Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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Interesting article on "turntable guru" Erol Alkan in The Observer: ". . . The 27-year-old DJ from north London, hailed by The Face as the new Fatboy Slim, believes in the idea of a 'conveyor belt of good feeling'. He finds a piece of music, he loves it, he plays it in his club, Trash, and the crowd goes wild; he's creating the soundtrack of their lives. With his 6ft 6in frame curled over the decks, he straightens up every now and then to punch the air and grin out over the heaving crowd. He clearly loves having the power to make people lose it on the dancefloor, saying: 'It's hit that point now where it's almost magical. You can put something on that you know they've never heard before and they're really going for it.' Alkan first started making waves as the man at the forefront of the recent wave of bootlegging, or 'plunderphonics', one of the most exciting musical adventures in a decade.
The idea is simple, but difficult to do well. Take the vocals from track A and lay them down over the instrumentals of track B. Different from re-mixes, which play around with one original track (think of Norman Cook's remix of Cornershop's 'Brimful of Asha'), a bootleg is the lovechild of both records; a great thing in its own right, as well as bringing out the best in the originals. . . . Erol's nimble fingers and genius ear for music were responsible for Kylie Minogue's performance at the Brits, a mix of 'Can't Get You Out of My Head' with New Order's 'Blue Monday' (released as the B-side of her 'Love at First Sight' single). . . . For the past five years, he's been turning on an enthusiastic crowd at London's The End every Monday night, but now Erol is going international, and in the past year has played clubs in Barcelona, Milan, Paris and New York. 'I was mixing an acid-house record with the Mamas and the Papas one night,' he says. 'An American woman said: "If you came to the States, you'd completely blow their minds.' The next thing, a couple of plane tickets had arrived. I'd never been abroad until then.' His summer set at New York's Spa club got rave reviews in the Village Voice and a spread in Time Out New York. Paranoid to an almost pathological degree about 'selling out' and becoming a trendoid, he's put bootlegging firmly behind him, concentrating on DJ-ing internationally and keeping Trash hot, which shouldn't be hard -- the club turns away around 100 people a night. The Trash companion CD (whatever you do, don't call it a 'compilation') is his latest project, featuring six stomping dancefloor numbers, as well as six live tracks from among the many artists Alkan has persuaded to play at the club. Helping to break new acts in London is part of his mission, and electronica diva Peaches and new punk darlings the Yeah Yeah Yeahs owe much of their new-found popularity to him. . . ."
A TAD METAPHYSICAL 11/26/2002
As we announced earlier on this month, the first Newtopia Magazine night took place on Saturday 23 November at Quimby's in Chicago. "It was so incredible and a tad metaphysical to stand in the same room with the three writers I respect most and hear them read their own work in their own voice," says Newtopia Editor in Chief Charles Shaw. "There is such nuance that is missed when you read the words on the page, and to watch that nuance being distilled from the ether right in front of you was surreal and evoked powerful affection. It was an affirmation of this new concept of family and community. But all in all, what I thought was the best and most important aspect of the weekend was the core-editors being able to get together and intimately discuss the future of Newtopia. To see something collaborative coalesce from the same ether as this boundless personal creativity gives hope to a pessimistic world that the efforts of a few can still reach many." (Pic, from left to right: Kimberly Nichols, Charles Shaw, Abbie Caldwell and Greg Everett.)
BAD SEX IN FICTION AWARD 11/26/2002
The BBC announces this year's Bad Sex in Fiction Award: "An author nominated for a prestigious Whitbread prize has found himself on the less coveted shortlist of Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Hari Kunzru's The Impressionist was named as a contender of the Whitbread best first novel award which carries a prize of £5,000. . . . He is joined on the shortlist by novelist and critic Will Self, John Banville, Nicholas Coleridge and Nicola Barker. Also included on the shortlist is actor and writer Ethan Hawke, star of Gattaca and Great Expectations, who has recently published his second novel, Black Wednesday. The annual award is organised by the Literary Review, and was founded by the literary critics Rhoda Koenig and the late Auberon Waugh in 1993. The aim of the prize is 'to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it'. An awards ceremony is held each year and, surprisingly, the winner generally turns up to collect the award, which is a semi-abstract statue representing sex in the 1950s. Novelist Christopher Hart won the 2001 award for his novel Rescue Me. Mr Hart, who is also the literary editor of the Erotic Review, was presented with the award by Jerry Hall. . . . Previous winners have included AA Gill, Salman Rushdie and Melvyn Bragg."
BUY NOTHING DAY 11/26/2002
This Friday (Saturday in Europe) is Buy Nothing Day organised by Adbusters. There are in-depth reports in The Observer and Wired where Leander Kahney writes: "In Canada, they'll be dressed as a 'blind consumer sheep.' In Japan, Zen-ta Claus will lead a group meditation. And in London, there'll be tables where someone will cut up your credit card. On Friday -- the day after American Thanksgiving and the biggest shopping day of the year -- and throughout the weekend, thousands of anti-consumerism activists worldwide will take to the malls to persuade shoppers not to shop. It's all part of Buy Nothing Day, a growing, global, grassroots protest against the holiday shopping frenzy. . . . This year promises to be bigger than ever: more than one million people in at least 65 countries are expected to observe the call not to shop. More jamboree than melee, activists are planning street parties, leafleting, swap meets, credit card cut-ups and plenty of street theater: some campaigners will dress up as shopping police, handing out 'fines' to people overloaded with shopping bags; others will don pig masks and run squealing through the streets. . . . Now in its 11th year, Buy Nothing Day continues to grow, a testimony to the organizing power of the Internet. Buy Nothing Day started as a prank in the Pacific Northwest, taking off in 1995 when Adbusters started promoting it on its website. The 1999 'Battle for Seattle' World Trade Organization protests gave the movement another big boost. Suddenly disparate political groups realized they had common goals. . . . The Net may have been good for networking activists, but to reach the mainstream, organizers need TV. Adbusters has raised about $10,000 in donations for a 30-second spot during CNN's Moneyline with Lou Dobbs, the only show that accepted the ad. 'We've had this 10-year battle trying to get airtime on the networks,' said Lasn. 'They say we're going up against giant corporations with millions of dollars, so just fuck off.' . . . 'A lot of people got a chill down their spine after Sept. 11 and are starting to question their lifestyles,' said Lasn. 'One of the root causes (of the terrorist attacks) is the incredible inequality between the rich and the poor people of the world. Twenty percent of the world's population consume 86 percent of the world's natural resources. That leaves 14 percent for the 4 or 5 billion people in the third world. People feel (this disparity) is one of the root causes of the war on terrorism that we're forced to fight now. A lot of people are linking Sept. 11 and Buy Nothing Day, partly because our leaders urged people to go out and consume.'"
THE RULE OF COOL 11/24/2002
There's a short review of Diane di Prima's Memoirs of a Beatnik in today's Observer: "One of the few female Beat poets to achieve prominence, di Prima dropped out of college in the early Fifties to start writing. With a powerful sense and time she describes those bohemian days living in derelict Greenwich Village lofts, modelling and hanging out in cafés listening to jazz - all undertaken according to 'our eternal tiresome rule of Cool'. She also describes in frank and erotic detail the free love among her community of artists, which helped make this memoir an underground classic for many years after it was first published in 1969. . . ."
Read some of di Prima's poems here, then check out these two interviews, over here and over there.
INCREMENTAL STAGES OF DRUNKENNESS AND DEPRESSION 11/24/2002
Stephanie Merritt has published an excellent article on literary journals in The Observer: "In his 1995 novel The Information, Martin Amis brutally and hilariously satirised the anachronistic world of the literary journal. His anti-hero, Richard Tull, is the literary editor of a little magazine called The Little Magazine, in whose dank and Dickensian offices various bow-tied gentlemen critics lie prone or slumped over their typewriters in incremental stages of drunkenness and depression, mired in scholarly articles on arcane poets that no one will ever read and for which they will never be paid. . . . Most writers have had dealings with a journal like The Little Magazine, for they certainly exist, although less and less commonly in the incarnation that Amis depicts. For struggling new writers, these journals are often the first port of call for poetry, stories and essays that no one would have time for in bigger, glossier publications concerned with publishing celebrity names, and it's part of the manifesto of non-mainstream journals to give space to voices as yet undiscovered by or of limited appeal to, the mass media. .
A natural corollary of such encouragement, however, is to be inundated with work that is unpublishable, so that editors of journals usually have to become adept at the diplomacy of rejection letters -- treading the fine line between deterring the terminally talentless without crushing them or inspiring them to violent hatred. Joseph Parisi, the editor of Poetry magazine, one of the oldest literary journals in the US, must have got this down to a fine art. This week, 87-year-old Ruth Lilly, an heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, endowed his magazine with a bequest worth more than $100 million, in spite of having had her own work rejected for years by Parisi in the form of handwritten notes. In a reversal to beat any Amis conceit, the little Chicago-based journal with a circulation of 12,000, published by a four-person team from a tiny room above a library, has suddenly found itself among the richest literary publications in the world.
. . . However he chooses to invest in modernising Poetry, Parisi will be by no means the first to smarten up the image of literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic. Journals have always been associated with experimental, cutting-edge writing, and a handful of print journals in this country continue to do so, increasingly combining literature with other arts or politics, as in the case of Purple, Index on Censorship, the newly-established Sic (founded by members of the band Chumbawumba), the London Magazine and the now sadly discontinued Butterfly, whose most unusual feature was a slot where writers would review their own books. In the States, Dave Eggers's New York-based quarterly McSweeney's features new writing from the brightest young names in English-language fiction, including Zadie Smith, Rick Moody, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Lethem, George Saunders and Arthur Bradford, and has attracted a huge cult following. McSweeney's is published both in print form and online, which is where some of the best contemporary literary and arts journals are now to be found. Among these are Salon, Spike and Arts and Letters Daily, though established print journals such as Granta and both the London and New York Review of Books are also available electronically, with well-ordered archives and useful links, a world away from The Little Magazine with its perilous stacks of unread typescript.
But there is something enduringly charming about a print journal that has been beautifully and lovingly published, even on a shoestring -- as with Butterfly, Purple, or Craig Raine's Oxford-based Areté. McSweeney's deliberately uses archaic fonts and typesetting to create a sense of history and continuity because the little magazine, in its traditional and more fashionable incarnations, continues to play a crucial role in the development of literary culture. It fosters writing overlooked or as yet undiscovered by the books 'industry' and, according to the poet John Kinsella, associate editor of Leviathan, it should aim to 'disrupt the status quo as much as possible'. To state such a purpose may encourage eccentrics, but that is not necessarily a bad thing; you never know when they might leave you $100m."
TOSSING IDEAS AROUND 11/24/2002
Anarcho punks Chumbawamba have launched a new arts/political magazine called Sic: "When we first started talking about putting Sic together we had Alex Trocchi's Project Sigma in our heads. In the sixties Trocchi sent out a list of artists, radicals, musicians, poets and the generally belligerent. It was just a list, a straightforward and simple roll call of people he thought were in some way connected, and everybody on the list got a copy of it. Surprisingly, Trocchi's list really was part of expanding the movement. A poet and a heroin addict, Trocchi organised the poetic equivalent of seeing the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. The gig at the Royal Albert Hall in 1965 where 7,000 people gathered and Jeff Nuttall painted himself blue and collapsed when he forgot to leave a patch for the skin to breathe, Ginsberg insisted on people chanting the phrase 'You are not alone', and Adrian Mitchell said 'Tell Me Lies about Vietnam' and poetry was stolen away from Betjeman and linked to liberation and revolution. Apparently, it was the night people realised that there were thousands of others who felt just like them.
Seattle was important for the same underlying reason but what made Seattle a landmark wasn't numbers but difference: trade unionists walked next to artists dressed as turtles, church groups linked up with anarchists and Brazilian peasants. It was the massing of all these people under a broad banner which marked out Seattle, and the fact that they didn't have to abolish their differences to come together. We're not trying to recreate the night at the Albert Hall or publish our own little paper Seattle but we are trying to put engaged artists and activists in the same space and capture some of the ideas which are tossed around when history speeds up... and it's speeding up now.
If there's one theme which is repeated throughout Sic's interviews and articles it's that creative and political leaps forward are always the result of collective ideas. As Jake Black from Alabama 3 points out, punk was life-changing for him because of the interaction between working and middle class kids, whilst Jon Savage says that when the Stones, the Beatles and the Sex Pistols were at their most productive they were surrounded by artists, designers, film-makers, avant garde musicians and radicals. The album or the book or the rally might have one name on the masthead but any leap forward is a result of collective effort. the internet, e-mail and mass communication have made working with others easier than ever before; the flipside to globalisation is that it's possible, even easy, to talk to anti-capitalists in Mexico, Italy and Argentina and work out what we can learn from them. Sic isn't a pop magazine with politics or a political magazine with pop: we inhabit the territory where these worlds collide. What we're interested in is the point of convergence where sex and drugs and rock'n'roll meet struggle and art and literature. We've tried to talk to people who understand that culture always reflects or repudiates the times. . . ."
3AM TOP 5 11/24/2002
Famous punk-rock writer and 3AM contributor Jim Ruland is currently listening to:
- S/T -- The Spits: because they're the most dysfunctional band in the Pacific Northwest.
- Therapy for the Shy -- The Skulls: because it's their first and only full-length recording in -- get this -- 25 years!
- Vol. 1 -- Cuts: because I can't get enough of the "Broken Bottles" song, "Everyday was Halloween when Gothic chicks were cool."
- Group Sex -- The Circle Jerks: because I just want some skank.
- MIA -- The Germs: because there's never a time when I'm not listening to them.
MY HUSBAND IS A SPACEMAN 11/22/2002
Kazuko Hohki was born in Tokyo and moved to London in 1978. She founded the Japanese female pop performance group Frank Chickens in 1982. Since then, she has presented her own TV show for Channel 4 (1989) and performed several live shows: Toothless (1998), The Shining Princess (1999) and My Husband is a Spaceman (2001). A CD-ROM based on her My Husband is a Spaceman show and developed in collaboration with Mark Wu's London-based Kibook Interactive Media company, will be released shortly: "The CDR is a collection of stories, songs, animation and pictures from the live show that offers a genuine insight into the beautiful and touching world of Kazuko's story." Expect an interview in 3AM very soon.
PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY IN THE UK 11/22/2002
Stewart Home has published a book of photographs entitled How I Discovered America. Here's an extract from the introduction: "For me photography is most alluring when both the person behind the lens and what is being photographed self-consciously manifest their subjectivity. Travelling across 'Britain' to discover 'America' is only one of the many ways in which such subjectivity might remake the world in both photographic and material form. This then is the difference between pastoralism and psychogeography. The psychogeographer (and photography is only of any interest to me in so far as it is a form of psychogeography) knows that the world cannot be recorded, it can only be remade. The pastoralist, on the other hand, wants to believe that everything that is fabricated pre-existed this fabrication, and that it will 'endure' 'forever' because it is in some way 'natural' and 'real'. The pastoralist is incapable of properly articulating the difference between a William Morris wallpaper and a Jess Franco film, and will always prefer the reactionary idealism of arts and crafts to material science in the form of proletarian postmodernism. Truth is process, pastoralism stands for stasis and death. . . ."
FUCK YOU ALL IN LA 11/22/2002
Glen E. Friedman's "images of the early Dogtown skateboarders in the late 1970s and early 1980s along with the burgeoning hip-hop and punk rock scenes have made him one of the most important photographers today. With the uncanny ability to capture images of people whose subculture was about to change the world, his subjects range from Jay Adams and Tony Alva to Run DMC and the Beastie Boys to Minor Threat and Black Flag, among many others." His Fuck You All exhibition at Sixspace (549 West 23rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007 USA, Tel: 213.765.0248, Tuesday-Saturday from 12-6pm) runs until November 30. (Pic: H.R. from the Bad Brains, 1982.)
ONE MORE TIME FOR THE PEOPLE 11/22/2002
Irvine Welsh on Alabama 3 right here, right now: "Alabama 3 are the first ever band I could dance to in the daytime hours without chemical assistance. That says a lot. This band are about the only one around that can make you sing, dance and think, even those of us who've impaired that latter process over the years with our indulgence in those chemicals made by man with the grace of our Lord. I first got into this band when I was chilling out in the old port of Amsterdam, having enjoyed my own fifteen minutes, but desperate not to stretch it to sixteen. My confession, brothers and sisters, is that I was smokin' dope all day long, watchin' cable television, eatin' slices of succulent pizza pie and getting fat. I had decided that having hitherto enjoyed a life of feckless hedonism I would now indulge in a sedentary, writerly existence with my notebooks, sweet poetry and intoxicants provided by the bounty of our Lord. Goddamn it if I didn't think that this old ass of mine was good for nothing but the accumulation of some more lard. . . . When I got me back over to London town, I immediately hooked up with the Alabama 3 boys, even crossing old Father Thames with grace in my heart and a spring in my step. In the interim, I proceeded, brothers and sisters, to turn on as many like minds as I could. Returning to the UK, I was amazed at finding so many of my kin at the Alabama's gigs; old comrades I had written off as overdosed, incarcerated or just hopelessly domesticated. . . . So a few years down the line and more than a few lines down those years, the virus that is the totally unique, shit-kickin', footstompin', muthafuckin' virus of beauty called the Alabama's music, is spreading remorselessly into every corner of our psyche. And what do we have? A band of substance, substances and a substantial body of evidence that damns, mocks and challenges the blandness and viscous greed of our times. All the enemies, the World Bank, free trade zones, nation states and corporate interests are ridiculed in the interests of good taste. You may be taking us on the road to oblivion Mr Bush, Mr Blair, but we can make it there perfectly well under our own steam, thank y'all. One more time for the people : Alabama 3 are the first ever band I could dance to in the daytime hours without chemical assistance. That says a lot. It says everything."
THE BYRONIC MAN 11/22/2002
Fiachra Gibbons on Lord Byron's hidden sexuality: "Documents which showed that Lord Byron -- genius, freedom fighter, and first of the pin-up poets -- was a bisexual were kept from his biographers, a new exhibition reveals. A new show at the National Portrait Gallery in London, Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, takes it name from the famous description of the poet by his one-time lover, Lady Caroline Lamb, who was probably responsible for spreading rumours of his homosexuality. The exhibition documents his many affairs with young men as well as women. Byron's latest biographer, Fiona MacCarthy, who curated the exhibition, is convinced that it was his fear of prosecution for sodomy that finally drove him to flee England forever in 1816. 'At that time it was a capital offence and he could have been hanged. It was a very serious situation indeed. Byron grew to hate England and all it stood for. But I think in many ways he remained very English in his style, his humour and attitudes.' . . . MacCarthy also suspects that novelist Martin Amis, painter Lucian Freud and rock star Mick Jagger owe much of their dark swaggering charisma to the template set by the Byronic legend. . . ." The National Gallery's Mad, Bad and Dangerous: the Cult of Lord Byron exhibition runs until 16 February 2003 in London.
Jonathan Margolis on the F-word in The Guardian: "The first time I heard the word fuck, I was seven. My 12-year-old brother asked me if I wanted to know the worst word in the world. He whispered it to me and, although he wasn't quite sure what it meant, we both loved the idea of a word so rude that it could barely be uttered. And in suburbia in the 60s, you would not even breathe such a word. I know my parents were aware of it from the war, and it was certainly in their secreted-away 1962 Penguin edition of Lady Chatterley. But whereas today, any 12-year-old from the dodgiest comp to Eton would say fuck if they so much as grazed a knee, I doubt my dad would have said it even if a flying saucer landed on the patio and a Martian laser-gunned the shed. It wasn't until 1970, when I briefly encountered that rare bird in Ilford, Essex, a television director, that I realised it may indeed have been the worst word in the world for lower-middle-class people like us, but for the educated middle class, it was in everyday use. . . . Three decades on, the word is so commonplace that its shock value seems quite lost. Kenneth Tynan saying it for the first time on television in 1965 caused considerable scandal, albeit without mention anywhere of what he said. (It was: 'I doubt if there are any rational people to whom the word fuck would be particularly diabolical, revolting or totally forbidden.') We didn't know it in Ilford, but by the time our trendy television man was using fuck so casually, the middle-class (or at least literary) hijacking of the word from workmen's slang was well underway. DH Lawrence, James Joyce, Henry Miller and Dylan Thomas had started the process, and now Doris Lessing, WH Auden, William Burroughs, John Updike and Iris Murdoch were joyously embracing the word. . . . And, paradoxically, it is often ill-educated people who are the more loath to say it -- for fear of appearing ill-educated. In 1976, the Sex Pistols famously used the word on Thames Today, infuriating presenter Bill Grundy. And from the 1980s onwards, films have routinely contained a fusillade of fucks, with Hugh Grant's opening salvo in Four Weddings and a Funeral a notable example. Which made it little surprise that by 1997, when several broadcasting organisations produced a ranking of words by severity, fuck only came in third, behind cunt and motherfucker. If evidence were required that the word has in some sense come of age, the clothing company French Connection has recently opened a giant FCUK store almost next to Harrods. A pseudo-anarchic gesture that would once have been the subject of anger and sensation, today this is not even noteworthy enough to be a bore. It is a true non-event. Why did fuck lose its sting? Has its diminution left us bereft of a useful, powerful expletive? If it has, is language the poorer for its emasculation? And is there an unspoken agenda that it is still rude when the speaker is working class? Or if it is used in a work of art, such as this year's Gilbert and George exhibition, The Dirty Words Pictures, 1977?
There is a pervasive myth that in some hey-nonny-no idyll of yore, the word was lusty language, but not obscene. But according to Jesse Sheidlower, the author of the 1995 American book, The F Word, fuck, which seems first to have appeared in a 1475 manuscript satirising the monks of Ely Cathedral ("They, that are the monks of Ely, they are not in Heaven because they fuck the wives of Ely"), was always taboo. This was the case even though shit, which dates to the ninth century, was perfectly acceptable. . . ."
In praise of the word fuck.
THE MISSING LINKS 11/22/2002
A review of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex. An interesting interview with Pierre Jourde (author of La Littérature sans estomac) in Chronic'art about France's pathetic, humourless literary scene. Rediscover Tony Fletcher's classic interview with The Jam in Jamming. Read about Aleksandar Hemon's Nowhere Man in Flak magazine. Liverpool superclub Cream's last night. You can download a new Wallace and Gromit film here. Ruth Franlin wonders if Zadie Smith is "a pseudonym for Dave Eggers" in The New Republic. Mitzi Szereto who was recently interviewed in 3AM also appears in Pif magazine. Tim Willis on reclusive genius Syd Barrett. The story of Steve Lake's anarcho-punk band Zounds.
SEEPING IN THROUGH THE CRACKS 11/21/2002
Ewald Christians writes in Salon that Iceland's Mùm (pronounced Moom) "create beautiful soundscapes and subtle, fragile arrangements. But instead of the vocal acrobatics of Bjork or the wind-swept, static noise epics of Sigur Ros, Mùm make electronic music with a strong affinity for liquid sounds. Throughout the album (Finally We Are No One), water seems to be trickling and seeping in through the cracks of drum patterns, washing over bleeps and bass lines." Watch their video here. Fact freaks: Mùm's twin sisters appeared on the cover of Belle and Sebastian's Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant.
LE PLAISIR DE L'HYPERTEXTE 11/21/2002
There's a great new site devoted to Roland Barthes' seminars at the Collège de France (1976-1980).
PERVATEEN REVISITED 11/21/2002
English artist Six will soon be taking his Pervateen exhibition to the US. More soon…
3AM TOP 5 11/21/2002
Brilliant young author Toby Litt, whose new novel Finding Myself ("Toby Litt meets Virginia Woolf meets Big Brother") will be published next summer, is currently listening to:
- Out of Season -- Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man: the whole album, over and over
- Anima -- Vladislav Delay.
- "Immigrant Song" -- Led Zeppelin, BBC Sessions
- Asa-chung & Junray, 'Tsuginepu to Ittemita' -- Asa-Chung & Junray, The Wiretapper 09 (Wire magazine)
- "Tupelo Honey" -- Dusty Springfield, The Dusty Springfield Anthology
UNCLE SAM BARRED FROM BOOKER 11/21/2002
The Booker Prize will not be extended to US writers: "Booker Prize officials have decided against opening up the award to writers outside of Britain, the Commonwealth and Ireland. The announcement ends months of speculation that US writers might become eligible for Britain's most prestigious literary award. However, Booker administrator Martyn Goff confirmed that organisers were considering setting up a separate lifetime achievement award open to all nationalities, provided the work was published in English. . . . Rumours of a change in eligibility first surfaced last spring, prompting furious chatter among literati who speculated whether British or American fiction writing would prove stronger. Lisa Jardine, chairman of this year's judging panel, claimed opening the prize to the US would 'drown out' the voices of non-American writers. The Booker Prize, backed by the Booker foods group, was established in 1969 to reward good writing, to raise the stature of the author in the eyes of the public, and to encourage an interest in contemporary quality fiction. Financial services conglomerate Man Group plc began sponsoring it in April, boosting the award from £21,000 ($33,000) to £50,000 ($79,000) and renaming it the Man Booker Prize. . . ."
URBAN BLOG 11/21/2002
Britain's top non-profit, activist site Urban75 has launched its own weblog.
TALKIN BOUT MY GENERATION: THE NEW WAVE OF BRITLIT 11/19/2002
Every decade Granta draws up a list of the 20 Best British Novelists Under 40. The Observer speculates that the 2003 list will include Zadie Smith, Toby Litt, Alan Warner, Philip Hensher, David Mitchell and Hari Kunzru.
Kate Kellaway writes that "Everyone remembers the photographs: 20 writers in a Victorian-style group portrait entitled Best British Novelists Under 40.There was one in 1983, another in 1993. As an image, it had far more clout than the solitary face of any Booker Prize winner. The Granta promotion has always been about more than selling writers. It is taken seriously partly because it is not a publisher's plaything -- it is judged independently by Granta magazine's panel. And, once every 10 years, it seems to raise the blood pressure of everyone involved: judges, writers, publishers, journalists -- and readers. In January, the 2003 list will be announced, and in April Granta will publish new work by all the writers on the list. Once again, we will be able to stare at 20 authors, like a box of assorted chocolates and, if we choose, pronounce them duds, like so many strawberry creams. There is no safety in numbers: this promotion makes authors vulnerable. Consider what happened in 1993. Salman Rushdie (on the list himself in 1983 and a judge in 1993) was maddened by the toxic comments directed towards the writers he and his fellow judges -- AS Byatt, Bill Buford and John Mitchison -- had chosen. . . . It was easy to argue that the new list was inferior to the first because the 1983 list included Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, William Boyd and Martin Amis: it defined a generation. The second was harder to pin down and excited snide cartoons, one of which asked: Who is Louis de Bernières? But time has proved Rushdie right. It was a good selection -- unless your first name was Adam. Adam Lively has failed to produce a second novel, and Adam Mars Jones (who was on the 1983 and 1993 lists, having written only one novel) has kept us waiting too: 'My struggle against overproductivity has been amazingly successful,' he laughs. But Will Self, Louis de Bernières, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hanif Kureishi, Alan Hollinghurst, Esther Freud, Caryl Phillips, AL Kennedy, Helen Simpson, Jeanette Winterson, Ben Okri, Nicholas Shakespeare and Lawrence Norfolk have each lived up to the judges' opinion of them.
This year, the judges are Ian Jack, (editor of Granta and chair of the panel) Robert McCrum (The Observer's literary editor) Hilary Mantel (novelist and critic), Nicholas Clee (editor of the Bookseller) and Alex Clark (fiction reviewer for the GuardianLondon Review of Books). They have reduced a list of 130 titles (entered by publishers) down to about 80. The contenders include some yet-to-be published novels and some typescripts that are not complete, which their authors will have to race to finish. . . . How does a judge turn clairvoyant? Hilary Mantel -- marvellous novelist and fastidious critic -- knows exactly what she is looking for in the 2003 list: 'commitment'. She wants to read work that has 'ambition, a text thoroughly imagined, sureness of tone'. She believes she speaks for all the judges when she says that she wants to find writers who have 'taken a patch of territory and defined it for themselves'. She has read one or two 'brilliant' novels but exclaims at the quantity of 'bland, facile and unambitious' work. She is appalled by the lack of editing and 'amazed that people think it daring not to punctuate -- as if to say: commas are not what my generation does'. She adds in her amusingly deadpan way: 'When you isolate an age group, you find that they have a fascination with their drug-taking. No one seems to realise that when all the characters take drugs, it tends to a stasis in the plot.' Alcohol is more lively in narrative terms, because 'with drunks there is repentance and sobering up - a bit more plot development'. Does Mantel's preference for commas and drunks disqualify her as a judge? Like all the judges, with the exception of Alex Clark, she is over 40. Should they be younger? Ian Jack (in his late fifties) is on the defensive when I raise the subject, pointing out that no young British novelist would wish to be a judge and forfeit the chance of a place on the list. Besides, he says, 'experience' as a reader must count for something. . . ."
LITANIES & SPERM: A BLOKEISH PROUST FOR OUR TIME 11/19/2002
Robert Douglas-Fairhurst reviews the new English translation of Proust's In Search of Lost Time: ". . . The idea that each of us contains many possible selves, patiently waiting to be liberated by circumstance, has long been an attractive one for Proust's biographers, who have drawn attention to the large number of Prousts who seemed to live within the same skin: the reclusive socialite (Proust's most recent biographer in English, Edmund White, describes him as a 'playboy-monk'); the critic of habit who lived according to strict routines; the sensitive aesthete who became sexually excited by watching caged rats being stabbed with hatpins. His writing style is equally slippery: consider his fondness for puns, which reveal how easily words, like people, can have more to them than first meets the ear; or the syntax of his sentences, which uncoil inquiringly across the page to dramatise both the directions and the indirections of desire, the shape of finished thoughts and the sound of somebody thinking. . . . One might expect Proust's translators to be sensitive to this dilemma, because translation too provides only a partial version of its original, changing its appearance according to who is looking at it, and when, and why. The team of scholars behind this new Penguin version, for instance, are largely unimpressed by the earlier translation of C. K. Scott Moncrieff (successively revised by The Observer's Terence Kilmartin and D. J. Enright): too full of errors, they complain, and too stuffy. Based on the more accurate French text published by Pléiade in 1987, their Proust is supposed to be far more down-to-earth and up-to-date, and the figure who emerges in these pages is indeed more plain-speaking, even blokeish, than many readers might expect, with an edgy wit no longer blunted by Scott Moncrieff's purplish prose. In many respects, this is a Proust for our time.
Scott Moncrieff's dedication of his work to Proust as 'the chaplet that I would fain offer you' gives a flavour of how easily his writing could slip from the lofty to the stilted, and from the archaic to the merely arch. Yet often the work of the Penguin translators jars still more awkwardly with Proust's original. Much of this is down to the decision to use different translators for each volume, on the principle that this division of labour 'heightens the chances of bringing into focus [Proust's] stylistic variety'. This curious rationale (why use seven translators rather than 70? Or 700?) does suggest one important half-truth about Proust's writing: what Christopher Prendergast, the general editor, describes as its 'commitment to the mobile and the multiple'. But it ignores the other half of that truth, which is Proust's commitment to describing the sheer variousness of the world in a voice which is uniquely his own. This is the set of vocal contours which Proust described in his novel as the writer's 'accent', his imaginative DNA, and it announces itself on every level of his writing, from the local echoes which ripple back and forth across the full range of these 3,000-plus pages, to the sustaining narrative arch that spans In Search of Lost Time from its first word ('Longtemps' -- 'for a long time') to its last ('temps' -- 'time').
And how did Proust learn to weave his voice into these teasing, testing patterns? Through translation. The years he spent translating Ruskin can be felt pressing on every sentence in his novel, because although Proust had a shaky grasp of English (one friend claimed that he probably couldn't have ordered a cutlet in an English restaurant), he claimed to know Ruskin 'by heart', and it is by learning Ruskin off by heart that he learnt how to describe the workings of his own heart. By imagining what it was like to write as somebody else, he discovered what it was to write as himself. Similarly, Scott Moncrieff, for all his occasional carelessness and prissiness, was probably temperamentally better suited than many later translators to making sense of a style which Montesquiou once described memorably as 'a mixture of litanies and sperm'.
PUNK ROCK PORN 11/19/2002
All of a sudden, punk rock porn seems to be everywhere. The latest issue of Punk Planet includes an investigation into the world of DIY Punk Rock porn called "Pay to Cum" (after the old Bad Brains single).
There's an interview with Spooky from the punk/goth Suicide Girls website in NCA: ". . . I think that tagline is a bit of an over simplification of what the site is, but we set out to create a site that featured girls that we thought were cute: goth girls, emo girls, punk girls, etc. We also wanted to let the girls be in charge of how they were presented, so we came up with a different ethos than most adult sites, where the girls either sent in pictures they took of themselves or where they chose how we should them. . . ." What do female punk musicians think of this new trend? Find out here.
Michael Calderone's article on Pornography and Punk, which first appeared in Clamor, can be read at getunderground.com: ". . . As an investigative journalist, I did not hesitate at the opportunity to assist in the photo shoot, believing it could add insight into a recent phenomenon: the fusion of underground music culture and sexually explicit photography. This marriage has germinated on the Internet, spawning a number of web sites that now offer naked pictures of women with dyed hair, tattoos, and assorted aesthetic qualities admired by the sub-cultural voyeur. Critics contend that this mingling of the underground and pornography is a crass attempt to market a new product, co-opting aspects of the adult entertainment industry without showing concern for the structures that have enabled independent music to exist and thrive. Contrary to this condemnation, advocates see this alliance in myriad positive ways, from a platform for feminist ideology to mere entertainment. Proponents see the opportunity for women to model who, although attractive, may not be deemed so in a conventional manner, and would probably not be invited to pose for the cover of Playboy, Penthouse or Hustler. Although not conforming to the narrow vision of the female form that typically graces popular magazine covers, there is a contingent that would not buy the sex-industry staple, yet would subscribe to a web site that shows indie girls in sexually explicit situations. In an era when every possible fetish one could envision has an eager buying market, it seems almost inevitable that those individuals desiring to see girls with short, dyed black hair and retro glasses wearing nothing but their tattoos would eventually have their wishes fulfilled. . . . Representatives of all the web sites interviewed remain adamant that the women are treated in the best possible way, a far cry from the horror stories often told about the sex industry. Stephanie of FrictionUSA.com revealed that in treating their models, 'We don't pressure them into doing anything that they're uncomfortable with.' Feminists usually reserve their support for pornography that is intent upon treating the women who model with respect, and encouraging them to have a role in the creative aspects of the photo shoot and their presentation on the screen. On Suicidegirls.com, models are given the opportunity to write about themselves and their experiences, offering more than just an abstract image on the screen. The web site maintains that this feature gives more freedom to the participants. 'These girls are not being paid to play the part in member's fantasies, they are being paid to be themselves,' explained Spooky. In addition to posing, models are allowed to develop some of their own ideas concerning the photo shoots. While attending a Burning Angel shoot, I noticed the casual atmosphere, and the way in which the woman modeling, incidentally a member of a hardcore/metal band, seemed very comfortable. In addition to the congenial behavior of the men at the photo shoot, including myself, the photographer and co-owner, Mostov believes she 'makes the models feel more comfortable' because in addition to her various duties, she also models for the site. She added, 'Doing this web site, from modeling to writing to interviewing, has definitely empowered me.' . . ."
You can also check out Jess Barron's When Sub-Pop Meets Porn in Wired: "When people hear the term 'porn site,' most picture ugly Web design, annoying pop-up ads, and badly lit pictures of big-haired breast-implanted blondes. Not so now. Four stylish subculture sites are putting a new face on porn. Raveporn, Supercult, Suicide Girls and FrictionUSA feature artful nude photos of women who are more likely to be purple-haired, pale and pierced. And there isn't a pop-up ad in sight. What's more, a significant number of their members are women. . . . Dr. Al Cooper, director of the San Jose Marital and Sexuality Centre and a psychologist at Stanford University, believes the Internet allows women more opportunity for sexual experimentation than they may have in their offline lives. 'The Internet's 'triple-A' -- access, affordability and anonymity -- is particularly attractive to women,' said Cooper, who is the editor of Sex and the Internet: A Guidebook for Clinicians. . . . 'I want to take the sketchiness and smuttiness out of porn,' said Chase Lisbon, 28, who launched Supercult in August 2001. 'I don't use words like tits or ass or pussy anywhere on the site." Supercult is a mod-styled website featuring pictures of naked hipsters posing with Lambretta scooters and Star Wars action figures. Chase estimates that 30 percent of the site's paying users are female. . . ."
HAMPSTEAD LIBERALS 11/19/2002
Controversial critic and poet Tom Paulin has been banned from appearing at Harvard. The BBC reports that he was banned "after saying American Jews settling in the occupied territories were 'Nazis' who should be 'shot dead', according to reports. Paulin, who grew up in Belfast, was due to give the prestigious Morris Gray poetry reading at the Boston university on Friday night, but the event was cancelled on Tuesday. . . ." Oliver Burkeman writes in The Guardian that "Harvard University has cancelled an appearance by the controversial Oxford academic Tom Paulin after more than 100 students and faculty members objected to the poet's inflammatory anti-Israel views, which include the claim that Jewish settlers in the West Bank are 'Nazis' who should be 'shot dead'. . . . Mr Paulin, who is lecturing at New York's Columbia University but is a member of Hertford College in Oxford, told the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram Weekly last April that American-born settlers in the occupied territories 'should be shot dead. I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them.' The newspaper quoted him as saying: 'I never believed that Israel had the right to exist at all.' . . . Mr Paulin told al-Ahram he had 'utter contempt' for the 'Hampstead liberal Zionists' who 'use this card of anti-semitism' against critics of Israel. In fact, he argued, Israel itself was 'a product of both British and Stalin's anti-semitism'. He had already sparked protests from Jewish groups in Britain over a poem in the Observer last year describing 'another little Palestinian boy/ in trainers jeans and a white teeshirt/ ... gunned down by the Zionist SS.' . . ."
NEWLAND GIG 11/19/2002
Another recent 3AM interviewee Courttia Newland will soon be appearing at the Tabernacle (Powis Square, London W11) which seems to be a very happening place: "fresh from his recent US tour Nii Parkes hosts an exploration of the urban oral tradition mixing soulful prose with the sounds of jazz. Tell Tales features Raksha Thakor, Roger Robinson, Gemma Weekes, Liam Gallimore Wells and Courttia Newland.
OUR VERY FIRST WANK 11/15/2002
Michael Bracewell meets up with "punky glamourpuss" Deborah Harry for The Independent: "Coming on like a stroppy-looking Marilyn Monroe, a black lumber shirt hanging like a mini-skirt around her red plastic trousers - the same shade of red, in fact, as some unbelievably synthetic ketchup - and wearing black-feathered kitten-heel mules, Blondie's lead singer Deborah Harry caused a split second's hush across the Hammersmith Odeon. You could sense the eyes upon her -- punk's answer to Botticelli's Birth of Venus -- before a sound like a revving chain saw cued a volley of high-speed surfer guitars, backed on a protracted drum roll, and Deborah's barked greeting to the crowd, 'Suffer!' was pursued by the effortlessly soaring range of her low, powerful voice. She sang like a blonde in a film noir, and the roller-coaster of raw Blondie was off down the first death-defying incline. . . . This was some time back in 1978. . . . Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant has remarked that one of the most welcome things about punk was the way it opened up a whole range of eclectic new music, from industrial electronica to heavy dubbed reggae to moody social realism. Blondie and their contemporaries were beneficiaries of this creative widening of tastes and promotion of newness. Gathered around the down-town New York clubs of the early to mid 1970s, with the slutty glam rock of the New York Dolls (who gigged regularly at the Mercer Arts Centre, before the building collapsed) to inspire them, this was a collection of groups and performers including Patti Smith, Richard Hell, The Talking Heads and Television, whose artistic vision, low-fi ethos and sense of urban poetry made them direct descendants of the Velvet Underground. In this way all were vicariously linked to the extended project of Andy Warhol.
Watching Blondie at the Hammersmith Odeon, belting out perfectly formed yet ragged-edged numbers such as 'Kung-Fu Girls' and 'Rip Her To Shreds', you felt as though you were watching a gloriously fluorescent group of comic book delinquents, a band designed by Roy Lichtenstein, perhaps, with Deborah Harry herself -- so flawlessly beautiful as to seem somehow unreal -- updating the classic poise of Hollywood screen glamour (hand on hip, a feigned moue of discontent, the occasional tongue-in-cheek hand-jive) rather than trying to act tough.
Nearly 25 years later, when I meet Deborah Harry in London as she prepares for the band's UK reunion tour, it swiftly becomes apparent that she too regards her early career -- just prior to Blondie's phenomenal mainstream success in the early 1980s -- as very much a part of the New York avant garde. . . . 'I always felt Blondie's performances were conceptual,' she says, 'so in the early days, one week I'd be wearing hot pants and the next a wedding dress, the next I'd come on with a goldfish bowl -- something surreal. You have to remember we did a lot of shows to maybe just two or three people. My partner Chris Stein and I thought a lot about these things. And Chris had studied, he'd been to art school.' . . . 'I didn't become friendly with the Warhol crowd -- I just used to stare at them from afar. I was always very interested in them, and I thought that they looked fantastic. I was just very curious about their lifestyle. Some were approachable. Taylor Mead was always sort of sweet, Eric Emerson was a real lad; Nico was very nice. I met Viva later on and she was okay. I was a neophyte then, and I didn't know what anything was about - I was just a kid from across the river. I wanted to get somewhere where I wouldn't be encased in an idea -- I wanted a bigger idea. I think that back in those days there wasn't much of a career urge for women. I know that my mother just wanted me to get married and that would have been pretty much it. So I just wanted to be a part of something that was odd -- a little dangerous. I wanted to be an artist, and I came from a family who had absolutely no connection with the art world. So coming to New York was like going to school -- swimming in vagueness.' . . .
Today, groups which emerged in the late 1970s or early 1980s are often placed in a dichotomous position: either they are revered as iconic, and hence remain forever contemporary (an example would be Iggy Pop) or they are entered as exhibits into the ever-expanding museum of pop cultural kitsch, where the public's nostalgia for their early hits overwhelms whatever new work they might accomplish (The Human League). Blondie, however, not only managed to blast back a couple of years ago with the effortless cool of 'Maria', but they seem to share with their contemporaries Television, Patti Smith or Talking Heads that ability in the best of punk to sound more modern, more new, than most of the manufactured pop or copy-cat grunge which is currently doing the rounds. 'Times have changed,' says Harry, 'everything becomes more diluted. Part of the thing that made rock'n'roll music so interesting was that it was 'other' -- it was not accepted. Which is always what new art is about. So now that it's become so central it cannot possibly embody the elements of naughtiness or danger. It's become sort of synthetic, really -- it's now a synthetic embodiment of what it once truly was. So now what?'"
DUMMYLAND ONLINE 11/15/2002
Fans of the mighty Steve Aylett (who was recently interviewed in 3AM) will be delighted to learn that there is now a site devoted to the Accomplice Books which includes a map, a glossary, reproductions of the manuscripts and promotional trading cards (see picture). My favourite part is the eclectic list of references ranging from Dostoevsky, Joyce, Yeats, François Villon, Dante, TS Eliot and Sarah Kane to Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, Crass, Throwing Muses, The Fall, Captain Beefheart and Suede. Now that's a mixture I like! An extract from Aylett's The Velocity Gospel appears in the latest issue of The Barcelona Review.
PUNK OF ME 11/15/2002
Volume six of Pen & Inc's international literary review, edited by DJ Talor, is entitled Punk of Me: "Pretext 6 is guest edited by DJ Taylor (biographer, novelist and critic). Here John Murray tackles the economic issues underpinning choices in his essay on regional versus metropolitan writing; Jason Cowley, the literary editor of the New Statesman, reflects on the process of book reviewing in a saturated market. DJ Taylor and Philip Hensher have an email exhange on the nature of the experimental novel; Carol Birch explores domestic life in 1950s Manchester in an extract from her forthcoming novel Some of these Days (Virago, 2003). Bernadine Evaristo captures the intergenerational tensions of immigrant family life in a discrete piece from her novel Soul Tourist (Hamish Hamilton, 2003). Exclusive new poetry from Alan Jenkins and Hilary Davies, and new work from Annie Murray, Andy Brown, Charlie Boxer, Lynn Kramer and David Hart. Plus lyrics from the 'Orson Welles of Punk' Howard Devoto.
INCANDESCENT HOWL 11/15/2002
Two very interesting articles were recently published in Tangents. The first one, by Alistair Fitchett, concerns the NME's legendary C86 tape: "I never liked C86 as an epithet. I didn't like it much in 1986 and I liked it even less when it became apparent, a decade or so later, that some were using it as means of describing a generic sound or scene. Because it was never a scene, at least certainly not in 1986. It wasn't really even a sound. As far as I was concerned it was just a disparate collection of bands that happened to wield guitars rather than drum machines and turntables, gathered on one give-away tape. Because wasn't it really just some kind of kick-back constructed by one faction of NME journalists during/after the Hip Hop Wars? And as we all know, you should never trust journalists. Of course it was tempting to make connections that didn't really exist between groups. It was, and is, what makes music journalists tick, after all, whether they write for the major music press or make fanzines for their friends. The need to fabricate or over-expose scenes, to which we then like to consider we belong, is intrinsically Pop. Because Pop and Rock is all about the sense of belonging, and ironically of course also about the sense of elitism and isolation. And you don't get much more elite than bands that sell a thousand records to the same thousand people, after all. . . . It was all terribly tied up in the context of the era too. It was a time of deciding what side of lines and fences to stand. Politics still seemed to matter, and 'the kids' still seemed to care about ideology. Some took this to ludicrous extremes and mistook the medium for the message, making out like the 7" single per-se was Good and the CD Bad, but that was understandable because many of us were indeed young and stupid. Looking back now, it's difficult to understand or communicate just what it was really like; how much antagonism there really was, and how fiercely people held certain beliefs. And how silly and inconsequential some of those seem now, particularly when you lose sight of the bigger picture of how those little rebellions were metaphors for much larger struggles. . . . Some talk about how in the early '80s there was a lot of discussion in the pop underground about what directions should be taken next. Some wanted to see intriguing angles and juxtapositions, following the post-punk avenues of explorations that had led the likes of Vic Godard into strange Radio Two territory, or that had led to the jubilant Dexys meets the Velvets assault of the June Brides. Others seemed more content to stick to guitars and follow what they thought was a path laid down by '60s acts like The Byrds, Beatles or Syd Barrett. Except of course that largely they stumbled whilst on that path and fell face first in the mire of uninspired mush and went off half-cocked. . . ."
The second article, by Mike Morris, concerns Keith Levene: "And it is written in the New Testament of Punk, dear children, that after Johnny left the Brazilian Cabaret version of the Sex Pistols he ran off with his mate John Wardle, now trading as Jah Wobble, and founded Public Image Limited, the great off-white hope of 1978. How good it was to hear for the first time the new sneery wail and the glue-the-ornaments-down bass rumble they kicked up on the eponymous hit single. But at least as fresh and startling was the new unit's guitar sound, which transcended anything else wonderful Radio One would ever have on in the daytime in those days. An incandescent shivery howl, the exact instrumental equivalent of Rotten's voice, it was produced by Keith Levene, a 21-year-old refugee from the Clash (and quondam Yes roadie) who went on to create some of the highlights of both PiL's first album and, more especially, of the joyous Metal Box ('Death Disco', a scornful diffusion of the Swan Lake theme; 'Radio 4', a totally unexpected trippy keyboard thing). . . . And now the good news: Keith is back, looking rather less like an angelic blond guttersnipe and rather more like Chris Langham, with an EP, Killer in the Crowd and some possibility of a new LP in the offing. The title track of the new disc kicks, as I believe young people say, some serious ass, with lots of heavy guitar washes and twiddly keyboards, Levene's own vocals surprisingly convincing and individual, with a grungy sore-throated edge. If I say the effect is slightly like The Professionals going dance-crazy, I really do mean it as a compliment, though like all the best music it is the wrong shape to be stuck in a pigeon-hole. The other new tracks I've heard veer slightly towards World Music, with oriental influences and juddery percussion. There are echoes of the PiL days there, but it's fresh material that's been crafted with a lot of subtleties that only emerge on repeat listens (think of the way classic My Bloody Valentine slowly unravels as you replay it, how the elements you didn't get before emerge). It's always nice to welcome the return of a giant who's been out of things a bit. . . ."
THE EXPERIMENTAL NOVEL 11/14/2002
The Guardian is publishing DJ Taylor and Philip Hensher's (see picture) email conversation about the experimental novel which also appears in the latest issue of Pretext. Here's an extract from one of DJ Taylor's e-pistles: "Anyone browsing in a bookshop this weekend could do worse than skim through the opening chapters of James Kelman's new novel. It is 'formally groundbreaking and verbally dazzling', according to whoever wrote its jacket copy. The first 30 pages of Translated Accounts are certainly baffling: the book consists of a series of faked dispatches from some anonymous totalitarian state, purportedly rendered into clumsy English. Then, on page 35, comes what can only be described as a typewriter explosion, line upon line of apparently random keyboard doodlings - '!8 !8 !8', etc -- continuing to no great purpose for the next three or four pages. . . . Curiously enough, Kelman's textual detonations are not the only example of self-conscious fictive weirdness currently reposing on bookshop shelves. John Murray's recent John Dory, a beguiling slice of magic realism set in the author's native Cumbria, features a talking fish. Jonathan Coe's The Rotters' Club was discovered to harbour an unpunctuated 13,000-word stretch, thereby sparking an excited debate over whether it beat the record previously held by Ulysses for the world's longest sentence. David Mitchell's second novel, number9dream, offers a bewildering mixture of dream sequence and reality. . . . While it would be pushing things to proclaim any direct linkage between a group of very different novels, each betrays a definite air of 'experiment'. Formal innovation raises its head above the placid waters of literary fiction and pushes determinedly on into the mainstream.
It is usual to date the rise of literary 'experiment' back to the groundbreaking stream-of- consciousness days of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, but the tendency is a great deal older than this. It could be said that any writer worth his or her salt 'experiments', in the sense of leaving the medium in which they work in a slightly different state from how they found it. Tristram Shandy is an experimental work, and so, in its merging of contemporary and historical detail, is Vanity Fair. But for deliberate avant-gardery, Joyce was unquestionably your man. Despite a widely held view that the Joycean achievement was a monster that spawned no progeny, Ulysses's grandiloquent wordplay, exuberant dramatisations and rapt interior monologues spread through the mid-century English novel like loosestrife through a hedge. Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies both show the influence of Joyce's cinematic techniques, while Orwell's A Clergyman's Daughter cheerfully plagiarises Joyce's 'Nighttown' scene. By the 1960s, British fiction offered a safe haven for a self-conscious and loosely organised band of 'experimentalists', whose mission -- if not in so many words -- was to sweep forward the limits of the novel to some remote plateau where 'social realism', the great experimental bugbear, was no more than a genteel memory.
It is instructive to recall the influence wielded by, or at any rate the amount of column inches garnered by, writers such as Eva Figes, Alan Burns, Ann Quin, Giles Gordon, Gabriel Josipovici and BS Johnson. Formally, they specialised in stream-of-consciousness monologues (Figes's Nelly's Version), holes cut in the page to make the reader aware of both present and future time (Johnson's Albert Angelo), disembodied talking heads (Josipovici), or narratives proceeding on both left- and right-hand sides of the page that could be read separately or consecutively (Rayner Heppenstall's Two Moons). Most notorious of all was Johnson's The Unfortunates (1969, with a Picador reissue in 1999), a series of 27 individually printed sections in a cardboard box that, with the exception of the opening and closing pieces, could be read in any order the reader liked. There was no plot as such, simply a series of ruminations on the author's dead friend, an academic named Tony, a failed love affair with a woman called Wendy, and the task in which the author was currently engaged -- going to Nottingham on a Saturday afternoon to cover a football match for the Observer.
What did the experimentals think they were doing? Almost without exception, and like their American contemporaries John Barth and John Hawkes, they hated plot: 'the enemy of the novel', pundits regularly pronounced; or, less harshly, 'not like life'. Apart from regarding conventional linear narrative as a kind of artistic confidence trick, they were also keenly absorbed by the notion of 'extending the form'. Realism, it was assumed, could not accommodate modern historical reality. Or as Figes famously put it: 'The English social-realist tradition cannot contain the realities of my lifetimes, horrors which one might have called surreal if they had not actually happened.' For Figes, the old forms were 'hopelessly inadequate, and can only say things that are no longer worth saying'. Johnson, on the other hand, was obsessed by truth: what was needed was a form that would convey the mind's sheer randomness. . . ."
SCREAMING AT WALLS 11/14/2002
The first annual Newtopia Magazine night will take place on Saturday 23 November at: Quimby's Bookstore (1854 West North Avenue Chicago IL 60622 773.342.0910) in Chicago (7pm). There will be readings by Newtopia Editor in chief Charles Shaw and Associate Editors Greg Everett and Kimberly Nichols. Charles Shaw is a political activist/writer from Chicago who is also an editor here at 3AM. He will read excerpts from his soon-to-be-published book, Unfinished Portraits. Kimberly Nichols, a writer and artist from Southern California, is famous for her Diary of a Californicator column at 3AM Magazine where she is also a respected co-editor. She will read from her forthcoming collection of short stories Mad Anatomy. Some of Kim's poems have just appeared in Unlikely Stories. Everett hails from Chico, California where he is the owner of Grundle Ink Publications. He will read from his acclaimed novel Screaming at a Wall. All 3AM and Newtopia fans should go there! For further info call Charles: 773.334.6989 or email him here.
DANCING TO NEW ORLEANS' TRIPPY BEAT 11/14/2002
Musician Pantopon Rose at the New Orleans Book Fair displaying a book she made and bound by hand. 3AM's Utahna Faith highly recommends her latest album The Blacklight Confessions of Pantopon Rose which Utahna describes as "ethereal, trippy, gothic, dreamy". Pantopon Rose also performed at a Bookfair reading Friday night at Mythique Bar in New Orleans' French Quarter.
THE RETURN OF ULRIKE MEINHOF'S BRAIN 11/14/2002
Here's the latest news about Ulrike Meinhof's brain: "German left-wing extremist Ulrike Meinhof had a brain operation in the 1960s that may have contributed to her becoming one of Europe's most feared urban guerrillas, according to a specialist. Bernhard Bogerts, a psychiatrist from the University of Magdeburg, has studied her brain and said it showed 'pathological modifications' which may have lessened her culpability at her trial. Meinhof, who committed suicide in 1976, had been sentenced in 1974 to eight years in prison after a ruling that she was fully mentally competent. Mr Bogerts confirmed that he carried out the research on her brain over the last five years. His involvement only came to light last week, when one of Meinhof's daughters said that her mother's brain was removed without the family's permission. Mr Bogerts told a news conference on Tuesday that he had had the brain since 1997 after applying for permission to examine it. Previously it had been held by a neurologist who conducted the autopsy after her suicide. The neurologist noticed changes to Meinhof's brain caused by an operation for a tumour in 1962. Mr Bogerts said that although there were other factors involved, the operation could have led to behavioural changes that turned her from an aspiring journalist to co-founder of the far-left Red Army Faction. 'The slide into terror can be explained by the brain illness,' he said. . . . One of Meinhof's two daughters, Bettina Roehl, has filed a lawsuit on charges of disturbing the peace of the dead for secretly removing Meinhof's brain after her death. She is seeking to have the brain buried with their mother's remains in Berlin. . . ."
I LOVE YOU… 11/14/2002
More than kittens!
LAZY SO AND SO LIVE 11/12/2002
Punk legend Vic Godard, who was recently interviewed by Richard Marshall in 3AM, will perform songs from his new album, Sansend, with Subway Sect at The Tabernacle (Powis Square, Notting Hill, London W11) on 29 November. Vic Godard & Subway Sect will appear on stage at 10pm.
PRESSING SOFT SKULLS 11/12/2002
3AM's lovely Utahna Faith read some of her delightful work at the recent New Orleans Book Fair organised by G.K. Darby of Garrett County Press. There were many small press tables, handmade books, a fiction & poetry reading and much more. Here's a picture of Utahna with Tom Hopkins, webmaster with our friends at Soft Skull Press.
SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER, OR WHAT'S WRONG WITH LITERARY CRITICISM? 11/12/2002
Sandy Starr writes about Frederic Crews' Postmodern Pooh in Spiked: "Frederick Crews, Emeritus professor of English at the University of California at Berkley, is telling me about his time spent dealing with graduate admissions to the university's PhD programme. He subsequently retired from academic life, to slate it in his new book Postmodern Pooh. Postmodern Pooh is a sequel to Crews' 1963 book The Pooh Perplex: A Student Casebook. The Pooh Perplex was a satire of various schools of literary theory. It was written in the form of analyses, by imaginary critics, of the children's classic Winnie the Pooh -- and gained a cult following in the USA. Postmodern Pooh is written in a similar form, but is a more thorough and scathing attack on the product of the post-Sixties culture wars in academic thought. . . . Each of the book's imaginary contributors seems to be modelled on a real-life critic -- although Crews wisely insists that 'no identification of the characters in Postmodern Pooh will be done by me'. But all of the embarrassing secondary material cited in the book, written by prominent critical figures, is real. 'Every single quotation is genuine and accurate', says Crews. 'I really enjoy seeing how far people can sink, and I have at least 20 times as much material as I used.' So what's wrong with contemporary literary criticism? A good clue in Postmodern Pooh can be found in the contribution by Carla Gulag -- who has co-administered the 'ever popular Marxism and Society Program' and 'lectured and written widely on topics pertaining to Critical Sociology, Critical Anthropology, Critical Legal Studies, and Critical Criticism'. For Gulag, 'the truly essential tasks of criticism' are: 'cognitive mapping, reconciling emergent and residual forms, weighing symbolic against diachronic factors, detecting and disabling master narratives, retotalising the Real, and deciding what is hegemonic over what, and why'. . . . Crews has little time for such vacuous jargon. 'My academic friends tend to be the scientists, and they say: "What are your colleagues up to?" They just can't fathom why people would waste their time in this way.' According to Crews, the notion of a specific literary theory which holds all of the answers is self-defeating. 'People are always looking for the master key to interpretation. If you believe in a theory that applies to all of literature, you've essentially tied your hands.'
. . . Crews is concerned, not just about the prevalence of postmodern twaddle in his own area of literary criticism, but about its impact upon academia as a whole. 'A typical first-year graduate student in English, now, has a cannier sense of the profession than I had at the age of 40', he complains. 'What that means is, they're aiming for one of these little niches -- a gender niche, an ethnic niche, or what have you. So their perspectives have already been narrowed. They are completely oriented to the profession, they master the jargon of the profession, and for the rest of their lives they essentially speak to each other.' Such developments are the reason why Crews chose to retire from his academic post, to focus on journalism and writing books. 'In many ways, I was at the top of my profession. But I wanted to get out, because I was being paid in order to be an influence in my field, and I had no influence whatsoever. Absolutely none. I don't think you can deal with people like this, and the reason you can't deal with them is that they understand the system better than you do. They know what is rewarded.'
Postmodern Pooh is intended to satirise not just a few celebrity critics, but the kind of critical writing that academics and students generally tend to come up with today -- evasive, incomprehensible, and making enormous, unjustified claims for the power of texts and language. Here's a sample from Felicia Marronez, Sea & Ski Professor of English at the University of California: 'Pooh is trying to say that nothing short of a thoroughgoing revolt against the equivalence of word and thing, name and person, signature and certification can overcome the stifling of our linguistic freedom. A comparable insight enabled Derrida to show that South African apartheid, which some dull analysts had blamed on a tenacious and fearful white minority, was actually brought about by phonetic writing. On occasion, the focus of Crews' attacks lies outside of academia. It should be noted that Crews is best known in the USA not as a commentator on cultural studies, but as a critic of psychotherapy; and is infamous for his attacks on recovered memory syndrome, in books such as Memory Wars: Freud's Legacy in Dispute. Some of these other bugbears are shoehorned into Postmodern Pooh, where, although admittedly funny, they feel a little out of place. In a contribution entitled 'The Courage to Squeal', Dolores Malatesta proclaims: 'the strongest evidence of Piglet's early abuse...is the fact that he doesn't have any conscious memory of it at all. Neither did I, for that matter, when I started my own therapy.' When I ask Crews whether he was motivated to write Postmodern Pooh by anger, he says with grim humour: 'Yes. I'm a little reluctant to admit it, because my psychoanalytic friends have given me a lot of free psychiatric help, telling me how angry I am.' . . ."
Read an extract from Postmodern Pooh in January Magazine.
PUSSY GALORE 11/12/2002
Excellent site devoted to The Art of James Bond including first editions, paperbacks, comic strips, storyboards and much much more. An extraordinary labour of love.
ULRIKE MEINHOF'S MISSING BRAIN 11/10/2002
Rob Broomby of the BBC reports on the strange case of Ulrike Meinhof's disappearing brain: "The daughter of the German left-wing extremist, Ulrike Meinhof, one of the founders of the violent Red Army Faction, has claimed that her mother's brain was removed from her body for scientific investigation without the family's permission. . . . Meinhof, who committed suicide in 1976 along with two other Red Army Faction leaders, was post-war Germany's most notorious urban guerrilla, but no-one has satisfactorily explained what turned a highly intelligent campaigning journalist into a killer pledged to overthrow the state. Now her daughter, Bettina Roehl, has claimed the tests after her prison suicide in 1976 showed brain abnormalities which may have made her unfit to stand trial. More than 25 years on, she wants the university clinic holding the organ to release it for burial. She claims Meinhof's brain was preserved in a jar and is kept in a cardboard box at Magdeburg University. She said the latest investigation in 1997 had confirmed that neurological abnormalities followed a brain tumour treatment were visible in parts of the brain dealing with the emotions. . . . Ms Roehl is herself no stranger to controversy. She has launched a campaign against many of her mother's generation. It was her photographs of today's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, on a violent 1970s demonstration which nearly ended his career. News that the intellectual force behind the Red Army Faction may have been mentally damaged would have undermined the group's self-justification much sooner. Ms Roehl says it is astonishing that the findings were suppressed."
BOYS IN EYELINER 11/10/2002
3AM Californicator Kimberly Nichols needs black and white headshots of boys wearing eyeliner for an installation piece she's working on. Please send them here.
MY MISSUS MIMESIS 11/10/2002
English playwright Martin Crimp whose play, The Treatment is on at the Théâtre National de Chaillot (7 November-7 December) in Paris, was at the Sorbonne University yesterday. Crimp stated that he didn't belong to the infamous In-Yer-Face generation of Brit playwrights and explained that the sex and violence in his work has its roots in Elizabethan drama. He argued that the theatre was a "safe" outlet for violence to express itself (as long, presumably, as it remains confined to the stage). Although his latest play (Attempts On Her Life) is devoid of characters, Crimp hasn't done away with narrative which always finds a way of making a comeback in a dramatic context: "Theatre is a convention in which we share storytelling". He also described how he managed to write dialogue based on everyday discourse without making it sound trite by intensifying it through the use of devices such as interruption or repetition. (Photo: Martin Crimp, fourth from left. Professor Elisabeth Angel-Perez, author of the French translation of The Treatment (Le Traitement) is sitting on his left.)
THE URGE TO DESTROY 11/04/2002
3AM will soon bring you another excellent interview with film director Paul Tickell courtesy of Richard Marshall. The interview will be followed by an article by Tickell about his film adaptation of BS Johnson's novel Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry: "In the film Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry the eponymous hero, played by Nick Moran, graduates from petty vandalism and industrial sabotage to domestic and international terrorism. He'd dearly love to do to the London skyline what the bombers of September 11 did to New York's. His world-destructive streak derives not from political extremism but from his application of the laws of accountancy to his personal life -- not so much for financial gain but to avenge daily the slights and injuries visited upon him by those in authority. For every debit there must be a credit; and tit must always be for tat in the realm of one's personal accounts. The ruthlessness with which Malry sets about balancing the books in his own favour make the black arts of the book-keepers behind Enron and Worldcom look amateurish. . . . Pity that Johnson, who committed suicide aged 40 at the end of 1973, couldn't have been around a little longer because punks, those ragged-arsed misanthropists proposing anarchic carnival in the UK, might have appreciated his disaffected, bitter aesthetic. Just as punk pillaged and cut up the styles of the past, so Johnson must have seemed a bit of a throwback amongst the literary ladies and gents of the early '70s. He could come over more like a porky ageing teddy boy than a writer. But at least he would have been able to relate to the punk appropriation of drapes, drain-pipes and brothel-creepers. Underpinning the whole novel is a rage born of class. At every turn Malry comes up against the class-system and authority; but there comes the breaking-point where he stops suppurating with internal resentment and starts to make plans which the serial-killer anti-hero of Kind Hearts and Coronets in his one-man war against snobbery would have appreciated. Again, this aspect of Johnson's book is easily updated; in spite of all the mockney talk of classlessness and post-modernist murmurings about the End of History (supposedly because the potential for revolution putting paid to Capitialism has gone forever), we still live in an intensely class-ridden society and who's to say it can never ever be changed? Johnson's genius was to address all kinds of ideas with robust comedy, as much Carry On in vein as neo-Dickensian grotesque. The scenes in the sweet-factory, where Malry works after he's sacked as a bank clerk, nail a particular English kind of servility and deference which, with a popstar 'democratic' gloss, is still very much with us if the recent Jubilee celebrations are anything to go by. This time around though there isn't the consolation of punk street-philosophers -- all the more reason to adpat and update that splenetic allegory Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry…"
TRICK OR TREATMENT 11/04/2002
English playwright Martin Crimp's The Treatment, directed by Nathalie Richard, is on at the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris between 7 November and 7 December. You can book here. Another Crimp play (The Country) is about to be staged (in German for some strange reason) in Paris at the Théâtre National de La Colline (6-19 November). Martin Crimp will attend a conference on drama in the English-speaking world during the 20th century at the Sorbonne University on 9 November (amphithéâtre Cauchy, 17 rue de la Sorbonne). The conference is organised by Elisabeth Angel-Perez whose translation of Crimp's play The Treatment (Le Traitement) was recently published by L'Arche. You'll be able to check out if Crimp (pictured) got a haircut. We'll keep you posted.
AMERICAN MOD 11/04/2002
I remember feeling like I'd entered the Twilight Zone when I met an American mod in New York back in 1981. Not only was he two years late for the mod "renewal" of 79 (or fourteen for the original movement), but this was New York, for Christ's sake! Wearing a parka under the suffocating July sun while the hardcore scene was exploding all around you just didn't seem right, somehow. Mod was quintessentially English (southern English), so I was surprised to learn that there is a thriving mod scene in New York today. American Mod by British-born Kolton Lee will soon be hitting a cinema near you: "American Mod is an independent short film profiling the Modernist (or Mod) subculture happening in-the-now in New York City. . . ."
DEAR DIARY 11/04/2002
If you're in Paris, don't miss Arundhati Roy (see picture) at the Sorbonne on 4 December (amphitheatre Guizot, 7pm). 3AM columnist Lionel Rolfe, author of Literary L.A. will appear at a Charles Bukowski evening with San Pedro poets Fred Voss and Joan Jobe Smith, Julia Stein and literary curator John Ahouse at Williams Book Store on 7 November at 5pm. The store, at 443 W. Sixth St. in San Pedro, was Bukowski's favorite bookstore. Voss and Smith were close to Bukowski, and Smith published much of Bukowski's first work. A new Paris-based biannual poetry magazine called Van Gogh's Ear will be launched at WH Smith on 5 November at 7.30pm ( 248, rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris, nearest metro station: Concorde). There will be readings by the following poets: Albert Flynn DeSilver, Ethan Gilsdorf, Lynne Hjelmgaar, Amy Holman, Alice Notley, Susan Schultz, Charles Shively, Rod Smith, Roberta Vellvé and Chocolate Waters. The special first (double) issue of Van Gogh's Ear features 200 pages of work from 81 poets representing the evolution of Beat poetry into a cutting-edge future. Contributors include Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Alice Notley, Tom Clark, Anne Waldman, Allen Ginsberg, Eileen Myles, Ian Ayres, Diane di Prima, Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, Leslie Scalapino, Kari Edwards, Susan Howe, John Wieners, Jean Valentine, Ted Berrigan, Mary Burger, Peter Orlovsky, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Andrei Codrescu, Frank O'Hara and others. The launch price is $13.00 per copy (includes handling & postage). Make checks (in U.S. dollars) out to:
COP-Van Gogh's Ear.
Send to: Committee on Poetry,
PO Box 582, Stuyvesant Station, New York, NY 10009, USA.
Another Paris-based literary magazine, Upstairs at Duroc is organising a reading on 12 November at The Wild Geese (140 Boulevard Richard Lenoir 75011 Paris, 8pm) with Ethan Gilsdorf, Jennifer Dick, Mary Ellen Gallagher, Michelle Noteboom, Lisa Pasold and Todd Swift. After two years online, the arts & literature magazine NowCulture.com has launched its first print issue (another biannual). You can order it here. The third issue of Paris-based Kilometer Zero Magazine is hot off the presses. They haven't sent us a review copy (yet?) but we're told it's "quite a beautiful thing". It includes Noam Chomsky (who will soon appear in 3AM), Dennis Cooper, Scout Niblett, an inside exposé on eastern European Internet porn and "the two very special Kilometer Zero projects, Evolution and Robin Hood". The International Necronautical Society has called "a public hearing in preparation for its planned radio transmission project. A range of practitioners and theorists with special knowledge and expertise in the fields of sound, wireless electronic communication, cryptography and broadcasting will be examined by a delegation of the INS First Committee." It will take place at CUBITT, 8 Angel Mews, London N1 9HH on 16 November at 3pm (admission is free).
The Antagonist Movement is holding a Zine Fest and Convention in New York on 17 November at Black & White: 86 E. 10th st (3rd ave/4th Ave). Readings start at 8pm. Sign-ups at 7pm. This event is open to all fanzines. Go along, read 5 minutes of "your best stuff" and flog your rag. There's also another interesting event -- Shocking Shorts -- on November 10 at the Library Bar, 7 ave A (2nd st/Houston) (8pm): "Come see the best shocking shorts the East Village has to offer. Be stunned and amazed!" (admission is free). The Antagonist Movement holds a weekly party called Ignite at the Tiki Bar (downstairs at Niagara, 7th & A). Looks kinda fun. Before you go, read the movement's manifesto here.
3AM TOP 5 11/04/2002
3AM Editor in Chief Andrew Gallix is currently listening to:
- "Dance To the Underground" -- Radio 4, Gotham (2002)
- "Liverpool" -- Eva Braun, Everest (2002)
- "Feeling Called Love" -- Wire, Pink Flag (1977)
- "Outtathaway" -- The Vines, Highly Evolved (2002)
- "Back In a Void Again" -- Subway Sect, Sansend (2002)
CRAZED GYMNASTS & ABSURDIST WRITERS 10/30/2002
Andrei Codrescu will be part of a new Frontline/World special airing tonight on PBS. His segment of the program is called Romania: My Old Haunts. (Pic by Andrea Garland.)
A SCARY WEIRDO FOR HALLOWEEN 10/28/2002
Stachey Richter reviews Essential Acker: The Selected Writings of Kathy Acker in Nerve.com: "At some hazy moment in the late '80s, someone handed me a copy of Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School, and my ideas about literature have never been the same. This was the strangest, most frenetic novel I'd ever read, full of diagrams of dreamscapes and crude line drawings of genitals (one was captioned 'MY CUNT RED UGH,' and, underneath a pair of testicles, 'YOU ARE THE BLACK ANNOUNCERS OF MY DEATH'). I was entranced. Later, I became obsessed, and I harbored the conviction that Acker had written the book while loaded on crystal meth. I got this idea from the hyperactive decay of form in the book -- a punky fable which shifts from dramatic dialogue to a travel diary to a Persian grammar. . . . I was a fan, or at least I wanted to be. But at some point Acker's work began to put me to sleep, literally. I remember standing in line somewhere in the crisp '90s, holding a copy of her novel Empire of the Senseless, struggling to keep my eyes open. There was no crystal meth in this book, no characters, really -- just soporific repetition and language drained of its power. . . .
. . . Acker's progression from a promising, intriguing young writer to an obdurate, impenetrable one is mapped out in the new anthology Essential Acker: The Selected Writings of Kathy Acker, a sampling from each of her books and chapbooks published between 1978 and 1996 (she died in 1997). The anthology is edited by Amy Scholder and Dennis Cooper, and it's a comprehensive introduction to a writer who in her day was considered a punk, a deconstructionist, a transgressive feminist and a scary weirdo. Scholder and Cooper have picked the most lucid and representative portions from Acker's writings, which have a choppy, cut-and-paste style that suffers little from being excerpted. The consistent thread that runs through all these pieces is Acker's vivid, importunate voice, love-starved and desperate. Everyone in her books is always on the edge of a total needy mental breakdown. Toulouse Lautrec (incarnate as a female dwarf hunchback), speaks for many of Acker's characters when she says, 'All I think about is sex. At night, nights, I lie alone in my bed: I see the right leg of every sexy man I've seen on the street, the folds of cloth over and around the ooo ooo . . . I ache and I ache and I ache. I feel a big huge hole inside my body. I see a man I like about to stick his cock in my hot pussy.' This is the voice that distinguishes Kathy Acker, and this is the voice that's such an amazement and a drag. It's an amazement because she wrote like no one else in the late '70s, with humor, naked sexual longing and the distilled contempt of a teenage outcast. . . . Acker's later works are a sludge of ideas brought to the page without the benefit of characters or plots or whatever other bourgeois candy coating a lifetime of reading non-experimental fiction has led us to expect. . . . While slogging through the second half of Essential Acker, I began to get the feeling that the author had even stopped trying. She writes: 'I must give people art that demands very little attention and takes almost nothing for me to do.' . . . She granted herself the freedom of an artist, the freedom to play around with words to see what could happen. And occasionally, wonderful things happened. But most of the time, they didn't."
TAKING A PROPER GANDER AT THE PROPAGANDA 10/28/2002
Literary boot boy Stewart Home (see picture) reviews Martin Amis's Koba The Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million in Metamute: "Martin Amis is a man in trouble. He gets big advances for his books, but in the UK he is overshadowed by the popularity of younger writers such as Irvine Welsh. Amis is thus under pressure to maximise his media profile as a means of moving product. Hardly surprising then that Amis should frame his absurdly late denunciation of Stalin as a snub to his 'friend' Christopher Hitchens; public spats being peculiarly popular with UK newspapers. As a publicity stunt this manoeuvre worked well enough, generating widespread coverage in the press; but the book has been ridiculed by historians. The manufactured row with Hitchens serves both to illuminate and obscure the curious phenomenon of celebrities existing as a reification of what it is to be human. Koba The Dread tells us far more about Amis than it does about Stalin. Koba is not a revisionist history; it consists of fragments of cold war propaganda strung together by a gibbering idiot. . . . Amis speaks with a corpse in his mouth, and so inevitably the dead become ballast for his depleted prose. It is impossible to list all the things Amis gets wrong, although a scan through the more objective reviews will give an inkling of the book's inaccuracies. . . . While Koba The Dread has received some extremely hostile reviews, I've not seen any that question the absurd beliefs Amis holds about his talents as a writer, and this is strange given the slack way in which he uses words. Hitchens, like many others, is full of praise for Amis as both a stylist and a fiction writer. That Amis is ambitious cannot be doubted, but because he fails to accomplish what he sets out to achieve, he is also very literally pretentious. Amis has no ear for rhythm, and his prose hobbles along because he overloads it with unnecessary qualifications; and this is a flaw that can be found in his fiction, as well as in his miserable attempts to write history. . . ."
LE GONCOURT NOUVEAU EST ARRIVE! 10/28/2002
France's top literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, has been awarded to Pascal Quignard for Les Ombres errantes (The Wandering Shadows). You can read the first chapter (in French) here.
SEX KITTENS 10/28/2002
You like The Vines? You like kittens? You'll love these kittens' rendition of The Vines' "Outtathaway"!
YOU SHALL KNOW OUR FEROCITY 10/28/2002
William Leitch reviews Dave Eggers' new novel in Flak Magazine: "Dave Eggers' writing is intoxicating. It flies across the page, stopping to dance around a bit, not annoyingly so, just enough to put that extra pep in your step, from here to here, no, over there, back to here, where were we, off we go. There is something pure about the way Eggers writes; it all just kind of pours into you in a seemingly slapdash, breezy way that is anything but. After reading Dave Eggers' unmistakable voice for 300 pages, it's difficult to avoid subconsciously cribbing his style, talking in italics, parenthetical asides (no!), and spliced internal monologues. . . . It is strange that Eggers is considered by many to be an 'ironic' writer, for nothing could be further from the truth. Eggers' work is unabashedly sincere, hopeful and earnest. His heart is clearly in every word. . . . You cannot say Eggers doesn't know his own strength. Eggers' go go go style is perfectly suited to his new book, You Shall Know Our Velocity, self-published by Eggers' own McSweeney's Books, about a man who cannot stop moving. (The book's gorgeous design emphasizes this; text begins on the front cover, spills immediately onto the pasted-in inside page and doesn't stop until the inside back cover, where the acknowledgments replace the typical author bio.) The plot is simple, like a dark, neurotic Crosby and Hope road movie. Two twentysomething Midwesterners, Will (the narrator) and Hand, still reeling from the tragic death of their best friend Jack, travel across the world, non-stop, hopping from country to country in the course of a week, in order to give away a large amount of cash Will unwittingly stumbled across. The goal, according to Will: 'Now I would get rid of it, or most of it, and believed purging would provide clarity, and that doing this in a quick global flurry would make it - I actually don't know why.' . . . Eggers has taken his share of criticism since the publication of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, but it's difficult to understand why. He has started his own publishing company, supported underground writers, given generously to numerous charities, and, most vital, hasn't lost that fire, that desire to see the world and try to make sense of how to live. Velocity won't be the sudden, searing jolt to the public consciousness that Staggering Genius was, but its focus, compassion and spirit certainly reveal it as something better: his best work."
OF BITTEN EARLOBES 10/28/2002
I recently happened upon a great little site called Licensed To Cool, devoted to The Nips (originally called The Nipple Erectors), Shane MacGowan's first band. Shane first shot to infamy when a girl bit his earlobe off at an early Clash gig in 1976. He went on to form The Pogues and wrote some of the best lyrics in pop history. You can download the intro to Don Letts' Punk Rock Movie film (which shows Shane pogoing down the Roxy Club) as well as quite a few Nips MP3s. The fanzine Shane produced in December 76 (Bondage) is even reproduced. Extraordinary stuff. (Photo: a very young Shane with copies of his fanzine, 1976.)