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by Andrew Gallix



The first novel (Politics) by Adam Thirlwell, the 25-year-old assistant editor of Areté magazine who made it on to Granta's list of Best Young British Novelists (see The Cyrillic Alphabet), is about to be published in Britain. The Indie on Sunday has a review by Henry Sutton: "'When it comes to kinkiness in prose, I am a better writer than the Marquis de Sade,' states the first-person authorial voice of Adam Thirlwell's debut novel. . . . Certainly the kinkiness on display here comes nowhere near that variously depicted by the Marquis de Sade. Okay, Politics starts with some anal sex, actually a pretty hopeless attempt at heterosexual anal sex: the guy, Moshe, keeps sticking his penis into its 'natural home' as opposed to its 'unnatural home', to the huge relief of his girlfriend Nana. Much later on there is some lesbian action, and there is a fair amount of group sex, at least threesome sex, but that's it. Not very kinky, for this day and age, or any age, actually. . . . At 25, Adam Thirlwell probably hasn't learnt that much about being horrible. Indeed, one has to wonder how much he's learned about life. A Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, he's definitely smart, and well read. . . . Young actor Moshe -- he's playing Slobodan Milosevic at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn -- falls for tall, thin, beautiful architectural student Nana. Nana and Moshe spend much time pondering their north London upbringings, and discussing his Jewish roots. Then along comes sexually ambiguous Anjali -- a not so successful actress with Asian blood and a love of all things Bollywood. . . . Anjali probably likes girls more than boys and soon enough she's snogging Nana, who didn't realise she was remotely gay. To ease her guilt Nana then orchestrates a threesome, and before we know it they have set up home together. But just deciding who gets to sleep in the middle of the bed becomes a major issue. . . . While Thirlwell can be warm and funny, and very astute about fledgling relationships among 20-year-olds, his characters don't exactly leap off the page. This is partly to do with the whole artifice of the novel. Those heavy references are all very impressive, but you get the feeling they are meant to be. And despite them, and the desperately hip, multi-ethnic undertones, Politics is a surprisingly light novel, lacking much punch. . . . Judging by this debut I would say he's more of cross between a young Jilly Cooper and an old Alain de Botton."

There's also an in-depth interview (by Sean O'Hagan) with the author in The Observer: ". . . 'I settled on the main joke quite quickly and that was to write a comedy about sex where nothing would be particularly sexual,' elaborates the baby-faced but seriously hungover author over lunch and a hair of the dog in a Clerkenwell bar. 'So, the more graphic the sex scenes got, the more moral the complications. Then again, I was not actually trying to be graphic at all as much as realistic.' Thirlwell, a fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, and co-editor with the poet Craig Raine of the sumptuous and determinedly old-fashioned literary magazine, Areté, talks like he writes -- cleverly, confidently, self questioningly, and in ever expanding circles of ideas. 'The challenge,' he continues, getting into his stride, 'was accuracy; how you capture those practical details that don't normally get written about -- the used Kleenex moments, as it were.'

In this, he has undoubtedly succeeded. Politics is a book where the sex is always of the fumbly, messy, often unfinished kind rather than the full-on, assured, transcendent type. Thirlwell, at 25, is already a master of sexual neurosis, albeit more in the manner of Woody Allen than Philip Roth, whose early comic novel, Portnoy's Complaint, is nevertheless a touchstone here. Like Roth, Thirlwell is of Jewish descent, and makes his male protagonist half-Jewish, overburdening him with Woodyesque self-doubt and indecision.

. . . Whether you warm to the book or not may indeed depend upon how much you identify, or even like, Thirlwell's three twentysomething characters and their milieu. They are obviously Thirlwell's generational contemporaries, and, however annoying they can be in their endless self-examination and woolly theorising, he obviously knows them inside out. They study architecture, drink absinthe, read Baudrillard and wallpaper*. Some of the story even takes place in Hoxton, where they wear their trousers ludicrously low, and the very act of walking down the street to the caff can be defined by the coded and ever-shifting parameters of cool, the constant balancing act between how things are and how things should be. 'I wasn't intending to write a generational novel,' says Thirlwell, who currently lives near King's Cross, and whose slightly crumpled demeanour and studiedly unkempt hair suggest a life devoted to slackerdom rather than writerly discipline, 'but I can see why people might say that. It is a book about being young and wanting to be older and experienced. I think the characters often do something because they think it is the right or cool thing to do rather than because they really want to do it. Moshe and Nana are not sexually adventurous by nature -- they buy the handcuffs because they think this is what people do when they have really good sex. I suppose', he adds reluctantly, ' that kind of self-consciousness is a trait of my generation.'

Much of Thirlwell's comedy comes from the universal drama of human misunderstanding, which often comes to a head, of course, in the bedroom. It is the same motor that drives good old fashioned farce, but Politics is far too clever and knowing to be farcical or even outright funny. It is much more a (post)modern day comedy of manners than a barrel of laughs. One of the funniest scenes is when the hapless Moshe walks in on Nana and Anjali while they are negotiating the delicate etiquette of fisting. Not knowing whether to leave or join in, he simply takes a seat and starts leafing through a Saul Bellow novel. If hardcore highbrow comedy floats your boat, this is the novel for you. 'I gave myself a day off after that scene,' grins a still immensely pleased with himself Thirlwell. . . ."


More pix of excellent Krautelectropunksters Räuberhöhle in the 3AM Fotolog now. Is London the new Milan? Critic and novelist Philip Hensher claims in the Spectator that Britart's leading lady Tracey Emin is "persecuting" him "with rabbits in knickerbockers"! More in the Observer and the Sunday Times. Paul Bailey reckons Emin is innocent. The recent north American blackout has led to the development of moblogs according to Wired magazine. This is Not a Love Song will be the first film to be released online and in cinemas at the same time. The Black Table on Germaine Greer's book of young male nudes. Andrew O'Hagan, one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists, has his own column in Slate magazine. Tibor Fischer on Matt Thorne's Child Star in The Sunday Times. He writes that it is "a skilful, funny and moving evocation of pubescence and a judicious stitch-up of the world of television soaps. Why he wasn't on Granta's Best of Young British Novelists list is beyond me. He's almost the only twentysomething writer to have carved out a territory that's uniquely his." The Daily Telegraph on this year's Booker Prize longlist. New York Press reviews the first Vicious event. Audrey from Melodynelson is quoted at length. Btw, the next Vicious party will take place in New York on 16 September. Readers of The Independent interview the author of Trainspotting and Porno, Irvine Welsh. Welsh says that he's not quite upper class, "more international leisure"! 3AM's Andrew Stevens has started a great new London-based weblog called the Shoreditch Gazette. A sequel to Bridesehead Revisited angers the Waugh family. Diana Mosley (née Mitford), one of Waugh's bright young things, has died.


The Booker Prize longlist has been published. The rumours according to which Martin Amis wouldn't make it on to the longlist have proved unfounded. Other heavyweights include Atwood, Coetzee, Swift and Tim Parks (for Judge Savage). Monica Ali and DCB Pierre are among the newcomers who grace the list. Zadie Smith will be giving this year's Jacob Sontag Memorial Lecture on 23 September (Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD). The title of the lecture is "Kafka Versus the Novel" (link via Spike magazine's Splinters). Do Scottish art-rockers Franz Ferdinand live up to the hype? More info here (record label) and here (official site). Richard Hell on Lester Bangs ("the noncharismatic Elvis of rock writers") in The Village Voice. Space Invaders turns 25 this summer.


Berlin-based electropunk outfit Räuberhöle went down a storm last night at the ICA in London: Krawalla -- a tattooed minx of a lead singer -- has definite star quality and songs were interspersed with weird puppet films (think Sooty and Sweep on a bad acid trip). Lots more pix in the 3AM Fotolog.


A nice picture of Whitey Bear's fine derrière taken at the ICA last night. Whitey Bear writes for Careless Talk Costs Lives, the best music mag in town.


Alexander Trocchi's cult masterpiece Young Adam is being turned into a film. In The Guardian, Tim Cumming writes: ". . . Virtually forgotten by the time of his death in 1984, the first signs of a Trocchi renaissance came in the early 1990s as a new generation of Scottish writers began publishing in magazines such as Rebel Inc. 'With books like Trainspotting, and writers like Alan Warner,' says Scottish poet Edwin Morgan, who taught Trocchi at Glasgow University at the end of the 1940s, 'there was a revival of interest in the figure of the exile, the rebel, the drug-taker. Irvine Welsh in particular made a revival of Trocchi possible.' Young Adam was one of Rebel Inc's first titles and, with the film opening this year's Edinburgh film festival, interest in Trocchi has never been higher.

. . . After graduating, he was given a travelling scholarship and, with Betty and their two daughters, Trocchi travelled widely in the Mediterranean before settling in Paris. 'It was amazing how quickly he got into the Paris literary scene,' says Morgan. 'For someone from a Scottish university to suddenly publish people like Ionesco, Beckett and Genet was extraordinary.' Almost immediately, Trocchi set about changing his life, sending Betty and their daughters to Majorca, while he stayed in Paris with his new American lover Jane Lougee, and set about establishing the influential and now highly collectible Merlin magazine, which ran for five years and 11 issues, publishing many of the last great names of Modernism. His first address was a cheap residential hotel on Rue de la Huchette just south of the Ile de la Cité, a dank, rough street of European émigrés and Algerian street traders. . . . A few minutes walk away is Shakespeare and Company, a Parisian legend and one of the world's most famous book stores. 'A little socialist republic pretending to be a bookshop,' jokes its 90-year-old owner George Whitman, surely the last living link between the Paris of the Lost Generation, the beats, and the expensive, crowded and bourgeois St Germain of today. In the 1950s, his bookshop was Trocchi's second home, and Merlin's centre of operations.

. . . 'People who might not have talked to each other were able to do so with Merlin,' says Edwin Morgan, and it was here they came together, on this cobbled street near the offices of Les Editions de Minuit, Samuel Beckett's French publishers. Trocchi first met Beckett here, and would go on to publish Watt and Molloy. At the same time, he had graduated from pills and alcohol to the Parisian drugs underworld of hashish, cocaine and heroin. His English publisher John Calder claims Jean Cocteau turned him on to opiates, just as he had done with Picasso in the 1920s. As the struggle to financially maintain Merlin steepened, heroin came to exert a profound grip. Within a year or two, his most productive period would be over. Trocchi's achievements had been startling. Eleven issues as Merlin's ringmaster, six pornographic novels written at speed for easy money for Maurice Girodias's Olympia Press, and Young Adam, his brilliant literary debut, were produced all in the space of three or four years. Many of his pornographic novels went on to sell millions in bootleg American editions, although Trocchi never saw any money from them. Even Olympia's edition of Young Adam was beefed up with added sex scenes at Girodias's request, later all removed bar one infamous episode with a bowl of custard that provides a climax, of sorts, to Mackenzie's film. . . ."

3AM FOTOLOG 08/10/2003

Look out for some pictures of Billy Childish in our brand spanking new 3AM Fotolog.


Jessa Crispin of Bookslut interviews Steve Almond: "I have a secret, that I don't mind you publishing at all. I wear women's undergarments when I'm writing a female character. I know a lot of other writers who do that. They don't talk about it, but there's an entire community of us. Cross writers." Chuck Palahniuk's audio blog. Pictures from the Village Voice's third annual Siren Music Festival. Flash Mob UK and London Flash Mob. Zadie Smith on London, Orhan Pamuk on Istanbul, Aleksander Hemon on Sarajevo. New kids on the block: the Futureheads.


This year's 20,000 Leagues Under the Industry Film Festival will take place at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio from 22-24 August. Application Counter is just one of the many films you'll be able to see there. I just mention it as it's a collaboration between P.G. Doran and 3AM's Matthew Wascovich.


Is Britain the new Mediterranean? Pictures of "baking Britain"! Launch of the first web-based glossy magazine, F Magazine (So far, they don't attract any more visitors than 3AM which is reassuring.) Kathryn Chetkovic describes the jealousy she felt when her husband, a thinly-disguised Jonathan Franzen, became a famous author. David Gardner in The Spectator on Hinglish, "a Hindu-inspired dialect that pulsates with energy, invention and humour - not all of it intended. Hinglish is full of cricket terminology and army metaphors, with echoes of P.G. Wodehouse and Dickens. It contains clunky puns and impeccably logical neologisms. In short, it is a delight." A review of Susan Elderkin's new novel. Check out the Zigarettenmaedchen. Frank Furedi has penned a fascinating article about Peterpandemonium and the infantilisation of society in Spiked Magazine. Will Self's Evening Standard column. Pictures of people with their iPods throughout the world! New Jersey no longer has a poet laureate. The Bookseller interviews Martin Amis. Interpol's tour diary. Pictures from the Circle Line Tube Party. Zadie Smith on Katharine Hepburn. A pompous and vacuous frog intellectual. The Yeah Yeah yeahs at Maxwell's. The New Criterion's not-so-groovy blog, Armavirumque. New York City's invisible frontier. Play Slaps!


If you're fascinated by London's lost tube stations or want to find out what lies beyond the DANGER: VOID BEHIND DOOR sign on the southbound platform at Waterloo Station, then grab a copy of Jude Rogers and Matt Haynes' new quarterly magazine, Smoke. Subtitled "A London Peculiar", it takes you on a fascinating journey through the capital city's secret past and present. Did you know, for instance, that Rimbaud had lived longer in London than in Paris? Tania Branigan writes that Rimbaud and Verlaine's "love had blossomed in London and died the moment Verlaine fled Great College Street. Perhaps it was true: the Continent was simply too small, too neat, too proper for them. They needed London's vulgarity and chaos; not because they belonged here, but because they didn't". Articles of this calibre are interspersed with Situationist-type Urban Interventions: "Before leaving your paper on the train, add a few notes, or mark what you thought interesting. The next reader will find this fascinating". You'd be hard-pressed to do this with the first issue of Smoke short of underlining everything! In a hilarious spoof review entitled "Is Psychogeography the New Drum'N'Bass?", Matt Haynes even sends up the inspiration behind his project: "In Sinclair's most recent work, London Orbital, the author walks anticlockwise round the M25, 'trying to exorcise the shame of the Dome', accompanied by a photographer, Marc Atkins. The parallels with Downmarket -- in which the author walks clockwise round the Elephant & Castle one-way system trying to find out where they've moved the bus-stop for the 188 to Surrey Quays, accompanied by a man in a dressing-gown who keeps shouting at him - are potentially actionable".


Our friend Tom Bradley features in the second issue of Michael Annis' Omega (here, to be more precise). The webzine is an offshoot of Howling Dog Press, "America's groundbreaking website. A future-focused offspring of the Beat Generation," according to Yuyutsu RD Sharma in The Kathmandu Press, ". . . Having gone through the fervent words and images of the website, I wonder if I can continue to live like I have been living all my life. 'To bear the torch of Dante,' says the website, 'Rabelais, Villon, Montaigne, Swift, Voltaire, Dostoevsky, Twain, Hopkins, Orwell, Borchert, Bonhoeffer, Celan, Mann, Akhmatova, Traven, Machado, Garcia Lorca, Tzara, Kovner, Trumbo, Langston Hughes, Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs, the Berrigans, Martin Luther King, Sinclair Lewis, Wiesel, Solzhenitsyn, Yevtushenko' and others, is more than high calling: it is a commission beckoning writers and artists of this 'brave new world order,' who - despite the static interference and hypocritical propaganda of the wardens of the way: those who find no guilt in calling truth 'bombast' and bombast 'truth' - will produce a few lines of earth-shaking poetry or prose that may just last 500 years."


Great live pictures of the Rogers Sisters and the Kills in New York Doll. Mark Moskowitz has made a documentary about lost genius Dow Mossman who, apparently, wrote a "500-plus page coming-of-age, stream-of-consciousness" classic back in 1972 (The Stones of Summer). The film has been championed by people like Nick Hornby and Dave Eggers. The Literary London Journal. "Radiohead Song Titles Vetoed By Thom Yorke" in McSweeneys. The staggering literary feud between The Believer and the Underground Literary Alliance. More about the controversy in the Atlantic Online and Bully Magazine. Britney in her skimpies.


The mighty Steve Aylett answers questions about our Leaving the 21st Century event: "Yeah it went alright, quite a few people there, and the other acts were good (except the ones who went on for too long). . . . I did the good old Armstrong bit, and The Infestation, which went down well (both in Toxicology). . . . I wasn't nervous that night. The place had a good atmosphere to it, Richard was organising it as it went along and that worked well. And it's always good to have a chat with Billy Childish, who I like & admire a lot. . . . I didn't get organised enough for background music at the event. That lady from Frank Chickens had some music, and Luke Haines did the music to a short film and was wandering around. Billy Childish sang. And there was a DJ. But I just talked bollocks."

Jason Bennett, a senior marketing executive at Routledge, attended the event "with a few mates": "It was pretty cool. Nice and sleazy. Lots of weird and wonderful people to kajool with! I was particularly keen on the reading of an erotic fairy tale about a man that grew a turnip out of his stomach. He went to see the king of the land who became rather fixated by it and insisted on riding it like a stallion! (As you do!)"

TIME'S UP 07/25/2003

This is how Time Out have announced 3AM's mini-festival which is on tomorrow: "3AM Magazine at the Horse Hospital WC1, 6pm; £5. Online cultural journal hosts a night of music, discussion and readings featuring novelists, film directors and music journalists. Includes live sets by the fêted Billy Childish of The Buff Medways and punk vet Godard." (Pic: "Look at the bloody camera!" -- Andrew Stevens, Richard Marshall and Andrew Gallix put the finishing touches to tomorrow's 3AM extravaganza where you'll be able to purchase Childish's three new poetry anthologies.)


The Eros London website writes that 3AM, "one of London's premier cultural publications celebrates the summer with a symposium": "Get ready as 3AM Magazine -- the best alt.lit whorehouse in the universe -- unleashes its spectacular summer symposium on 26 July at the Horse Hospital, featuring some of London's finest alternative scribes reading for you, their adoring public. Author Mitzi Szereto will be reading from her book, Erotic Travel Tales 2, as well as signing copies of the popular book. Also on hand for live readings and performances will be: Steve Aylett, Nicholas Blincoe, Matthew Collings, Billy Childish, Vic Godard, Kazuko Hohki, Bertie Marshall, Preethi Nair, Kerri Sharp, Richard Strange, Matt Thorne, Paul Tickell, Tommy Udo, and Steven Wells. From its launch in April 2000, 3AM Magazine has proven itself an invaluable and eclectic voice on the London literary scene. The Times' Bill Broun said of the 'zine, 'From cutting edge short fiction to political satire and music reviews, 3AM is a dream publication for the young, literary and clued-up, and it counter balances nicely the London/New York publishing behemoth.' The Horse Hospital is a unique arts venue in London which has been providing a space for underground and avant garde media since 1993. They offer regular events to their members, showing rare film, music, and art, as well as hosting a significant collection of fashion items and related material. Don't send them any horses."

In related news, James Hollands from the Horse Hospital describes 3AM as "the best alt.lit whorehouse in the metaverse", and The Guardian have just included us in their literary links (after choosing us as one of their sites of the week in 2001): "This lively mix of fiction, politics, culture and music promises a 'dip in edgier waters' with the likes of Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palahniuk, Gerald Scarfe, Yo La Tengo and Don Letts. As well as irreverent, enthusiastic interviews, you'll find short stories and regular arts news, with a photo album of what they've been up to." Talking of photo albums, the pix are Richard Marshall, Andrew Gallix, Andrew Stevens and a beautiful waitress from Death Disco.



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