Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
HEY HO, LET’S GO 04/28/2001
As you’ve probably heard already, Joey Ramone (1951-2001) passed away on Easter Sunday. In his Village Voice obituary, Lenny Kaye wrote that “The music he played was beloved in garages in any part of the world where the guitar was revered as a magical totem.” It was “like a quick fuck against a brick wall in an alley behind a Bowery club.” On Monday April 30, Joey’s brother, Mike Leigh, will host a tribute at CBGBs where The Ramones first played in 1974. Doors open at 7-7.30. Admission is free. You should also read John Holmstrom’s obit in Punk Magazine along with an article on The Ramones written by Richard Hell for Hit Parader in 1976 when the band were still unsigned. As Kaye puts it “The light has gone out of New York rock and roll.”
LARKIN AROUND 04/28/2001
English poet Philip Larkin, you know, the one who wrote “They fuck you up, your mum and dad / They may not mean to, but they do” (“This Be The Verse”) penned a couple of erotic novellas in his youth. They will be published for the first time next year. Emma Hartley and Vanessa Thorpe write in The Guardian that “Details of Larkin's two previously unseen erotic novellas, Trouble at Willow Gables and Michaelmas Term at St Bride's, have emerged as the manuscripts are being prepared for publication next spring. They show him to have been obsessively interested in the lesbian activities of young boarding school girls--so much so, in fact, that the sex of the narrator of the stories is often in some doubt. ‘The gender of the writer isn't as clear cut as it should be,’ says James Booth, the Hull University English academic who uncovered the novellas inside the library where Larkin used to work as chief librarian. ‘It isn't a man writing pornography about girls, it's more like a woman writing closet lesbian stuff. He [Larkin] said it was his ‘lesbian phase’," explained Booth. The stories are known collectively as the Brunette Coleman Material, after the ladylike nom de plume adopted by Larkin, and parody the jolly-hockey-sticks world created by the popular writer of schooldays tales, Angela Brazil. They are certain to prove an underground hit for Faber, but are also bound to undermine the standing of their author. . . . Those who have read them, including Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, have identified them as little more than mild pornography. ‘While pretending its main pleasure is watching girls sex each other up, it can't conceal its male self-disgust,’ said Motion, who is also the poet's biographer. ‘Men are victims of their sexual attraction to women, the novels want us to believe--and to be powerless in the grip of desire is contemptible.’ Packed with hairbrush beatings, improbable sexual blackmail and girls with hockey-hardened muscles in poplin pyjamas, the stories were written by Larkin while he was an undergraduate at Oxford. At worst they are examples of the kind of juvenilia the poet never wished to see published: at best they are saucy pastiches of the kind of breathless girls' fiction that was popular between the wars. Booth, who is the secretary of the Larkin Society, stumbled across the material in the library. He has edited the Faber collection, knowing that it may well damage the reputation of his university's most renowned literary figure. . . . In a paragraph towards the end of the second book the ‘author’ makes a postmodern appearance in the text--in drag. A girl called Pat blames events on, ‘that woman who writes all these books. Haven't you ever met her, Miss Marie? I saw her once. She used to come in here and drink. Very tall she was, and beautifully dressed.’ Corporal punishment features extensively in the plot of Trouble at Willow Gables. One section reads: ‘The younger girl twisted to escape but Philippa had learnt how to deal with Marie from experience. In a very short time she was lying face down on Philippa's silken knee, with her velvet skirt folded neatly round her waist. The belt had a curious metal buckle, which Philippa rightly adjudged would add an awful sting to the lashes. Oblivious to Marie's piteous tears, cries and struggles, she thrashed till her forearms ached. Towards the end she even started to enjoy it.’
ON THE WEBZINE FRONT 04/26/2001
So much news, so little time! The ever-brilliant Spike have done it again! They’ve just launched an excellent independent site devoted to 3a.m. favourite Will Self. Flaneur are seeking submissions for their summer issue. Send in your “citified” essays, stories, poems or drawings by May 15. The ebook edition of Moshe Benarroch’s You Walk on the Land Until One Day the Land Walks on You is now available ($8). Mark Halliday has just launched a website to promote his novel The Walk-In and provide a forum where people can share their “supernatural experiences”! The third issue of Eleven Bulls includes beautiful photographs by Seth Grossman (Coney Island mermaids anyone?). More tomorrow.
JOE ORTON EXHIBITION 04/25/2001
Islington Museum is organising a Joe Orton exhibition which, we are told, will throw “new light” on the playwright. It will feature panels and photos, using research on Orton family letters and photos in Leicester library, and the Tangiers Diary. It will also show Orton's fur coat, diary, and the Islington Library book covers defaced by him and Halliwell. The exhibition runs from May 2 until June 17 2001, at Islington Museum, Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, London N1 2UD (tel 020 7527 3235).
TURNING JAPANESE 04/04/2001
Last Sunday, The Observer devoted one of its supplements to Japan. It included a very interesting article entitled “Modern Boys and Mobile Girls” by cyberpunk writer William Gibson: “'Why Japan?' I've been asked for the past 20 years or so. Meaning: why has Japan been the setting for so much of my fiction? When I started writing about Japan, I'd answer by suggesting that Japan was about to become a very central, very important place in terms of the global economy. And it did. (Or rather, it already had, but most people hadn't noticed yet.) A little later, asked the same question, I'd say that it was Japan's turn to be the centre of the world, the place to which all roads lead; Japan was where the money was and the deal was done. Today, with the glory years of the bubble long gone, I'm still asked the same question, in exactly the same quizzical tone: 'Why Japan?' Because Japan is the global imagination's default setting for the future. The Japanese seem to the rest of us to live several measurable clicks down the time line. The Japanese are the ultimate Early Adaptors, and the sort of fiction I write behoves me to pay serious heed to that. If you believe, as I do, that all cultural change is essentially technologically driven, you pay attention to the Japanese. . . . Consider the Mobile Girl, that ubiquitous feature of contemporary Tokyo street life: a schoolgirl busily, constantly messaging on her mobile phone (which she never uses for voice communication if she can avoid it). The Mobile Girl can convert pad strokes to kanji faster than should be humanly possible, and rates her standing in her cellular community according to the amount of numbers in her phone's memory. What is it that the Mobile Girls are so busily conveying to one another? Probably not much at all: the equivalent of a schoolgirl's note, passed behind the teacher's back. Content is not the issue here, but rather the speed, the weird unconscious surety, with which the schoolgirls of Tokyo took up a secondary feature (text messaging) of a new version of the cellular telephone, and generated, almost overnight, a micro-culture. . . . The techno-cultural suppleness that gives us Mobile Girls today, is the result of a traumatic and ongoing temporal dislocation that began when the Japanese, emerging in the 1860s from a very long period of deep cultural isolation, sent a posse of bright young noblemen off to England. These young men returned bearing word of an alien technological culture they must have found as marvellous, as disconcerting, as we might find the products of reverse-engineered Roswell space junk. These Modern Boys, as the techno-cult they spawned came popularly to be known, somehow induced the nation of Japan to swallow whole the entirety of the Industrial Revolution. The resulting spasms were violent, painful, and probably inconceivably disorienting. The Japanese bought the entire train-set: clock-time, steam railroads, electric telegraphy, Western medical advances. Set it all up and yanked the lever to full on. Went mad. Hallucinated. Babbled wildly. Ran in circles. Were destroyed. Were reborn. . . . Why Japan, then? Because they live in the future, but neither yours nor mine, and somehow make it seem either interesting or comical or really interestingly dreadful.”
GOING UNDERGROUND 04/04/2001
Yesterday we met up with William Levy, the legendary underground figure who once edited International Times and Suck. Bill now lives in Amsterdam where he produces a radio show. Among other things, he told 3a.m. that humour and sex “are beyond critique”: no one can tell you what is funny or arousing. Pedants may make you feel inadequate for not understanding an experimental work of art, but “No one can make you feel bad for not liking a joke.” More on Mr Levy very soon. He’s not only a very talented, intelligent and witty writer (one of the greats according to Andrei Codrescu) but also a great guy who gave us one of his stories to publish online.
JERRY STAHL 04/04/2001
An interview with Jerry Stahl appears in Tin House Magazine: “What I strived to communicate to all involved [in the film version of Permanent Midnight], though, was that the book wasn't really about drugs. It was about being a stranger in your own skin, about fear of sunlight, mailman-dread, slow-motion suicide, and that soul-deep need to simultaneously obliterate awareness of what you're doing and yet be constantly aware so you can keep on doing it. . . But don't get me going. There's a flavor of solitary desolation inherent in addiction that can't be described, only experienced. And in some ways film was a better medium for that. There's one moment in Permanent Midnight when the camera zeroes in on Ben's eyes after he's fixed in his neck. He's sitting in the front seat on some shit street in downtown L.A. with his baby wailing beside him and the night whirling around outside and Tony Robbins babbling out of the car radio. For me, that scene embodied the mundane trauma inherent to junkiedom. I mean, Tony Robbins! Perfect! Because, you have to understand, this was normal behavior. You reach a point where geezing speedballs and spraying bloody tulips on the ceiling of a Burger King bathroom while the cops pound on the door and you're hearing dogs bark in Guatemala is totally ho-hum. But sitting down to chicken à la king with your wife and child seems more extreme than leaping out of a burning 747. . . This was the quotidian surrealism the film needed to capture. The addict's reality stands out as the negative image of everybody else's. Happily, the director was gracious enough to let me put my own stamp on Ben's dialogue and character (i.e., me), so that by the time we got to a final cut, Big-Screen Jerry became more recognizable to the off-screen version. While the specifics diverge hugely from those of my book-not to mention my life-the emotional reality, at certain moments, was spot on. And that's what ultimately matters.”
ON THE WEBZINE FRONT 04/04/2001
The latest issues of Stirring, Comrades and Spark-online are all waiting for you in cyberspace (a word that was first coined by the aforementioned William Gibson). Feed has gone all musical of late. The other day they asked assorted luminaries, including Richard Hell, what was the most “influential” music of the last four decades: “It would have to be a Velvet Underground track, but I can't really answer your question because I wouldn't know which song to pick without doing more research than I can afford. What could ‘most ahead of its time’ mean but ‘extremely and persistingly influential’? Right? That's all I can think of anyway. And especially considering how little respect they were given at the time, who even comes close to the Velvets? The record collection of my girlfriend, for instance, which is pretty large and is ninety percent eighties and nineties music could fairly be called ‘children of the Velvet Underground,’ though, of course, that wasn't what she was thinking as she was acquiring it. It sounds really good, too.” Then, there’s Geoff Dyer’s article on the fate of jazz: “The pre-coma part of Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma takes place at the end of 1979. Karen, the girlfriend in question, recalls a premonition she's had of the future. ‘People seemed to be more...electronic,’ she says. Consistent with this, Carl Craig, co-director of last year's epochal Detroit Electronic Music Festival, was exaggerating only slightly when he said that ‘every music is electronic music right now.’ (Who knows, maybe the quality of silence has been subtly changed, the air itself altered, by all the electronic information passing through it?) As a consequence, Davis's pioneering electric music from the seventies now sounds more contemporary -- less tied to the moment it was created -- than ‘My Funny Valentine.’” By the way, there’s a great story by Geoff Dyer in the latest New Writing anthology. Attack! Books are threatening to take their publishing revolution online. Watch this space.
BARDO’S BURNING 04/02/2001
One of the best online literary magazines, Bardo Burner, has ceased to exist. Elly Walker (Editor) and Eric Murphy (Assistant Editor), who live and work in London, explain why they have mothballed their “labour of love”: “Why did we stop? Mainly because our lives have become too busy (earning a crust, bringing up our child, etc) for us to give Bardo Burner the attention it deserves. It would be easy(ish) to hunt out material and just post it as we find it; but we both believe that good editing is essential to any writing, and this we no longer had time to do. Rather than let our standards drop, we decided it would be more elegant to quit while ahead.” Bardo Burner first went online in January 1999 and was published regularly until January 2001. Everything that was ever published by Bardo Burner will remain online: “The collection stands as a multi-layered monument to the power of non-commercial creativity. We have never offered payments or accepted advertisements or sponsorship. The people who have written for us have done so for the love of writing and this, we believe, is what makes their work special. With our contributors, we have shown that by harnessing the DIY punk ethic, there is always an alternative to the cash-inspired outpourings of the info-corporations that make it their business to control our sources of entertainment. Enough said. The writing here speaks for itself.” The rest is silence.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 04/01/2001
3a.m. Magazine was born a year ago in April 2000. Brace yourselves for a series of birthday features in the coming months including an interview with Tim Parks, the long-awaited second part of Cliff Montgomery’s The New Cold War and Professor M. Ryley’s response to Mike White’s article on Kenneth Fearing’s The Big Clock which we published in our very first issue. I (pictured right) wish to thank all our readers for their loyalty on behalf of the entire 3a.m. Magazine staff. No one has won the 3a.m. Magazine competition yet. The deadline has been extended until June 1.
ON THE WEBZINE FRONT 04/01/2001
April is the cruellest month, but not for Pif Magazine, one of the online literary heavyweights, which keeps getting better every month. When you’ve checked out the poetry and “macrofiction”, don’t forget to browse Camille Renshaw’s remarkable Arts and Technology News. Greg Wharton’s Subversive Thoughts is also celebrating its first anniversary. The fourth issue, with artwork by Tim Slowinski, includes a short story by Travis jon Mader. The latest, information-packed issue of 1Lit.com, which is only available (free) by subscription, includes a feature on Nick Hornby "I've never found any English person who wanted to write simply and intelligently. Our definition of what literature stands for is very complicated in England, and it involves showing off and erudition and learning, and it quite simply alienates huge numbers of people. I think the gap between our literary and reading public, pre-1990s at least, was enormous. You know, no one reads Booker Prize-winning books" and an article on how good looks determine literary success: “Helen Richardson, publicity chief of Orion Books, has said that publishers and agents are fixated on hyping photogenic young writers rather than those with genuine talent. She sparked a debate at last week's London Books Fair by accusing agents of ‘touting their new discoveries around publishers in a well-run beauty pageant.’ Her admission came as a procession of older novelists, led by Deborah Moggach, Margaret Drabble and Anita Brookner, bemoaned the new ‘ageist and lookist’ attitudes among publishers. ‘The younger and more beautiful an author, the more promotable they are as a writer. It has nothing to do with writing,’ Moggach, 52, complained. Even some of those writers lucky enough to be both young and gorgeous are joining the backlash against the tyranny of literary totty. The New Puritans, led by the novelist Nick Blincoe, say they are sick of being marketed as cool and fashionable when they want to be seen as authentic voices of their generation. The gathering at London's Olympia heard how publishers were now judging writers on how many features they might generate in newspaper lifestyle sections, rather than promoting the older ‘gargoyles’ who count themselves lucky if they make it onto the review pages. Even Zadie Smith, 25, the award-winning author of White Teeth, was made over--temporarily ditching her specs and Afro look--according to Neil Taylor, publishing director of Orion.” You should also take a look at Candida Crewe’s interview with Angus Cargill, a slush-pile reader at Faber & Faber. His main criticism of the 100 odd manuscript receives on a weekly basis is “That people write too much painfully personal stuff. Also some of the more trendy writing, trying to catch the voice of youth, can be embarrassing. Transferring vernacular to the page is very difficult and the writer has to be very skilful to make it believable.”
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