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CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE

THE NAPLES OF THE NORTH 02/20/2004

On 26 February, Michael Bracewell will give a talk at the Swedenborg Society (Barter Street, London WC1, 6.30-8.30pm) on the subject of I Know Where I'm Going: A Guide to Morecambe and Heysham, his new book co-authored with artist Linder and published by Book Works. According to the blurb, the book "functions as a gazetteer for the Heysham and Morecambe coast, once described on a Victorian postcard as 'The Naples of the North'. Whilst investigating and illustrating how a landscape can recollect its own past with a particular regional intensity, this book is also concerned with how our experience of the future can be discovered through history."

The event is free but you must book your seat by sending an e-mail here. Look out for Bertie Marshall's review of I Know Where I'm Going.




3AM TOP 5 02/15/2004

The eponymous anti-hero of Daren King's new novel, Jim Giraffe, is currently listening to:
  1. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" -- Bonnie Tyler
  2. "Embarrassment" -- Madness
  3. "Kiss" -- Prince
  4. "Welcome to the Jungle" -- Guns 'n' Roses
  5. "Come On Eileen" -- Dexy's Midnight Runners

Ali Smith reviews Jim Giraffe in The Guardian: ". . . Jim Giraffe . . . is a molotov, an act of conscious abuse. It is relentless. Part Donnie Darko, part Harvey the Rabbit, part Kafka -- but post-televisual Kafka trapped on Planet Comedy -- it conforms to stereotype at the same time as it blows the 'travelling suburban circus' of modern narrative to bits, pointing out the pointlessness, the utter brutish stupidity of being literal on an insane planet. Gogol's man became a nose and Kafka's a beetle; King's agent of transformation is the giraffe alter-ego, the giraffe-penis: 'like everything in this world, it all boils down to cock'. . . . It is pantomime daft, childish and annoying and visionary and original, a puerile good old British theatrical mix of prude and rude and my dog/wife/giraffe has no nose jokes. It is racist and sexist and offensive. It's an unshockable, cynical book, and at the same time a peculiarly innocent one. It's like being out one hour too long with someone being hopelessly hilarious. The hopelessness and the hilarity are equal, and connected. 'There is no tomorrow,' as one character says. 'Everything, right, is shit.' . . ."

In The Times, Chris Power describes King's "smutty, surreal picaresque" novel as "the missing, and heretofore unsought, link between Carry On and Monty Python". (Jim Giraffe picture by Daren King.)




JIM GIRAFFE LAUNCHED! 02/06/2004

This year's first great novel, Daren King's Jim Giraffe was launched yesterday in London. Here is Andrew Stevens' post-gig report posted in our Joe Bloggs section: ". . . Daren King and Matt Thorne, two enthusiastic novelist supporters of the 'online Fitzrovia' that is 3AM, performed last night at The Garage Mini-Bar's regular Vox'n'Roll event. . . . Nicholas Blincoe and Dan Rhodes were also in attendance, as was Ali Catterall. It was the kind of place you go clutching a book in hand". (Pictures by Andrew Stevens: Daren King with a home-made Jim Giraffe and Matt Thorne. More pix in the 3AM London Fotolog.)



YOKO & THE COCKROACH 02/06/2004

Here is Bertie Marshall's Yoko Ono gig report which took place at the Victoria Miro Gallery (Wharf Street, Islington, London):

"Lines of people around the block of the warehouse, celebrities getting in and out of taxis that pull up like black bugs, arriving at the opening of Yoko Ono's new art show Odyssey of a Cockroach.

Three floors. Garments discarded in pools of blood. A giant red leather chair turned on it's side. Piles of clothes, heaps of cheap paperbacks in a metal cage, that photo of John Lennon's bloody glasses from Yoko's Season of Glass album. An enormous cast of a baseball bat smeared in sticky blood in front of a blown-up colour photo/wallpaper of a young boy/girl with bashed-in face. Oases of blood. On two wooden tables, maps of the world, laid out in Cubist patterns, here and there, ink pads with rubber stamps imprinted with ''imagine peace'' -- the idea is that you stamp the 'bon mots' on any country/city in the world. I chose Quai de Jemmapes in Paris, where my friend Pascal lives with his two kids. Simply, a lovely thing to do -- a beautiful thought. Yoko is a witch, for sure. There's a spooky power behind her ideas that translates...one moment cries of violence and horror, then whispers of compassion and love.

Yoko in attendance with her posse on the top floor, greeting friends and admirers. My friend Murray Chalmers, Yoko's 'man in Europe' pr making sure I get to shake hands with my heroine who I met briefly last year. She looked like a glamourous cat, dark glasses and silver baseball cap. Definitely part cat. In 1969, John Lennon and the Plastic Ono band released the single 'Cold Turkey' on Apple records -- un chant de crise to heroin addiction. But it was the B-side, 'Don't Worry' by Yoko, that I listened to obsessively, scared and fascinated and strangely reassured by her shrieking, out-of-control vocals, a litany to fear and courage, hope and despair and other raw, indescribable emotions of a young boy on the periphery of adolescence."




THE MISSING LINKS 02/06/2004

Our friend Daren King has published a short story in the new issue of pulp.net. Watch out for the release of the Bettie Page film, Dark Angel. The lowdown on Sappho. The George Orwell treasure mystery. John Lydon goes all foul-mouthed and sods off. More here and here. The Literary Society controversy. Sartre & Peanuts in Philosophy Now! The Office comes up trumps at the Golden Globes Awards and Ricky Gervais' new comedy. Remembering the miners' strike of 1984-85 (more here). Paris-based Anglophone literary review Kilometer Zero has launched a new season of events. Susannah Breslin (hey! we haven't heard from you in yonks!) is interviewed in Suicide Girls. Hip Warsaw. Tangents on the mighty Rudi. How Friends changed our lives. Great new issue of Eleven Bulls. Don't beat your wife. Andy Pandy live! The Reading Experience: a "literary literary weblog". Cyber striptease. Live pix of stellastar*. 3AM's HP Tinker has revamped his website, The Swank Bisexual Wine Bar of Modernity. More Tink in 3AM very soon.



THE RISE OF DUTY-FREE PROSE 02/04/2004

A very interesting conversation between Toby Litt and Hari Kunzru was recently published in The Guardian. The two young novelists cover a variety of subjects (newness, morality in fiction, postmodernism vs New Puritanism, the depiction of sex) including "duty-free prose":

Hari Kunzru: ". . . When I read American prose the thing I like about it is its Americanness -- I enjoy the rhythms and the vocabulary. I'm interested in the ebbs and flows of language. For instance, I'm interested in Indian English, which is a fecund and weird thing that is growing up and separating itself. I'm also interested in globalised English. There is a kind of averaging out that happens in business English. I quite like the international blankness of certain sorts of things, the loss of localisation not just in language but in culture as well. . . . I'm interested in it and I find it telling about our culture now. Liking it or not liking it seems beside the point. Think about duty-free areas in airports; the brands by and large are similar, so that where you actually are is restricted to the tourist trinkets in the shop; the shape of the small wooden items and the imprint on the silver jewellery are the only clues to your location in the world. So I think a linguistic averaging is quite interesting."

Toby Litt: "This is what I mean about the morally neutral -- I hate these places! I've been interested in them, but I'd now prefer to write in a way that was recalcitrant, that was actually difficult. I don't want to be obliging to Americans, I think that the idea that the interesting is just a blank is something I want to get rid of. . . . I tried to write my manifesto after my New Puritans involvement, which was useful for me because it made me think about how realism has given up a lot of things to cinema and psychoanalysis. In the end I came to the conclusion that the assumptions behind the New Puritan rules were a bad idea. The rules themselves were a reasonably neat way of bringing things into focus. Some of the writing I'd been doing was very like that, this clean well-lit prose. I've become opposed to that as a tendency in myself because it starts to be duty-free prose. The difference between being well-lit and being duty-free is very hard to draw. . . . When I tried to think of what I would write as my own manifesto I only got as far as 'it will be passionately uncool'. I liked the idea of passion as something that was a way of grounding things, even though it is very easy to deconstruct or embarrass; I wanted something that would be prepared to go through that embarrassment. This gets us back to the idea of returning to things that are vulgar or just "not done". Too much writing is not only cool but worried about embarrassing itself; most writing that really is affecting I would say has gone further than the writer would probably feel comfortable with. That is only a guess, but I tend to write best from embarrassment. . . ." (Pic: Toby Litt at 3AM's Xmas reading by Andrew Gallix.)




THE MISSING LINKS 02/03/2004

Is Will Self to join the Ordinary Boys? Salon are going to serialise Dave Eggers' new novel. The Scotsman, for its part, is serialising Alexander McCall Smith's new novel on a daily basis for the next six months. Here's an extract from Steve Almond's Candyfreak. The Internet's little black book: How Was She? British youth culture. More on the Whitbread. Is London cooler than ever? Making music to make girls dance: Franz Ferdinand -- the video, two tracks from their recent XFM session, first album review, gig review, review of reviews (The Guardian) and interview (The Independent). Daren King responds to the Telegraph's review of Jim Giraffe: "The Jim Giraffe novel received a rather interesting review in the Telegraph today. According to Patrick Ness, I am aspiring to be two authors whom I have never even heard of (I must be cleverer than I thought), not to mention Spike Milligan and Lewis Carroll. Nice work, Patrick, but you forgot to compare my tummy to Winnie the Pooh." He also responds to Claire Allfree's interview in Metro: "Most disturbingly of all, Claire claimed that one of the influences behind the Jim Giraffe novel was 'bestiality'. I have no interest in bestiality, so how can it have been an influence? This is not the first time a supposedly intelligent person has confused fiction with reality: in the introduction to the ICA anthology Piece Of Flesh, published in 2001, Zadie Smith suggested that I have 'proclivities re. Canines', in other words, that I have sexual relations with dogs (this despite the fact that I'm asthmatic). How would Zadie Smith feel if I were to suggest that she sleeps with dogs? More importantly, how would the dogs feel? Deeply offended, I would imagine." John Lydon. Novelist Jonathan Lethem is interviewed in The Guardian: "I work on a laptop specifically so I can work in cafes and pretend I'm part of the human world. I have one of those 'tangerine flying saucer' iBooks but I'm about to upgrade to a G4."







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