Artwork by Sardax
CUTTING-EDGE LITERARY NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
by Andrew Gallix
COPYRIGHT © 2001, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
THE SOUND OF TODAY TOMORROW 10/30/2001
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This summer's sonic sensation The Strokes, who play Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on October 31, get a mixed review in The Village Voice: "This is the stuff of which legends are really made: Young New York City Band writes a few great songs; U.K. critics write a few fawning cover stories; young New York City Band is written off by the Underground. . . ." You can also take a look at the in-depth interview with The Strokes recently published in Penthouse. For info on the New York gig or to download the latest video visit the band's official website. And while you're at it, say hello to The White Stripes whose latest album is seldom off the 3am turntable these days.
HEIDI JULAVITS 10/29/2001
In the latest issue of Failbetter.com you'll find an interesting interview with Heidi Julavits, author of The Mineral Palace : "[L]et me say that I did spend a decade paying my dues, and thank god -- I imagine if I had been around during the current willingness to sign up and publish twenty-something year olds, I might have been unfortunate enough to be one of those people, and I would have published a deeply, deeply mediocre book (I’m somewhat of a late bloomer) that would have rendered me, at the ripe age of 27, a tragic has-been. I guess I bridle a bit at being constantly reminded of my 'six figure two book deal,' because from what I’ve seen of the publishing industry since I signed my contract, my situation is hardly unique. I guess it IS fair to say that my books were sold at the beginning of this excellent, if possibly perilous trend of paying unknown, young literary writers a tidy sum for their works-in-progress. I do worry, however, about future opportunities for all these young 'debut' writers, around whom so much fuss is made. . . ."
WHITE RIOT REVISITED 10/29/2001
Bob Gruen's photographs of The Clash are exhibited at Proud Camden in London (27 september-18 november). There are many gems including Malcolm MacLaren outside Louise's, or this one of The Clash's second gig at the ICA in 1976. You can also buy the book in which all these priceless pictures are collected.
DOUGLAS COUPLAND'S DIGITAL SNAPSHOTS 10/28/2001
As you all know by now, Douglas Coupland's latest novel All Families Are Psychotic is available from your local bookshop. Stephen Moss in The Guardian finds out why Coupland is touring Britain with a camera: "It is very Douglas Coupland that an interview about his new novel, All Families Are Psychotic, has ended up as a showcase for his photography. Before the start of his book tour in early September, he bought a digital camera, and for the past month and a half has been posting pictures on his website, characteristically finding art in the everyday, beauty in the detritus of living. . . . We meet at the Cheltenham literary festival, where he entertains a too-respectful Saturday-night audience with his literary impro routine. . . . Coupland adores objects, and most of his book-tour photography has been of hotel rooms, shop windows, products, promotional displays. But why do it? 'I've never taken pictures before and I said to myself, 'Dammit, I'm going to learn how to do this. I don't remember my dreams. Do you? No one does. But if you wake up and write them down straight away, you can look at it 15 years later and like, 'I remember that dream perfectly.' It's the same with this 36 days, or 46 days, or whatever it has been, I really want to remember them. But your body tends to remember the airport and the train rumble, rumble, so I'm trying to remember the good stuff.' So now Coupland is a photographer as well as a writer and artist (an exhibition of his sculpture has recently been touring in North America). You are so prolific, I say swooningly. 'Oh no, I'm lazy. I consider the amount of work I do in a given year as the bare minimum necessary to qualify for citizenship.' Most of his day, he says, is spent feeding birds. . . ." check out some of the pictures here.
TOBY LITT ON GENERATION X 10/28/2001
Last week Toby Litt was on BBC Radio 3's excellent Night Waves programme to speak about Douglas Coupland's Generation X which was first published a decade ago. On the Radio 3 website, you can also listen to Geoff Dyer talking about Thomas Bernhard and Will Self on Louis-Ferdiand Céline. Toby Litt's Deadkidsongs has just come out in paperback.
LYDIA DAVIS: SAMUEL JOHNSON IS INDIGNANT 10/28/2001
Not content with translating Proust and receiving the insignia of the Order of Arts and Letters courtesy of the French government, Lydia Davis has just published a new novel entitled Samuel Johnson is Indignant. Read Aurelie Sheehan's article on Davis's work in Context and Kate Moses' interview in Salon. You'll find another interesting interview in Bomb magazine. The main action, however, is to be found in McSweeney's who are publishing the new novel.
Dave Eggers writes ". . . All who know Lydia's work probably remember their first time reading it. It kind of blows the roof off of so many of our assumptions about what constitutes short fiction. I read it on the F train from 6th Avenue to Park Slope -- it's a long ride and that book isn't all that long -- and by the end I felt liberated. She'd broken all of the most constraining rules. Some of her stories have plots but most don't. Some are in the range of acceptable short story length, most aren't. Many straddle a line between philosophy, poetry and fiction, categories that seem meaningless because her stories just work. There is rarely a plot as we expect from plot. The characters in the course of the story don't undergo a fundamental change. The plot, rather, stems from the narrator's trying to get at some truth. . . . In Samuel Johnson Is Indignant, a number of the pieces clock in under thirty words. A good example:
THEY TAKE TURNS USING A WORD THEY LIKE
"It's extraordinary," says one woman.
"It is extraordinary," says the other.
That's the whole piece. And yet its brevity is wholly logical and its truth is complete. There's nothing more to say, and there's no need to couch this exchange within a larger context, or even name its setting, because we know it already. We know these women, we know just about everything about them, by the syllables they emphasize. This sort of economy is why Lydia's work is sometimes called poetry. . . ."
On November 15, Flaneur contributors will be reading fiction, poems and essays at Halcyon in Brooklyn: 227 Smith Street (between Butler and Douglass Streets, near the Bergen Street stop on the F). The line up includes K.A. Dilday, Miles P. Finley, Rachel King, David Levine, Diane Mehta, Rebecca Schuman, and Matt Tait. Failbetter is organising "An Evening of Fiction" on October 27 at KGB (85 East 4th Street, West of 2nd Avenue) showcasing new work by Shelley Jackson and David Ohle. Upstairs At Duroc and Pharos launch the first of their autumn readings on October 29 at The Red Wheelbarrow, 13 rue Charles V, 75004 Paris (metro St Paul, Sully Morland, Bastille). Six writers will take part: Norrie Blaquart (a poet who's been living in Paris since the 1960s), Ethan Gilsdorf, Amy Hollowel, Jennifer Huxta, Laure Millet and Chicu Reddy. Kick off's at 7pm. Kilometer Zero's second season of readings will take place on Sundays at the Caveau de la Boulée, 25 rue de l'Hirondelle, 75006 Paris (November 4-December 9). Doors open at 8pm, the show begins at 9pm and open mic is at 11pm. Nearest metro station: St Michel.
The people who produce Critique and The Paumanok Review have launched their own publishing house, Wind River Press. Their first publication is Icy Current, Compulsive Course by Gaither Stewart. The latest issues of The Paumanok Review and Critique are online. The latter celebrates its first anniversary with a special issue called "On Writing". It includes an interview with Marc Spitzer, assistant editor at Exquisite Corpse, who had the cheek to dump me in the dreaded Cyber Bag. Still, it's an extraordinary issue. Our friends Tom Bradley, Utahna Faith and Bill Levy are in there, along with Internet superhero Jason Deboer and English playwright Arnold Wesker who delivers a message from God: "'And so,' God ordered me, 'whisper those eight words to the wind -- you call it 'Internet' I think -- and watch how like seed turned to bread they will appease hunger for wisdom in the world. There are no more virgins left in paradise. There are no more virgins left in paradise. There are no more virgins left in paradise. There are… no more… in paradise.'"
A new literary / art webzine called taint will go online on December 1: "On December 1, 2001, taint will make its debut to the millions of internet literati by serving up the finest in poetry, fiction, reviews, opinions, film, art and music. You bastards will embrace us like a long-lost evil twin. We'll be just like you, but we'll be a little bit more handsome and we'll wear a greasy little moustache. And all the chicks will want us."
JULIAN BARNES AT THE SORBONNE 10/28/2001
On Monday November 14, English author Julian Barnes will be at the Sorbonne (Amphithéâtre Guizot) in Paris (metro: Odéon or St Michel). Festivities will start at 7pm. For more info contact François Gallix, Vanessa Guignery or both. Julian Barnes will soon publish a collection of essays about France entitled Something to Declare.
PUNK: A LIFE APART 10/21/2001
Today's Buzzwords entry comes courtesy of Andrew Wade from the excellent Only Anarchists Are Pretty website devoted to Malcolm MacLaren and Vivienne Westwood's sartorial work. Here goes:
Where were you in '76? I was in Birmingham, and in October 1976, so were the Sex Pistols. I returned the compliment by coming to London exactly twenty-five years later for the launch party of 'Punk', possibly the final word on the subject. This huge book - and it is big - covers the story from its Warholian beginnings in the Factory through to its death throes at the end of the seventies. The exhibition at Apart (138 Portobello Road), was kicked into life on 17th October, amidst a show of the punk aristocracy.
One thing grabbed me: they're all so small! Mick Jones of The Clash, who I'd always assumed to be around seven feet tall, just about made it to my own modest 5'9". Gone were the skeletal, speed-drenched frames that gave them such a towering presence in those Ray Stevenson images displayed on the walls of the gallery. Also gone were the paranoid stares visible in the Dennis Morris 1977 series of shots: no longer the nation's enemies -- instead respected as elders of the tribe who won their feathers so that we could celebrate youthful rebellion again. Most have aged well -- Steve Diggle of The Buzzcocks looking like he should be finishing off his homework, Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols unchanged, excellent Steve Severin (Banshees) like some well-tailored perverse poet.
The hardcore of the late seventies/early eighties club scene were also out: Boy George, Philip Sallon, Steve Strange, Rusty Egan. Punk's usurpers, once seeking music for a future age, now just another nostalgia trip. From todayish Ian Brown looked completely out of place, dressed in some heavy sixties fur and beads, but then wasn't that the point of punk -- to alienate yourself from those around you?
Twenty-five years on, it's difficult to appreciate the impact on society made by some of the people at that party. Sometimes we need a little reminder. So go and have a look for yourself. Then set fire to your city.
Punk: A Life Apart by Stephen Colegrave and Chris Sullivan came out on October 18. Check out the book/exhibition website.
PICARESQUE PUNK PASTORAL 10/20/2001
Check out Sweet Fancy Moses next Tuesday for the first installment of Jim Ruland's The Discovery of America, a "picaresque punk pastoral": "It is a twelve-part episodic tale of punk rockers told in the style of a medieval religious allegory. You've read nothing like it." Brace yourselves.
British artist and writer Alistair Gentry, author of 100 Black Boxes and The Nothings, will be running a workshop for Essex Playwrights Festival at the Gallery, Chelmsford Central Library 6-8 pm on the 31st October (call the box office on 01702 342564). Alistair Gentry and Joe McGee's digital animation film Hypnomart will be shown at Bristol's Brief Encounters short film festival. It will also be broadcast on Channel 4 this autumn.
The International Necronautical Society (who believe that death is "a type of space" which they "intend to map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit") have published an in-depth interview with Alistair Gentry: ". . . The amusement world is a disaster waiting to happen. It's a Jacobean idea: there's this pretty face on the top, but you don't have to scrape very far to find the skull beneath. But in the real Disneyworld too, there's a fracture between what's on the surface and this -- both literal and metaphorical -- subterranean world that's beyond the public gaze. In the book [Their Heads Are Anonymous] the machinery just grinds into its ultimate configuration. It's an allegory, really, hidden beneath a novelistic surface." Apropos of his modular online novel The Nothings, Gentry explains that "It's like bits of Lego, a Lego-narrative. At the moment they're quite big chunks, more like Duplo than Lego. The chunks are between a thousand and a couple of hundred words each. They fit together in different ways. You can print them or access them electronically, and depending on how you slot them together you get a different sense of what the story is and how the people relate to each other. . . . I was trying to get as far away as possible from normal ordering, to capture a sense of the chaos of people's lives -- and deaths. I do often write about death -- which is why I'm here. But it's about what death means for your life and how people regard you afterwards or what you leave behind, your traces in the world, be that T-shirts or some funny last words. But these arcs: they're also nicked from trash tv, long-running American serials with story-arcs, which are different from single episodes; they have a whole team of hacks just working on the 'arcs'. . . . [I]t being online, I can link to William Blake or Day of the Triffids or whatever without saying 'Look, I'm really erudite and intelligent and am making this clever reference'; I can just say: 'Click here and go and look it up yourself'." You'll find many other interviews on the same site including authors like Will Self and Stewart Home.
PULP FICTION ONLINE 10/20/2001
We are delighted to hear that Larry Zoumas' excellent chemical generation webzine Pulpfiction.com, is back online: "After 6 months of a bill dispute with our former host, Speakeasy.net, who erroneously billed us against oral and written contracts, we dropped them like a sack of potatoes and moved operations to a new host that offers us the same space and bandwidth for about 1/20th as much money. I was going to go to the trouble of putting up a page that was a petition to Speakeasy to give us our money back but in the spirit of rave and good times, I am going to let it rest. I truly believe that what goes around comes around, and I want only the most positive future." Pulpfiction.com is now sponsored by Pax Acidus, another brilliant site which Larry Zoumas aka Ooh the Sloth 456 webmasters.
CAREY WINS BOOKER FOR SECOND TIME 10/18/2001
Peter Carey has been awarded the prestigious Booker prize for his True History of the Kelly Gang. With JM Coetzee, he is the second writer to have won the Booker twice.
THE END OF HYSTERICAL REALISM? 10/13/2001
Young English novelist Zadie Smith has responded to James Wood's attack on modern fiction. On October 6, the critic wrote in The Guardian that "It is only the McInerneys, for whom Manhattan is a tinkle of restaurants, who are suddenly surrounded by the broken glass of their foolish optimism. . . . Zadie Smith is merely of her time when she says, in an interview, that it is not the writer's job 'to tell us how somebody felt about something, it's to tell us how the world works'. She has praised the American writers David Foster Wallace and Dave Eggers as 'guys who know a great deal about the world. They understand macro-microeconomics, the way the internet works, maths, philosophy, but ... they're still people who know something about the street, about family, love, sex, whatever.' But this idea -- that the novelist's task is to go on to the street and figure out social reality -- may well have been altered by the events of September 11, merely through the reminder that whatever the novel gets up to, the 'culture' can always get up to something bigger. Ashes defeat garlands. If topicality, relevance, reportage, social comment, preachy presentism, and sidewalk-smarts -- in short, the contemporary American novel in its current, triumphalist form -- are novelists' chosen sport, then they will sooner or later be outrun by their own streaking material. Fiction may well be, as Stendhal wrote, a mirror carried down the middle of a road; but the Stendhalian mirror would explode with reflections were it now being walked around Manhattan. . . . The other casualty of recent events may well be -- it is to be hoped -- what I have called 'hysterical realism'. Hysterical realism is not exactly magical realism, but magical realism's next stop. It is characterised by a fear of silence. This kind of realism is a perpetual motion machine that appears to have been embarrassed into velocity. Stories and sub-stories sprout on every page. There is a pursuit of vitality at all costs. . . . It ought to be harder, now, either to bounce around in the false zaniness of hysterical realism or to trudge along in the easy fidelity of social realism. Both genres look a little busted. . . ."
Zadie Smith claimed ". . . When I was 21 I wanted to write like Kafka. But, unfortunately for me, I wrote like a script editor for The Simpsons who'd briefly joined a religious cult and then discovered Foucault. Such is life. And now, when I finish a long day of CNN-related fear and loathing mixed with eyeballing my own resolutely white screen, I do not crawl into bed with 500-page comic novels about (God help me, but it's OK; I'm going to call on the safety of quote marks) 'multicultural' London. I read Carver. Julio Cortázar. Amis's essays. Baldwin. Lorrie Moore. Capote. Saramago. Larkin. Wodehouse. Anything, anything at all, that doesn't sound like me. Sick of sound of own voice. Sick of trying to make own voice appear on that white screen. Sick of trying to pretend, for sake of agent and family, that idea of putting words on blank page feels important. I think -- I'm not sure, but I think -- that I and other 'comic' writers Wood mentioned in his article now have the most pointless jobs in the world. Even Posh Spice et al surely fall into the cheering-the-troops department. We are more like a useless irritation; the wrong words, the wrong time, the wrong medium. Obsessed with our knowledge when the last thing people want is the encyclopaedic. . . . So what now? Does anyone want to know the networks behind those seeming simplicities, the paths that lead from September 11 back to Saudi Arabia and Palestine, and then back to Israel, back further to the second world war, back once more to the first? Does anyone care what writers think about that? Does it help? Or shall we sing of love and drawing rooms and earth and children and all that is small and furry and wounded? Must we produce what you want, anyway? I have absolutely no idea. . . . Personally, I find myself more and more struck by controlled little gasps of prose, as opposed to the baggy novel. I admire the high reverence for the blank page shown by Kafka, Borges and Cortázar. Cortázar (recommended to me, actually, by Foster Wallace) writes as if every extra word is a sort of sacrilege. The instinct is almost religious, as if to say: and if it is to be stained, proceed slowly and with the utmost care. Which seems the exact opposite of the American/ English instinct: I must cover the world in my shit immediately. Is it this reverence, this care, this suppression of ego that Wood wants to see from us? It is what I want to see from myself, but whether I will manage it is another matter. It will take sympathy -- a natural instinct, a sentimental reflex -- but it will also take empathy, which I still contend is largely a matter for the intellect. Your brain must be up for it, for making that necessary leap. At the moment, my brain feels like catfood. So I may never prove to be much of a writer - a real writer, the kind I like to read -- but then again, maybe I will. I'm not sure how much it matters any more. But we shall see."
HOW HIP CAN YOU GET? 10/12/2001
Three representatives of young Britlit, Toby Litt, Matthew Branton and Matt Thorne will take part in a Vox'n'Roll reading on October 25: Momo's, Heddon Street, London W1 at 7.30pm. All three authors were included in the infamous New Puritans anthology.
THE SOUND OF HERE AND NOW 10/12/2001
You lucky bastards in cyberspace can download three tracks from The White Stripes' John Peel session including the extraordinary "Hello Operator".
ONE DECK AND TWO SPLIFFS 10/12/2001
The Banshees' manager Nils Stevenson has set up a new record company called Superstonic. He has also worked on Don Letts' compilation Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown which will be released by Heavenly Records on October 15 (Letts was the rasta dj at London's Roxy club in the early days of Punk). The compilation "comprises awesome reggae and dub tracks that Don played at the Roxy 'back in the day of one deck and two spliffs'."
Another compilation – simply called Punk -- comes out the same day on Sony Records. Nils explains that "The intention of this compilation is to trace the genealogy of punk from the Velvets, Iggy and Dolls to the Pistols, Clash and Banshees as well as the emergence of English reggae groups like Steele Pulse to the beginnings of 'no wave' in New York."
On October 18, Cassell's will publish Stephen Colgrave and Chris Sullivan's 400 page book – again simply called Punk --which includes more than 80 photos taken by Nils' brother Ray Stevenson.
A Punk exhibition will run from October 18-28 to coincide with the release of the book and the CD collections: "Photographers include Nat Finkelstein (the best shots of the Factory), Dennis Morris (great stuff of Sid), Leee Childers (Max's Kansas City) and, of course, Ray (year zero in London). There will also be original SEX clothes and graphics from Jamie Reid". Apart, 138 Portobello Road, London W11 2DZ. Tel: 020 7229 6146. Tue - Fri 10:30 - 6:00, Sat 11:00 - 6:00, Sun 11:00 - 5:00
3am Magazine will be celebrating this flurry of Punk activity with an in-depth interview with Bertie Marshall, a former member of the Bromley Contingent.
Trinidad born British writer VS Naipaul has been awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature "for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories"!
3A.M. IN THE GUARDIAN! 10/10/2001
Regular readers will know that my favourite source of information is The Guardian's books pages, so I was delighted to discover that a review of 3am appears among their literary links: "Cool ezine 3am is worth taking a look at for a dip into the edgier waters of literature on the net. It contains some interesting interviews -- including this month's stimulating feature on the future of literature with Mark Amerika of Alt-X -- and a selection of essays on authors and styles, such as hypertext. While the interviews and essays focus on the lit/tech interface, the featured new fiction appears less cutting-edge in form and traditionally preoccupied with sex and relationships in subject matter. However, a nice design touch is the way each story appears in its own pop-up window in a large, easy-to-read font; and don't miss the daily buzzwords, which comprise links to literary news from around the global village." They're quite right that our fiction is "less cutting-edge" and we intend to do something about it. A big thanks to The Guardian.
JIM HAYNES INVADES FRANKFURT WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM HIS FRIENDS 10/10/2001
Last Sunday's Observer revealed that "Sixties legend" Jim Haynes "has invited all his friends to come to a special party in Halle 5" at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
WE ARE THE MODS, WE ARE THE MODS, WE ARE, WE ARE, WE ARE THE MODS! 10/09/2001
On Friday 12 October, get down to Reds Bar at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle, for a Modern Life happening. Grant Schofield and Tony Pass have lined up groovy 60's Tamla Motown, Atlantic, Stax, Ye Ye, Blue Eyed Soul, Freakbeat, Hammond & British Beat for your enjoyment. Acid Jazz Records' Eddie Piller will spin the old vinyl singles. Doors open at 9:30pm, Sandyford Road, Newcastle NE1. £5 (£4 NUS) on the gate. Two other Modern Life nights will take place in Newcastle on 9 November and 7 December. Don't miss Big Boss Man at Stockton-on-Tees on 27 October.
London's Blow Up club is moving to the T2 Bar, 84 Wardour Street, at the heart of Soho. Launch night is Saturday 13 October. Blow Up have just released a new compilation of 60s sounds. Check out their website.
BLANK GENERATION 10/07/2001
An anthology of Richard Hell's work called Hot and Cold will be published in a few days. It includes essays, short stories, poems, illustrations and songs (yes, the lyrics of "Blank Generation" and "Love Comes in Spurts" are there). The Punk legend is interviewed by novelist Rick Moody in the latest issue of V magazine. Hell explains that he "first started doing really detailed and explicit sex writing (and drawing) in the mid-‘70s": "The thing in Hot and Cold that I vacillated the most about though was that naked photo of me. (Not the freakier stuff.) I couldn’t tell what it would signify to publish that picture in the book. I know I wouldn’t have done it if powerHouse didn’t let me do it in color. . . . I think it came down to two things -- I was curious to see what effect it would have -- how it would read in three years or seven years for instance; and I thought if I’m going to publish those naked pictures of girls who are my friends I should put in the one of myself too to be fair." Richard Hell also talks about his literary influences: "I’m into people who want art to outdo itself. Who want art to break the world like an egg. To me that’s always the trick, to outwit, outdistance, the conventions in such a way that 'reality' leaks into your work and vice versa. No 'school,' though it wouldn’t be hard to name the approaches to writing that I’d estimate had the greatest influence on me and I’d say that would be 19th century French poets Lautreamont, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, then the original Surrealists (Breton and co.), The New York poets 1st & 2nd generation (Ashbery, O’Hara, Schuyler, Berrigan, Padgett, etc.), Bill Knott, Nabokov, Borges… There are many more. I also like writing that has no purpose but to convey information, like soap container labels, instruction sheets, encyclopedias, footnotes, indexes. I don’t like 'myself' -- I like writing."
THE TERRIBLE ENFANT TOUR 10/07/2001
The Terrible Enfant Tour is coming to Chicago on November 1st. Greg Wharton will read extracts from his anthology Of the Flesh: Dangerous New Fiction at Quimby's bookstore along with Ian Philips who will be promoting his book, See Dick Deconstruct: Literotica for the Satirically Bent. The reading will start at 7pm.
The third issue of one of Britain's best fiction / music magazines, em music and writing will be published on November 1st. em isn't your boring run-of-the-mill magazine, it's a book (260 pages) and CD (75 minutes) compilation of new short fiction and emerging music: "The writing we promote is the popular music of the literary world. Litpop, if you will. Writing that's short, straight to the point, compact, but still manages to tug at your heart-strings. The music represents the great diversity of talent emerging from bedrooms around the world." Highly recommended.
TAKING THE PISS OUT OF THE NOVEL 10/04/2001
In Limb By Limb, a hip British magazine, Chris Milton interviews novelist Jonathan Coe about his forthcoming biography of BS Johnson. Coe says that Johnson suffered from a great deal of snobbery: "There's a class thing, too. The English literary tradition is something that has been passed down through a sort of Oxbridge network and a middle-class network. This trumped up guy from Hammersmith, who never even passed his eleven-plus, came along and suddenly announced that the novels people were writing were completely old fashioned and reactionary, that writers should be cutting holes in the pages and putting unbound pages in a box. I think his working classness and his drive towards realism, which is one of the main impulses in his work, has worked against his reputation as being an experimental writer who belongs in the ranks of writers such as Calvino and Perec." He goes on to comment on the playful element in much experimental writing: "There's a point in Beckett's writing, and in Johnson's writing, and in Flann O'Brien's, when they've seen the conventions of the traditional novel as absurd -- the pretence that what's being described is real, the conventions of 'he said', 'she said' just suddenly strikes them as ludicrous, so they take the piss out of it. It's something that strikes me every day that I sit down with a sheet of paper in front of me. You can either live with it, or it gets too much for you and you begin to deconstruct it. One definition of what The Unfortunates is doing is that it is taking the piss out of the novel." Jonathan Coe reckons we should take Johnson seriously because he took his writing so seriously: ". . . One of the reasons I hope that today's novelists, writers of my age and younger, might start reading him again, is because he's a very, very inspiring figure in terms of how to take your craft seriously without being pompous and up your own arse. He had tremendous self-belief, which could translate itself into arrogance, which is another reason why he was unpopular with some people, because he did have this habit of proclaiming himself the most important British novelist. But, at the same time, that bedrock of self-belief is essential, it's what keeps you going of a morning when you sit down at your desk. He once said that the writers he admired were 'those who are writing as though it mattered, as though they meant it, as though they meant it to matter.' His presence is important at a time when the market is being clogged up with lightweight novels in the wake of Helen Fielding and Nick Hornby -- people writing as if it didn't matter -- relationship novels, novels which might just as well be scripts for extended episodes of This Life. Readers, I think, are being sold short by this." The biography should be published in October.
Robert McCrum claims in The Observer that "it's the writers of fiction, contemporary masters such as Ian McEwan in Britain and Paul Auster in the US, who have come up with the words of comfort and clarity we crave in the midst of shock and desolation. People sometimes dismiss fiction as mere entertainment, but at times like this there's no question that novelists at their best have a privileged access to truths about the human condition denied to others. Partly, this is because they have a detachment that reporters, caught up in the maelstrom of events, cannot equal. Journalism is history's first draft, and the journalism of novelists, while not always to everyone's taste, can supply the insights that people need at a time like this. . . . Among the torrent of words that have flowed down columns of newsprint and been scattered over the airwaves, the heart-rending last words of the victims stand out for their humanity and courage. In classical times, the Romans believed in ars morituri, 'the art of dying', and in making 'a good death'. It is, I think, impossible not to be stirred by the simple dignity of those who, faced with imminent extinction, managed somehow to communicate with their families and utter the three words in the English language that really matter: 'I Love You.'"
The latest North American edition of 1 Lit is devoted to the terrorist attacks of September 11. You'll find an interesting interview with Professor Fred Halliday "on the shifting dynamics in the relationship between the Islamic world and the West."
John Weaver of writes: "At this moment, none of us can know the impact the events of September 11, 2001 will have on our lives, our families, our careers, the economy, our country and the world. We do know that those who lost loved ones in this brutal, murderous expression of senseless rage are devastated and need our prayers. Pageonelit.com would like to share with you a few thoughts from the literary world." Go see what they've got to say.
PARIS CALLING 10/02/2001
One of the most interesting websites on Paris for English speakers is Parisiana, the "Lovers' Guide to Paris". Among many other features, you'll find a fascinating Paris-based weblog with an appropriately Proustian title, The Trail of Time. The photos are excellent too. Another site I love is Le Paris branché des années 70, all about trendy Paris in the Seventies. Looks like Amélie Poulain fever is about to hit Britain. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's delightful film -- called Amelie From Montmartre in English – seems set to turn Paris into one of the trendiest cities this winter.
Alan Hart, the bestselling author of Living and Working in France (How To Books) has just published Living and Working in Paris. You can meet him at WH Smith: 248, rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris.
There's also a revival of the English-speaking literary scene. A few months back, we mentioned the launch of a new journal called Kilometer Zero (see picture). Their second issue (summer 2001) is now available on the website and from assorted bookshops in Paris and the United States. Their second season of weekly readings is scheduled to begin in October. We'll keep you posted.
Upstairs at Duroc started as a class project, then developed into an independent and more professional style mag headed by Jennifer Dick and co-editor in-chief Marcie Maxfield. Upstairs publishes writing in English, including translations, from all over the world. In recent issues, they have published well-known writers such as Alice Notley, Laura Mullen, Denis Hirson, Cole Swensen, William Tremblay, Speer Morgan and Mary Jo Salter alongside some fabulous and exciting lesser-knowns (Alice Jones, Matthew Miller, Ethan Gilsdorf, Linda Healey, Lisa Pasold, Laure Millet and Nancy Dzina. The fall issue is due out in November. Upstairs at Duroc are hosting a small reading with another English language, Paris-based literary magazine, Pharos, at the Red Wheelbarrow, 13 rue Charles V, Paris 75004 on October 29. --come check us out! Upstairs are still accepting submissions for their spring issue. They're looking for prose (no more than 4 single-spaced pages) or poetry of any style.
LITERARY FESTIVALS IN ENGLAND 10/02/2001
The English literary festival season is upon us again! First off there's the Ikley Literature Festival which runs between October 5 and October 21. Authors appearing include Toby Litt, V.S. Naipaul, Germaine Greer, Douglas Coupland, Melvyn Bragg, Alain de Botton and Margaret Drabble. There will also be a series of world premieres by writers including Will Self, Kate Atkinson, Alan Sillitoe and Simon Armitage. Then there's the 52nd Cheltenham Festival of Literature from October 12 until October 21. Visiting this year are Irvine Welsh, V S Naipaul, Douglas Coupland, Terry Pratchett and Louis de Bernières.