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CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

by Andrew Gallix

COPYRIGHT © 2004, 2005, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

THE SUMMER MISSING LINKS (PART 2) 08/23/2004

Edvard Munch's The Scream stolen from museum at gunpoint! The Clash's legendary Vanilla Tapes resurface after 25 years: ". . . The existence of the recordings took on mythical status when roadie Johnny Green wrote in his memoirs about how he had lost them. He had been asked to deliver a tape of the band's new songs to prospective producer Guy Stevens, to see if he was interested in working on the material, but lost it en route. 'I was told to deliver it to Guy but I went down the pub and had a few, well, quite a few,' he said. 'I fell asleep on the Tube and when I woke up I realised I was at Warren Street where I had to change, so I rushed off, but left it on the Tube. One of the band had marked the tape 'Val Doonican' so I have this vision of someone finding the tape player and being really excited, then finding the tape and thinking 'what's this?' and throwing it in the bin'. . . ." Kenneth Anger, Julie Burchill and Jonathan Coe are all in today's Observer. Jonathan Coe: ". . . In some senses, I suggest, the character of Benjamin -- brilliant, hamstrung by doubt -- has an affinity with BS Johnson, whose life Coe has been researching on and off for the past 15 years, culminating in his biography. The pairing of Coe and Johnson was curious in that Coe has always seemed -- from his breakthrough novel, What a Carve Up!, and before -- to be a natural, uncomplicated storyteller, the opposite of his subject. But were there aspects of that obsessive, self-conscious personality that he is drawn to? 'The more melancholy side of my literary personality is much in tune with BS Johnson's,' he says. 'Writing that book has raised a lot of questions for me, which continue to turn around in my head.' Such as? 'Well, I started by disagreeing with Johnson absolutely, about his conviction that telling stories was always telling lies. But actually, while I was writing The Closed Circle, that phrase just came back to me again and again. Every time I wrote a sentence, "Emily said this", or "Clare said that", I would look at it, and think: that is simply not true.' He recognised in this the danger of a paralysis and that threat has stayed with him. It has, he says, left him in the 'strange and positive' position of not knowing at all what kind of book he will write next, but with a strong sense that it will not be the conventional storytelling of his last two novels. . . ." Melissa Panarello's One Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed, already a bestseller on the Continent, is attracting a lot of attention in Britain ahead of its publication (by Serpent's Tail) on 26 August: ". . . The book is a flow of seedy sexual encounters between the protagonist's willing 'Secret' (her vagina), or her mouth, and countless demanding men. In between classes at her home town the teenager goes seeking romance and comes home humiliated, soiled, full of shame and often in tears after willingly allowing men - and a woman at one point -- to use her body and mechanically give her physical pleasure. On her 16th birthday, Melissa ends up in a smoke-filled room above an old fishing yard, blindfolded, as five men she does not know take over her body. 'Unexpectedly the hands became four,' she writes in her diary, then six, then eight, then 10. 'Five men were licking me, caressing me, setting my body on fire,' she writes. 'I was at the centre of attention and they did what is permitted with my body in the cell of desire.' 'I was inert,' she says. 'My eyes looked down, switched off. Empty.' When it was over, in the early hours, 'I went home full of sperm, my make-up running. My mother was waiting asleep on the sofa. I felt invaded, soiled by strange, lumpy bodies. I brushed my hair one hundred times, like princesses do but smelling of sex'. . . ." The past and future of the Futureheads: ". . . At the turn of the past decade, the band came together thanks to a local youth project, in which aspiring musicians were encouraged to write songs that grappled with teenage issues. . . . (T)hey quickly formulated an informal set of rules that resembled an indie-rock version of the Dogme 95 manifesto. First, as a rejection of artifice and affectation, they resolved to sing in their own accents. From there, the list quickly extended. 'No guitar solos,' explains Craig. 'Short songs. Fast songs. Don't do anything more than once if there's no point. Look at Oasis: you have an intro, a verse, another bit of the intro, verse, bridge, chorus. Every song is exactly the same. But take that song 'Stupid and Shallow' on our album: verse, bridge, chorus. And that's it -- everything just once. That's why the songs are so short. Everyone in Sunderland at the time was going through the rigmarole of [affects mild boredom] 'classic songwriting'. We just wanted to be different' 'We tried to put more ideas into a song that was one minute long than someone else's song that was four minutes long,' says Hyde. 'We wanted to have so many things happening at the same time that people couldn't possibly find it boring. That's the only thing we didn't want to be: boring. I'd go to gigs, desperately wanting to see something inspirational and exhilarating, and come away disappointed. So we set out to do something people were going to find stunning'. . . ."



LIFE: LESSON 6 - INSOMNIA 08/23/2004

Kenneth enneth Anger (interviewed by Sanjiv Bhattacharya, The Observer, 22 August 2004:

". . . 'I tune my radio to the BBC World Service,' he says. 'I can't dream, but at least I can listen to the nightmares of the real world'".




THE SUMMER MISSING LINKS (PART 1) 08/22/2004

Stephen Amidon in the Sunday Times on Dale Peck's "invective-driven jihad against just about all of modern fiction" otherwise known as Hatchet Jobs: "He maintains that the novel took a wrong turn with Ulysses and now wanders deep in a wilderness of self-indulgence. The current generation of American novelists such as Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace and Jeffrey Eugenides labour under the spell of the false god James Joyce and his malign prophets, Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. It is 'a tradition that has systematically divested itself of any ability to comment on anything other than its own inability to comment on anything . . . a tradition which had turned the construction of a novel into a formal exercise, judged either by the inexpressive or inscrutable floribundity of its prose . . . or the lifeless carpentry of its parts". Pete Doherty's court appearance. Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne fame praises London caffs in Time Out: ". . . "My obsession with them began aged four, with a BBC kids' programme called Joe set in a transport caff (lorries! A jukebox!), and blossomed when I moved to London in the mid-80s, fuelled by Dexy's Midnight Runners' 'The Teams That Meet in Caffs', and the photo on the back of Madness's 'The Sun and the Rain'. The green-and-white luncheon voucher called to me. Thinking I was a kind of beatnik, I planned to while away my days over frothy coffee, reading Waterhouse, Mackay and Brautigan, and with like-minded souls, plot to bring down the government. . . ." (More on the death of the greasy spoon in The Observer.) Chuck Palahniuk interviewed by Robert Chalmers in the Independent on Sunday. Trendspotting: the first text message novel in China ("Any attempt to reduce literature to just another cue for an annoying novelty ring-tone is an act of complicity in humanity's ongoing conspiracy to cretinise itself," thundered The Independent on Sunday!) and the rise of vlogging (check out tropisms, vidblogs or human-dog). The Independent on Sunday has published an extract from Scarlet Thomas's new novel, PopCo. A preview of Tom Hodgkinson's How To Be Idle appeared in The Observer: ". . . Greatness and late rising are natural bedfellows. Late rising is for the independent of mind, the individual who refuses to become a slave to work, money, ambition. In his youth, the great poet of loafing, Walt Whitman, would arrive at the offices of the newspaper where he worked at around 11.30am, and leave at 12.30 for a two-hour lunch break. Another hour's work after lunch and then it was time to hit the town. . . . The art of living is the art of bringing dreams and reality together. I have a dream. It is called love, anarchy, freedom. It is called being idle". Suzi Feay in the Independent on Sunday: "How can you not fall in love with an author who writes this? 'Go go go!…skydivers, bungee-jumpers, jet-skiers, surfers, mountain-bikers, off-roaders… Get out there, dude! Awesome! Don't just sit at home! Do something. Do anything! Don't stop. Don't think. Go for it! Just do it. The idler surveys this dismal mishmash of lifestyle options and decides: just don't do it. Just don't. Don't go - stop". The Paddingtons live. Mullets, mullets everywhere! There's a Steve Almond story in the pulp issue of nerve.com. Irvine Welsh on wine vs beer in Marmalade and on life in general in the Observer: "You never read your own books. I don't know how anybody can. When you write a book it's a way of getting rid of something that you don't particularly want back. Like dain' a shite. Hopefully you grow old, but never up. My whole life's been a midlife crisis. Dunno whether it's a prolonged adolescence or a premature menopause, it's seamless to me. . . . Books are a communal thing that you pass around. I don't have loads of books in the house. I leave them on the Underground so somebody else can read them. I've got Trainspotting in about 24 languages. Usually overseas publishers will send you one or two copies but the Dutch send you boxes. So I sometimes leave Dutch versions of my books on the tube for a laugh. You go through ridiculous phases, hanging on to youth. My DJ-ing was a way to keep going to clubs and be surrounded by young people, 'I've got my box, look!' Writing's good 'cos it's a respectable profession for a mature chap to be in, you can grow old with grace in it. I've not managed it yet but it can be done. . . ." The late Edward Said on the rage of the old. An excellent article on influential photographer William Eggleston. Time Out report on The John Wesley Harding Band which includes novelist Toby Litt: "Hot on the heels of Stephen King and Amy Tan's band Rock Bottom Remainders comes The John Wesley Harding Band, comprising Dylan buff Toby Litt, John 'The Last Party' Harris and Faber editor Hannah Griffiths, who made their début at last weekend's trendier-than-thou Port Eliot literary festival in Cornwall. Meanwhile, Geoff Dyer did fire-spinning outside the disco tent, while Matt Thorne and Helen Walsh scandalised the Cornish folk with their XXX-rated reading". This summer, the NME reported on London's thriving rock scene: "In the sweaty shoestring clubs and backrooms of London something is stirring: from New Cross' DIY scene in the south to the sleazy emissions of the Rhythm Factory in the east, a new generation of the capital's bands are emerging, sick to death of rock clichés, Britpop hangovers and plastic chart pop. . . ." Alan McGee explained that the Libertines have "spawned a freshness and rejuvenation of the entire rock'n'roll scene. They've found a way round the music business. It's very web-based, they have these communities on the internet. We put up a message on one of the Libertines messageboards saying they were playing at the Forum and we sold 5,500 tickets. Off a message. Culturally it's probably the most significant thing in my life since punk. . . . Is this the defining scene of this generation? Completely". The Libertines were, and are, all over the papers what with Pete's antics and the new album out at the end of August. Pete Doherty was interviewed by Charlotte Cripps in the Independent: ". . . It's widely known that Doherty is more accommodating to his fans than most of us would be to our own family. 'I let them write on the walls, put on records, flick through books, make cups of tea,' Doherty says. 'And a few fans were only 14 years old. In some cases I had to phone their mums to let them know. Some of the kids were embarrassed when I first phoned. Some mums came round and sat with them while I played.' . . . 'Carl can take my amps, my guitars, my songs, but he can't do anything about what we did with Mick Jones -- that is for ever. I must emulate what I did with The Libertines. Patrick Walden [the guitarist in Doherty's own band, Babyshambles, and his new songwriting partner] has that certain hunger, a lack of self-belief combined with an unbelievable talent, that Carl had.' He is busying himself with Babyshambles, who are also signed by Rough Trade and share the familiar punk-with-a-romantic-twist sensibilities of his former bandmates. Ever faithful to his army of fans, Doherty keeps them informed of his daily activities via the Babyshambles website that he runs from his laptop. He updates his online diary every day and posts details of secret gigs, often held in dingy pubs or in his flat. . . ." Anthony Thornton describes The Libertines' second, eponymous album as "the most agonisingly voyeuristic listening experience in rock, ever". In the Guardian, Maddy Costa observes that "It's no surprise that the Libertines have become one of the most infamous bands in Britain. Theirs is the great rock'n'roll story of our times, a saga of drugs and shots at self-destruction to match any of the legendary tales of excess passed down from the 1960s. More than that, theirs is a great love story, an exquisitely painful romance of two self-proclaimed soulmates who can't live together yet can't live apart. No wonder everyone from tabloid newspapers to music monthlies wants warring frontmen Pete Doherty and Carl Barat in their pages. . . . For months now, Doherty and Barat have talked about each other to just about anyone apart from each other. Nothing that they've said, however, has pinpointed the disparity between them as savagely as 'Can't Stand Me Now', number two in this week's singles chart and the opening track on their second album. They start with a spat: 'You twist and tore our love apart,' accuses Barat; 'You know you've got it the wrong way round,' Doherty throws back. Then comes the chorus. They're trading the line 'You can't stand me now'. Barat sings boldly, almost blithely. But for Doherty, joining in sounds like agony. The word 'you' rumbles in his throat like a half-choked sob. The second time he sings the line he takes a huge breath before sighing it out. It's as though he must draw on every reserve in his body to sing these words, because doing so tears his sinews in two. Listening to the song, you realise The Libertines isn't simply an album: it's the central chapter in a sprawling roman à clef. Song after song seems to refer directly to Barat and Doherty's fraught relationship; never has the mention of girls in lyrics felt so much like a ruse. 'The girl I thought I knew is gone, and with her my heart it disappears,' lilts Doherty in the anguished 'Music When the Lights Go Out'. . . ." Avant-garde writer Ron Sukenick passed away in July. The New Left Bank is the title of Web Del Sol's Euro lit column, written by 3AM's Andrew Stevens and yours truly. On the ever-fascinating subject of Myself, my short story "Sweet Fanny Adams" has been republished in the revamped Parisiana. The latest issue of Exquisite Corpse has gone online, and it includes flash fiction and prose poems by 3AM's multi-talented Utahna Faith. On literary sequels. Watch out: Action Girls are here! Nicholas Blincoe (soon to be interviewed in 3AM interviewed in the Independent: ". . . Blincoe sees the change in direction as a natural progression. "You get older," he explains. 'When I started writing, I was in my late twenties, and I saw myself in the tradition of cult and underground writers. It takes a while for you to realise you're always an outsider, always ineffective and on the margins. I wanted to speak to a readership I felt more in touch with. I want to address the world as an equal. I think I've made a commitment to being a political novelist, which in some ways isn't fashionable.' However, 'Where else can we be partisan? Where can we put our heart if it isn't in novels?'. . . ." One for the ladies: rate my kitten. Interview with David Lodge.



BORN CONFUSED 08/17/2004

Don't miss Richard Marshall's forthcoming interview with Tanuja Desai Hidier in 3AM. Tanuja is the author of Born Confused, "a South Asian American coming-of-age story set in the context of New York City's burgeoning bhangra", which was chosen as a book of the year by Larry King and the London Sunday Times. She has also worked as a filmmaker and is lead singer/songwriter in a couple of bands. When We Were Twins, Tanuja's latest album, is based on her novel. The press release announces that the fourteen tracks "connect to different themes, scenes, and characters in Born Confused, paralleling the heroine's journey from confusion, through chaos, to clarity, in a rock/pop/electro-folk context".



TO BALDLY GO: FOUCAULT IN LONDON 08/17/2004

The French Institute (17 Queensberry Place, SW7) in London is organising an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of Michel Foucault's death on 15 September at 7.30 pm. Speakers will include Daniel Defert, the philosopher's lifelong partner and editor of Dits et Ecrits, Frédéric Gros, editor of Foucault's Collège de France lectures and Colin Gordon, co-author and editor of The Foucault Effect: "Following the publication in 1994 of Foucault's collected shorter writings and interviews, Dits et Ecrits, his lectures at the Collège de France, which are being made available to the English reader, are a further extraordinary extension to the scope and scale of his available work, proposing extended and profoundly original treatments of themes as diverse as racial struggle, neoliberalism and Roman ethics." This event will be followed by a public seminar at the London School of Economics on 16 September.



JOYFEST 08/11/2004

The excellent music site Joyzine (in conjunction with Filthy Little Angels) is holding a two-day festival at the Hackney Ocean (London) on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 August. Joyfest -- "a weekend of joy in aid of Love Music Hate Racism" -- will bring together some 30 cutting-edge bands including The Unstrung, Art Brut, The Violets and The Swear. There will also be a series of exhibitions (art, photography and films). Tickets are available online (£25 for a weekend pass, £17 for a day pass). Full line-up on Saturday: thisGIRL, The Rocks, X is Loaded, Neil's Children, Ludes Gin Palace, Special Needs, We Will Be Pilots, Bikini Atoll, The Favours, The Long Blondes, The Vichy Government, Dustin's Bar Mitzvah, October All Over and The Schla La Las. On Sunday the line-up will be: Mika Bomb, Campag Velocet, The Violets, Art Brut, The Boyfriends, The Rakes, The International Karate Plus, New Rhodes Rhesus, The Unstrung, Black Nielson, The Swear, Artichoke Killers and On Camera.



3AM TOP 5 08/03/2004

The latest sensations from the Angular Records stable, The Fucks, are currently listening to:
  1. "The Power is On" -- The Go Team
  2. "The Villain" -- Lieutenant Pigeon
  3. "Fuck the Pain Away" -- Kiki and Herb
  4. "Under My Thumb" -- The Rolling Stones
  5. "Dragostea Din Tei" -- Ozone

(Pic by Andrew Stevens: The Fucks performing at 3AM's latest event in London.)








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