November 03, 2006

Smile Please...

Excellent report on the growth of the surveillance society, launched by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, yesterday. Great to hear that Britain remains a world leader in something even if it is installing CCTV cameras...

October 26, 2006

Stranger Than (Cliche)

The problem with trying to write books about life now is that they're usually out of date before they come out. Which is why I'm both satisfied and horrified to hear that Mr Blair has announced that we should all be queuing up to become part of his national DNA database. But you'll have to wait a year and half to find out why I should care... That is, if you care...

Gwyn Thomas

Picked up "The Dark Philosophers" by Gwyn Thomas over the summer (from the excellent Library of Wales series). It's been a real revelation, like a missing link (for me) between Halldor Laxness, Alan Warner and Marxism. Very funny and very sad tales of the valleys, unemployment and grotesque bosses. Oddly appropriate at the time we're remembering the Aberfan disaster, as Thomas' eulogy, recorded for the BBC exactly 40 years ago today, is available on the internet here

September 21, 2006

Way to go, Warren!

"Georges Perec is the finest French writer of the twentieth century. There. I've wanted to stake that claim, in print, for the last twenty-five years." So says Warren Motte and I, for one, ain't going to disagree. An excellent introduction to the great man's work, I think this essay has been knocking around for a bit but I only just came across it.

September 13, 2006

Alma Dreams Come True...

Don't know much about new publisher Alma Books but what I've seen I liked. I recently read Tom McCarthy's "Remainder" which I thoroughly enjoyed, particularly its Bartleboothian opening half. Now I see that they've released the new book from the mighty Mr Vollman and still more intriguingly, the latest from Colson Whitehead. His first, "The Intuitionist" was superb and if "John Henry Days" never matched it, it was nevertheless an intriguing book. Anyway, if anyone at Alma comes across this post and wants to send me some books, that would be beautiful. Failing that, I'll carry on buying them...

Talking of serious and high-minded independent publishers, New Directions are planning to release seven (count 'em) books from sadly-deceased Chilean legend Roberto Bolano over the next couple of years. I guess Harvill will be releasing over here, but don't wait. "Last Evenings On Earth," a collection of short stories, was definitely the pick of my summer reading, though I find it hard to explain why...

September 04, 2006

Google A.I.

"We are not scanning all those books to be read by people. We are scanning them to be read by an AI."
Interesting piece about just why Google is planning to scan as many books as it possibly can and add them to the web. And it's nothing to do with breaking copyright or becoming an e-publisher...

Offsite Quote Business

I've stuck all the quotes over here for ease of access, in the hope that I'll find something interesting to write about...

You can get to 'em from the sidebar, too...

August 30, 2006

Database Nation...

Interesting article in The Guardian on Monday about the databases of information held on us:
"Amazon is hoping to patent ways of interrogating a database that would record not just what its 59 million customers have bought - which it already knows - or what they would like to buy (which, with their wish lists, they tell the world) but their income, sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity. The company, of course, already knows who we are and where we live."

August 24, 2006

Moving To Rhyl

New quotes:
"A brave and ambitious treatise on modern England.. a weird and wonderful trip" - i-D

"A black and baroque talent" - Tribune

"Few debut novelists display the ambition shown by Will Ashon in Clear Water... a unique and spell-binding tale that heralds the arrival of a major new talent" - Rhyl & Prestatyn Journal

When I was a kid I went on a school trip to North Wales and, one wet and grey day, we ended up at the Rhyl leisure centre. And it had a wave machine and slides and a giant octopus, which was bascially sci-fi stuff 25 years ago. So, I like to believe that Rhyl was and remains ahead of its time...

July 30, 2006

...End Quotes

Great write up in the Independent on Sunday this morning as part of their Fifty Hot Books For Summer:

"Startlingly original and defiantly British... Ashon is a major new talent."

July 25, 2006

Begin Quotes...

Some press quotes:

"A shiny, hyper-modern dream of Eden is here stripped to its bloody heart... a realism that can include moments of sheer, quiet, sad poetry... watch this space, because Ashon can really write" - The Guardian

"A brawny, dystopian novel that never loses its Orwellian sense of humour … Clear Water is a rewarding novel that signals the arrival of a skilled cultural commentator." - Time Out

"There is an impressive imagination at work here and... flashes of brilliance in the writing." - The New Statesman

"A weird and wonderful look at the dreadful side of modern England" - Esquire

"Extraordinary... A superbly written exposé of consumer society and contemporary mores by a prodigious new talent." - The Book Magazine

"A darkly comic critique of Britain... every bit as encompassing as a Don De Lillo novel... an extremely compelling book" - Flux

"Not often is Englishness and all it means treated with the same extended examination as Clear Water provides; as such this is an important novel; one which is as compelling, funny and accessible as it is literary." - Blowback

"A remarkable, darkly funny, addictive and far ranging novel" - Clash

July 24, 2006

The Return of Mr Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon's new book is apparently out this December (a mere 992 pages long) and the man himself has posted his own description of it at The fact that his publishers took the notice down thinking it was the work of a spoofer until he contacted them and told them to put it back up perhaps suggests that all the information he gives may not be entirely accurate. Unless no one at the publishers has seen it yet...

Either way, it takes care of my Christmas list. And everyone else's Christmas presents. And birthday presents. Etc.

July 04, 2006

Going Underground...

A strange, obsessive site with too many exclamation marks, but very satisfying in its own London Underground-crazed way and with a marvellous pic of the Queen on the Victoria Line. Which I've stolen.

Going Underground

June 28, 2006

Binary Translator

For those interested enough (I know, I know, there are none of you), here is the rather wonderful Binary Translator. Never again will strings of ones and noughts be merely strings of ones and noughts to you! Phew.

June 26, 2006

Sealand Burns

Sealand, the original inspiration for Vernaland, has caught fire and been burnt out, according to various online reports.

June 14, 2006

Festival Circuit

Not for me Hay-on-Wye, Cheltenham or Edinburgh. No, it's strictly the music festivals which want me. I intend to be the Hendrix of the mic, playing the feedback and burning my book. To an empty tent, of course.

On Friday July 14th, very early in the morning, I believe, due to my God-given ability to die slowly and quietly with only canvas for company, I will be reading in the Vox 'n Roll tent at the Latitude Festival. I get quite good billing considering no one has heard of me, but I suggest a magnifying glass if you're short sighted.

Then, on the afternoon of Saturday August 5th, I will, at some as yet undefined point in time, be reading at the venerable Big Chill. (I'm not even listed here, but then maybe I should be returning my contract instead of wasting my time on a blog no one reads).

But, if you are of the opinion that the only good thing ever to happen in fields is urban development, fear not. On Thursday July 20th, Michael Smith and I will be reading in the bar of the Hackney Empire as part of the Spice Festival. And later on DJ Memes (Whuttt?/Big Dada) will be playing some tunes. And Trojan Soundsystem are playing in the other bit. Only you can come into our bit for nowt.

June 13, 2006

Listing to the Left

Lists of greatest books are usually pretty shite, not least because you haven't read most of them (and when I say 'you' I mean 'I'). Not only do I do slightly better than normal with Larry McCaffery's 20th Century Greatest Hits but all the ones I haven't read sound great, too.

Larry is a prof at San Diego State University and also invented the term "avant pop," but don't hold that against him. He likes lots of good books that never usually get a shout on these lists. Give it up for Larry..!

June 06, 2006

Being Discounted

I share a rare honour with Paul Gasciogne this week. Not only do we both like weeping (and drinking (though in different ways)), we now share the honour of being "aggressively discounted" by Amazon as a Deal of the Week. What larks!

June 04, 2006

Reading Survival 2

Rule 2: Never read from your book in the front room of a pub to ten people, half of whom are only in there for a drink and a chat after work.

Obvious, really. Ah well...

May 26, 2006

Reading Survival

A series of rules which I'll develop as I do readings which will hopefully mean they get better.

Rule number one: Never share a bill with a performance poet (at least not one that's any good).

Last night Shane Koyczan came to Book Sl@m, saw me read, conquered. Grown men were weeping in the aisles, girls were queuing for his verbal loving. I'd gone foetal in the corner.

To be fair, everyone was very kind. But the principle stands...

May 22, 2006

Live Thing In Your Town

As long as your town is London.

Two confirmed readings from "Clear Water":

May 25th, at Patrick Neate's terrifyingly cool and chic Book Sl@m (there's two links in there, click-fiends).
Cherry Jam, 58 Porchester Road, London, W2
Doors open 7pm

May 31st at Vox 'n' Roll with the mighty, irrepressibly fine fellow Michael Smith.
The Boogaloo, 312 Archway Road, London N6 5AT.

May 10, 2006

Fun for Sociopaths

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can now make friends with characters from a book! Well, this book. The book I keep going on about.

Follow the links below to various Myspace pages, meet the characters in question, become their buddies, live a life rich in hopeless fantasy and wasted man-hours. Alternatively, use the opportunity to read a bit of the book. What book? Oh, keep up...

King James
Peter Jones
Jimmy Patel
Verna Landor

Books and Music

Took part in Andrew Holmes' Secret Santa Mixtape thing with a selection of authors that people may actually have heard of.

It was a remarkably painless experience.

Too Little Too Late

This blog has only really one purpose. Or maybe two. Or more. But mainly it's to try and persuade you to read (and, yes, buy) "Clear Water" by Will Ashon. It's a book, it has 330-odd pages. It has a natty cut-out dust jacket. Blah. It's an entirely self-defeating enteprise as you'll probably only be here if you've already heard about it.

If you have heard about the book, maybe some of the information here will be useful to you.

If you've read it you can leave abuse.

That way, everyone wins.