." Read Richard Marshall's interview with Billy Childish recently published in 3A.M. Magazine.
3A.M. CONFERENCE: SUE THOMAS & the "L WORD" 03/24/2002
Novelist and founder of trAce Sue Thomas opened our conference on new forms of electronic fiction with a brilliant paper entitled "Identity Crisis: How is the Web Changing Writing and Writers?" in which she argued convincingly that the "first casualty" of the Internet is the "notion of literature" itself (as opposed to writing or texts).
3A.M. TOP 5 03/23/2002
3A.M. chief editor Andrew Gallix is currently listening to:
- "I Hate to Say I Told You So": The Hives (Your New Favourite Band 2001)
- "'Til the Stars in His Eyes Are Really Dead": ShelleyDevoto (Buzzkunst 2002).
- "Je Fume": Brigitte Fontaine (Kekeland 2001)
- "Big Boss Man": Big Boss Man (Humanize2001)
- "Someday": Ash (Free All Angels 2001)
THE FACE OF 2002 (REVISITED) 03/22/2002
You can read an extract from Hari Kunzru's The Impressionist (which will be published in Britain on 28 March) on Penguin UK's website. Hari Kunzru (born 1969) writes for Mute magazine and Wallpaper. In 1999, he won The Observer's Young Travel Writer of the Year award. His first novel, The Impressionist, is being presented as one of the literary sensations of the year.
ETHAN GILSDORF'S POETRY GIG IN PARIS 03/22/2002
Ethan Gilsdorf of Frank has sent us this report on the poetry reading he organised on 21 March at the Red Wheelbarrow bookshop: "Perhaps as many as 75 crammed into the one-room Red Wheelbarrow bookshop, the crowd even spilling out onto the street, some craning their heads around the doorjamb to get a view -- it was standing room only last night at Paris's World Poetry Day/Dialogue Through Poetry event. Six readers -- Susan Ellis, Todd Swift, Michelle Noteboom, Srikanth Reddy, Laure Millet and host/emcee Ethan Gilsdorf -- each offered poems of their own plus a poem by a fave poetic hero -- Yusef Komunyakaa to Walt Whitman to Denise Levertov. At times somber, at times ribald, the poems touched on war, peace, lobsters, asses, skin, weaving, motherhood and beer -- in short, it was a diverse evening of many voices, styles, moods and attitudes. An open mic afterwards featured
Margo Berdeshevsky and a mystery guest, a Native American, possibly homeless woman who arrived to sell a multi-lingual peace poem poster. Afterwards, the audience mingled with the poets over wine and snacks, then a subset retreated to a local wine bar for a late dinner and talk.
The event was also a fundraiser for the Afghan Women's Mission, a humanitarian organization focused on women and children's health, education and awareness issues. Commemorative broadsides of one poem by each of the poets were for sale, one euro a piece, all proceeds to benefit the good cause (the poets and bookstore owner Penelope Fletcher Le Masson were kind enough to donate their otherwise lucrative poetic profits). Over 50 euros were raised, which is a drop in the bucket, alas, but at least evidence that yes, poetry can "help build a culture of peace and non-violence in the world". Hats off to the poets, the audience, the enthusiam, the dedication."
Ethan Gilsdorf is a poet, writer, editor, critic and self-taught graphic designer who moved to Paris with his wife Isabelle Sulek in late 1999. He has since connected with Frank, become a film and restaurant reviewer for Time Out Paris, and a regular contributor to Poets and Writers, The Literary Review of Canada and Paris Notes.
SPIKE, FETISH ARTIST 03/22/2002
Look out for Richard Marshall's interview with British fetish artist Spike, it's as hardcore as it gets: "After the show I was buzzing so much from the adrenalin and the response. The pain does trigger hormonal responses and I felt super-alive. More real than everything around me. Mega real. All you've got in this world is your body and time and experience. So you should do as much as you can." Coming soon in 3A.M. Magazine.
EXQUISITE CORPSES 03/22/2002
The spring issue of Exquisite Corpse, which will soon go online, will contain a chapter from William Levy's latest book Impossible: The Otto Muehl Story as well as an in-depth review, plus a short story by 3A.M. Chief Editor Andrew Gallix. William's "Playing Tennis With Kafka" will appear in 3A.M. very soon.
GERARD MALANGA AT 3A.M. IN APRIL! 03/20/2002
Factory legend Gerard Malanga, the photographer, filmmaker and poet whose name will for ever be associated with that of Andy Warhol, will soon be in London to promote his latest book Archiving Warhol (Creation Books). The ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) is holding "An Evening With Gerard Malanga" on Saturday 6 April at 9pm: " Film screenings will include the very rarely-seen Andy Warhol: Portraits of the Artist as a Young Man (dir Gerard Malanga US 1964-65 b/w silent 21 mins) and Bufferin (dir Andy Warhol US 1966 col 33 mins) in which Malanga recites a poem describing the life and loves of the New York avant-garde scene. Gerard will present a spoken word performance and participate in a question and answer session before signing copies of his book. Archiving Warhol will be available on the night at a special price of £10 (normally £14.95). Tickets: £7, £6 (concs), £5 ICA Members, from ICA box office: 020 7930 3647." Richard Marshall of 3A.M. Magazine will meet up with Gerard Malanga at Heathrow Airport on 4 April for his first English interview. (Photograph from Mary Woronov's website.)
3A.M. CONFERENCE: THE PUNTERS 03/20/2002
Two pictures from last week's International Conference on Literature & the Internet. Some of you may be able to spot Sue Thomas and Wendy Perkins. In the second picture: Geneviève Cohen-Cheminet and Anna Thomas (both from Paris IV-Sorbonne) in studious mode.
KILOMETER ZERO 03/19/2002
The Kilometer Zero Project is holding "a special evening of music, film, dance, art and readings at Theatre 347. The night will feature the Paris screening of The Pistols of Paris by Tabor Rector, art by Kris Digiacomo and Bruce Pashak, music by Catfish, slam poetry and readings by Kyle Jarrard and others. At 11 p.m., KMZ hosts a special edition of the Venue Open Mic. All writers, poets, musicians and artists are invited to create and perform on stage with the best act of the night being used for the next edition of Kilometer Zero Magazine. This is one of the last chances to visit Theatre 347, the glorious squat space that is being shut down this April. If you don't come, you can't say you were there. Thursday, March 21. 7 cite Chaptal. Metro Pigalle, Blanche or Trinite. Doors open at 20.00, movie starts at 20.30, show starts at 21.15, open mic at 23.00. Free admission, drinks available."
3A.M. CONFERENCE: MARIELLE 03/19/2002
Let me introduce you to Mariëlle Gebben, a 22-year-old young woman from Groningen in The Netherlands who came to Paris to attend 3A.M.'s conference. Mariëlle is currently writing a thesis on "new media literature" and intends to move to Antwerp or Paris once that is over. She recently designed a website for a Dutch publishing house. She intends to read a paper at next year's conference. See you then!
The winter 2002 issue of Failbetter is online. It includes fiction by Matthew Derby, Nathan Long, David Ohle and Richard St. Germain along with Joshua Mehigan's new translations of Arthur Rimbaud's poetry and an interview with George Saunders.
WE DON'T KNOW WHERE WE'RE GOING: A MESSAGE FROM BERTIE MARSHALL 03/18/2002
||Here is a message from Bertie Marshall, author of Psychoboys: "At the invitation of Andrew [Gallix], I took a nine hour bus journey from London to Paris; via a very choppy sea crossing -- no pirates, the boat was more like a shopping mall on water. I'd come to attend the lit conference and also shoot some dvd footage for my short film "We Don't Know Where We're Going" in Paris, all the squences shot in b/w . . . frozen statues of couples embracing, smeared in bird shit in the Luxembourg Gardens . . . Duras's grave in cemetery Montparnasse, dead roses . . . Rimbaud's old hotel on rue Monsieur le Prince . . . a homage to my favourite French writers . On rue Saint Benoit, there's a shop selling a hand-written note of Duras for 4,000 euros. That's my film so far, all images of absence. Paris has for the past 20 years been like a second home . . . only now the euro currency confuses me: I needed to get codeine pills from the pharmacy for my fictional tooth ache ! The film's title speaks its content. I have collected images in London, Brighton and Paris to tell of my lost love . . . now seven years apart, we were seven years together. The final part of the film is yet to be shot: questions / answers of why one of the lovers leaves the other: empty coffee cup . . . dead flowers . . . Gitane stubs. We don't know where we're going, but that's no reason not to go."
This final part of the film Bertie Marshall refers to was shot today in a café called Le Tournon (rue de Tournon, in Paris) where the neo-Hydropathes used to hang out last year:
It was shot by Pascal, an old friend of Bertie's who used to work at the legendary nightclub, Le Palace.
The former member of the Bromley Contingent had a few drinks to get himself in the right mood.
Pascal asked him questions about his relationship with Stephen, a former boyfriend, which I then translated into English.
Pascal rounded off the evening by filming the mural paintings of the Luxembourg Gardens.
MICHAEL MOORCOCK SOON IN 3A.M. 03/18/2002
3am will soon publish an interview with cult genius Michael Moorcock, author of Mother London. Congratulations to Richard Marshall! Michael Moorcock was hospitalised today for what sounds like a serious operation. The entire 3A.M. Magazine team wishes him a very speedy recovery.
RICHARD HELL IN PARIS 03/17/2002
As previously announced Richard Hell appeared at the Balthazar Festival yesterday (Grand Action cinema). He read three poems from Wanna Go Out? an anthology written with Tom Verlaine in 1971 under the name Theresa Stern. This was followed by a twenty minute extract from The Theresa Stern Story, a film about a young man's obsession with the very same Ms Stern, which Richard never actually shot apart from this clip. Watch this space for an exclusive interview with Richard Hell. (Photos: Richard Hell on the left, Michel Bulteau, translator, right.)
COUNTDOWN TO CONFERENCE 03/13/2002
Busy weekend what with the conference coming up: check back on Friday and Saturday for pictures and commentary. Punk legends-cum-authors Richard Hell and Bertie Marshall will both be in town, so expect more on them very soon.
Ny punk legend, poet, novelist and artist Richard Hell, who featured on the cover of The Wire in February, has given an exclusive interview to 3am Magazine's Richard Marshall. Richard Hell will be appearing at the film festival organised by Balthazar at the cinema Le Grand Action, 5 rue des Ecoles 75005 Paris, France (Saturday 16 March @ 8pm, Metro: Cardinal Lemoine or Jussieu). On Wednesday 27 March, he will read and sign books at 13th Note, 260 Clyde Street, Glasgow G1 (Scotland).
THE UNGENTLEMEN OF VERONA 03/11/2001
English émigré Tim Parks, who was interviewed in 3am last year, has just published A Season With Verona. You can read the author's own presentation of the book, or check out Robert Macfarlane's review in The Observer: "One of the pleasures of being a football fan is that it gives you a faith. This is implicit in the word: 'fan' comes from the Latin fanaticus, meaning 'a worshipper'. Your team is your god, and on match-days you become a fundamentalist - you become what Tim Parks calls 'a weekend Taliban'. . . . Tim Parks, who has been a fan of Hellas Verona for nearly 20 years, is contemporary English literature's Italian connection. He lives with his Italian family in Verona, and he writes, translates and broadcasts in both Italian and English. . . . In early 2000, Parks decided that he would travel to every Hellas match in the upcoming season, home and away, and write about his experiences (this is more of a time commitment than it sounds: Italy is a long country). With the aim of better understanding 'how people relate to football... how they dream this dream at once so intense and so utterly unimportant', he also decided to spend much of his match-time with the self-styled brigate gialloblù - the 'yellow-and-blue brigade', the hardcore Verona fans who turn matches into a 24-hour carnival of substance abuse, barracking, and violence. Parks would join the tribe, in other words: the anthropologist would go native. A Season With Verona is the result of this total immersion. There were 34 matches in the season, there are 34 chapters in the book. Each chapter combines an account of a match with Parksian musings on crowd psychology, nationhood, authority, influence and all the other ideas that make up the myth of football. . . . Parks admits early on in the book that the brigate are 'not a savoury bunch'. Too right. They make monkey-noises whenever a black opposition player touches the ball. They sing celebratory songs about the Juventus supporters killed at Heysel. They compose admiring hymns to murderers and serial rapists. The question Parks wants to answer in his book is why? Why do they do these things, when the team itself -- composed of imported players, none of whom is a native of Verona -- is so remote from their lives? Why does fandom activate such a ferocious rush of feelings in people? One answer, of course, is that it neuters boredom, that definingly modern disorder. . . . Another answer is that following a team offers what Parks calls 'the close ties of an undying community'; a pseudo-family. 'Can we imagine a fan on his own?' Parks asks. . . . Parks himself is to a degree assimilated by the brigate. [A]s the season wears on, this gap [between himself and the brigate] narrows. Parks starts to lose his moral perspective on the brigate 's behaviour. . . ." Read an extract here.
3A.M. AT THE SORBONNE 03/11/2001
The International Conference on Fiction and the Internet: New Forms of Electronic Writing, organised by 3am Magazine, trAce and the Sorbonne University will be held at the Sorbonne in Paris on 15-16 March. Check out the full programme. There is no registration fee and it's open to all and sundry. Hope to see you there.
MORE SHEEPSHAGGING 03/06/2001
Gareth Evans of The Independent has met up with Niall Griffiths, the Welsh Irvine Welsh, who is publishing his latest novel entitled Kelly + Victor: ". . . Linguistically, geographically and culturally far removed from 'literary London', the writer -- born in Liverpool and resident in Wales -- has reinvigorated the form since the publication, in 2000, of his debut, Grits, which was followed last year by Sheepshagger. These are visionary texts, characterised by a prose of extraordinary strength and depth, which assault society's degradation of human potential and seek out the charged glories of unfettered experience. Free of irony, passionate, darkly humorous and unafraid to engage head-on with the spiritual malaise of the times, the novels are hugely ambitious works, delivered in a distinctive voice of great authority -- a voice informed as much by the King James Bible and Joe Strummer of the Clash as by Hubert Selby Jnr, Céline or Cormac McCarthy. It's a pitch that came reasonably easily, the likeable Niall Griffiths says in the course of our Liverpool pub crawl, which starts at the Magnet bar where Kelly and Victor -- the lovers in his new novel -- meet. 'Since I was a kid I've always written,' he explains. 'I don't know why. It was the usual stuff -- being invaded by aliens. There wasn't a book in the house, but I read Shakespeare and the Greek tragedies. I loved the sound of the words.' Studying literature later, however, did not nurture his instinctive sense of the possibilities of language. 'You have to unlearn a lot of stuff afterwards,' he notes. But prompts to read figures such as the Scottish Beat writer Alex Trocchi, and his discovery of work by the neglected Rhondda author Ron Berry, confirmed for Griffiths the validity of writing in his own tongue. 'Berry used his dialect and taught me that your own culture can be literary. I do see my work as being in a long tradition of Welsh writing, this marginal, messianic language; really kicking it about.' As for his content, the authentic stuff of the books came from years of casual work across the country, broken by a brief tenure at Aberystwyth, working on a PhD. That was soon abandoned in deep dissatisfaction. 'I found I was learning more about local history and culture, about animals, birds and geology, from working on the building-site than I was in university.' Hard labouring and equally intense partying ensued. 'I used to go off on these mad binges, and then, to cope with the comedown, I started writing about it. And gradually the writing became more important than the 'research'. That's where Grits came from.' . . . The search for meaning and fulfilment is writ large in Kelly + Victor, a wrenching tale of amour fou. Here the vehicle is sexual obsession, where the carnal works not merely as the satisfaction of bodily needs, but as an ecstatic transport that lifts the participants toward the blinding, religious light of absolute awareness. Inspired by Propertius and the spiritual-sexual fusions of the Old Testament Song of Solomon, it is an archetypal tale brought resoundingly up to date, set during the aftermath of Liverpool's millennium New Year and scored to the clatter of populace, pubs and football. In the bleary aftermath of serious excess, Kelly and Victor, two dead-end jobbers, find each other as connected halves of a transcendent whole. . . ." Check out Niall Griffiths' Top 10 Welsh books.
THE RAG AND BONE SHOP OF THE HEART 03/05/2002
Alix Sharkey celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of legendary bookstore Shakespeare and Company in The Observer: "Equal parts bookshop, library, hostel, museum and shrine, Shakespeare and Company is a place so otherworldly, so anachronistic, it seems to exist in a time warp. Even in Paris, a city noted for unexpected niches of quaint charm, it seems impossibly eccentric -- a tiny enclave of radicalism, a place where strangers are invited to 'raid the icebox, kick off your shoes and lie in bed', an oasis of literary tranquillity in a desert of over-priced tourist cafés. On its walls are pictures of George the owner, together with his oldest friend, American poet and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti, proprietor of another great literary institution, San Francisco's City Lights bookstore. The two men describe their businesses as 'sister bookshops', though there is little in the way of family resemblance -- City Lights is a tight, professional ship. The family bond rests in their shared love of literature and poetry, their devotion and commitment to the power of words. George (everybody calls him George) is now 88 years old, while Ferlinghetti (not even George calls him Lawrence) is the spring chicken, at 82. A combined century of bookmanship unites them; bibliophiles both, writers, promoters and publishers of literature and poetry, they have fed and sheltered, entertained, edited, published and paid some of the giants of 20th-century letters, helping countless lesser names along the way. And Shakespeare and Company is perhaps the last vestige of the way of life that spawned them, a minuscule island of poetic resistance where the bottom line is always a sentence, and never a number. . . . The shop itself is light on blockbusters, heavy on surrealism. In its centre stands a dry wishing-well, sprinkled with tourists' coins, the slogan 'Live for Humanity' spelled out on its base. There are books, of course, but they are stacked haphazardly on sagging shelves and in musty corners, while power tools and extension leads are stuffed under tables creaking with dry tomes and piles of National Geographic . At the back of the shop, past a mirror covered in yellow cuttings and photos of George Soros (rumoured to be a benefactor), beyond cubbyholes, glass cabinets, dusty alcoves and another anthemic slogan, 'Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise', a wooden staircase leads up to the children's section and more rooms, their ceilings cracked and blackened from the fire that almost razed the store in 1991. . . . Once the eye adjusts to the spines, you notice the suitcases, backpacks, T-shirts and towels peeking from behind bookcases, the sleeping bags propped in corners, threadbare carpets on makeshift benches that double as beds when the store closes at midnight. George welcomes them all, feeds them all, lets them stay as long as they want. 'I've been a communist all my life!' he barks when asked why, before explaining that he is simply repaying the kindness shown to him over 60 years ago when he set out to walk around the world. He never got further than central America, but that journey shaped his life; his house will always be open to writers and poets, to drifters, dreamers, students, teachers and romantic but penniless couples. Guests can clean, cook or work in the shop. Or not. There are few rules, other than respect for fellow guests. Since there is no fire escape, the city authorities have told George to restrict customers to 15 at any one time. But twice that number often roam the store, and there are rarely fewer than a dozen sleeping there. Last summer, there were around 18, though nobody knows for sure. . . . 'One man has been living here for five years,' he says proudly, 'an English guy. Started out he was a drunken bum, working in advertising, very well paid job, but he hated it, became an alcoholic. Anyway, he came over here, stopped drinking, got some of his poetry published, now he's doing translations, he's changed his whole life.' . . . George is notoriously bad at holding on to money, famously indifferent to making it. There are tales of customers pulling books from the shelves and finding thousands of francs tucked inside, money that George had forgotten even existed. . . . The Shakespeare and Company story began early last century, when Paris became the spiritual home of a loose group of writers known as the Lost Generation, including Hemingway, Joyce, Pound, Wolfe, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos and Stein. Attracted by the city's beauty, culture and permissive attitudes, they also found it exceptionally cheap. In particular, the Sorbonne area was full of cheap hotels, restaurants and bars. Even the grander Belle Epoque establishments were affordable, and a new, avant-garde literary tradition flourished in Left Bank cafes such as the Flore, Lipp, Deux Magots and Tournon. This was the Parisian milieu Hemingway famously described as a 'movable feast'. American expatriate Sylvia Beach's English-language bookshop on rue de l'Odéon, called Shakespeare and Company, soon became the place for this expat literati to meet French counterparts including Man Ray, Jean Cocteau and André Gide. Its place in history was assured when Beach published a controversial work by an unknown writer, already rejected by several other publishers: Ullyses, by James Joyce. But, following the Nazi occupation, Beach closed the store and put her most valuable books into storage, before being sent to an internment camp. A contact in the Vichy government obtained her release, and, by 1944, she was back in Paris as Allied troops arrived to liberate the city, climaxing in a reunion that could have been scripted in Hollywood. Amid the sound of exploding shells and sniper fire, she heard someone calling her name: it was Hemingway. . . . After the Second World War, a new wave of expat writers, many of them American veterans studying on the GI Bill, came in search of the same magic that had attracted the novelists, poets and artists of the 20s and 30s. Like their predecessors, they subscribed to Gertrude Stein's dictum: 'It's not so much what Paris gives you, as what it doesn't take away.' Black American writers such as Chester Himes, James Baldwin and Richard Wright found a city where their art was taken more seriously than their colour. . . . Originally called The Mistral, George would rename it in 1964 in honour of the late Sylvia Beach and the literary tradition she had done so much to establish. 'All the stories that come out fail to note that he's not the original Shakespeare and Company,' notes Ferlinghetti, 'nor is he even in the same location.' Did he think that was a problem? 'He's certainly carried forth the glorious tradition, because he's a real bibliophile -- and that's a dying breed these days.' The Mistral became a focus for Left Bank literary activity, with readings and gatherings taking place in the back room. Within a few months, it gave birth to a small but influential literary magazine called Merlin, which included works by Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre and an unknown Samuel Beckett. . . . The Beat Generation, in the form of Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Gregory Corso, arrived in Paris in autumn 1957, settling into the so-called 'Beat Hotel' on rue Git-le-Coeur: 42 rooms, no carpets or telephone, it was filthy, squalid and cheap. And liberal. The concierge allowed tenants to cook and to take drugs in their rooms, and guests could stay at no extra charge. Burroughs, a self-professed connoisseur of sleaze, wrote to Jack Kerouac complaining that '... the WC [is] in an unspeakable condition, that fucking South American borracho pukes and shits all over the floor and the cats are also broken [trained] to shit there...' Of course, they soon found The Mistral, just a few minutes away, across the Place St-Michel. 'They were in and out of here nearly every day,' recalls George, 'and they were some of the first to come to my poetry readings, but they were very shy about it. They had to get drunk or take their clothes off, do foolish things like that, in order to feel part of the whole thing. I thought they were rather exciting,' he adds, 'but I don't think I realised how much influence their work would eventually have.' While working on Naked Lunch, Burroughs would consult the medical books in George's library. He also attended the regular Sunday afternoon tea-parties. 'This was before he got involved in all that cut-up business,' growls George. 'A lot of nonsense in my opinion. John Dos Passos was doing the same thing years earlier, but much better, there was a method to it. It was rational.' Ginsberg attended poetry readings and stayed for the communal meal that followed. 'A couple of times he cooked for me over at his place,' says George, 'but his facilities weren't great, and generally I'd cook a lot so we used to eat upstairs here.' . . . ." Buy George Whitman's Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart. (Photos: Shakespeare and Company in the 70s; Whitman with Ginsberg and Corso in 1985).
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN REVISITED 03/05/2002
Paul Morley, founder of ZTT records (Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Art of Noise) and author of Nothing, reflects on the Queen's jubilee in The Observer: "Twenty-five years ago, The Sex Pistols gatecrashed the Queen's Silver Jubilee with a sensational anti-royalist slab of punk rock. It was so authentically shocking that shadowy figures conspired to stop it reaching its true number one position in the charts. At the time, to those of us who believed that the Pistols were using rock 'n' roll protest to break open British society, it seemed obvious that in the future, say the early twenty-first century, there would be no royal family. The Pistols' no future surely meant no nostalgia. But the Queen still reigns, pop's gone soft, and the Pistols are coming back for another assault -- same rock-hard noise, same safety pin through Her Majesty's superior nose on the cover, same tumultuous blend of music and meaning, except that this time it'll be about as shocking as a pierced Spice Girl. It's a rematch we never thought we'd see and hear -- and this time the Queen has got a loyalist army ready to protect her. A pop army led by elderly rock knights of the realm, aided by some bewildered Americans, with a few youngsters enlisted to demonstrate how high street-wise and up-to-date royalty is. . . . It's not only as if punk rock never happened -- it's as if rock 'n' roll never happened. . . . The very idea of a pop concert to celebrate the reign of Queen Elizabeth is exactly the kind of thing the wrathful Pistols aimed to obliterate in 1977. It's a sadness in itself, emphasised by the wretched revivalist return of the Pistols who evidently didn't shake anything up at all. In fact, things have got worse. . . . So in June we'll see pop talent celebrating the Queen's survival, and the re-release of the classic punk record -- the fun will be in seeing if it's allowed this time to get to number one. Perhaps it'll be held back by a Will Young and Elton John version of 'God Save The Queen', put to what Prince Edward might call 'a disco beat'. Then again, if Rotten and Co. do get to the top of the charts, it'll probably help the party go with a bang -- just as Jamie Reid's portrait of the Queen on the record's cover perversely gave her image a Warholian boost. It'll just be part of the pantomime. A chance to boo the nasty villain who's actually impotent. And then we can all do it again in 25 years time. It all seems entirely appropriate, the Queen and her old rivals the Sex Pistols bound together in a little knot of nostalgia representing that part of the nation that has no belief in the idea of progress. . . ."
FRENCH PUNK 03/05/2002
France is also celebrating the 25th anniversary of punk rock. Nos Années punk (Denoël), a history of the original French punk scene by Christian Eudeline, will be published on 17 April. A compilation album bearing the same title will be released by EMI and a big reunion gig is being prepared. Denoël also intend to publish new editions of Alain Pacadis's Un Jeune homme chic (1978) and Patrick Eudeline's L'Aventure punk (1977) which have been out of print since the late 70s. Alain Pacadis (who was strangled to death by his boyfriend in 86) was the ultimate Parisian nightclubbing dandy. Patrick Eudeline, Christian's brother, is a legendary rock critic who used to front Asphalt Jungle, one of the first Gallic punk bands.
STRANGE THINGS ARE AFOOT 05/03/2002
The second Strange Things Are Afoot night will take place at 12 Bar (box office: 020 7916 6651), 22-23 Denmark Street, London on Sunday 10 March with Billy Childish, Montana Pete, Crayola, Gaudi and Ms Caroline Mason. Doors open @ 7. 30pm. Entrance is £4 with this flyer (otherwise it's £5).