[24.4.06] [Andrew Gallix]
TINY-VOICED NEW ZEALANDERS AND FLUTTERING CHERUBS
The Guardian's Nick Tanner has reviewed the inaugural Through a Glass Darkly bash in The Guardian's great Culture Vulture blog:
"Where is Fitzrovia? On the map this small district occupies the area north of Oxford Street and south of Fitzroy Square, a jumble of shadowy pubs and offices that shoulders up to the grander and more respectable Bloomsbury like a drunk in a bus queue. But the name also conjures up a location in time as well as space, less tangible perhaps but more intriguing, which can be vaguely defined as the middle years of the last century, when Fitzrovia was the alcohol-fuelled hub of literary London. Between the 30s and the 60s writers of all complexions would congregate in the cheap restaurants and late-night boozers, and among the hacks and no-hopers a visitor might have glimpsed George Orwell dourly sipping a pint in the Fitzroy Tavern, or Dylan Thomas grinning and bellowing in the Wheatsheaf on Rathbone Place.
And it was a room above the Wheatsheaf that played host to Through a Glass Darkly, an evening of readings last week that tipped its hat to the ghosts of Fitzrovia, offering up a batch of contemporary London-based writers in their place. Jointly organised by the literary websites 3:AM Magazine and Scarecrow, and the Soho historical group the Sohemian Society, the evening centred on the theme of the pub, which provided a loose setting for the five readings and gave the whole undertaking a nicely alcoholic aroma.
First on the small stage was Paul Ewan (sic), a tiny-voiced New Zealander who read two whimsically off-beat reviews of London pubs from his forthcoming collection, one of which has already appeared in New Writing 13. Lee Rourke (pictured below), the editor of Scarecrow, then read a short story entitled 'Lee Rourke is Bored' (sic), which analysed the petty squabbles of the scribblers, queens, hangers-on and drop-outs gathered in the French House pub in Soho, and harked back to the literary glory days of the district. With his V-neck sweater, black and white striped T-shirt and mop of golden curls, Rourke really looked the Fitzrovian part, and gave the impression that a cherub had fluttered in from the 40s. Best of the bunch was Heidi James, a former ballet dancer whose darkly comic short story recounted the grisly murder of an abusive drinker by his put-upon wife. The final scene, in which the husband's head was placed in a tool bag and taken for a last visit to the pub before being thrown in a river, represented the highlight of the evening, and possessed the kind of imaginative energy and lack of self-regard that wasn't always on display in the readings as a whole.
If literary Fitzrovia as it was has virtually evaporated, the web-based nature of the organisers behind the event suggests that its home has moved from this ragbag of streets to the internet, where a new bohemia has sprung up complete with its own quirky geography. Pubs have become chatrooms, small magazines have morphed into self-publishing websites. The new world is much bigger, but lacks the cluttered intimacy of Fitzrovia, a fact that this live event was able in some part to address. Located at the intersection of the old and new literary scene, it also proved how good it is to hear decent writers reading their work aloud. Let's hope more events will follow. An anthology of writing from 3:AM Magazine, The Edgier Waters, will be published by Snow Books in June." More pictures of the event here.