Fiction and Poetry 3am Magazine Contact Links Submission Guidelines



Artwork by Sardax


by Andrew Gallix


BOYS IN THE BAND 02/27/2003

East London's finest live in Liverpool a few days ago. The Libertines will be in Paris at the Elysee Montmartre on 7 March: why not come along and buy me a pint? (Pix by Federica Rossi.)


Ethan Gilsdorf has published an excellent article on Parisian Anglophone literary magazines in the Chronicle of Higher Education: ". . . A Paris moment is returning. Remarkably, in the past two years, six new literary magazines have materialized to carry on the city's tradition of Anglophone publishing. Kilometer Zero, Van Gogh's Ear, 3am, Upstairs at Duroc, Lieu, and Double Change have joined four magazines surviving from the 1980s and early 1990s, Pharos, Paris/Atlantic, La Traductière, and Frank, to swell the total number to an even ten. The magazines are both the product and cause of a revitalized Parisian literary scene, which benefits from a lively network of readings, soirees, workshops, and bookstores, thriving even as it contends with the sepia-toned shadow of its hallowed expat literary past. . . .

Thanks to free trade and the euro, which promote American culture and distressed-chic lifestyles, fresh English-speaking faces from Prague, São Paulo, and San Francisco swing by the City of Light to enjoy the scenery, write a few poems, and drink some wine, just like early-career Henry Jameses and Edith Whartons on their formative European tours. Only these nouveaux Bohemians also take on freelance consulting gigs (like designing Hungarian porn sites) to pay for their Eurail passes and 20th arrondissement flats. For them, Paris has become less a specific physical refuge for suppressed artists and radical movements than a pleasant, international pit stop, thankfully with some of its old-fashioned, arts-loving values still intact. . . ."


Patrick Eudeline, the legendary French rock critic-cum-novelist who used to front Asphalt Jungle, tells Le Monde that you could see the whole punk thing coming as early as 1973 when Nico and Tangerine Dream played Reims Cathedral. Nico's leather-clad fans stood out like a sore thumb amongst the already-ageing hippies. He also talks about the havoc wreaked by smack in the French punk scene after Johnny Thunders had made it fashionable. You can download a radio interview with Patrick Eudeline here.


The anti-war poetry movement is growing apace. The American Poets Against The War website, launched after Mrs Bush cancelled a poetry function at the White House for fear of anti-war declarations, has received some 10,000 poems. Todd Swift, who masterminded and edited nthposition's 100 Poets Against the War, has announced that the online anthology will be republished in book form by Salt Publishing in March. All proceeds will go to Amnesty International. Faber are jumping on the peace bandwagon and publishing their own anti-war poetry anthology. Todd Swift hopes they are not simply trying to cash in on a new trend: 'I am impressed that Faber -- often seen as the home of genteel English verse -- is taking this anti-war stance. Naturally, I am flattered that they were clearly inspired by Poets Against The War in America and Nthposition's projects, as well as those of Larry Jaffe in LA, and others in Ireland and across the world. Their decision to rush the book out like this is intriguing. It seems publishers want to get on the peace train before the war starts -- and ends. One hopes no one intends to profit from anti-war poems. . . . We must keep our eye on the main goal: to oppose an unjust strike against Iraq, not simply pat ourselves on the back that we sent some poems out with a nice message. That being said, we welcome such a book and have offered to publicise it along with our own. Faber seems interested in the idea.'"

Two great links care of Federica Rossi (pictured, second left, at last Saturday's peace rally in London). An anti-war video and a short film shot at the 15 February peace march.


The organisers of World Book Day are trying to find the books that best represent England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland. The shortlists (which include Jonathan Coe and Zadie Smith for England as well as Alan Warner and Irvine Welsh for Scotland) have now been made public. The four winners will be announced on 6 March. On 23 April 40 German authors (I didn't know they had that many) will try to set a new world record by writing and publishing a book in 12 hours. The point of this seemingly pointless exercise is to prove that print hasn't been rendered obsolete by the Internet. The latest issue of Exquisite Corpse is online and devoted to the Mississippi. Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell explains how he tried to get Robert Mugabe arrested in Paris. Toby Litt has posted the opening chapter of his forthcoming novel, Finding Myself, on his website. Chuck Palahniuk on celebrity authors in the Portland Mercury. Suart Jeffries analyses the transformation of Roland Barthes into a myth


3am's Matthew Wascovich advises "fans of noise rock in the vein of Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, Jim O'Rourke, Sonic Youth and Oneida" to check out highly-recommended Brooklyn-based combo Parts & Labor: "Parts & Labor combine primitive, minimal electronics with anthemic post-punk rock. See them live on their latest tour of the U.S. starting February 20th in support of their new release, Groundswell, on JMZ Records." Look out for an interview with the band in 3AM soon.

3AM TOP 5 02/17/2003

What has Matt Thorne been reading of late?:
  1. Where Did It All Go Right? -- Andrew Collins: "Fantastic tag-line: 'They tuck you up, your mum and dad', from a book about a happy childhood supposed to be an antidote to those Dave Peltzer books."
  2. Love's Executioner -- Irvin D. Yalom: "Psychotherapy book, an ex-girlfriend's recommendation."
  3. A Box of Matches -- Nicholson Baker: "Sadly, not up to scratch."
  4. Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews: "Research for a journalism piece."
  5. Nirvana Bites -- Debi Alper: "A great S&M sex thriller."

Matt Thorne's new novel, Child Star, will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in April. An interview with the author will soon appear in 3AM.


3am's Andrew Stevens reports from Saturday's massive peace demo in London: ". . . The march picked up pace and managed to sustain some distance under our feet before it stopped again, as it tried to snake round the junction of Embankment and Parliament Square at Westminster Bridge. The government buildings to our right were under the heavy guard of any number of yellow-jacketed policemen, most of who were subject to cancelled leave that weekend because of the inconvenient protest. It was at this point that I realised the impotence of the protest at this level. Here were the entire nation's revolutionaries, anarchists, Trotskyists (and all points in between), immediately adjacent to the symbols of capitalism and government power, and all they could think about was proceeding in an orderly manner so they could sell some papers and listen to speeches by Jesse Jackson and Tony Benn in Hyde Park. 1968 seemed more distant than just 35 years ago. As the march finally snaked round, with the tower of Big Ben and Parliament in sight, it was greeted by a number of people who were sat on the walls of Westminster tube station to observe the protesters file past. Some good natured humour and messages of support were exchanged, one girl even had a triangle of fur mounted on a sign which read 'The only Bush I trust is my own!'.

. . . This was my generation's Grosvenor Square. Yet it all seemed a bit establishment really. We skulked off in search of the nearest pub, only to see them all packed to health and safety regulations-defying levels with anarcho-crusty types and bearded Trotskyists -- the non-political types having made their way to their people carriers it appeared. Eventually we settled for 'Shoeless Joe's' in Mayfair, although the clientele clearly hadn't been marching anywhere or galvanised by anything other than their love of Gucci and Lacoste. As we nursed our drinks and reflected on the day's events, those around us (co-workers of financial institutions at leisure, by the looks of things) looked down their noses at us -- me with my white Adidas and jeans sodden with mud and moisture. It was at this point that I wanted to resume the march again and smash capitalism with whatever was left of my sore and aching feet. Somehow it had all seemed worth it now." (Photo courtesy of 3AM muse Federica Rossi.)


Euan Fergusan in The Observer: ". . . Half a mile away, round the corner in Piccadilly, the ground shook. An ocean, a perfect storm of people. Banners, a bobbing cherry-blossom of banners, covered every inch back to the Circus -- and for miles beyond, south to the river, north to Euston. Ahead of the marchers lay one remaining silent half-mile. The unprecedented turnout had shocked the organisers, shocked the marchers. And there at the end before them, high on top of the Wellington Arch, the four obsidian stallions and their vicious conquering chariot, the very Spirit of War, were stilled, rearing back - caught, and held, in the bare branches and bright chill of Piccadilly, London, on Saturday 15 February 2003.

. . . It was the biggest public demonstration ever held in Britain, surpassing every one of the organisers' wildest expectations and Tony Blair's worst fears, and it will be remembered for the bleak bitterness of the day and the colourful warmth of feeling in the extraordinary crowds. Organisers claimed that more than 1.5 million had turned out; even the police agreed to 750,000 and rising. By three o'clock in the afternoon they were still streaming out of Tube stations to join the end of the two routes, from Gower Street in the north and Embankment by the river. 'Must be another march,' grumbled the taxi driver, then, trying in vain to negotiate Tottenham Court Road. No, I said; it's the same one, still going, and he turned his head in shock. 'Bloody Jesus! Well, good luck to them I say.' . . . Cheer upon cheer went up. There were cheers as marchers were given updates about turnout elsewhere in the world -- 90,000 in Glasgow, two million on the streets of Rome. There was a glorious cheer, at Piccadilly Circus, when the twin ribbons met, just before one o'clock.

The mood was astonishingly friendly. 'Would you like a placard, sir?' Sir? The police laughed. One, stopping a marcher from going through a barricade in Trafalgar Square, told him it was a sterile area, only to be met with a hearty backslap. 'Sterile area? Where did that one come from?' 'I know,' shrugged the bobby. 'Bollocks language, isn't it?' And the talk was of politics, yes, but not just politics. There were not the detailed arguments we had had, even during the last peace march in November, over UN resolutions and future codicils. This march was not really about politics; it was about humanitarianism. . . . In Hyde Park itself, a long line of purple silk lay on the grass, facing Mecca, and Muslims took off their shoes to pray. Beside it, artist Nicola Green had set up her Laughing Booth, and was encouraging people in to, obviously, start laughing, on their own, and be recorded; it was, she says, the most disarming of all weapons. The sky above the nearby stage grew dark, and the park grew even more astonishingly full.

. . . Will yesterday, astonishing yesterday, change anything? The facts are undeniable. Perception is all. If you look more carefully, in fact, at the warlike Wellington statue, a new tale emerges. The driver of the chariot is a boy. The reins are slack. The horses are not rearing with anger, but pulling up in mid-charge. Behind, the fierce, all-powerful figure is not the Spirit of War but the angel of peace, carrying an olive branch." (Federica Rossi, far right.)

PEOPLE POWER 02/15/2003

God bless you London!


"The headline pulled my attention immediately. There, on the cover of, was the tragic, horrible news. Dolly is dead. They killed her.

You remember Dolly, the clone who stole all of our hearts? Before words like telomeres and Raliens were household words, there was sweet Dolly. She was so genteel, so wonderful. A real trooper.

Dolly wasn't one to point fingers or insult people. She lived a more subdued life of abject slavery to her scientist masters. Some say that her sedate nature and total rejection of profanity were caused by the fact that she was a sheep, but I believe there was something deeper at work there. I mean, have you seen those gorgeous, intelligent eyes of hers? That's what I mean.

It's hard to say that it was her time to go since it was never really her time to come, but I take comfort in knowing that she is in a better place now. I don't know where clones go when they die, especially if they're right in calling Dolly a soulless abomination of God, but she'd have to go somewhere, right?

Dolly, we'll miss you. And now as you leave us for greener pastures, you will finally answer the one question I've been wondering about. Is cloned mutton any good?" - by 3AM Chief Editor and webmaster Jim Martin.


Bobby Gillepsie from Primal Scream and Kate Moss gave the surving members of The Clash their well-earned godlike genius award at this year's NME awards. The list of winners in full, including The Hives, Libertines and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Check out the pictures.


Hip man-about-town Laurence Rémila (who has an article in hip frog mag Technikart) is about to launch a column on the Parisian literary scene here at 3AM!


The author of The Beach, Alex Garland, talks about his writer's block in the Evening Standard: "Alex Garland was the great young hope of British literature thanks to his best-selling debut novel The Beach. Published when he was only 26, the dark adventure story became required reading and was turned into the Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio. But five years after writing the follow-up novel, the millionaire author is suffering a prolonged bout of writer's block. Instead of penning another best-seller, he admits to an obsession for video games -- while friends believe that his success may have left him burned out. In a rare interview, Garland, 32, told the Evening Standard: 'I am not working at the moment. If I am going to write another novel, then I need a good idea and I just have not got one. I am stuck. The last thing I managed to produce was an eight-page comic strip, so I was thinking of maybe expanding that. Generally I do not have any plans to do any writing at all. At the moment I am playing on my X-box an awful lot.' . . . Last year Garland, who lives with his girlfriend in Hampstead, wrote the screenplay for Boyle's British horror film 28 Days Later, and he has written occasional short pieces of fiction. However, for the past five years the son of newspaper cartoonist Nicholas Garland has kept everyone waiting for a new novel. He admits the wait is likely to continue for a few years yet. 'If I was going to write anything again it really would depend on the idea, and it might not even suit a novel. It might work better as a screenplay,' he said. 'I like to take a lot of time off. I am just a very slow worker. But I don't feel a huge pressure to write a new novel.' . . . Garland admits success affected his writing. . . ." Other authors suffering from writer's block.


Jim Behrle's Can We Have Our Ball Back? has just published an extract from Richard Hell's new novel which, as far as I know, is still at the work-in-progress stage: ". . . I see a magnificent panorama of intellectual and sensual activities flowering across the open skies like confetti or the internal organs of developed motion picture film. In the future, all poetry will be in translation." Richard Hell was interviewed in 3AM last year. We recently published three of Jim Behrle's poems.


French military victories? Did you mean French military defeats? What's the difference between toast and Frenchmen?: you can make soldiers out of toast! Annick Cojean who writes for bobo arsewipe Le Monde is not amused: ". . . This torrent of insults against France and Germany, these are insults that one thought belonged to a bygone century; these hateful, almost racist words; this desire to sully and to wound. So the French are 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys'? Well, thank you Bart Simpson. Funny, but so puerile. The ostrich with its head in the sand should be our national emblem? Well, to be fair, I never really liked the French cockerel. But what about the 'axis of weasels', the 'chorus of cowards', the alliance of 'rats' and 'wimps'? What about that incredible, obnoxious headline from a Washington Post editorial: 'Standing with Saddam'? What about that image on the front page of the New York Post of a cemetery for American soldiers who died in France with the headline 'They Died for France but France has Forgotten'? No, France has not forgotten. No, France is not standing shoulder to shoulder with Saddam the dictator. Yes, France knows the price of freedom. A freedom it reveres and uses, precisely, having never considered that gratitude implied servitude. So why these eye-catching headlines, these humiliating and false accusations? Why the disinformation? Yes, my friends, let's shout down the insults, this distressing Francophobia and anti-Americanism. Let's explain, debate and question. . . ." You cock!

BLOGOSPHERE 02/14/2003

The buzz surrounding the weblog phenomenon shows no sign of abating. Leading webloggers like Susannah Breslin (who is up for two Nude Blog Awards) will be taking part in the Live From the Blogosphere event on Saturday 15 February at the Electronic Orphanage gallery in Chinatown, Los Angeles.

SHEILA TAKE A BOW 02/11/2003

3am editor Kimberly Nichols is currently hard at work on a series of paintings entitled Girls of the Hundred Proof Bordello Define Desire: "All of my paintings represent different shadow pieces of my psyche. It is my way of working with the complex emotions of being human. They are also influenced by the things I am provoked to feel by other artists and writers. This piece is called Dark Sheila and was inspired by the days in my youth when I would sit in my bedroom and listen to Morrissey and feel like I was completely alone in the world tinged by strange desires. This piece is number one in a series called Girls of the Hundred Proof Bordello Define Desire. If I didn't paint I would be schizo, having to hold all of these different women within the container of my one body. This is a cathartic way to walk through my shadows and lend a little of the beauty in relation to others in an outward and less penned in fashion. It's like an exorcism, every time a girl is completed, of some inner struggle, that provides a way of closure."


Simon Price in The Independent on Black Box Recorder: ". . . There's a theory that, when it comes to obscenity on television or radio, you can get away with pretty much anything if it is said in perfect RP diction. If Sophie Ellis-Bextor said the c-word on primetime, she'd get less complaints than would Shaun Ryder. BBR have cottoned onto this. Not that profanity is their bag as such, but the way in which they sneak Luke Haines's singular worldview into the listeners' consciousness via the Trojan horse of Sarah Nixey's immaculately elocuted speaking voice and his band's shimmering, delicious pop is damned clever. Classic entryism, textbook détournement, and -- in chart terms, at least -- Haines's most successful exercise in subversion. Their main predecessors in this are The Flying Lizards, the new wave act best known for their cover of 'Money', who also used the format of foxy posh lady reciting the lyrics in a clipped, dispassionate voice (BBR's version of 'Uptown Top Ranking' on the England Made Me album was pure Lizards).

BBR are too busy with their own agenda to restrict themselves to conceptual gags. That agenda essentially belongs to Luke Haines, a man who is, I am rapidly coming to believe, some sort of evil genius, a white cat stroking, or indeed skinning, Bond villain of pop (he's looking the part tonight in a pure white tux, mirrored by the similarly-attired John Moore). It is, therefore, a pessimistic and largely a misanthropic agenda, but -- importantly this -- only because he is disappointed with the all-pervading 'stupidity' of modern life. Typical BBR subject-matters lurking in tonight's set list are the cookie-cutter conformism of the education system ('The School Song'), the hopeless aspirations to celebrity created by the Heat magazine culture ('The New Diana'), and the truth about male adolescent sexuality ('The Facts Of Life'), all narrated by Nixey with the dignified restraint of Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter. This show is basically a showcase for new album Passionoia. Now, when I tell you that Passionoia is Black Box Recorder's finest album yet, it isn't shorthand hyperbole for 'if you liked the others, you'll like this'. I'm telling you it really is their finest album yet. . . ."

Audrey at melodynelson says that "we expect no less than more depression from the third album" and so say all of us. Luke Haines, of course, was responsible for the soundtrack to Paul Tickell's adaptation of the BS Johnson cult novel, Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry.

TEAR IT DOWN! 02/11/2003

The New York Post's Page Six column reports on the Underground Literary Alliance's latest antics: "Literary debate sparked a street brawl the other night when members of the writers' group the Underground Literary Alliance ticked off Open City publisher Tom Beller and New Yorker writer Ben Greenman during a reading at Housing Works on Crosby Street. Greenman had read a short story about a tree when ULA'er Michael Jackman demanded he explain its social relevance. Greenman -- who is hated by the ULA for his ties to both the New Yorker and Dave Eggers' literary Web site McSweeney's which the group considers elitist -- did not take well to questioning. Insults were exchanged and the ULA boys were asked to leave by a store employee. . . ." Mobylives and Bookslut seem unimpressed.

Karl Wenclas was recently interviewed by our friend Peter Wild in Bookmunch: ". . . Our targets choose themselves. We didn't ask Rick Moody to accept a $35,000 grant he clearly didn't need. Rick had opportunities to return the funds before we began our campaign; I was in touch with friends of his. We didn't ask Jonathan Franzen to apply for and receive an NEA grant at the same time he was making millions of dollars from his book! As for Eggers, we target him because many people seem to believe he is somehow underground or alternative, when in fact he is tied very closely to the New York literary elite. (The NEW YORKER magazine, and Simon & Schuster Book company, made his name. He was by no means a 'Do-It-Yourself' person.) . . . ULA writers are generally not polished, have not been through the homogenization process of intensive schooling, and are not obsessed with craft. What they are is the authentic voice of America, unfiltered. . . . I don't know what the state of literature is in Britain. Here, it's moribund. It's a corpse. It's rotting and it stinketh. 'Literature' with a capital L doesn't connect with the real lives of the vast bulk of the American people. It's reserved for affluent snobs whose glossy book purchases gather dust on expensive coffee tables. The situation is ripe for change. . . . What do we hope to achieve by bringing stories of literary establishment corruption to life? We seek to throw light upon the maggots who are controlling a large segment of American (and by extension, the world's) culture. We hope to pressure said establishment to reform itself -- or if it doesn't reform, to arouse writers and the citizenry to tear it down. . . ."


"They call it hoar frost, little ice crystals that form on trees and fences and things and look like fractal outlines. No matter how cold it gets, the hoar frost is so stunning that you have to stop a moment and just stare at it to make sure you're really seeing it." - Jim Martin, 3AM Chief Editor & webmaster extraordinaire. Photo: Rebecca Martin.


Well I never! Stewart Home's mum, Julia Callan-Thompson, was a model, a hostess in several Soho clubs and a hippie!

NEXT BIG THING 02/11/2003

Maya Jaggi writes about Monica Ali -- one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists -- in the Guardian: "Last week I tried to set up an interview with the Next Big Thing in British fiction, only to hit a genteel, 21st-century colour bar that raised some fundamental questions about publishing, marketing and the media, the role of black and Asian journalists, and literature and power. I had been commissioned by the Guardian Weekend magazine to write a feature on Monica Ali, named as one of Granta's 20 Best of Young British Novelists 2003 on the strength of her first novel, Brick Lane, to be published in June. I put the request for first interview in a national newspaper to her publisher, Doubleday. After some hedging, Ali's publicist rang Weekend's editor to say that, while Doubleday would like to grant the Guardian first interview, it would rather the paper sent a different journalist. This was because, as the publicist wrote in a subsequent email, the author 'feels that black and Asian writers are often talked about and presented solely in terms of their race, whereas she would like to be seen as a writer who is naturally concerned about issues surrounding race, but who would also just like to be seen and judged as an interesting writer too'. They helpfully suggested a substitute journalist, who, unlike me, is neither Asian nor a woman. . . . How ironic that those anxious to safeguard authors from pigeonholing should do precisely that to someone else. I'm sure Monica Ali would agree that all those who write want to be judged on their work, not their race or their 'niche' -- and that goes for journalists as much as novelists."


"It's what really matters, isn't it?: physical beauty, pop fame, planetary wealth. All of this intellect stuff is fine as a consolation (which is how it developed in the first place: Socrates not being Alcibiades) but it doesn't make up for lacking the real modern stuff - the stuff that allows you to live in an up-to-the-minute world. Not up-to-the-year, not up-to-the-day - I mean now, tomorrow and whatever's after that. As far as true now-living goes, intellect is a real drawback. Because if you sit down and try to rationalize this world we're living in, baby, it's gone. Zoom! Gone even before your butt hits the seat. . . . Being dumb, as a whole generation has discovered, is the only true way of participating. . . . Being dumb gives you the capacity; being beautiful gives you the opportunity." - Toby Litt, "Postscript: Why Gabriel?", Adventures in Capitalism (1996).


Paris-based poet Todd Swift edited the 100 Poets Against the War in a week to coincide with Hans Blix's report to the UN. Within a few days, hundreds of websites the world over were hosting the PDF which tens of thousands of readers were eagerly downloading and circulating. A week later, Todd Swift launched 100 Poets Against the War Redux, a second version of his anthology, once again with the help of the excellent English webzine nthposition. Check it out here. (Todd Swift was recently published in 3AM. Photo: More than 700 Australian women bare all in anti-war protest.)


New live photos of our favourite Japanese trio eX-Girl who will be touring the US in March.


"Chinooks are these sort of weird and wonderful flukes that happen to people who live in only a few select places on earth. I won't get into the details behind how a chinook is created, but suffice to say that what you get is a sudden burst of unseasonably warm weather in the dead of winter that is typified by this beautiful ridge of cloud. One minute, we were sitting around -28 degrees Celsius (-18.4 Fahrenheit); the next we're enjoying temperatures around +10 Celsius (50 Fahrneheit)." - Jim Martin, 3AM Chief Editor & webmaster extraordinaire. Photo: Rebecca Martin.


Anglo-American duo The Kills will be the next big thing. Ian Hislop, chairman of the Whitbread Prize accuses publishers of being obsessed with youth and good looks. David Beckham has changed the face of Japanese women's pubic hair. Waiting For Godot's premiere was 50 years ago. David Nokes on the art of teaching literature in The Spectator. The National Review on Derrida The Movie. Interpol are interviewed at Pitchforkmedia. AL Kennedy's top 10 controversial books includes Hunter S Thompson who besides being interviewed in Salon recently attended a peace rally. American critic Leslie Fielder has died at the age of 85. Eric Ormsby writes about the "scabrous lyricism" of Tomas Bernhardt in The New Criterion. The Bush family was associated with the Nazis, it says here. Enough to give you the hiccups! Girl-on-girl action courtesy of delightful 3AM model Emilie Pierrard (left) from Paris, France.


Ahead of next week's British release of Stephen Daldry's The Hours (in which Nicole Kidman plays the part of Virginia Woolf) The Independent wonders whether the members of the Bloomsbury Group were "arty snobs or visionary creatives?"

DJ Taylor reckons that "'Bloomsbury', the fragile but oddly resilient cargo of intellectuals, art theorists, novelists and wife-swappers who between them exerted such a sinewy grasp on early to mid-century English culture, represents perhaps the most desperate example yet of the reading public's tendency to admire literary people for non-literary reasons, for personality and peculiarity rather than what exists on the page. . . . Posterity -- if posterity takes a view -- will remember Virginia Woolf for her literary criticism rather than her stream of self-conscious fiction. E M Forster's novels are no more than an exposure of the early 20th-century liberal sensibility that fashioned them, transfixed by their own moral inanition. Clive Bell and Roger Fry's musings on art are as dead as the passenger-pigeon, and I never yet read a page of Lytton Strachey's carbolic prose without thinking it the spiritual equivalent of someone holding their nose in case a bad smell seeps into the room. This is an exaggeration, of course, born of too many Bloomsbury films (the latest, The Hours, opens on 14 February) and too many gossip-ridden diaries. Quite a lot of individual Bloomsbury artefacts, it scarcely needs saying, will exultantly survive -- bits of Strachey, A Passage to India, even Carrington's paintings. But so, unhappily, will that fatal Bloomsbury influence, which wreaked such havoc on British intellectual life in the inter-war era and, suitably disguised and refashioned, continues to wreak it in our own. Like many another self-aggrandising cultural movement, Bloomsbury -- exclusive, conspiratorial, jealous of its privileges -- had an equally depressing effect on the writers and artists who didn't happen to be a part of it. . . . To put it another way, Ronald Firbank and F M Mayor were better novelists than Virginia Woolf from the literary 1920s, but whichever subscriber to Charleston magazine or retracer of Virginia's last steps along the Ouse ever heard of them? . . ."

Suzi Feay begs to differ: ". . . The taunt regularly flung at the group members is that individually they weren't up to much. Though James Strachey's translation of Freud, Maynard Keynes's economic theories and Roger Fry's Post-Impressionist exhibition seem tangible enough achievements, still the carping cry goes up that Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were indifferent painters; that Morgan Forster's novels are overrated while Lytton Strachey's biographies gather dust; that Virginia is unreadable, and Roger Fry's Omega Workshops were responsible for more ungainly screens, drab rugs and wobbly dishes than Habitat. Some of this looks like spite; much of it is simply personal taste. The more I hear critics shriek about Virginia Woolf's tedious novels, in which she dares to experiment with narrative, in which nothing happens, in which fugitive thoughts and feelings are meticulously weighed and described, the more I think yes! That's exactly why I like them! . . ."


The eagerly-awaited (and seemingly ever-deferred) biography of BS Johnson by Jonathan Coe (author of What a Carve Up! and The Rotters' Club) is now scheduled for August. French arts zine Chronic'art recently published an in-depth interview with Coe in which the English novelist speaks of his passion for Johnson. Coe has also published an article on BS Johnson's quest for absolute literary naturalism in Prospect magazine:

"A cultural organisation recently asked me to take part in a debate on the question: 'Is a true literary naturalism possible or even desirable?' The debate took place in France, where they like abstract ideas as much as the British dislike them. And sure enough, true to my national character, I found myself unable to get a handle on the topic unless I resorted to specific examples. I discovered that I could only make sense of the question by telling a story to illustrate it; thereby confirming-no doubt to the audience's quiet satisfaction-that the British remain a nation of narrators rather than thinkers. Never mind. It is because we're good at narration that, whenever you go abroad, people tell you how healthy the novel seems to be in Britain, compared to other European countries. Perhaps this has itself got something to do with naturalism, with our instinct for the texture of ordinary life. Yet if this instinct becomes too dominant, it can lead to a refusal to trust the imagination; and it was an extreme example of this which inspired the story I told in France. It is a true story. At least, the person who is its subject once lived, and there will be facts in it which can be verified. It is a story about a British author called BS Johnson, who wrote novels in the 1960s and 1970s and was a very unhappy person. At the time, his novels were not widely translated and that was one of the reasons he was unhappy. Another reason for his unhappiness was that he believed that a true literary naturalism was both possible and desirable. Partly as a result of holding this belief, he went mad and killed himself when he was 40 years old.

I know quite a lot about BS Johnson because I have almost finished writing a book about him. He and I are very different people, born into different times, and we are also very different writers. But one of the things we have in common is the similarity between our first novels. His was called Travelling People and was published in 1963; mine was called "The Sunset Bell" and has never been published. Both were about university graduates who had been disappointed in love. Both, surprisingly enough, were written by university graduates who had been disappointed in love. In other words, we had both fallen into the classic trap of the first-time novelist: unable to see beyond the boundaries of our own tiny emotional universe, we had wanted to write only about ourselves but, aware that novels were supposed to do something more than that, we had attempted to disguise our insignificant narratives as universal paradigms of the human condition, projecting our own triumphs and disasters onto a hero who was, of course, no more than a thinly disguised version of ourselves.

There is nothing special about this. It is how most novelists begin. Then you tend to grow a little bit more, experience a little bit more, and begin to realise that although in one sense you are an epicentre of human experience, in another, larger sense, this is not the case at all. You have two responsibilities as a writer: to the micro-world within you and the macro-world outside you. The writer who sits at his desk, looking out of his study window, sees two things: his face reflected in the window, staring back at him and through that, he sees a world of people hurrying about their business who are utterly indifferent to his well-being. The writer must see both, and he must write about both, or his account of his own problems will be meaningless and his way of writing about other people will lack all intensity, all interiority.

So what do you do? You expand your cast of characters. You listen to the things people say in the street and on the bus; you listen to the stories of your friends' lives and sometimes you borrow them (with permission, of course). You research the way other people live so that you are able to write about more than the problems of being a writer, which, needless to say, are fascinating to yourself but of less concern to everybody else. Your books get bigger and their emotional palette gets richer and they get more fictional -- because you are having to make more of this stuff up, not having lived through it. But at the same time, paradoxically, they become more truthful, more faithful to the complex reality which you have to believe is out there somewhere, waiting to be grasped by the novelistic mind. That is what most writers do. It is what I have done, over the 20 years that I have been writing novels. But it is not what BS Johnson did.

. . . 'Telling stories is telling lies, and I want to tell the truth... I want to tell the truth about me... about my truth.' Isn't BS Johnson groping here for precisely that tantalisingly abstract goal: a true literary naturalism? Instead of moving further away from his own experience, he is starting to move closer towards it in the belief that he can only tell the truth about something if he has experienced it. Yet he also knows that this is impossible, because even in one small life there is so much incident, so much detail, that even the most compendious novel could not contain it. As he points out in Albert Angelo, his hero 'defecates only once during the whole of this book: what sort of a paradigm of the truth is that?'

On the one hand, we have what BS Johnson called 'the enormity of life': chaotic, multifaceted, complex, infinite. On the other, we have the novel: a small object of, say, three or four hundred pages, severely circumscribed by the author's ability and experience, and by the attention span of readers, with their wearisome desire to be entertained. How can the second contain the first? If naturalism means an absolute fidelity to the 'enormity of life,' then even the most ambitious novel -- be it Proust or Perec, Musil or Broch -- cannot achieve it. The very attempt to do so represents a kind of insanity. . . ."

LIVE FOREVER 02/06/2003

Nicholas Barber in the Independent on the new documentary about Britpop which is released on 14 February in Britain: "For those of us who feel as if Britpop happened only yesterday, or last week at most, it's unnerving to learn that the producers of One Day In September have followed their Oscar-winning documentary with a film about a bunch of bands who hung around Camden in the mid-1990s -- as if Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Elastica and co had assumed the historical significance of the 1972 Olympics. But it's happened. With the impending release of Live Forever, Britpop has been officially consigned to the past. . . . As the term might suggest, Britpop had a lot to do with Britishness -- singing, in an English accent, about chip shops and bank holidays, and being rudely awakened by the dustmen on a Wednesday. But it had at least as much to do with pop -- a radical concept at the time. In the early 1990s, pop was something that New Kids On The Block did. . . . But then, round about 1994, Britain's guitar bands began to see things differently. Their ambitions no longer peaked with a Peel session and a tour of the student union circuit; their idea of a show stretched beyond covering their faces with their fringes and keeping their eyes down on their effects pedals. While their direct forebears, the Smiths and the Stone Roses, were lucky to get a single in the UK top 10, the Britpack wanted to top the charts around the world. They wanted to be pop stars. . . ."

Kevin Young writes on the BBC's website that ". . . Politics also features in Live Forever, especially the drinks reception for celebrities hosted by Tony Blair in 1997. The former lead singer of Sleeper, Louise Wener, describes Oasis as 'their own nation state' but adds: 'It was so depressing when Noel went to Downing Street. In that very instant he was neutered.' One of the funniest moments of the documentary occurs when Liam Gallagher is asked to comment on his 'androgynous appeal'. After several attempts to explain what this means, the swaggering singer agrees that he has feminine qualities. 'I take care of me hair. You've gotta have a decent haircut if you're the frontman of a band.' . . ."


3am's Andrew Stevens has fallen in love with the Raveonettes: ". . . With a name sounding more like a bee-hived pre-Motown group, Denmark's Raveonettes manage to capture the spirit and the essence of the Mary Chain on their debut, but without the blatant vinyl xeroxing à la Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (who are to the Mary Chain what The Monkees were to The Beatles). You have to wonder what effect living in the cold climate of Denmark and Sweden does to produce bands like The Raveonettes, The Hives and the (International) Noise Conspiracy . I'd be willing to wager that Sharin Foo, the flaxen-haired and cheekboned front woman, and Sune Wagner, the suitably quiffed male member of the two-piece noise merchants, have heard their fair share of Velvets and Stooges records. . . . At 21: 41 in length you can't but help feeling a tad cheated, although at the price it's a good as a tenner bag of speed. . . .

. . . With their covers looking like pulp novels and subjecting the listener to degenerate tales of lewd quantity, relayed over a web of fuzz and drone with more than a nod to The Cramps, you get the impression that The Raveonettes would eat The Strokes for breakfast and expose them for the trustafarian charlatan eye candies that they are. . . ." Coming soon at 3AM.


There's an interview with Marco Pirroni on Marco has also donated some photos from his personal collection to the website. While you're at it take a look at the interview with Johnny Bivouac, the Ants' guitarist in 77-78: ". . . When I joined the Ants I had to be given a stage name -- John Beckett simply wouldn't do. . . . Jordan took me out the day after I joined and I had my haircut by Keith at Smile and we went down the King's Road to buy clothes. There was no 'styling' of the band as such but Jordan would often give us things to wear from Sex or Seditionaries or wherever. There was no particular 'look' although obviously leather was favoured and I had a great pair of leather chaps (sort of cowboy leggings) which I wore a lot on stage.

. . . I think my favorite Ant song is 'Dirk Wears White Sox' -- it's such a perfectly structured song, great chords, witty lyrics, brilliant melody. I also have a soft spot for 'Juanito the Bandito' which we used to do as an encore sometimes. Other fun ones to play were 'Red Scab', 'Whip In My Valise' and of course the big feedback intro to 'Plastic Surgery' . . . oh, and I love 'B-Side Baby' as well. Least favorite to play was probably 'Letter To Jordan', simply because it was so bloody fast!

. . . I think the whole punk movement had huge, far-reaching effects on our generation, not just in music but in art, literature and society generally. The violence and nihilistic image was media produced and nurtured -- most people I knew from that era were not violent types at all. Punk broke down a lot of social and intellectual barriers and changed the outlook of a lot of members of its generation. . . ."


The author of Boxy an Star, Daren King, has asked a series of writers (including Ben Richards, Matt Thorne and Alex Garland) how they got their first publishing deal.


Lorraine Adams in the American Prospect: "There is a long, slow line. The queue of narrow-shouldered boys in thrift-store shirts and black-tighted girls with Emily Dickinson stares is blocking aisles in a Washington bookstore. The faithful look to be just out of college or just past 30. They thread through the door and onto the sidewalk. They are waiting for Dave Eggers to sign copies of his first novel. . . . Most observers see Eggers and his fans as existing outside politics. But Eggers' literary superstardom is prompting an alternative culture that has grown up around him over the last five years. It is a San Francisco- and Brooklyn-based community of writers, artists, designers and, increasingly, children -- with a growing national following. They are the readers, contributors and designers of the literary journal-cum-Web site McSweeney's (first published in 1998) and McSweeney's Books.

. . . The McSweeney's generation brings to mind another that thought parents had it all wrong -- the London counterculture of the early 1960s. . . . Could McSweeney's alternative culture be a precursor, as swinging London was, to a new political physics? Could McSweeney's be analogous to the 1950s City Lights Journal, City Lights Publishers and the Beats -- Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac? . . ."


Adam Mars-Jones reviews You Shall Know Our Velocity in the Guardian: "Jackass is a television programme, successful enough to spawn a film, in which young Americans do ostentatiously stupid or dangerous stunts: skateboarding down a stairwell, for instance, or riding a pogo stick naked across sheet ice. Much of the action of Dave Eggers's first novel . . . has a disconcertingly similar flavour, as the narrator Will Chmielewski and his best friend from childhood, Justin -- invariably known as Hand -- try to get rid of $80,000. . . . What makes the adventures in the book so dismaying to read (presumably less so for an American audience) is that Will and Hand aren't content to relieve the domestic poverty of their own great nation. They set off to fly round the world, giving themselves only a week to do it, and planning to scatter largesse where it will do more good. They visualise themselves taping packets of money to donkeys, then watching from a distance as the love-bomb of their charity explodes among the exotic poor. Unfortunately, unattended donkeys are hard to come by. An unattended goat proves uncooperative. Will and Hand are aggrieved to find that flights between, say, Madagascar and Mongolia are not direct, let alone frequent. 'All we wanted was another continent, as soon as possible.' Is that so much to ask?

. . . In fact, the entire action of the novel, the whole world trip, is displacement activity. Will is in deep mourning (Hand rather less so) for their friend Jack, third member of their childhood knot, a famously safe and leisurely driver whose car was simply crushed by a speeding truck coming up behind. The world trip is supposed to disconnect them from unbearable memories -- only it's not that easy. This is a promising device, to have the real subject seeping through the apparent one, and was used to great effect, for instance, by Alasdair Gray in 1982 Janine. It can only work, though, if the repressed subject appears as ripples and eddies, rather than the geysers and plumes of self-regarding lyricism displayed here. It can hardly be subtext if it's louder than text. . . ."


3am Chief Editor Andrew Gallix has some work published in Sniffy 3, the latest issue of Sniffy Linings Press's journal. Sniffy 3 comes in a silk-screened envelope and can be ordered here.


Ross Clark responds to Tessa Jowell's criticisms in The Times: ". . . Ms Jowell echoes a common conceit among theatregoers and opera lovers: that while Brits spend their evenings chomping crisps in front of the latest sitcom, Germans dress up and head down to the local opera, after which they discuss the finer points of Don Giovanni's performance. I have more than once been told an apocryphal tale about a German au pair on a placement in an English provincial town who asked her hosts 'tell me, which is the best opera house in town?' and was unable to comprehend the reply that the nearest opera was 200 miles away but if she wanted a night out, Shirley Valentine was on at the local cinema. It is horribly unfair to compare English and German opera. It is rather like going to Heidelberg and asking which is the best cricket team in town. Opera is a particularly German art form. If you want Shakespeare, on the other hand, most provincial British towns can provide it. The real difference between English and German culture is not passion; it is state subsidy. The Germans support their 300 opera houses as a matter of national pride, whether or not the locals can be bothered to peel themselves away from their own television channels. If the Germans are really so passionate about culture, how come their government has to subsidise their opera to the tune of £60 per seat?

If you want opera, fly to Germany. Thanks to the generosity of German taxpayers, you can get one of the best seats in a provincial opera house for around £20 -- less than half what Covent Garden will charge you to sit behind a pillar. Whether state subsidy of the arts makes for a passionate cultural scene is another matter. The culture to which Ms Jowell refers involves the endless recital of Germany's 19th-century musical heritage. It is a fantastic heritage, but it is not the product of contemporary Germany. If you are trying to name internationally renowned artists, writers, architects or original musicians of the past 50 years, you will sooner find them in supposedly philistine Britain. . . ."


The Daily Telegraph writes that "The Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, yesterday effectively accused Britons of being Philistines compared to their German cousins. On a visit to Berlin where she toured museums and art galleries before dropping in on a concert by Sir Simon Rattle, Mrs Jowell said she hoped that Germany's enthusiasm for culture would one day 'rub off' on Britain, which she said lacked a passion for culture. 'England has a great cultural tradition past and present. (But) perhaps in Britain we simply lack the passion of the Germans to debate culture,' she said in an article under her name published in the daily Der Tagesspiegel. . . . Mrs Jowell said no case illustrated her point better than the recent arrival in Berlin of Sir Simon, Britain's most famous cultural export, to become artistic director of the Berlin Philharmonic. . . . While her comments will strike a chord with enthusiasts of the arts, they are likely to frustrate Sir Simon, 47, who accused the British government of neglecting culture, before he took up the baton in Berlin. 'Coming from England, where the culture ministry is of the opinion that art is only made by parasites for the rich, in comparison Germany and Berlin . . . is absolute heaven to me,' he told one German newspaper. He was accused in some camps of turning his back on British culture when he took up the Berlin job, after repeatedly saying that Germans had a greater appreciation for the arts and -- unlike Britons -- were willing to give it the necessary financial backing. The average German theatre or concert-goer can expect the state to subsidise every ticket by around £60. In Britain it is a fraction of that amount. . . ."

Booker Prize winner Ben Okri has blamed "Britain's decline and slide into 'imaginative impotence' on its lack of respect for writers. Our novelists and poets are unappreciated in their own land, beaten down with defeatism and saddled with an inferiority complex in comparison to their lionised American counterparts, the Nigerian-born author of The Famished Road claimed. 'It is all very well celebrating the dead, but we are deaf to what living writers are saying, particularly about the war situation we now find ourselves in,' Okri told the Guardian last night. His attack comes as the culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, chided Britain's jaded attitude to the arts, comparing it unfavourably with Germany's commitment to culture. Okri, in an article for the Royal Society of Literature magazine, said rivers, roads, parks and squares should be renamed in honour of writers who have 'enriched the world', and a Literature House built to house the society and the authors' group PEN. 'Britain shines from a distance with its rich presence of varied writers bringing visions from many distant lands,' he wrote. 'But to itself Britain does not celebrate enough its own gold and diamond spirit. Is it surprising, therefore, that it has fostered in its living writers an inferiority complex in relation to America? Or that a hidden vein of self-defeatism runs destructively in its soul? Or that a certain gloom, a certain provincial air attends its perception of itself? This will not do. Celebrate, or be dull. Appreciate, or be plain. Enhance, or you may as well murder your children in their cradles.' 'There is no mystery about the decline of nations,' he added. 'It begins with the decline of its writers. And its first symptom is in the failure of a nation to honour and celebrate its writers. Why is this so? Because writers represent the unconscious vigour and fighting spirit of a land. Writers are the very sign of the psychic health of a people: they are the barometer of the vitality of the spirit of the nation.' . . ."


Joe Hagan interviews James Frey -- the latest American literary wunderkind -- in the New York Observer: "At 33, James Frey has a humble ambition: he wants to be the greatest literary writer of his generation. And like the guy in the film Memento, he's got a cryptic note tattooed on his left arm should he forget: 'F.T.B.S.I.T.T.T.D.' 'It means "FUCK THE BULLSHIT IT'S TIME TO THROW DOWN,"' explained Mr. Frey, a fledgling filmmaker turned author whose first book, A Million Little Pieces, will be published in April by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. Film director Gus Van Sant has compared Mr. Frey to 'a young-guard Eggers' -- which means Dave Eggers had better be prepared to, you know, throw down. 'The Eggers book pissed me off,' said Mr. Frey, referring to the best-selling and critically beloved A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, published in 2000. He was sitting in a black leather Eames chair in his 1,800-square-foot Tribeca loft on a recent afternoon, dressed in a pale blue T-shirt and green medical scrub pants. 'Because a book that I thought was mediocre was being hailed as the best book written by the best writer of my generation,' he said. 'Fuck that. And fuck him and fuck anybody that says that. I don't give a fuck what they think of me. I'm going to try to write the best book of my generation and I'm going to try to be the best writer.' . . . I don't give a fuck what Jonathan Safran whatever-his-name does or what David Foster Wallace does. I don't give a fuck what any of these people do. I don't hang out with them, I'm not friends with them, I'm not part of the literati. I think of myself as outside of this publishing culture.' . . ."


Dave Eggers' McSweeney's recently published Nick Hornby's Songbook, a collection of essays on the author's 31 favourite songs which comes complete with a CD compilation. The British Guardian asked 31 personalities - including Toby Litt, Paul Morley, Geoff Travis, Johnny Marr, Jamie Byng, Julie Burchill, JG Ballard and Alain de Botton -- to choose their own favourite tracks.


Neal Pollack writes about the Book House Rock gig in his week-long electronic diary published by Slate: ". . . I got to the bookstore at about quarter to 8. In case, when I say 'bookstore,' you all are imagining something like the Tattered Cover, let me dispel that image. The Escapist is owned by two young women, Elana Koff and Julianne Sherrod. Their storefront has three shelves of books, mostly fetish-related. They also sell vintage clothing and put on art shows. Recently they started a dating and sartorial-advice business for nerdy guys who want to meet fabulous women like them. . . . I got so excited that I smashed an empty bottle of Wild Turkey on the floor. Elana quickly brought me a broom. 'That was a great punk rock thing you did,' she said. 'Now clean it up.'

. . . Soon enough, The Neal Pollack Invasion played. There were about 40 people left in the crowd by this point. Our opening song was good. Then I realized I'd forgotten to write out set lists for everyone. So I had to bark out the songs just before we played them, which confused Daniel especially, because he'd been drinking a lot of malt liquor. Our second song wasn't so good. The set kind of crawled until we hit 'Jenny in the Car,' our Springsteen parody, and then the energy picked up a bit. I produced a copy of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections and began reading aloud. Two paragraphs in, I began to yawn. I tore the book jacket. Then I tore the cover. I began tearing the pages in large bunches. Tossing the book into the crowd, I told them to finish destroying it. A young woman got the book when it was halfway destroyed. She refused to let anyone else touch it, and said, "I don't think you should tear up books." Elana handed me a copy of Infinite Jest. 'I've always wanted to destroy this one,' she said. So I did. And then we performed a rock version of my poem 'I Wipe My Ass on Your Novel.' Soon, as the band wailed behind me, I was laying on a beer-soaked floor among hundreds of discarded pages of Franzen and Foster Wallace. Rock 'n' roll! . . ."

Neal Pollack's Beneath the Axis of Evil: One Man's Journey Into the Horrors of War, published by So New Media, is out now.

LITCHICKS 02/01/2003

The Austin-based "ultra-micro-mini pubblishing house" So New Media held a "readings, punk rock music and booze" bash at The Escapist Bookstore & Art Space on January 24. Book House Rock included the amazing Neal Pollack, Claire Zulkey, Ben Brown (founder of So New Media), Jamie Allen, the Yuppie Pricks and Jim Roll. The third issue of So New Media's Words! Words! Words! magazine is now available. Not only does it include fine fiction, but the centrefold is Chloe from Suicidegirls!


In Association with

Your Name:
Your Email:
Enter your email address above for 3 AM MAGAZINE'S Monthly Newsletter. Each time a new issue is posted, we'll let you know. (Your email address will be kept confidential!)

home | buzzwords
fiction and poetry | literature | arts | politica | music | nonfiction
| offers | contact | guidelines | advertise | webmasters
Copyright © 2005, 3 AM Magazine. All Rights Reserved.