Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
JONATHAN COE 02/23/2001
We often go on about Jonathan Coe in this column because he is simply one of the best English authors around. We were therefore delighted to read a review of Coe’s new novel, The Rotters’Club in London’s Evening Standard. Rachel Cusk writes that Coe’s sixth novel “is a social and political portrait of Britain in the 1970s: it is to be followed by a sequel set in the 1990s, between which, presumably, his novel of the 1980s, What a Carve Up!, is intended to sit to form a neat triptych of our times. It will make an impressive object, when it is done. Few writers have managed to sustain their hold on the modern history of this country. . . . How do you describe modern Britain, that tonal labyrinth, without sounding yourself at every turn? Comedy is the answer that most British novelists come up with. Comedy is one of the few things we seem to agree on. Benjamin Trotter, schoolboy, aspiring novelist and central character of The Rotters' Club, tries to establish this common ground by mentioning the Christmas episode of Morecambe and Wise to Steve Richards, the only black boy at his school. Steve didn't see it. He and his family have never quite got the point of Morecambe and Wise. Coe's approach, in other words, is to come clean. He doesn't try to inhabit the mind of Steve Richards, nor of anybody else beyond the cultural authority of a white, educated, liberal male sensibility. He expresses, rather, the diffidence with which this sensibility is paralysed when it encounters social division: he can feel compassion for Steve Richards, but he cannot attain intimacy with him. Among other things, this is a novel about multi-racial Britain before the epoch of "political correctness", written through its retrospective lens. The Rotters' Club is set in Birmingham, and focuses on the experiences of four boys who attend an elite grammar school, the sort of school that airlifts clever children from ordinary backgrounds and deposits them in a different social class from their parents. The boys are destined for Oxford and Cambridge, for important careers, sexual equality and cultural centrality. The parents remain mired in their world of chauvinistic marriages, union politics, race and class war and cultural ignorance. So who are the rotters? Managers, according to the workers at the British Leyland plant; politicians, according to the managers; immigrants, according to both; racists, according to an enlightened few. Meanwhile, a parallel tale of social conflict is unfolding at school, the conflicts that beset the privileged. The rugger-bugger pits himself against the clever, athletic black boy. The aspiring journalist pits himself against the school's hierarchy, against the prefect system and the Right-wing debating society called the Closed Chamber.” Jonathan Coe’s novel was published (in Britain) on February 22.
EAST OF NEW YORK 02/23/2001
The second East of New York column is now online at Web Del Sol. The column is written by Greg Farnum with a little help from 3AM Magazine, and this time round it includes news from Britain, Spain (Spanish science fiction, anyone?), Portugal, Italy and France. Among many other things, you’ll find features on Carmen Covito and Umberto Eco. There’s even an exclusive poem by French Neo-Hydropathe Lucie Aveličre, followed by an article entitled “Who Are the Neo-Hydropathes?” based on an interview with Jean-Yves Carpentier, editor of Hurluberlu. Excellent stuff.
THE NEOHYDROPATHES 02/23/2001
The aforementioned editor of Hurluberlu was by his side when young poet Alexandre Lestoins (1979-2000) fell to his death. Lestoins’ underground classic, Cette Douleur, has just been re-published in a limited edition. On 18 February, the Neo-Hydropathes gathered outside the small café Rue de Tournon where they usually meet (although, as chance would have it, it was closed that day!) and walked to the building where Alexandre Lestoins used to live until he stopped living last August. Some were silent, others whistled; all were drunk. (Pictures by Guillaume Destot).
All you budding writers out there should log on to Daniel Sendecki’s fine eponymous e-zine, sendecki.com. Daniel says that his recently-established publication “features both established and emerging poets” as well as “artists and writers from around the world.” The latest issue features the poetry of Jesse Glass, EA Lynch, and Marek Lugowski and paintings by Broose Dickinson and Svetlana Zelenofsky (see picture). “The site adheres to a strict guideline of ‘no bios, no banners, no bull.’ Under the tutelage of Greg Stant, who runs the fantastic spoken word site SpokenWar I've developed a site that is clean and navigable and which places the writing first. I currently host a number of different installations on the site: poetry mixed with images from various artists that complement each others' work, flash presentations mixing spoken word with visuals, and a gallery of oils. All work is kept in an online archive.” Send your submissions to Mr Sendecki.
PETER FLEMING 02/22/2001
A drive in China, 1931: "We left Nanchang for the second time at dawn on the morning after we had returned to it. Myself, I can remember little of the journey to Hsinkan. Something in last night's Chinese food had got under the guard of a normally ostrich-like digestion, and I would have welcomed death. The driver gave me every chance of doing so. The Hsinkan road ran through low-lying country on top of a narrow embankment. The Chinese peasant has about half as much traffic sense as a Buff Orpington, and peasants were for some reason plentiful that morning. Some of them had brought their water-buffalo with them, some a flock of geese.
This substantial proportion of the agrarian population the driver dismissed as figments of his imagination. There can be little doubt that, in some form or other, they appeared to him, for he acknowledged their existence by a savage increase of speed, whenever an increase of any kind was possible. He pressed his foot on the accelerator almost subconsciously, as he might have passed his hand across his brow, to banish what he took to be an hallucination. I think he was drunk. " From One's Company by Peter Fleming, 1934
Peter Fleming explored the Mato Grosso, crossed China, from Peking to India, on foot, travelled through Russia and elsewhere, was a special agent during World War II in Burma and elsewhere, was put in charge of digging secret hideouts on British soil in case of German invasion, predicted Himmler's landing in Great Britain, was the literary editor of The Spectator, a Special Correspondent for The Times, a friend of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Freya Stark, one of the probable direct inspiration for the character of James Bond, an amateur historian, and the author of some of the funniest travel books and essays of the 1930s. You can learn more about him, discuss his work, life, and his philosophy of travel on a new message board. The site is moderated by our very own Guillaume Destot, a former member of the neo-Hydropathe group of young Parisian writers. We could not find many pictures of Peter Fleming, so here’s a book cover and the ultimate Bond girl!
ME HEAD 02/22/2001
A few weeks ago we received a copy of Me Head, a beautifully-crafted, quirky review from Tulsa. We have just heard that they are now online. Go there now.
JIM MARTIN 02/22/2001
I think it’s time I introduced you to Jim Martin. Jim is a 27-year-old systems analyst, father, husband, and musician who lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He works as a contractor through Klay Information Management Consulting Ltd. and dreams of life as a political activist and public speaker. He is also a talented writer (read “Shelly the Hole” on our cover page and “Part of the Ritual” in our fiction archive) and 3AM’s brilliant webmaster. We will soon be publishing his latest short story. In the meantime, here’s an extract from an article he has just published elsewhere. It’s called “Smashed by the Hype”:
“. . . Here's the one question that everyone out there needs to keep in mind when it's time to invest either their money or their time in a new company, IT or otherwise: Who is running this company?
Cuz baby, I can write some sweet code. And baby, I can come up with some pretty amazing concepts that will melt the enamel off your teeth. And baby, I can probably cut-and-paste me a business plan. But do I have Operations experience? Well, no. Do I have any degree of experience with organizational growth? Well, no. Do I have a clue how to handle people who don't think and say exactly what I think and say? Well, no.
Too many IT startups are great ideas thought up by great developers that have no concept of how to turn that great idea into a winning organization.” Read on.
Our Y chromosome readers should go to Fitzdisc straight away. You’re into pictures of young girls smoking, poking their tongues out or wetting their pants, right? Well, you’ll love this site. The only problem is that their traffic has been rather slow of late and Fred recently threatened to throw in the towel. You can stop this happening. It’s your duty.
GAO XINGJAN 02/21/2001
A new e-book imprint of HarperCollins called PerfectBound has just been launched. PerfectBound e-books will be published in the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand making this the first truly international e-book program. The first title is Soul Mountain by Nobel Prize winner Gao Xingjian.
Gao Xingjian was born in eastern China in 1940. He took a degree in French in 1962 (Beijing), burned a suitcase full of manuscripts and was sent to a ‘re-education’ camp during the Cultural Revolution. He was only able to start publishing (short stories, essays and plays) in 1979. Many of his plays (inspired by Beckett, Artaud and Brecht) were staged by the Theatre of Popular Art in Beijing. Bus Stop (1983) and Wild Man (1985) outraged the authorities and established his reputation. The other Shore was banned in 1986 and none of his plays have ever been produced in China since then. To avoid persecution, he went on a ten-month walking trip in the Sichuan Province. In 1987, he left China finally settling in a Parisian suburb as a political refugee where he paints in ink. His works are now all banned in his homeland and Gao Xingjian is a French citizen.
Soul Mountain, which he started writing in 1982 and completed in 1989, is generally considered as his masterpiece. Here is an extract from the press release: “While on a train at the start of his trip, the writer protagonist meets another traveler who says he is going to Lingshan, “soul mountain,” which can be found by the remote source of the You River. The writer has never heard of such a place, and he resolves to go there, but his fellow traveler can give him none but the vaguest directions. Thus begins a metaphoric odyssey into the hinterlands of China and the outlying Qiang, Miao and Yi districts that dangle on the fringes of Han Chinese civilization. The writer is in search of the traditions that are hidden in rural China, and as he travels he encounters a parade of unforgettable characters who embody both vestiges of the past--Daoist masters, Buddhist monks, ancient calligraphers--and the modern culture that has surfaced since the revolution: small town communist cadres, budding entrepreneurs, independent young girls grappling with parochial repression. The two worlds exist uneasily as one, with stories and customs from centuries past colliding with a world of televisions, automobiles, and technology. All is permeated by the dark legacy of the Cultural Revolution, the encroachment of ecological damage, and the harsh monetary realities of everyday life in contemporary China.
The e-book edition of Soul Mountain includes "The Case for Literature," Gao's address to the Swedish Academy, which isn’t available in print editions of the novel. The translation is by Mabel Lee, Ph.D., one of Australia’s leading authorities on Chinese cultural affairs.
Soul Mountain is available from: Amazon.com, The Booksite Network, Contentville.com, Ebooks.com, Gemstar (through the catalog on the Gemstar eBook devices from RCA), Powells.com and Seekbooks.com in the USA. In the UK, it is available through Fireandwater.com, Seekbooks.co.uk and Waterstones.co.uk. In Australia, go to Seekbooks.com.au. In Canada, buy it from Chapters.ca. Soul Mountain retails at $19.95.
ISBN's for three e-book formats:
0066213037 MS Reader
0066213045 Adobe Acrobat E-Reader
0066213029 Gemstar (REB1100 [Rocketbook] and REB1200 [Softbook]).
There are several websites exclusively devoted to literary news, but one of the best is undoubtedly Gargoyle published by excellent literary e-zine Linnean Street. Like the Arts and Letters Daily, Gargoyle provides links to cultural articles on the Net, but unlike other lit news digests, it also takes you to selected poems and short stories. They even publish flash fiction on matchbook covers.
EDMUND WHITE TAKES A WALK ON THE WILDE SIDE 02/21/2001
American gay novelist Edmund White, who lived in Paris from 1983 to 1998, has just published The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris (Bloomsbury). Stuart Jeffries writes in The Guardian that “Edmund White's kind of flâneur” cruises for sex “while a few yards away tourists are paying through the nose for grim dinner-dancing experiences as they float along the Seine. When White lived in Paris between 1983 and 1998, he quickly found the best places to cruise. The Palais Royal and the Tuileries gardens (especially the gravel walkways by the Orangerie) . . . White maintains, not very convincingly and rather half-heartedly, that cruising is an extension or application of the art of the flâneur. Those practitioners and theoreticians of the art, Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire, wouldn't have had much time for that idea, and nor should we. The whole point about a flâneur is that he or she is an aimless stroller. By contrast, a cruiser is utterly directed, as Schopenhauer might have put it, towards the extinction of his desire. The flâneur's desire is much less ardent, perhaps approaching non-existence, and thus resembles the disinterested appreciation that Kant argued was characteristic of aesthetic experience. So what is a flâneur if not a middle-aged gay American writer looking for an alfresco sexual thrill? Benjamin put it this way: "The great reminiscences, the historical frissons--these are all so much junk to the flâneur, who is happy to leave them to the tourist. And he would be happy to trade all his knowledge of artists' quarters, birthplaces, and princely palaces for the scent of a single weathered tile--that which any old dog carries away." You can also take a look at Peter Conrad’s review in the same paper and Sebastian Faulks’ in The Sunday Times.
THE ANTI-NATURALS 02/21/2001
If you enjoy our interview with The Anti-Naturals, check out the latest issue of Fifteen Credibility Street which includes prose, poetry, astonishing artwork as well as an MP3. Is there no end to their talent?
JOE ORTON COMMUNITY 02/21/2001
A great debate is taking place over at the Joe Orton Community about the disastrous screen adaptation of the playwright’s Loot. Three Orton plays you can go to see (if you live in England, that is): Entertaining Mr Sloane at The Arts Unicorn Theatre (formerly known as simply The Arts Theatre) in London (until April 7), Loot at The Royal Exchange Theatre (May 16-June 23) in Manchester and What the Butler Saw at Derngate Theatre (May 25-June 16) in Northampton.
BERNARD-MARIE KOLTES 02/21/2001
The work of Bernard-Marie Koltčs is enjoying something of a revival right now, although his plays never really went out of fashion. A new production of Combat de nčgres et de chiens, directed by Jacques Nichet, will open on February 28 at the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris. It runs until March 17. An unpublished play, Procčs ivre, written by Koltčs in 1970-71 and based on Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, will be published in April by the Editions de Minuit.
You can find more information about this French playwright who died of AIDS in 1989 here and here.
VIC GODARD 02/21/2001
Punk legend Vic Godard is working on a musical with Irvine Welsh of Trainspotting fame. Some of the songs will be Welsh/Godard collaborations. If you have never heard of Vic Godard, he fronted Subway Sect whose debut gig was at the 100 Club Punk Festival in September 1976.
French recluse artist Balthus, most famous for his lolitas, has died in Switzerland at the age of 92. He is often regarded as one of the greatest painters of the 20th century. (Picture: Theresa Dreaming, 1938).
Rumour has it that Madonna will play the part of Debbie Harry in a forthcoming film about the rise of Blondie.
JULIAN OPIE 02/18/2001
An exhibition of Brit artist Julian Opie’s work recently opened at London’s Lisson Gallery and runs until March 17. Opie, who was responsible for the Hergé-like portraits on Blur’s singles compilation last year, likes to play around with the kind of stick people who usually adorn lavatory doors.
3AM SORBONNE 02/18/2001
The Sorbonne university in Paris will host an international conference on Writing and the Internet next year (March 15-16 2002) which will be partly organised by 3AM Magazine. If you feel you have something to contribute, please contact us. (The picture shows the Sorbonne cordoned off by riot police on May 5 1968).
TOBY LITT: FROM BLOKE LIT TO BOY BOOK 02/15/2001
One of our favourite young British authors, Toby Litt (the author of Adventures in Capitalism, Beatniks, Corpsing, which is being turned into a film, countless short stories and contributor to the infamous New Puritan anthology) was recently interviewed in The Guardian. Litt describes his new novel, deadkidsongs as a “boy book” he has wanted to write for the past ten years. He is hard at work on another novel and will soon publish a collection of short stories which goes under the working title of Exhibitionism. Litt is also editing a Penguin Modern Classic of Henry James’s The Outcry which hasn’t been reprinted since the American author’s death. You can read a review of deadkidsongs (Hamish Hamilton, published on February 22 in the UK) by Michael Holland who compares it to Golding’s Lord of the Flies. There’s a Toby Litt page here. You can also check out an article Spike has devoted to this author, as well as Babylondon, the collaborative hypertext novel Litt contributed to.
Steven Fay, the founder and editor of a new poetry ezine called Drought has contacted us to plug his first issue. We’ve taken a look, and it’s excellent stuff. There’s fiction by Danny Rendleman and a lot of poetry by the likes of Bill Morgan and Muriel Nelson.
SHARI GERSON’S FLUFFY CAT 02/15/2001
We have never mentioned children’s books in this column before, but we hear that Shari Gerson’s Home is Never Far Away is really excellent stuff. This delightful tale of Oliver the Cat’s mystical journey was recently published as an e-book ($3.60) and a CD ($6.50) by Athina Publishing. It rhymes. It’s beautifully-illustrated by Athens Springer and you can read a free excerpt here. There is also a rave review in Ebooks For Kids.
ENGLISH SURREALISM 02/13/2001
The latest issue of Critique contains an excellent article by Mike Plumbley on English Surrealist poet David Gascoyne: “. . . Paris became David Gascoyne’s vortex. He was drawn there by copies of avant garde magazines bought in a Charing Cross art bookshop in the early 1930s. His poetry at sixteen is full of the slate greyness of English streets and seaside towns. Then it appears to burst open with the colour of Paris, where he spends his 17th birthday. There, Surrealism pulls him but doesn’t define him. It is a bright star in his personal constellation. David Gascoyne undertakes a journey of self-realisation at a time when the world is literally exploding around him.” After visiting Paris, Gascoyne published A Short Survey of Surrealism (1935) which goes “to the heart of the movement.” The “young poet and author not only mixes with the great surrealists but stands among them. He translates their works in English and expresses the movement’s aesthetic and political nature. . . . In the summer of 1936, André Breton, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dali visited London to promote Surrealism. The resultant exhibition appears to have had the hallmarks of a Buster Keaton film: ‘I met Roland Penrose through Paul Eluard, his long-time friend. Roland had a house in Hampstead and a committee of surrealists met there to plan the International Surrealist Exhibition that was held at the New Burlington Gallery in London. This was in 1936. I remember Dali gave a lecture in a new diving suit, a proper diving suit complete with metal helmet. He had one of those lantern shows that didn’t work very well and it got very hot inside the suit and I remember having to go out and try and find a spanner to get him out of the suit.’” David Gascoyne explains how he fell out with his fellow Surrealists: “I’d joined the Communist Party as one did in those days. I’d been on several marches against Mosley’s Blackshirts in London. Breton accused me of being a Stalinist and a Roman Catholic. He was a Trotskyist who you didn’t argue with for long. I was excommunicated.” The manuscript of Gascoyne’s novella April, completed in 1937, was discovered sixty years later and is now available in a limited edition from Enitharmon Press (36 St. George’s Avenue, London N7 0HD, England).
If you read the article you will discover how Gascoyne moved away from Surrealism under the influence of Pierre Jean Jouve and learn about the poet’s bouts of depression, his experiments with amphetamine, his writer’s block (“Even postcards home became difficult to pen”). His future wife recalls a visit to a mental hospital: “I used to visit Whitecroft Hospital and read poetry to the patients there. One of my favourite poems was called ‘September Sun’. I read it one afternoon and one of the patients came up to me afterwards and said ‘I wrote that’, I put my hand on his shoulder and said ‘Of course you did, dear’. Then of course when I got to know him I realised he had,” Judy Gascoyne recalls. (Interviewed by Mike Plumbley, Vic King, Pete Turner on the Isle of Wight in 1993).” David Gascoyne married her in 1975. They live on the Isle of Wight.
More news on the webzine front. The Paumanok Review is celebrating its first anniversary with an excellent issue which includes a short story by Jason Gurley, currently featured in 3AM. The new issue of Flâneur is online and we strongly recommend it. Here’s an extract from their manifesto: “In the tradition of literary flâneurs—Walt Whitman, Fran Lebowitz, Alfred Kazin, Joseph Mitchell, the Beastie Boys—Flâneur seeks to scrutinize the city, to evoke the essence of the street. And to encourage flâneurial behavior, whether detached observation or decadent gadding about. Of course, there's more to flanerie than loafing. As evidence, and as exhortation, I offer a passage from the prologue to the first (and possibly sole) issue of Le Flâneur, a newspaper published in Paris on May 3, 1848: ‘To go out strolling, these days, while puffing one's tobacco, while dreaming of evening pleasures, seems a century behind the times. We are not the sort to refuse all knowledge of the customs of another age; but, in our strolling, let us not forget our rights and our obligations as citizens. The times are necessitous; they demand all our attention, all day long.” We’ll round off with one of our favourite webzines from England, the up-and-coming very fast Lostyle. The latest edition includes articles on clubbing and celeb sites. They also support worthy causes like the emancipation of toilet servants. Go there or be square.
NIALL GRIFFITHS REVISITED 02/13/2001
Wales’s answer to Irvine Welsh (who is Scottish!), Niall Griffiths has published his Top 10 Welsh books in The Guardian: “So what I've done here is list the 10 Welsh books which, in varying ways, influenced my most recent novel, Sheepshagger; the books which would undam the wordflow when it was temporarily blocked. Which is as good a criterion as any.” You can also read our interview with Welsh novelist Jeremy Dean. Just scroll down 3AM’s cover page.
Wales’s answer to Irvine Welsh, Niall Griffiths, is back with a new novel called Sheepshagger (Jonathan Cape). Here’s an extract from The Guardian’s review: “Italicised vignettes of Ianto's feral youth trace primal traumas of a world red in tooth and claw, from the moment he first, at five, follows the universal urge to "put something where there is nothing, to bring substance upon emptiness", pushing pebbles into the blank sockets of a newborn lamb which has lost its eyes to a raven, to his glimpse of a couple making the beast with two backs in a forest clearing and the horror of a sexual attack by a paedophile. But his almost shape-shifting kinship with wild animals and sublime comprehension of the natural world was forged then, too. Up in the "wind-stripped and rain-flayed" mountains, Ianto is free of humanity's double burden, a burden Griffiths's other characters are eternally struggling to lessen with drugs: like the "absolute birds, avians utter", he is wholly unselfconscious, and completely at home in his world. "Umbilicus unseen never to be snapped the brutal beauty of this place has battered itself into his blood, his brains." This is daringly overcharged prose, often reaching the heights of Old Testament ragings but sometimes straying into the more garish gothic of Nick Cave's And the Ass Saw the Angel (it's pertinent that the epigraphs are taken from the Psalms, Cave and Nietzsche). However, Griffiths is smart enough to counterpoint his incantatory voice with vernacular force: "Should've been born a fuckin fox, ee should uv," sniffs one ex-friend. He's also careful not to lend "scruffy skinny spotty Ianto" the physique of the noble savage, reserving all the grandeur and agency of his swirling, compacted sentences for the mountains and storms; perhaps the most astonishing feature of Sheepshagger is the fierce facility of its nature writing. . . . Ianto remains, to the reader and to his shellshocked friends, an unknown quantity; igniting the capacity for chaos in their own souls, he leaves us with ragged, unanswerable questions. With a modern sensibility informed by Greek tragedy and the Blakean sublime, Sheepshagger demands total engagement, and is never less than compelling; the range of Griffiths's achievement is as exhilarating as the reach of his ambition.”
MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ 02/10/2001
There’s an excellent article written by controversial author Michel Houellebecq on a new French literary website called Zone Littéraire.
ON THE WEBZINE FRONT 02/10/2001
It’s the beginning of the month, the busiest time for literary ezines. The new editions of Pif, Stirring, The Barcelona Review and The Melic Review are all well worth checking out as usual. As for Andrei Codrescu’s 8th issue of Exquisite Corpse, it’s simply one of the best reads on the Net! Rumour has it that the Corpse will soon be back on paper.
HANIF KUREISHI’S FRENCH FILM 02/06/2001
The celebrated British-Indian author of The Buddha of Suburbia, Hanif Kureishi, has just published an article in Prospect about the filming of Intimacy by Patrice Chéreau: “Although Patrice and I worked closely together at times, and the film was shot in English, the script was written by his own writer, a woman, in French. . . . So it is my film but not mine. I made the characters and most of the story, but Patrice transformed, cast and cut it; and, of course, his style and voice as a director are his own. Patrice arranged to come and see me in London a couple of years ago. He was shy, he said, and didn't speak good English. My French is hopeless, but it seemed better to meet without an interpreter. . . . Patrice explained that he wanted to make a film of Intimacy, which he had read in French. Also, he said he liked my stories, particularly "Nightlight," collected in Love In a Blue Time. In this story a couple who run into each other by chance begin to meet once a week, on Wednesday afternoons, to make love. Somehow, they never speak; after a while they are unable to. . . . Later I thought, what can these two strangers, a gay Frenchman and a straight British-Indian make together, if anything? What is possible between us and what impossible? How far can we go? What will this do to me? It would be the first time I'd worked with a non-British director. Would there be anything particularly "French" about Patrice, or, for that matter, "English" about me? My instinct was that the French have a better visual sense than the English, though less narrative grasp. But this was really only a prejudice. . . . When I first started to write, as a teenager in the suburbs, I wanted to be a novelist. I thought that writing books in a room on my own was all I would do. The work was self-sufficient. For me, as a young man, that was the point. There were no intermediaries or interpreters--the reader just read what you wrote. Some people, I guess, become writers because they're afraid of others or addicted to solitude. Perhaps they read a lot, or drew or watched television alone as children. Being with others might be the problem that isolation can solve. However, when you are writing at last, the same questions appear repeatedly. Why am I doing this? Who is this for? Why write this rather than that? I'm sure people in other professions don't have an existential crisis every morning. It's as if you are seeking any excuse to stop. You can, of course, grow out of these questions, or tire of yourself and your own preoccupations. Or you can hope that collaboration will push you past them. A director will have different doubts and fears. You want to see how others work, and--why not?--be changed by them. . . . Most artists with a distinct voice soon develop their area of interest--the characters, scenes, moods--which they will work on for most of their lives; and most artists, like most lives, are repetitious. A collaboration is an attempt, then, to enlarge or multiply selves, to extend range and possibility. You might make something with another person that you couldn't make alone.” Kureishi’s new novel, Gabriel’s Gift, will be published by Faber and Faber on March 4.
Here at 3AM Magazine we like literature, but we’ve nothing against the odd picture of Candace Bushnell who was recently interviewed in The Guardian. The journalist reveals that “She has an amazing knack of crossing her legs without revealing anything improper.” Her latest novel is called 4 Blondes.
THE LATEST FROM MARK AMERIKA 02/05/2001
He sure gets around! Not content with flying off to Berlin, Mark Amerika will soon be featured among Time magazine’s “storytelling innovators.” He has just put the finishing touches to the new issue of Black Ice. Entitled “Philosophiction,” it showcases Lidia Yuknavitch (the latest addition to the Alt-X stable) and includes a brilliant piece (“My Oblivion”) by Mr Amerika himself.
ANDRZEJ STASIUK: THE POLISH KEROUAC 02/05/2001
On February 3rd, Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk was interviewed in The Guardian. He is 40. In the 1980s, he spent a year and a half in prison for refusing to go to military service. Since then, he has written nine books and his 1993 novel White Raven is about to be published in Britain by Serpent’s Tail.
The man whom critics refer to as Poland’s answer to Jack Kerouac lives in the mountains where he is busy building a house and breeding llamas: “My wife and I live next to Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the peripheries of these countries--the peripheries of Europe--are very interesting and open-ended. At the borders a lot of stuff seems to fall off the European edifice.”
Stasiuk on Beckett’s face: “I would like to go to Ireland. I'm a great Van Morrison fan. And Samuel Beckett is a first-degree star. Of all writers in the world, his face is the most beautiful. I have written two essays about his face. His way of ageing was just so much in tune with the way minerals and trees age."
Stasiuk on the dangers of failed artists: “Remember, Stalin was a failed writer, Hitler was a failed painter. . . . The worst people--the root of all evil in the world--are failed artists. You guys were lucky because Winston Churchill was a hell of a good writer."
BRIAN WALLACE 02/05/2001
We have just heard that Brian Wallace’s Labyrinth of Chaos has been published by New Falcon Publications.
This is what they say about it: “In this avant-garde, counter-culture novel, Alan Agrippa embarks upon a journey of Jungian individuation that encompasses both geographical and mental terrain. As he travels through England, Scotland, and Ireland, he immerses himself in a broad range of philosophical challenges to develop an understanding of a world that, until then, is unknown to him. Together, you and he are propelled to explore some of the fundamental questions of existence: the nature of physics, mysticism, and the human mind. During his travels, he encounters many remarkable people including a quantum scholar, a compassionate Jesuit priest, and an alluring female purveyor of voodoo. He meets, and falls in love with, Ronia Vintras, a French foreign exchange student. Together, they set out for hedonistic pleasures and stimulating, fulfilling companionship. In time, their journey becomes much more--a great mystic voyage. Labyrinth of Chaos is a story of transcendence which challenges traditional notions of morality, politics, and love. It celebrates the best of the individual human spirit: youthful idealism, romantic longings, and the unbridled pursuit of genius.” You can read an extract here.
JAKE ARNOTT’S UNRULY NIGHTS 02/04/2001
Cult author of The Long Firm, Jake Arnott has published an excellent article on nightlife in The Observer: “They tuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to but they do. They might think that they are scared for their children, but who are they kidding? They are scared of them, that they will lose their boys and girls to an intimate, changeling night. So they tuck them up and tuck them in, hoping that their little ones aren't corrupted by the bad dreams, the bad thoughts. . . . The night is an unruly time when the imagination runs riot against the authority of the day. I often work at night. It's a fertile time for a writer. And you're less likely to get disturbed. Saturday night's the best. I look down on the busy streets where I live, watching the revellers below, and kid myself I am having a better time than them. I am making my own entertainment, I say to myself, if they only knew what a good time I'm having. Writing is, in a sense, an anti-life activity, and you've got to keep yourself going somehow and not dwell too much on the thought that you are scribbling your years away. And sometimes, in the wee small hours, you can be hacking away and hit pay dirt. You can tap into that child's imagination that you had all those years ago.” Arnott’s next novel, He Kills Coppers will be published in Britain by Sceptre on May 17.
SAMUEL BECKETT AND BUSTER KEATON 01/30/2001
We all know that T.S. Eliot was a Groucho Marx fan, and we recently learned about the collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. What you may not know, however, is that Samuel Beckett greatly admired Buster Keaton. They both met in 1964, and Beckett convinced the ageing film star to play the leading role (a character called O) in a film entitled Film. Keaton only had one line to say: “Sssh!” beckett’s 19 plays have been filmed and will be broadcast in Britain on Channel 4. Brit artist Damien Hirst has directed Breath (45 seconds!), David Mamet has shot Catastrophe starring playwright Harold Pinter and the late Sir John Gielgud.
THIS IS RADIO GUTENBERG 01/30/2001
The guys from Radio Gutenberg in Argentina have contacted us to let us know that they want writers to send them their books or texts. They will be read and analysed on the program that goes live on AM 1120 every Sunday (7-9 pm). Radio Gutenberg is supported by many institutions and associations like the Society of Writers (Argentina). On March 24, 32 writers will be awarded the Gutenberg Prize 2000. Send your works to:
Guillermo Compte Cathcart
Provincia de Buenos Aires
THE CHATTERING CLASSES 01/30/2001
According to The Observer, lectures are hip: “. . . crank up that overhead projector and get with the beat, Daddy-O: standing at a lectern and talking for quite a long time is the new rock’n’roll.” Apparently, the trend started last year when the founder of Teardrop Explodes, Julian Cope went off on a very successful reading tour. The hub of sexy lectures seems to be London’s South Bank University where Joe Jackson (“masculinity in the music business”), Billy Bragg and Hanif Kureishi will soon be appearing. SBU seems to have some very interesting lecturers such as Hillegonda Rietvel, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, who seems to be an expert on house music, or Philip Hammond (another Senior Lecturer in Media Studies) who has co-edited a book on the media and the Kosovo crisis with Edward S. Herman. The title is Degraded Capability, the preface is by playwright Harold Pinter and it’s published by Pluto Press.
A LONG-WINDED CONVERSATION BETWEEN TWO NICE PEOPLE 01/29/2001
A long-winded “hydra-headed” conversation between Jonathan Lethen and Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and editor of McSweeneys can be read online. They mention, inter alia, Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Freud’s “Narcissism of Minor Difference”, Michael Moore, Michael Cunningham, New York intellectuals (“One needs, I think, very often, some exposure to the source material — that is, the world”) and much more besides.
Eggers on NY intellectuals, and more specifically on one of them “whose name [he] will not divulge.” In his old age, he “is still spending his time poo-pooing, with carefully manufactured condescension, new writers. (Can you imagine being 80 years old and thinking that a constructive use of your time is to pick apart the work of a beginning writer a third your age?) This man, who I think lives primarily as a critic and 'academic'--oh what a life!--once told a class of graduate students, among whom was a friend of mine, that over the years his tastes had become so refined that there were now ‘only two or three’ works of art that he could even stomach. And this man still finds the energy to wake up in the morning. How? What can the world offer him? . . . I want to take these people out of the city, for just a few hours, and bring them to see some mountains. Or a waterfall. They wouldn't even have to see the waterfall--just hearing the water rush and fall and crash would, I think, change them, would awaken them. I honestly think it's a result of too much time spent indoors, in dark rooms, reading critiques of criticism of opinions about trends. One needs, I think, very often, some exposure to the source material--that is, the world.”
Eggers on the world of books: “There should be no fighting in the world of books. We're lucky that there are books. We're lucky we can write any damn book we want. We're lucky there are so many people who will still pay money for these things, read these things, keep them on shelves and pack them in boxes when moving across the country. It's all pretty incredible, so anyone lucky enough to be involved in it, in whatever way, should take deep breaths and enjoy it.”
Eggers on literary magazines: “People have asked about competition between the newer literary magazines, like McSweeneys, Tin House, Fence, Open City. And I have to laugh. It's an oxymoron-- competition between literary magazines? I mean, the idea of a literary magazine is so silly that to take it seriously enough to think we're competing for something (what?)--the editor of Tin House actually had the idea, when we were both starting out, to stage a fake rivalry--over claims to some new writer maybe. . . . But so I think we all do very different things, we all do our best, and I would be personally dismayed if any of us ever folded. I like us all existing together. It's nice. And saying nice things about someone else or something else does not diminish he who says that nice thing. It costs nothing. It's free. There are no literary magazines, or books, I don't support, outside of maybe Newt Gingrich's fiction.”
You can read the first installment here. The second is here and the third over there.
IN POSSE REVIEW 01/29/2001
The latest issue of the excellent In Posse Review is now online.
LIONEL ROLFE 01/29/2001
The author of In Search of Literary L.A. and Fat Man on the Left: Four Decades in the Underground (1998) recently published an e-book entitled Death and Redemption in London and L.A. about his relationship with Lennon, Zappa and, of course, his late uncle Yehudi Menuhin. Follow the link to buy it from Dead End Street. Part of the proceeds of the book go to The Great Ape Project-International, “an organization dedicated to demanding the extension of the community of equals to include all great apes: human beings, chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and orang-utans.”
LO QUE EL MAYORDOM VIO 01/28/2001
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Johanna Garcia from Venezuela contacted me at the Joe Orton Community and ended up scanning some covers of Venezuelan editions of Orton books which we’ll soon publish in our “What the Butler Never Saw” column. Here’s the What the Butler Saw programme.