Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2002, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
BOB'S YOUR UNCLE 09/29/2002
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Look out for a flash fiction piece by Bob Thurber in 3A.M. very soon. Bob is a contributing editor at Linnaean Street. His essays, poems and fictions have appeared in a number of print and online publications including Taint Magazine, The Paumanok Review, Conversely Magazine, The Phone Book and Tatlin's Tower. Recently, his short fiction "A Proper Investigation" won First Prize in FlashQuake's Spring 2002 issue, and he was a finalist for Glimmer Train's Very Short Fiction Award.
QUOTE OF THE DAY 09/29/2002
From The Libertines' excellent debut "What a Waster":
"What a divvy, what a fucking div
Talking like a moron, walking like a spiv."
Salman Rushdie comes to Michel Houellebecq's rescue in The Guardian: "I have been trying not to write about Michel Houellebecq, if only because, these days, just about every writer who comes into conflict with the thin-skinned guardians of Islamic sanctities is forced to wear the 'new Rushdie' cap. . . . Now, however, Houellebecq has been brought to court in France by four Muslim bodies -- the largest mosques in Paris and Lyon, the National Federation of French Muslims and the World Islamic League -- accused of 'making a racial insult' and of 'inciting religious hatred'. The gravity of this suit against a multi-award-winning writer widely acknowledged as one of Europe's finest, if least comfortable, newer talents, obliges all good men, as the saying goes, to come to the aid of the party. Or so you'd think. And indeed, several French intellectuals and publishers have defended Houellebecq. But many others have signally failed to do so. The prestigious Human Rights League has accused him of Islamophobia and sided with his accusers; leftist French writers, we are told, consider him too vulgar to be worth standing up for; even his own publisher Flammarion has distanced itself from him. Meanwhile, in a parallel trial by media, he has been accused of being a self-publicist and a poseur. He lives in a remote part of Ireland and plainly prefers a reclusive life, but, according to the press, he is only doing this for tax reasons. In short, he has been painted as some sort of opportunistic weirdo. His high literary reputation and huge popularity in France notwithstanding, this attack, and not the Islamic one, is likely to do him real, long-term damage. . . . Houellebecq's novel Platform has also been cited in the case. In the novel, the central character, also called Michel, learns that his father has been murdered by a Muslim man and, through the course of the book, makes a number of harsh and derogatory remarks about Muslims. It has been suggested that in these diatribes the author is getting even for difficulties in his private life. Michel Houellebecq's real name is Michel Thomas. He took his grandmother's surname after his mother married a Muslim and converted to Islam. In our personality-cultist age, in which a writer's biography is firmly believed to hold the key to the meaning of his novels, in which the fictionality of fiction is routinely called into question and novels are thought of as real life in disguise, this detail of Houellebecq's life will prompt, has prompted, many a loud 'ah-ha!' But, and again but. Anyone who cares about literature should, when such ah-has are heard, at once defend the autonomy of the literary text, its right to be considered on its own terms, as if the author were as anonymous as, well, the authors of the sacred texts. And within a literary text, it must be possible to create characters of every sort. If novelists can't depict Nazis or bigots without being accused of being Nazis or bigots, then they can't do their work properly. . . ."
VIDEO KILLED THE LITERARY STAR 09/28/2002
The bestselling author of The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen, argues that serious literature is on the way out: ". . . When I got out of college, in 1981, I hadn't heard the news about the social novel's death. I didn't know that Philip Roth had long ago performed the autopsy, describing 'American reality' as a thing that 'stupefies ... sickens ... infuriates, and finally ... is even a kind of embarrassment to one's own meagre imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents ...' I was in love with literature and with a woman to whom I'd been attracted in part because she was a brilliant reader. I had lots of models for the kind of uncompromising novel I wanted to write. I even had a model for an uncompromising novel that had found a big audience: Catch-22. Joseph Heller had figured out a way of outdoing the actuality, employing the illogic of modern warfare as a metaphor for the more general denaturing of American reality. That no challenging novel since Catch-22 had affected the culture anywhere near as deeply, just as no issue since the Vietnam War had galvanised so many alienated young Americans, was easily overlooked. . . . It wasn't until The Twenty-Seventh City was published, in 1988, that I discovered how innocent I still was. The media's obsessive interest in my youthfulness surprised me. So did the money. Boosted by the optimism of publishers who imagined that an essentially dark, contrarian entertainment might somehow sell a zillion copies, I made enough to fund the writing of my next book. But the biggest surprise -- the true measure of how little I'd heeded my own warning in The Twenty-Seventh City -- was the failure of my culturally engaged novel to engage with the culture. I'd intended to provoke; what I got instead was 60 reviews in a vacuum.
. . . The ambitious young fiction writer can't help noting that, in a recent USA Today survey of 24 hours in the life of American culture, there were 21 references to television, eight to film, seven to popular music, four to radio, and one to fiction (The Bridges of Madison County). The only mainstream American household I know well is the one I grew up in, and I can report that my father, who was not a reader, nevertheless had some acquaintance with James Baldwin and John Cheever, because Time magazine put them on its cover and Time, for my father, was the ultimate cultural authority. In the last decade, the magazine whose red border twice enclosed the face of James Joyce, has devoted covers to Scott Turow and Stephen King. These are honourable writers; but no one doubts it was the size of their contracts that won them covers. The dollar is now the yardstick of cultural authority, and an organ like Time, which not long ago aspired to shape the national taste, now serves mainly to reflect it.
. . . The American writer today faces a cultural totalitarianism analogous to the political totalitarianism with which two generations of eastern-bloc writers had to contend. To ignore it is to court nostalgia. To engage with it, however, is to risk writing fiction that makes the same point over and over: technological consumerism is an infernal machine, technological consumerism is an infernal machine. . . . Even harder to admit is depression. It's not just that depression has become fashionable to the point of banality. The invitation to leave your depression behind, whether through medication or therapy or effort of will, seems like an invitation to turn your back on all your dark insights into the corruption and infantilism and self-delusion of the brave new McWorld. And these insights are the sole legacy of the social novelist who desires to represent the world not simply in its detail but in its essence, to shine light on the morally blind eye of the virtual whirlwind, and who believes that human beings deserve better than the future of attractively priced electronic panderings that is even now being conspired for them. Instead of saying I am depressed, you want to say I am right! As you increasingly feel, as a novelist, that you are one of the last remaining repositories of depressive realism and of the radical critique of the therapeutic society that it represents, the burden of news-bringing that is placed on your art becomes overwhelming. You ask yourself, why am I bothering to write these books? . . ."
GARDENING HO 09/28/2002
Check out Susannah Breslin's The Reverse Cowgirl's Blog "wherein the writer attempts to justify the enormity of her porn collection". Susannah's latest instalment of Fetish Alphabet will soon appear in 3A.M..
NILS R.I.P. 09/28/2002
Sad news: Nils Stevenson -- most famous for having been Siouxsie and the Banshees' manager -- has passed away. Here's an extract from his bio: "I fell in love with youth culture when I saw a Teddy Boy in the late fifties. Although I was little more than a baby, I vividly remember being drawn to the only colorful looking character in an otherwise sea of gray in East London's, Petticoat Lane Market. It was as if I instinctively knew that he would provide the only way out of a dull, staid existence. As soon as I was able, I threw myself into each successive youth cult beginning with Rockers at the tender age of ten. . . . After a trip to America in 1974 I opened a stall in Beaufort Market, Kings Road, Chelsea, where I sold the clothes that had turned me on in my youth: leather jackets, drainpipes, pegs, winkle pickers and drapes. Striking up a friendship with Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, whose SEX shop was a stone's throw from my premises, changed everything. Exciting relationships rapidly developed and I found myself at the centre of a scene. I started tour managing the Sex Pistols and strategizing and designing their early graphics with Helen Wellington Lloyd. A year later I was managing Siouxsie and the Banshees who gave birth to the whole 'Goth' movement as well as being among the first groups to develop the pop promo video. . . ."
SEXY PISSERS 09/28/2002
There are some great pics from the Sex Pistols' reunion gig at Crystal Palace in July on the band's website.
NORTHERN SOUL 09/28/2002
Great English publishing house from oop Norf, Route, have just published JR Endeacott's novella, One Northern Soul. JR Endeacott, Tom Palmer and Dave Gill -- aka the Leeds United Football Club Writers (LUFC Writers) -- will be touring Yorkshire in November.
THE MISSING LINKS 09/28/2002
Kathryn Hughes reviews Michel Faber's new novel in The Guardian. The Guardian is serialising part of Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White. Joan Littlewood's obituary on the BBC's website. There's also an article about the play Joan Littlewood finished just before she died: it's called The Songbirds, and is an adaptation of a novel by Georges Courteline: "'You don't expect a French froufrou turn-of-the-century play from her, but she did like things that were froufrou. She had interests people didn't expect.'" Dragisa Blanusa writes about "Milosevic in Prison" in Granta. London's top evening paper, The Evening Standard has just revamped its website.
SCARY DUCK 09/26/2002
The Guardian has just announced the winner in its Best British Blog competition: "And the winner is... a duck. A Scary Duck to be precise: Alistair Coleman's witty, irreverent blog has beaten 300 rivals to take the title of Best British Blog 2002 and claim the prize of £1,000. His blog features intelligent, confessional and entertaining rambles on everything from September 11, nuclear war and football hooliganism to the latest antics of a local dolphin nicknamed Randy. It impressed the judges with its originality and personality: one described it as: 'magnificent -- well-written, focused and insightful'. Another said: 'The best writer of the bunch, the content is excellent'. . . ."
3A.M. TOP 10 09/26/2002
The best Balkan beat band -- Eva Braun -- are relasing a new album entitled Everest after a four-year break. Yugoslavia's finest are currently listening to:
- "Penny Lane" -- The Beatles
- "Wouldn't It Be Nice" -- The Beach Boys
- "Be My Baby" -- The Ronettes
- "Walk On By" -- Dionne Warwick
- "Waterloo Sunset" -- The Kinks
- "I Can See For Miles" -- The Who
- "Time of the Season" -- The Zombies
- "America" -- Simon & Garfunkel
- "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" -- The Jam
- "Live Forever" -- Oasis
- (Bonus track) "Sick Day" -- Fountains of Wayne
POMPOUS ARSEHOLES 09/25/2002
The Man Booker Prize shortlist has been published. Fiachra Gibbon writes in The Guardian: "The judges of the Booker prize yesterday passed a fatwa on 'pompous, portentous and pretentious fiction' -- in short, the type of weighty tomes that many say have been winning the prize for the past 33 years. In a radical departure from convention -- 'the beginning of a new era', according to their chairwoman, Lisa Jardine -- they vowed to cast their net wider to more plebeian literary forms, and even into the lower depths of genre and 'popular fiction'. The comedian and sometime novelist David Baddiel was the most outspoken critic of the old order, denouncing the tide of 'vulgarly obvious' heavyweight doorstoppers that the judges had been deluged with by publishers. 'There were far too many books with an obvious gravitas -- heavyweight books that are written with the clear agenda of 'this is going to win a major prize'. It's like a formula. They attempt to grab big themes, and have a vulgar obvious seriousness, yes, even a kind of pompous pretentiousness about them.' And, in what was almost a communal cry for mercy, the judges appealed to publishers, who can submit two books a year from each imprint, to send them some funny books for a change. . . . For all their revolutionary rhetoric, their shortlist of six struggled to shake off the old Booker formula: a few old reliables (William Trevor and Carol Shields), a dash of exoticism (Rohinton Mistry and the lesbian eroticism of Sarah Waters), and a purgative dose of gritty realism (Tim Winton). As it happens, the most notable absentee -- Zadie Smith -- was female, and encumbered with the added handicaps of having written a funny and popular book. Ms Jardine said it was not that The Autograph Man and Zadie Smith had failed: 'It is that others have triumphed.' . . ." See the BBC's report. (Photo: William Trevor.)
ELEVEN BULLS EXHIBITION 09/25/2002
The September issue of Eleven Bulls has gone online and it's one of the best so far. On Saturday September 28, Eleven Bulls -- in conjunction with Washington-based Decatur Blue gallery -- bring you the NYCinDC exhibition. Decatur Blue: 2329 Champlain St. NW, Second floor, Washington, DC 20009 Adams Morgan parallel to 18th St between Euclid and Kalorama (8am-midnight).
THE PATRIARCHAL BLESSING OF RICH BASTARDS 09/25/2002
The mighty Tom Bradley's 3A.M. conference paper -- No Baudelaires in Babylon -- appears in Jack Magazine: ". . . Thanks to e-lit, our own universe-upending revolution, the center of literary power has shifted, suddenly, and for only the second time in history. To the extent that it's humanly possible, moneyed types have become irrelevant. As Barney Rosset, editor of the . . . Evergreen Review, has said, 'For once the technology is in the hands of the relatively impoverished.' The web has made it possible for a writer to develop a more or less gigantic international following without the patriarchal blessing of rich bastards. With our submissions pasted into the bodies of email messages and our virtual galley proofs, we are not forced to make the Manichean compromise of getting into bed with manipulators of matter and movers of merchandise. Hence the existence, no doubt eventually fatal, of a powerful cadre of internet haters. To play Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, to hold the keys to the only form of immortality available in a godless age: is there any prouder accomplishment for an untalented person of the merchant caste? And do you think they are going to sit back and let those keys be wrested from their pinching little claws by a bunch of literary lumpen-proles like us, who don't even use paper when we move our mental bowels? They're closing ranks now. Have you noticed how many books coming out of New York these days are dedicated not to the long-suffering spouses and children of the authors, but to their agents and editors? . . . The whole web edifice, too good to be true in the first place, will collapse under the weight of Bill Gates' sociopathic greed. But what can you expect from a guy who named his company after his dick?
Will the destruction of the net destroy us as writers? Any medium is ephemeral. The twin towers of papyrus and parchment, those prideful pinnacles, were brought down by Arabs, who acted as deliverymen for the Chinese invention of paper, which itself, in turn, is a house of cards, a Babylonian skyscraper, tumbling even now before our electronic one-two punch. And we web writers are just waiting our turn. We are not even as secure as Keats. His name was at least written on water, which is a tangible substance--more than can be said for our directed drifts of electrons. Words written on water don't depend for their existence on an elaborate and vulnerable infrastructure of fiber-optic lines and telecommunications satellites and nuclear power plants and so forth.
. . . Proverbially, 'the net has changed everything'. What has it changed? Nothing, for the writer. Nothing of importance, at any rate. He's still alone, like Juvenal, with nobody to converse and contend with but himself and his worthier forbears: Kenneth Rexroth, Keats, Kit Marlowe and the rest. It doesn't matter if a king or a merchant or nobody at all is breathing over his shoulder. Whenever and wherever the writing is going well, nobody exists but the person doing it. And when a story or poem is well written, it has a way of surviving.
. . . We are all Juvenals, and the web is our Bum-Fuck Egypt. The web's our Patmos, and we share it with the ranting epileptoid Sons o' Thunder of our time, our beloved fellow deportees, who dare to write the truth about, for example, America's Reichstag fire last September. We're saints producing and propagating the apocalypses of the day, but also the good news of the future. We're Baudelaires kicked, safely and gratefully, out of Babylon." Majestic! (Photo: Tom Bradley at the Sorbonne conference, May 2002.)
WHACKING ONE WHILE THINKING OF GOLF 09/25/2002
For some strange reason Steven Wells has published an article on the Ryder Cup in The Guardian: ". . . 'Golf', as Oscar Wilde so wittily put it, 'is the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible'. No, hang on. That's not right. It was Peter Ustinov. Anyway, the point the avuncular raconteur was making is that golf -- more than any other sport -- sucks, mings, pongs and like todally blows fascist chunks. There's the anti-semitism and the racism, the Blimpish misogyny and the spirit-withering conservatism. There's the bizarre fact that it draws a TV audience of millions despite being totally unwatchable (white ball, white sky -- hello?). And the appalling fact that every year literally millions of cute little monkeys, tiger cubs and darling baby alligators are ruthlessly bulldozed into a bloody endangered-species puree just to make way for yet more fricking golf courses. But mostly it's the clothes. Tennis has Serena Williams in that Jessica Rabbit-tight Lycra cat-suit. Football has the superbly muscled thighs of Nuno Gomes. And golf has Tiger Woods. Who is almost certainly a hunk. But who dresses like Andy Williams. Because he has to. Because them's the rules. . . . PJ O'Rourke once dismissed claims that he was a 'nazi' by correctly pointing out that nobody has ever fantasised about being tied up and shagged brainless by a Guardian reader. And it is equally true that while lesbians and heterosexual men have Anna Kournikova, and gay porn is awash with images of half-naked soccer bods and coyly pouting gridiron steroid-jockeys, nobody, of either sex or any sexuality, has ever whacked one off while thinking about golf. . . . Or so I thought. In fact so secure was I in my smug, blinkered, liberal golfophobia, that I once pointed out to a golf-crazed leftie that golf must suck because George Bush senior plays it. And Che Guevara never did. Within 24 hours I had been e-mailed a photo. Of Che and Fidel dressed in dead cool camo clobber. On the golf course. Smoking huge cigars almost certainly made from tobacco leaves rolled on the sweaty thighs of sultry socialist virgins -- and playing golf. . . ." I recently found a very interesting article Steven Wells wrote in 1987 (published in the NME) on why the anarcho-punk movement was dying on its feet.
THE MISSING LINKS 09/25/2002
The squirrel who goes weeeeeee. Go here for an extract from Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man. Michael wood writes about the importance of fools in Dostoyevsky: "'The mind is a scoundrel,' Dostoevsky wrote in his notes for The Brothers Karamazov, 'but stupidity is straight and honest.' This wasn't what he himself thought, or rather, it was only one of the things he thought." I used to be a big fan of punk band Penetration, so I was delighted to find this great website the other day. Paola Carbone and Susana Pajares Tosca review 3A.M.'s conference on literature & the Internet. Tom Bradley's brilliant conference paper, "No Baudelaires in Babylon", is cheekily published by Jack Magazine (the American litzine not the new British glossy). If -- like me -- you feel oddly attracted to abandoned underground stations go here. Damon Leigh analyses the romance of the BBC's shipping forecast in Flak Magazine. Interesting interview with Yugoslav DJ collective Belgradeyard Sound System, and while you're at it, check out Wahwah, an excellent Serbian music zine. Alex from Blur is publishing his own personal weblog on the band's website. Neal Pollack's weblog is always worth a look in too.
THE PICTURE OF WILL SELF 09/23/2002
There's a review of Will Self's new novel, Dorian, in Bookmunch: ". . . With Dorian, Will Self has finally made good on the promise shown by his debut novel, My Idea of Fun, a promise that was looking -- in the wake of Great Apes (which was a good idea that lost its way) and How the Dead Live (a perfectly adequate short story stretched over a distance that could only ever allow for damage) -- to be precisely that: a promise of future greatness forever forestalled. No. With Dorian, Will Self has made good. And yet, on the surface at least, it is just one more good idea. A twentieth century reinterpretation . . . of Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray. The most shocking book of the 1890s brought slap bang up to date with a dash of gay pride, AIDs and video installation. . . . Prior to our arrival, Dorian has been filmed, nine images of him in various stages of undress now form part of Basil's latest creation, a video installation called Cathode Narcissus. The creation is bestowed upon Dorian and . . . well, it isn't long before Dorian notices that the images he was initially jealous of (this Dorian is an hour younger than me, this Dorian is a month younger than me) appear to be taking on board whatever dissolution Dorian is privvy to. Duly freed from the weight of social responsibility, Dorian takes it upon himself to be . . . well, everything you would expect a dissolute member of the upper classes to be. Relatively early on in proceedings, Basil and Henry become infected with AIDS (at a vernissage thrown by Dorian, a vernissage in which Dorian does everything they do -- inject drugs, fornicate -- whilst remaining free from contamination) -- and, as such, the novel charts their steady decline -- a decline all the more vicious for its failure to be reflected in the lifestyle of young Dorian. . . ."
Murrough O'Brien writes in The Independent: ". . . Despite the louring shadow of Martin Amis over all, Self is not easy to quote. He goes off on long, skippable riffs which make the reader feel like a traveller subjected to a tour guide's digressions on her family life. The attempts at Wildean paradox reveal only that Wilde had a style, not just a formula. And in any case, the post-modern archness that infuses the whole can't fail to make one recall the tale of killing the golden goose. But it works. . . ."
LITERARY WEBLOGS 09/23/2002
Another interesting weblog I discovered recently is The Literary Saloon produced by The Complete Review. You can check out their article on Literary blogs which they divide into three categories: the "best", those that are "worthwhile" and the rest. Buzzwords makes into the "worthwhile" section. This is what they write: "Part of the excellent 3A.M. Magazine site. Provides links to reviews and literary information, generally of more out of the mainstream literature and culture, with fairly extensive commentary. Some self-promotion too. Blog is updated anywhere from several times daily to only a few times a week. Biggest drawback: can't be reached by a single link, as a new page (with a new URL) is opened every month. But certainly worthwhile." Self-promotion? Us? Never!
GUTENBERG GUTTED 09/22/2002
Lawrence Donegan reports, in The Observer, on the publishing revolution sparked off by Dave Eggers: "Dave Eggers, author of the bestselling A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, has a new novel published in America this weekend -- but there will no point in fans rushing to a major bookstore to buy a copy. In what has been described as either courageous entrepreneurship or vainglorious folly, Eggers has eschewed the normal publishing route taken by writers of his stature -- and the seven-figure advance that comes with it -- and issued the novel himself. You Shall Know Our Velocity, which tells of two young Americans who travel the world trying to give away money, is only available at independent bookshops across the US and from McSweeney's, the New York-based magazine and website founded by the writer. The book industry's retail giants, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon.com, have been cut out of the action. Just 10,000 copies of the book, printed in Iceland and then shipped to a warehouse in Boston, are available at $20, around $10 less than the price charged by mainstream publishers for books by authors of Eggers's stature. . . . 'Eggers has accomplished a daring trifecta; it merges the long tradition of self-publishing (think Walt Whitman, Thomas Paine) with modern technology (sales over the internet), while sharing the spoils only with friends (the independent bookstores who were the earliest and most enthusiastic supporters of McSweeney's),' the Wall Street Journal declared last week. Eggers remains downbeat. 'It might work on this scale; it might not -- we really have no idea,' he said in a recent interview. 'I think that if you care about writing, then you care about how it makes its way into the world, and self-publishing is one good way to make sure it comes out the way you'd envisioned. But we'll see. It could all go horribly, horribly wrong.' That is the outcome desired by some members of the mainstream publishing industry who have long considered Eggers to be a troublesome maverick and who see his latest venture as a quixotic attempt to undermine their dominance of the book world. Others see the author's move as another signal that the publishing industry is undergoing a revolution. They include Jason Epstein, co-founder of the New York Review of Books. He says: 'He is not the first author to take the self-publishing route but he is probably the most well-known, and all power to him. Whether it will work, I don't know, but at least he is showing some life and passion and ingenuity. If it fails, he will always have the built-in hedge of going the more traditional way. Publishers would be eager to have his book.' . . . In the past 18 months, almost 40 self-published novels by authors who couldn't generate interest in their manuscripts first time round have subsequently been bought up by major publishing companies after selling significant numbers through mail order and over the internet. 'The self-publishing stigma has been replaced with high-figure advances and full-page ads in the New York Times Book Review,' says M.J. Rose, a columnist with Wired magazine and a self-published author. Another threat to publishing's behemoths comes from Epstein himself, who is a partner in a company developing what is effectively an 'ATM [cash machine] for books'. The machine, invented by a St Louis-based car engineer, Jeff March, is around the size of an office photocopier. It can take a digital file, print it and bind it into a paperback book within minutes. 'This means a reader anywhere in the world can go to the machine, type in the name of the book he wants, and have it in his hands. We already have a working prototype which produces 100 pages in three minutes at a cost of one cent per page,' Epstein says. Three Billion Books, the company formed by Epstein and colleagues, is already in negotiation with the World Bank to introduce the Print-on-Demand machine into the developing world, where it would help the dissemination of badly-needed text books. . . ." Here and over there, you'll find two recent interviews with Eggers.
12.40A.M.: BABY SETH 09/22/2002
We're proud to announce a new addition to the 3A.M. family: Baby Seth -- Jim (see picture) and Becky's third -- who finally resolved to join us on September 22 at 2.33am after a great deal of (perfectly understandable) procrastination. Congratulations to the parents and, Seth, we hope you have a great life! I wonder if this will still be online when you learn to read?
WHAT THE DICKENS?! 09/22/2002
3A.M. and Bookmunch bring you an interview with Michel Faber who is being described as "the new Dickens". Stephen Khan writes in The Observer that "Scotland is celebrating another rags-to-riches literary success story in the wake of JK Rowling with the publication of The Crimson Petal and the White, the adventures of a nineteenth-century prostitute as told by Michel Faber, a former pickle-packer currently eeking out an existence in a ramshackle railway cottage in the Highlands. The first-hand account of Sugar, who attempts to escape the gutters by sleeping her way up through the stratas of 1870 London society, has been rapturously received in America where hard-bitten reviewers have gushingly hailed it as the first great nineteenth-century novel of the twenty-first century -- and Faber as the man who 'dusts off Dickens'. Tomorrow's New York Times bestseller list will reveal that the novel has charted at number 14, a remarkable achievement considering the author is barely known outside literary circles. 'Don't wait for the movie,' Time magazine warned in its most recent issue, anticipating interest from Hollywood's finest. 'Read The Crimson Petal and the White now, while it's still a living, laughing, sweating, coruscating mass of gorgeous words.' . . . The New York Times called it 'a big, sexy, bravura novel that is destined to be surpassingly popular'. Next week the author's profile in that city will be boosted further when a full-page advert appears in the New Yorker, the first time a publisher has taken such a slot in the magazine. Similar success is expected when the 850-page book is published in Britain on 3 October, and Faber, 42, is reeling from the change in his fortunes. 'I started the book when I was 21 and finished the final rewrite last year,' he said from his converted railway station home in Tain in the far north of Scotland. 'At university, one of my areas of study was Victorian literature, so I decided to see if I could write a novel as carefully planned and constructed as those of George Eliot, but with the narrative energy of Dickens. I was a radical feminist, driven by many of the same things as Sugar -- adolescent alienation, solidarity with disenfranchised misfits on the fringes of society. The book was powered by rage. I spent years in libraries, reading The Illustrated London News for the year 1875, guides for governesses, and treatises on hysteria. I planned the architecture of the book for months. I sketched out what would happen in every scene. The original manuscript - which is stiff with white house paint because I couldn't afford Tippex -- is in a box at my feet under my writing desk,' said Faber, who has worked as a nurse, pickle-packer, cleaner, and guinea pig for medical research. . . ." Read the first part of Peter Wild's interview with Michel Faber here. Then move on to the second part.
Last Sunday, French cultural magazine Chronic'art organised a very interesting gig at La Cigale (in Paris) bringing together musicians and writers like Jonathan Coe, James Flint, Will Self and Bruce Benderson. Benderson (who performed with Toby Dammit, Iggy Pop's former drummer) told Libération about his forthcoming memoir set in Romania where he rediscovered the excitement of illicit homosexual liaisons. An extract from this work-in-progress ("Bucharest") will soon appear in 3A.M. Magazine.
The world premiere of Bertie Marshall's short film, Peehole, will tale place at the Horse Hospital in London on Thursday 26 September at 7.30pm: "A fourteen minute condensation of underground New York, Marshall's part documentary / part homage features and focuses upon notorious American cartoon artist Mike Diana. Arrested in his native Florida in the early 90s on obscenity charges for his comic zine Boiled Angel, Diana now lives in exile in New York, go-go dancing by night, having S & M sex with himself by day. Vivid, pornographic, listless and knowing, Marshall's film creates an evocative portrayal of both the artist and Manhattan by night -- a world where the creative processes are bound by Catholicism, pink baby doll nighties, and Marguerite Duras." The evening will feature a special spoken word performance by Bertie himself. For more info about the film, read Mr Marshall's latest column at 3A.M.. For more details about the film screening contact James B.L. Hollands on (020) 7833 3644. The Horse Hospital: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1HX.
2-4-6-8 MOTORWAY: THE M25, MOBILE PHONES & ECSTASY 09/19/2002
The latest book by Iain Sinclair -- London Orbital -- is published by Granta on 26 September. Iain Sinclair and Chris Petit will be at the Serpentine Gallery (in London) on 27 September for a screening of a road movie (also called London Orbital) which accompanies the publication of the book (it will be shown on Channel 4 later on this year).
Tim Adams writes in The Observer: "It is the pilgrimage for our times. In the millennial year, Iain Sinclair, satirical visionary, walked around the M25, Thatcher's motorway; London's noose. . . . Sinclair, who has the look, both curious and robust, of the independent publisher and book dealer he once was, is talking about how the ringroad seems to have acted like a perimeter fence, and all the capital's stories have been blown against it. 'You can't really believe this motorway was opened in 1986,' he suggests. 'It already feels like something from the Fifties. Even the picture of Margaret Thatcher snipping the ribbon looks antique. The first car to drive round it broke down after a minute, which set the tone...'
. . . You could begin to compare Sinclair's work to that of fashionable American geographers like Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz, or to the late W.G. Sebald's tortured mind maps of European forgetting. As we set off across the cleansing plant in search of the bankrupt riverside footpath to Grays, it is tempting, though, to see him in a more British tradition of observers. 'I suppose I think of it a bit like Cobbett's Rural Rides,' he suggests, 'or De Quincey's accounts of mad hikes to the Lake District, knocking on Wordsworth's door and making a bloody nuisance of himself. I love that kind of thing.' As in his previous anarchic London tours, Downriver and Lights Out for the Territory, the tone of London Orbital is more Three Men in a Boat than Austerlitz (if you can imagine Jerome K. Jerome fed on a diet of Don DeLillo and Beat poets and forgotten crime writers of the East End). Sinclair always takes with him an accidental crew of bright-eyed subversives -- savagely lampooned -- and for the M25 walk he had the company at different times of Bill Drummond, the man who once burned a million pounds; the filmmaker Chris Petit, (with whom Sinclair made a road movie); the critic and journalist Kevin Jackson (a man so busy, Sinclair observes, he reviews his own reviews); and a visionary artist and care-home manager called Renchi, with whom the author forms a singular double act.
. . . One of the things you recognise straightaway, he says, as soon as you get off road, is that change of consciousness. 'One hour driving may be the most dispiriting experience, but a day's walking the same distance is very energising. It is space to think.' To prove the point, as we pass the sliproad where the fuel blockade began, he talks and walks, kicking up influences and observations: he anatomises rave culture as a happy coincidence of three things -- the M25, mobile phones and ecstacy; he recalls Ford Madox Ford, who, in a 1909 pamphlet, 'The Future of London', produced a transport blueprint Ken Livingstone should study; he points out Rainham Marshes, saved from Disneyland development by a combination of Bill Oddie's twitchers' protest and its own poisonous toxicity. And all the time he asks rhetorical questions of the riverfront signage: Who are Inergi? What is Volpak? Integrated Solutions: to what?' . . . What, I wonder, would he do if he were put in charge of London transport? 'Shoot myself,' he says, smiling. . . ."
Great news: after a four-year break top Serbian indie band Eva Braun have released a new album entitled Everest: "Everest is Eva Braun's most complex album to date. Whilst marking a return to playing with the pop idioms that characterised their masterpiece Pop music (B92, 1995), in terms of style Everest is Eva Braun's most diverse album. More than any of its predecessors, the album encapsulates the entire musical experience that the band and its members lived through. Inflammatory rock songs, ethereal ballads, unpretentious pop vignettes, even a dash of reggae, harmoniously coexist on an album that sets new standards in arrangement and production on the local music scene. With this album, Eva Braun prove they are still unprecedented champions of an often neglected, but precious discipline -- impeccable guitar pop." Highly recommended.
FRIGHT CLUB 09/19/2002
You can read an extract from Chuck 'Fight Club' Palahniuk's Lullaby at nerve.com. There's also an interesting interview with the author: ". . . [T]here's not a whole lot of stuff on necrophilia. I did come across some new political activism -- necrophiliacs banding together and carrying these necrophiliac cards saying, "in the event of my death, please make my body available to my fellow necrophiliacs for sexual experimentation. . . . The most high-profile necrophiliac cases I came across were all women, including the really famous case in California a couple of years ago about a young woman who ran off with the body of a young, attractive man, which she was supposed to be taking to a funeral, and instead she took it up to the mountains in the hearse and slept with it for five days, I think. She eventually took an overdose of aspirin because she wanted to die with it. And she was eventually prosecuted. For female necrophiliacs it seems to be a safe way to have an intimate experience with a man. So in a way, it seemed to be just incredibly touching. . . ." Go to the author's official site here.
ENGLISH HEART 09/19/2002
You can download an MP3 of a new Morrissey song called "Irish Blood, English Heart" (performed live at Berkeley, California, on 14 September) off the Ambitious Outsiders website. Thanks to the near-legendary HP Tinker for the info!
ALL THE BEST PEOPLE ARE PERVERTS 09/19/2002
As some of you already know, 3A.M.'s George Berger (real name: Gerard) used to be the singer in an early 80s anarcho-punk band called Flowers in the Dustbin (of "All the Best People Are Perverts" fame). A retrospective compilation album entitled "It's Ok to be Ugly" will soon be released by United States indie label Honey Bear, and work has begun on a new Flowers in the Dustbin album which will be sold exclusively through the Internet. You can download the band's most recent demo -- a song called "South London" -- here.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER 09/19/2002
I've no idea if this is a spoof, but there's a website out there for guys into hardcore "animal fur suit sex" complete with photo galleries, video store, free tour and a members' section! If you're into blokes painted as animals go here.
THUS SPAKE NALDA 09/17/2002
The latest issue of The Barcelona Review contains an interview with Stuart David, co-founder of Belle and Sebastian, leader of Looper and author of two excellent novels, Nalda Said and The Peacock Manifesto: ". . . I don't feel that working in a band is time-consuming enough. There's always a huge amount of time spent doing nothing in a band -- hence all the drugs/alcohol to try and fill up the empty time. So I found I had all this empty time, and that it was damaging to the music to try and work on it more than you should, just to fill up the time. I don't really like alcohol or drugs, so I filled up the rest of the time writing books. . . . I've never met another writer. Never been to a literary lunch. . . ."
THE HOUELLEBECQ TRIAL 09/17/2002
Controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq was in court today. Gwladys Fouche writes in The Guardian: ". . . Four Muslim organisations are suing the bestselling writer of Platform and Atomised following last year's publication of an interview in the literary magazine Lire in which Houellebecq is alleged to have said that 'Islam is the stupidest religion' and that 'when one reads the Koran, one feels appalled. The Mosque of Paris, the Mosque of Lyons, the National Federation of French Muslims and the Islamic League are also suing Lire for publishing the interview. They are seeking damages of around 45,000 euros (nearly £28,800) from Houellebecq and Lire. . . . The Houellebecq case has sparked a debate across the Channel over the extent to which writers should be free to express their opinions, even if they may be unpalatable. The case goes to court at the same time as a child protection group is suing the publishers of two novels, Rose Bonbon and Il Entrera dans la Legende, which deal with paedophilia. . . . It is also rumoured, though never proven, that Platform was dropped from the shortlist of the Goncourt Prize, France's highest literary accolade, because of his declarations about Islam."
BREAKING WIND IN YOUR KITCHEN 09/15/2002
Everybody's on Top of the Pops, as the legendary Rezillos used to sing way back when in the good old days. The BBC offers us a potted history of TOTP to mark the programme's 2OOOth edition: ". . . Originally commissioned for just six episodes of live music in 1964, the show has just gone on and on -- witnessing some of the weird and wonderful moments from pop's history. The first show, in its original Wednesday night slot, opened with DJ Jimmy Savile introducing the Rolling Stones, whose single 'I Wanna Be Your Man' was sitting at number 13 in the charts. . . . Although TOTP has undergone numerous face-lifts in its 37-year history it has always featured the famous chart rundown, culminating in the number one single of the week. The big difference between then and now is that if an artist cannot appear on the show to showcase their latest release, the producers have the option of playing their video -- usually an expensive, glossy affair. But it was so different in the early days, before MTV made videos an essential for every act. To fill the gaps, they came up with the bright idea of using a troupe of dancing girls to act out an elaborate routine to the hit single. Although the Go-Jos were the first group of dancers, it was Pan's People, masterminded by Flick Colby, who captured the imaginations of girls who wanted to be like them and boys and men who were just 'appreciating the music'. Pan's People, who made their debut on the show in 1968 dancing to Tommy James And The Shondells' hit 'Mony Mony', stayed with the show for a decade. . . ."
What was your favourite TOTP moment? Mine was waiting for the Sex Pistols' 'Pretty Vacant' back in the summer of 1977. The Guardian's website staff give you theirs. Here you can read some of the performers' memories.
Kevin Rowland (Dexy's Midnight Runners): "We were on Top of the Pops for our first single, Dance Stance, in 1980, and since then we've been on 13 or 14 times. At that time, some musicians would look down on the programme - they'd rather be on The Old Grey Whistle Test -- but I'd grown up watching it and I loved it. . . . When we did a song called 'Jackie Wilson Said' in the early 80s, there was a big beer-swilling darts player around called Jocky Wilson. For a laugh, we told the producer to put a picture of Jocky Wilson up behind us. He said, 'But Kevin, people will think we made a mistake.' I told him only an idiot would think that. The morning after, the DJ Mike Read said: 'Bloody Top of the Pops. How could they mix up one of the great soul singers with a Scottish darts player?'
Bez (The Happy Mondays): "It's overrated, man. It looks like one big mega-party and really it's just a film studio. . . . We have had some good laughs, though. The best time was when The Roses and the Mondays played on the same show."
Alex James (Blur): "You're never too busy to do Top of the Pops, even though it's the only TV show that takes all day, and walking on to the studio, because of the way it's lit, is like walking on to the programme. It was great in the Elstree Studio days, when you had the cast of EastEnders and Grange Hill in the canteen and it was workaday showbiz heaven. . . . A good TOTP performance is almost as important as a good record, and they're crafty -- they used to stick us on with Oasis. I would never slag off Top of the Pops, mainly because I want to do it again. Mind you, there was a time in the mid-90s when everyone was drunk, and last time I went on, it was filled with very young people, with minders, who weren't allowed near the bar. That was a shame."
John Peel: "Rod Stewart wanted me to play the mandolin for Maggie May, but the producers were reluctant so it was filmed at an odd angle with Rod standing around, looking on. Over the years many people have asked me where I learnt to play the mandolin, and I have to explain that I was only miming. . . . I remember saying once, 'If this doesn't get to the number one spot I'll come and break wind in your kitchen.' It used to make Kid Jensen laugh, if no one else."
A LIFELONG RELATIONSHIP WITH HIMSELF 09/15/2002
Emily Sheffield in the Evening Standard on Morrissey's comeback: "Next week London music fans will be greeted by an extraordinary sight. A man who changed the face of British music and then disappeared for years, to live in obscure anonymity during a self-imposed exile in Los Angeles, is making a curious London comeback. Yes, Steven Morrissey, the former front man for The Smiths, is once again seeking to turn misery into an art form. But this time Morrissey has no album, no friends who'll clamber on stage to jam with him; he does not even have a record deal. No doubt he hopes next week's soldout Royal Albert Hall gigs will change all that. . . . Unless Morrissey changes direction, his future looks grim. He will become what he fears most: a mediocre shadow of his former self, playing old Smiths tracks in front of a decreasing and ageing audience, a genius trapped in his glorious past."
The great Moz is interviewed by Lynn Barber in today's Observer: ". . . Morrissey's set begins with a recording of John Betjeman reading his poem 'A Child Ill', which might as well be in Urdu for all the impact it makes. Morrissey wanders onstage, looking portly in a long, brown cardigan. A few fans in the front cheer, but most of the audience are still milling round buying beer. Then he sings -- and suddenly I see the whole point of Morrissey which was a mystery to me before. He is amazing -- not just the lyrics and the voice, and the weird barks and yelps -- but also his strange movements, the diva-like caressing of his body, the writhing on the floor, the almost Greta Garbo way he arches his neck. It is wildly camp, insanely provocative for Hicksville, USA. When he sings his vegetarian anthem, 'Meat is Murder', you think all these beef-fed cowboys in the audience might rush the stage and kill him. The grandeur, the sheer courage of his performance, completely transcends the dinginess of his surroundings. I am quite seriously tempted to run onstage and kiss his feet.
. . . He has a house in Ireland, but for the past four years he has lived in Los Angeles, off Sunset Boulevard, in a house that was built by Clark Gable for Carole Lombard. When I ask if he lives next door to Johnny Depp, as the press always says, he corrects me, 'No -- he lives next door to me.' Los Angeles suits him, he says, because 'it's a particularly sexless city. Everybody's bodies are so sanitised, so caked in every conceivable exfoliation, cologne and mousse, they have no trace of any kind of sexuality, nothing real and earthy. So I blend in very well!' . . . [As a child] He was a classic bedroom pop obsessive, but of course even more obsessive than most. From the age of 10 he bought all the music papers and would be 'inconsolable' if one of them was missing. He also wrote endless nitpicking letters -- sometimes 30 a day -- to the NME and other music papers, correcting their mistakes and lambasting their opinions. Before he was even a teenager, he was a walking expert on pop music.
. . . Does he have relationships ever? 'Not physical relationships, no. I mean there are some people on this planet who aren't obsessed with sex, and I'm one of them. I'm not interested. And I'm not cloaking something, I'm not going somewhere under cover of night and existing in some wild secretive way. I wasn't interested when I was 17, I wasn't interested when I was 27, I was less interested when I was 37 and I'm even less interested now. I really enjoy my own company enormously, so I don't feel a great gaping hole. I sit at home at night and I feel absolutely honoured not having to cater for anybody, or listen, or put up with anybody. I feel it's a great privilege to live alone.' Who is his best friend? He laughs derisively, 'My best friend? At the age of 43? My credit card!' Not even a cat? 'No. My best friend is myself. I look after myself very, very well. I can rely on myself never to let myself down. I'm the last person I want to see at night and the first in the morning. I am endlessly fascinating - at eight o clock at night, at midnight, I'm fascinated. It's a lifelong relationship and divorce will never come into it. That's why, as I say, I feel privileged. And that is an honest reply.' I believe him. But given his admitted self-obsession, it seems extraordinary that he is in an industry like pop music, which by definition entails being popular and communicating with other people. 'Yes,' he agrees. 'It's an enormous contradiction really. But the fluffy elements of pop stardom, if you like, are not why I'm here. I'm generally very interested in the written word and changing the poetic landscape of pop music, and I think I've achieved that. I think, with The Smiths, I introduced a harsh romanticism which has been picked up by many people and which didn't exist previously. And it's nice to be a curious footnote to the whole story of British popular music. And not to be compliant, smiling, bland.' . . ."
Morrissey will perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 17 and 18 September. Both gigs are sold out.
THE MISSING LINKS 09/15/2002
The Evening Standard reports on Will Self's latest antics: "British novelist and Evening Standard columnist Will Self is to lock himself in a one-bedroom flat on the 20th floor of a Liverpool tower block and allow the public to observe him while he writes a short novel. . . . Self's planned 12,000 word novel is part of a 'reality art' project, sponsored by the Liverpool Housing Action Trust, to mark the passing of high-rise housing in the northwestern English port city. 'What I want to write about is what is universal to the experience of Britain on the cusp of the 21st century and particularly about these blocks coming down,' Self told Reuters on Monday. For many critics tower blocks have blighted Britain's social and architectural landscape, but for Self their passing is a matter for mourning rather than celebration. 'Linosa Court does have a very particular ambience,' he says. The public will only be able to see the back of Self as he writes, and they will not be allowed to talk to him. As the story develops the author will post pages in an adjoining room to allow visitors to see how the novella is taking shape."
Joseph Epstein has published an article on Harold Bloom in The Hudson Review: ". . . He claims to be of the school of aesthetic critics, remarking that, in an ideological age, 'I feel quite alone these days in defending the autonomy of the aesthetic.' Yet he himself doesn't seem to have a clue about how to produce anything approaching the aesthetically pleasing in his own writing. In an interview in the Paris Review, he declared that he never revises his prose, and nothing in his work refutes this impressive claim. Any critic ready to avail himself of such gargoylesque words as 'psychokabbalistic' and 'pneumognostic,' who can refer to a passage in Montaigne as an 'apotropaic talisman,' and can write about the cosmos having been 'reperspectivized by Tolstoy,' may be many things, but he ain't no aesthete. Nor does Bloom, in his writing, project an attractive, let alone a seductive, character. He is the type not of the charmingly nutty but of the exhaustingly garrulous professor. His writing displays all the symptoms of an advanced case of Professor's Disease -- dreaded PD -- and to the highest power. Such is Bloom's loquacity that he discovered himself, in the midst of his own psychoanalysis, 'paying him [his own analyst] to give him lectures several times a week on the proper way to read Freud.' Bloom writes like a man accustomed to speaking to his inferiors -- to students, that is, a captive audience beholden to him for grades and promotion. To them he may lay down the law, brook no argument, take great pleasure in his own performance, be utterly unworried about someone coughing politely and saying, 'Excuse me, pal, but what you just said seems to me a bunch of bullshit!' One has the sense that everything Bloom writes he has probably said before, scores, perhaps hundreds of times, to students; it all comes out of that great booming Bloombox, the academic equivalent of a great Boombox, but this one with no Off switch and no control whatsoever over the volume. . . . Harold Bloom presents himself as a genius -- a genius battling his way through the dark forces of the ignorant. His claim is to universal knowledge. He is the man who ranges across literatures, absorbs religious ideas, swallows whole cultures, happily making pronunciamentos upon them as he passes. His pretension rate is quite outside the solar system. Born in 1930, Harold Bloom began his professional life as a critic of Romantic poetry, and quite a good one, as his book The Visionary Company still shows. But his ambition grew out of all bounds, and he soon became the intellectual equivalent of that character in P. G. Wodehouse of whom Wodehouse writes that he looked like someone who was poured into his clothes but forgot to say when. . . ."
If you're into the romance of red double-decker buses, read on: ". . . [I]t seems there's a legion of people who are transported into a world of daydreams and memories by the red double-decker known as the Routemaster. It was in 1956, the year of the Suez crisis and Elvis Presley's first UK hit, that the Routemaster, with its hop-on, hop-off platform and a conductor, began to replace the capital's electric trolleybuses. . . . But in 1970, London Transport declared: 'By the end of the decade, every London Transport bus will be operated by one man...' Throughout the 70s, new double-decker models aimed at dispensing with conductors came into service. . . . But when the new London buses were beset by severe mechanical problems and many had to be withdrawn, the city's remaining Routemasters were granted a stay of execution. In 1994, they survived privatisation and in the new Millennium, 600 of them, only a few dozen of them owned by London Transport, are still trundling through the streets of London. . . . London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, perhaps feeling the pressure of a campaign waged by London's Evening Standard, climbed aboard the fight to keep the Routemaster during his election campaign in 2000. 'They're obviously an icon in London', he said. . . ."
3A.M. GANG GATHERS, BLATHERS AND SLATHERS IN NY 09/15/2002
On the eve of the one year anniversary of 9/11, 3A.M. editors Charles Shaw, Deborah Staab, and 3A.M./Newtopia regular RD Kushner gather at 7A in the East Village for many many many cocktails and reverie. As one might be able to tell, Charles had a very long day! Don't miss Charles Shaw's report from Ground Zero and his brilliant short story, "Non-Entities Bathed in Blue" (soon at 3A.M.).
FABER BOOKMUNCHED 09/12/2002
On 23 September 3A.M. Magazine and Bookmunch will bring you an exclusive interview with Michel Faber whose second novel, The Crimson Petal and the White, will be published by Canongate in October: "Twenty years in its conception, research and writing, this is a major work that truly rivals the finest Victorian novels for breadth, depth and sheer reading pleasure". Faber's first novel, Under the Skin, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award 2000 and has been nominated for the Dublin Impac Award 2002. The first half of Peter Wild's interview will appear in Bookmunch and the second half in 3A.M..
GIVE THE ANARCHIST A CIGARETTE 09/12/2002
Your soaraway 3A.M. Magazine will soon bring you an interview (conducted by the mighty Richard Marshall) with legendary British counterculture radical, sci-fi/horror author, cultural journalist, critic, and rock 'n' roller Mick Farren: "I guess we've got to work without theory and see what happens. It's like developing the unions, it was arrived at, but only by a whisker at times. So I'm really, really happy people are saying 'Fuck McDonalds!' -- but I don't have to say 'Globalisation bad, anti-globalisation good'." You can also check out The Guardian's review of Give the Anarchist a Cigarette here.
DIRTY WORDS 09/10/2002
I've been meaning to talk about my favourite gallery for a long time, but Chris from Spike pipped me to the post: "Despite enjoying the grandeur and sheer size of the Bilbao Guggenheim, London's Serpentine Gallery is one of my favourite art galleries in the world. That it's set in the middle of Kensington Gardens, which is a great place to be anyway on a summer's day, and it's free to get in, give it definite brownie points. But I think the main reason I like it is because it's so small. There's only ever one exhibition on and the building itself -- a converted tea pavilion -- has been intelligently restored to provide a versatile and distinctly tranquil space. It makes me think of something Adorno said, (at least, I think it was Adorno), that works of art demand to be seen by themselves to the exclusion of all other works of art -- they need to be seen on their own if they're to have any true impact. Difficult to achieve but the Serpentine continually comes near it. The recent Gilbert and George Dirty Words Pictures exhibition definitely benefited from being shown there rather than at the Tate. I like the idea of people wandering through the park and being able to simply walk into the gallery without any forethought. Plus, with the Gallery being so small, it never takes much time to see what's in there. A quick hit of culture and then retire to the bar by the boating lake to argue about whether it was any good." Couldn't have put it better myself. God bless you, Chris!
HANG THE MANUAL WRITER 09/10/2002
Scarlett Thomas reviews James N Frey's How to Write Damn Good Fiction in The Independent on Sunday: "In On Writing, the only contemporary writing 'manual' worth reading, Stephen King gives three of the best pieces of advice for people who want to write. He suggests, among many other things, that would-be writers should sit at a humble desk, should avoid TV and should, above everything else, read a lot of books. This last is something that even professional writers sometimes forget to do, claiming that styles are catching, like flu, and they may get infected by someone else's voice. However, most people still agree that writers should read as much as possible, and they should, absolutely -- with the exception of books like this. . . . As well as attending creative writing classes, Frey suggests that 'beginning writers' should ignore family and friends while writing, as if writing were the most important thing ever. It may well be -- but only if you have something to write about. In order to have something to write about, you need to spend as much time as possible with real human beings. . . ."
NEVER TRUST A MAN WITH EGG ON HIS FACE 09/10/2002
Last Sunday, there was a great article (by Adam Higginbotham) on Adam Ant in The Observer: ". . . At around 4.30pm one Saturday afternoon in January this year, Adam Ant walked into the Prince of Wales pub in Kentish Town. He was wearing a combat jacket and a white cowboy hat. He was looking for someone: the jealous husband of a woman called Kelly, who he'd met on a stall in Camden market. He wanted to sort things out. But when he got into the pub, the men inside just laughed at him and his clothes. They whistled the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The landlord had no idea who he was. So Adam Ant went home. When he came back later that night, he had a gun with him. The Prince of Wales is not in one of London's neatest neighbourhoods and somewhere along his route, Adam picked up a car alternator, a lump of metal and wires the size of a big man's fist. Returning to the pub at around 11 that night, he threw it through the window. It hit Plato Contostavlos a glancing blow in the head. Staff, led by Jeffrey Eccles, the pub bouncer, ran into the street to find the culprit. Adam Ant pulled out the gun, a replica Second World War revolver, threatened to shoot them if they didn't back off, and then disappeared. He hailed a taxi in nearby Hawley Street. But a few minutes later, just up Camden Road, the cab was cut off by armed police. Adam Ant was arrested, charged and released. But on Monday night, his friends and family called a psychiatrist to his flat in Primrose Hill. He had been sectioned. He fled, but police once again picked him up in Camden, and escorted him to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, where he was placed in the Alice secure ward.
. . . It's been a while since anyone thought to mention it, but Adam Ant has a history of mental illness going back more than 25 years. In 1975, he was still studying graphic design at Hornsey Art College when he married Carol. He was playing in a band, and Carol began to design rubber stage outfits for him, with ideas he got from fetish magazines. But he felt stifled by his suburban environment and confused about what he wanted to do with his life: he couldn't decide whether to dedicate himself to music or art. And getting married wasn't a good idea. In his final year at college, he developed anorexia. 'I just didn't eat,' he says, 'I wasn't attempting to slim, I was attempting to kill myself.' Eventually, he tried a more direct route: an overdose. He simply took all the pills he could find in his mother-in-law's kitchen cabinet. After he'd had his stomach pumped, he was sent to Colney Hatch mental hospital in north London. He was only released on the understanding that Carol would look after him. He was 21. 'I was totally fucked up in the head. Things went wrong and something snapped. I just became a vegetable for three months. I couldn't talk to people. I was very ill and that was part of the reason I left college.'
. . . By 1981, Adam and the Ants were at the peak of their fame. At one point that year, they had seven singles in the UK top 40 at the same time. When they played live in New York, they arrived at the venue by sailing up the Hudson on a replica 18th-century schooner. When they played in Drury Lane, he had roadies sprinkle every seat in the theatre with lavender water, because that's what the Georgians did.
. . . 'Depression,' he says, 'is something that doesn't just go away. It's just... there and you deal with it. It's like... malaria or something. Maybe it won't be cured, but you've got to take the medication you're prescribed, and you stay out of situations that are going to trigger it. Which is usually... incidents, or being in an environment that is one of terror or... something that sparks off the illness.' . . . Upstairs in the Crown and Goose, Adam Ant looks into his tea once again. 'Illness and tragedy and terror,' he says, 'is a great equaliser. And depression is terrifying. It's not a joke or a whim or a little topic, it's a big old number. And it doesn't matter whether you're in a ward of people who have wealth, or a ward of people who have nothing. Everybody's got the same deal. And it... it's a bit of a curse really. It's not easy to talk about it.'"
SHITTING MONA LISAS ON CUE 09/01/2002
James Morrison reports in The Independent on the launch of government-sponsored novels in Britain: "'Sponsored' novels are about to come into their own with the launch of a new company that aims to
provide respected authors to write specially commissioned novels for government departments and big business. The brainchild of advertising executives turned novelists Adam Lury and Simon Gibson, Narration Ltd will produce fictional stories on demand for firms and public bodies seeking to explain 'difficult ideas' to the public. Already there are takers. The Foreign Policy Centre, an independent think tank whose chief patron is Tony Blair, has spent £15,000 on an online novella called Need to Know about an anti-globalisation campaigner who abandons direct action in favour of protesting via the internet. Other titles will be far more accessible. By next year, it is anticipated that commissioned novellas bearing the names of established authors will line the shelves of Waterstones, with only the logos of their patrons to distinguish them. News of the impending wave of 'sponsored' fiction was greeted with disdain yesterday by leading writers including Will Self and J G Ballard, who said those who took part would be little more than propagandists for hire. . . . Will Self said: 'I return to the words of Bill Hicks when he said, 'If any artist ever endorses a product then they have completely destroyed their status as an artist.' I don't care if they shit Mona Lisas on cue, they've destroyed their reputations, and advertising for the Government is much more pernicious.' Describing the books as tantamount to 'advertising', David Lodge said: 'There's a long tradition of using fiction to get across ideas and there's nothing wrong with that. But this has nothing to do with literature.' . . ."
GLADIOLI ALL OVER 09/01/2002
Interesting profile of Morrissey as the former frontman of The Smiths makes a comeback: "Morrissey. The name -- like the artist -- stands alone and apart. He remains aloof in an age of ghastly accessibility; aristocratic in an epoch of dumb democracy. He may be a household name, he may for some be still a star, but Morrissey could never be accused of being a celebrity. Morrissey, the former frontman of the Smiths, the 1980s Manchester indie legends, as well as being a long-distance solo artist, is famous for saying 'No' in a business in which one is always expected to say 'Yes, please'. He is known, too, for refusing to appear either in Hello! magazine or on television in Ready Steady Cook. Basically, he turned his back on the world rather than embraced it, the ultimate anti-Pop Idol. Yet this month he plays the Royal Albert Hall, his first British appearance for three years. . . . Morrissey should never have been a pop star in the first place -- he should, by his own admission, have been a librarian, just like his mum. Most bizarrely of all, this shy working-class Anglo-Irish boy from the Manchester suburb of Stretford managed to become a pop star on his own terms. That's an unheard of perversion in today's music business. But there again, the early Eighties -- when Morrissey first assaulted the public with a bunch of battered gladioli and Stanley-knife lyrics ('The sun shines out of our behinds') -- was a peculiar time. Back then, pop music was not necessarily just about training to become a TV presenter. For some young people, pop music was the ultimate answer. They listened -- I mean really listened -- to pop music in a way that today's download-and-shuffle generation would consider merely sad. This was partly down to boredom, but mostly it was down to punk and David Bowie, who infused pop lyrics with a promise they could never quite deliver. Until, that is, Morrissey came along. Perhaps because he'd been a fan himself, hiding in his bedroom for so many years, he wrote lyrics that finally justified this kind of hopeless attention. His lyrics were inspired and warm, but they were deadly accurate. And they were very funny: 'Now I know how Joan of Arc felt/As the flames rose to her Roman nose and her hearing aid started to melt'. The bookish Morrissey's success in giving pop music a literary aspect has led some to point out how much he owed to Oscar Wilde, the 'first pop star'. Indeed, some fans say that Oscar was merely a failed Morrissey prototype. The New Musical Express recently declared him -- and the Smiths -- 'the most influential artist of all time', ahead of even the Beatles. . . . Maybe a British record label could persuade his pal Alan Bennett to kidnap him while he's over here and tickle him with Diana Dors memorabilia until he finally, reluctantly, gasps 'Yes'. His fans need Morrissey. And maybe, Morrissey needs them more than his two nights at the Albert Hall suggest."
A CORNER SHOP PERCHED BETWEEN HYPERMARKETS 09/01/2002
Duleep Allirajah explains in Spiked that "Just as it is obligatory to hate Manchester United, it is also de rigeur to love gallant little AFC Wimbledon. AFC Wimbledon were formed by disgruntled supporters in June 2002, after a Football Association commission gave Wimbledon FC permission to relocate to Milton Keynes. Old Wimbledon, now dubbed Franchise FC by erstwhile fans, are currently playing in front of home gates of less than 3000, the majority of whom are visiting supporters. No ground, no fans, you might say. Meanwhile new-variant AFC Wimbledon are attracting twice that number, together with a sizeable media circus, to their home games in the Combined Counties League. So what exactly is it about AFC Wimbledon that so appeals to the Guardianistas? One thing is for sure: it ain't the football. . . . AFC Wimbledon are celebrated not for their performances on the pitch but because they have come to symbolise fan resistance to the corporate takeover of football. It is a bit like a 'Save the Whale' campaign, with the Wombles cast as an endangered species at risk of displacement from their natural habitat. . . . Marc Jones of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association declared that the breakaway club was 'A cottage industry in the middle of a globalised trading estate. A corner shop perched between hypermarkets. A community football club in the midst of greed and desperation'. Herein lies AFC Wimbledon's appeal -- an authentic local team playing for the love of the game rather than money. . . ."
I HOPE RAIN STOPS PLAY 09/01/2002
In The Independent, we've got DJ Taylor on The Jam's 25th anniversary: ". . . Even for me to write those words on a piece of paper is to be transported back into a luminous late-Seventies landscape made up of target T-shirts, Union Jack blazers and parka-clad hordes chanting 'We Are the Mods', a little chunk of lost time that seems as remote as the Abdication or the General Strike. . . . As one or two younger readers may need reminding, between 1977 and 1982 The Jam were the most successful of those English pop groups -- not a limitless number -- whom it was possible to respect. Of the 18 singles they released during this period, four got to number one. Four of their six studio albums made the top three. More to the point they had a coherence, a sense of conviction, that rival musical street-gangs altogether lacked. . . . Of all the survivors of the punk explosion of 1976 they were the ones who stayed closest to its founding ideals, and -- arguably -- the ones who left the strongest legacy. . . . Even now, nearly 24 years later, I can remember the words to 'Tube Station' -- a bleak but darkly lyrical account of a man being kicked to death by a group of fascist thugs -- by heart: 'They smelt of pubs/And Wormwood Scrubs/And too many right-wing meetings'. . . . Having succeeded in annoying his rival musicians, not to mention outraged pundits such as Julie Burchill, Weller settled down, abetted by George Orwell's essays, in the pursuit of a kind of Mod Socialism. This realised many a sharp vignette from the barricades of the early 1980s. To particularise, I can remember watching them playing 'The Eton Rifles' (a song inspired by a 'Right to Work' march which, passing by Eton College, had been loudly disparaged by some of the young gentlemen within) on Top of the Pops in the college junior common room one winter night in 1979, and hearing the peacock voice of a well-bred girl named Kathy Shipsey exclaim 'Gosh, Hamish, you were at Eton. Whatever are these chappies on about?' What Hamish said in reply was lost in the rousing chorus ('Hello, hurray I hope rain stops play, for the Eton Rifles') but the point was made. Class, never absent from the dappled lawns of Oxford, came capering ominously through the autumn mists. . . ."
THE MISSING LINKS 09/01/2002
Novelist Scarlett Thomas investigates the great chick lit conspiracy in The Independent: ". . . The term 'chick lit', with its post-feminist use of the word "chick" and its sing-song almost-rhyme, originated as a way of describing young women's fiction of any sort. Now it specifically means a 'fun', pastel-covered novel with a young, female, city-based protagonist, who has a kooky best friend, an evil boss, romantic troubles and a desire to find The One -- the apparently unavailable man who is good-looking, can cook and is both passionate and considerate in bed. That many of these novels explicitly make reference to Bridget Jones's Diary (which had all these elements) shows how powerful one genre-inspiring novel can be. . . . However, despite the Identikit covers and the join-the-dots plots, almost everyone you ask in commercial publishing says -- at least publicly -- that chick lit is not formulaic, exploitative or cynically produced. In fact, it is almost a conspiracy. It is virtually impossible to find anyone prepared to criticise the genre other than Beryl Bainbridge (who notoriously labelled it 'froth'). . . . Chick lit is not just bad for the reader -- it is bad for the author too. Many chick lit authors are little more than assembly-line workers, as one publisher put it. 'The ideal commercial fiction author is someone who delivers one book and then goes on to keep writing, well, not exactly the same book again and again, but certainly one that's very similar.' Knowing how controversial these realities are, this publisher, like several I talked to for this piece, asked not to be named. . . ." Burhan Wazir has published an interesting profile of Irvine Welsh in The Guardian. There's more on Welsh, here, by Sally Vincent: "He's an all or nothing man. An addictive personality, if you like. Only now, he's addicted to writing. Once something kicks in, he has to carry on to the bitter end. All his life, he says, he's been good at wasting time; now he writes, and discovers that nothing is wasted. Every good thing he's ever done, every stupid thing, every fucked-up thing can be reproduced in some way. He can stare into space and call it research. He thinks of all the crap jobs he's had, laying paving slabs, shuffling papers in a council office, and wanting, trying, to do something creative. Mucking around in rock'n'roll bands, hoping to find some way of making his hobbies pay. That was the quest, if you like. He's not letting go of it now." Welsh is interviewed by John Walsh in The Independent. The BBC World Service has launched a global book club. There's a very interesting site here on abandoned places. Adam Begley writes about the baclash against "pretentious" American fiction in The New York Observer. There's an extract from Martin Amis's latest book in The Guardian. The Guardian First Book Award longlist has been published. Here are some more links to other recent articles of note on Zadie Smith, anti-semitism (by Umberto Eco), PG Wodehouse and Michel Houellebecq. The September editions of Pif, Stirring and Taint have all gone online. Peter Gwin has written about our friends at Spike Magazine in the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "London's hippest on-line literary magazine is not owned by a media conglomerate nor backed by a major corporation. Neither is it hopelessly in debt to skittish venture capitalists eager to reap a return on their investment. Its pages bear few ads, and it has no plans to begin charging its legions of readers a subscription fee. Spike Magazine is free -- in just about every sense of the word. That's not to say it's not worth reading. Spike arguably contains some of the freshest writing on London's considerable literary scene. . . . What sets Spike apart from say, the Times Literary Supplement, is that no one is making a profit. The site's writers are paid nothing for their words. Its founder and editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, receives no salary and lets his readers rummage through the hundreds of articles Spike has published in its seven-years of existence without paying a cent. So, is this crazy or what? . . ."