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Excerpt: Memphis Underground III

‘Dread Ina Jamdong’

By Stewart Home.

While I’ve been reconstructing this narrative, or rather when I’ve been taking breaks from reconstructing this account of my rather brief passage through a certain space and time, I’ve been reading People Funny Boy by David Katz — a biography of the renowned Jamaican music producer Lee Perry. It is one of the worst music books I’ve read for some time, since the author throws in too much detail and loses the plot in minutiae. Since biography and autobiography are always and already fictional, I’ve deliberately simplified my account of the time I spent last month in Liverpool, and I’ve quite consciously omitted to mention many of the people I met there. Likewise, I’ve said nothing of the view I enjoyed from my hotel window of assorted ventilation shafts, and am skipping all descriptions of waking, breakfast and checking out on my last morning there. I arrived at the train station, which as I had time to kill was by an indirect route, at 10.50 am. On the concourse, I ran into Keith Khan. We were travelling on the same train and got seats together. I’d planned to use this journey as an opportunity to begin correcting a print out I had with me of the first and second sections of Memphis Underground, but as it turned out, I didn’t commence this work until I was in Germany. Instead, I chatted to Keith about his cultural activities, and the ways in which I thought it might be interesting to relate them historically to classical avant-garde concerns about everyday life.

Once I was in London, I went to a pub in Euston Street where I had several pints with Richard Marshall, who’d written an essay about me for the 3:AM website. We talked about Hazlitt, and Richard suggested my plagiaristic tendencies made me a far more typical representative of English literary traditions than jokers like Julian Barnes or Martin Amis. Richard enjoyed being simultaneously provocative and supportive, and this was one of the many things that endeared him to me. I walked Dick down to the Three Greyhounds in Soho, which entailed navigating the entire length of Tottenham Court Road, a street with which I am overly familiar. I left Marshall with a couple of his friends, and located a phone box. I left an answer phone message for Richard Essex, who’d I’d last seen on the day I’d gone underground to work on this manuscript. I called Rob McGlynn and he invited me over to his flat. After a brisk walk to Clerkenwell, I found myself sitting on Rob’s balcony. He drank Bloody Marys, I drank mineral water. We talked about Robbe-Grillet. There were a lot of Robbe-Grillet’s novels in McGlynn’s flat, since my host was good at languages, I was surprised most were English translations. It got late, and as Rob was going to France, he suggested I sleep in his bed while he packed. I was woken at six by Rob calling from Stansted Airport, when he’d left the flat he’d forgotten to change the message on his answering machine. He wanted callers to know he was away.

I went back to sleep. When I woke at eight, I tidied up and watered the plants on the balcony. For breakfast I had coffee and toast. I walked to London Bridge train station, and caught a suburban service to New Cross. I met Pil and Galia Kollectiv in the main entrance to Goldsmiths College of Art. If their surname sounds a little strange, that is because they’d changed their names by deed-poll. I was giving these two post-graduate fine art students a tutorial. We went up to the library and used a video room to look at some of their animations. The funniest of these was a remake of Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, which used jelly beans for its characters. We spent three hours viewing and discussing this work, then I caught a train back towards the centre of town. I decided to alight at London Bridge and walk along the Thames. On the bookstalls outside the National Film Theatre I noticed a hardback copy of Negrophobia by Darius James. The novel had never been published in the UK, and this is the only time I’ve seen a first edition of it offered for sale anywhere in London. I’d picked up a copy of the American paperback in the now defunct Compendium Bookshop in Camden Town when that was issued.

I crossed the Thames at Hungerford Bridge and cut up to Soho. I changed twenty pounds sterling into Deutschmarks, then called on Malcolm Norris in Berwick Street. We talked about various Soho pubs we both frequented, and it quickly became apparent that Malcolm didn’t share my aversion to The Coach & Horses, which was always too crowded for my liking. After two cups of coffee, I left Malcolm and walked the short distance to Marylebone where I called on Sophie and Nuccia McNeil. Nuccia had made gnocchi, one of my favourite Italian dishes, and I ate a huge portion despite the temperature having hit thirty in London that afternoon. There were news reports of dolphins frolicking in the Thames around London Bridge. I’d not seen them when I’d walked past, but then I hadn’t been looking. Feeling stuffed, since the gnocchi was only the first part of a three course meal, I waddled away from Marylebone around ten, and called Richard Essex from a phone box on Oxford Street. We talked about John Dee and Amadeo Bordiga. Richard wanted to meet up, but I was flying out of London in the morning, so I’d said I’d give him a call when I got back the following week. I had the keys to Rob McGlynn’s flat, so I walked to Clerkenwell and crashed there.

This is taken from Stewart Home’s latest book, Memphis Underground (Snowbooks, 2007).

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007.