December 31, 2008

New Year Extended

I'm extending New Year until January 2nd because I still have stuff of the year to come from Tim Etchells and Anne Hardy. Soon after that, I'll complete my uninformative book-by-book non-analysis of "2666". In the meantime, check Las obras de Roberto Bolaño, the best Eng-lang site I've found about the fellow so far... Have a good one...

Susan Tomaselli - Books of the Year


Not six degrees of separation (there are only five), more a nod to Ariel Manto's 'Free Association' column (though not as clever), my favourite reads of 2008 happened in a sequence; that is, one book lead me to another. Only two of the books on the list are new, as in published this 2008, but they are important as they restored my faith that the year wasn't a dead loss; perhaps publishing isn't totally fucked? These six books were a good run: from the new Nabokov, to the old Nabokov, to the pretend Nabokov, to a different type of word [virus] master, to the new junky on the block, my "fiction" books of 2008 are:

The Lazarus Project, Aleksandar Hemon, always different, always the same >> The Enchanter, Vladimir Nabokov, the original of Lolita & read in anticipation of his new one >> Novel with Cocaine, M. Ageyev, "decadent and disgusting," said Nabokov >> Junky, William Burroughs, his finest >> Down and Out on Murder Mile, Tony O'Neill, always good for a quote Sebastian Horsley nails it when he says "a well-written life is almost as rare as a well spent one. And what a life..It is a map of hell with directions showing his readers exactly how to get there."

Susan Tomaselli lives in Dublin, is the editor of Dogmatika, and is a
contributing editor to 3:AM Magazine
.

December 30, 2008

Pete Shenton's Mainly Live Events of the Year


Phil Kaye.
Sparkling, fast, funny, imaginative, beautiful, cruel and hilarious. The funniest, most courageous storyteller on the planet. His story about the tooth fairy brought me to tears. Like a babbling speed freak who somehow manages to create sense and wonder out of the most circuitous of journies. His energy makes me want to be him. If you can get to see him you should do it without fail.

John Hegley, In Our Kennel.
The master of the audience. Moving between short, sharp and funny two line poems to dreamy tales about the ever growing world inside the kennel. Somewhere between tender hippy friend and slightly cross schoolmaster.

Probe, Magpie.
A collection of dances by different choreographers danced by two of the most talented people working in contemporary dance.

Anna Theresa De Keersmaker’s Rosas dancing to the music of Steve Reich.
The perfect marriage of minimalist masterpieces of music and Dance. Some chaff from the choreographer but its worth sitting through because also some absolute gems.

Office Party.
Incredible office party experiential performance. Members of the public join in and some of them strip naked. It's crazy shid. Excellent cabaret style performances from the likes of Ursula Martinez, who, if you haven’t seen you should (she’s also in La Clique in the West End at the moment). Funny and fun, and warm. Like a really good night out with loads of mates who you don’t actually know. Seems strange but it works.

Don Paterson – The Book of Shadows.
Not strictly from this year but I’ve been reading and rereading it all year. A magic book of aphorisms. Splendid bedtime philosophy.

Gabi Reuter
Young, UK-based German choreographer/performer doing philosophical stuff about space and the imagination. With humour, imagination and, of course, space.

Nine Finger by Fumiyo Ikeda, Alain Platel, Benjamin Verdonck.
Belgian-based, politically-charged, emotionally powerful and intelligent dance theatre based on Uzodinma Iweala’s novel Beasts of No Nation. A show that kicks the narrative around in such a beautiful way that both keeps you following the action whilst at the same time feeling like you don’t know quite what’s going on. An amazing performance from Benjamin Verdonck.

Greg Fleet.
Aussie stand-up who tells the most excruciating story about meeting Stephen Fry and using the word gay inappropriately. Definitely my funniest moment of the year.

Edmund Welles Quartet.
Bass Clarinet heavy metal jazz. It may sound shit on paper but in my ears at least it sounds awesome.

Pete Shenton (shouting on the left, with Tom Roden) is a dancer, choreographer and Co-Artistic Director of New Art Club.

December 29, 2008

Nicholas Blincoe - Books of the Year


Les Murray, The Biplane Houses
This came out in 2007, though I only read it in 2008. My timing might be off but at least I got there, which I often don't with poetry. This collection is intelligent, raucously enjoyable, cranky yet stately. Imagine Philip Larkin hooked on surrealism, and if that doesn't excite you, then read it anyway and work out your own comparison.

Geoff Dyer, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
This will come out in 2009, so again my timing is off. Geoff Dyer has not written a novel since Paris Trance, over a decade ago. Some might argue that he still has not written a novel, and that JiV/DiV is really two autobiographical novellas that set out from where Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It left off. Either way, it is great, conjuring up a weirdly uplifting kind of everlasting depression.

Hussain Agha, Ahmad Khalidi, A Framework for A Palestinian National Security Doctrine
This came out in 2006 so, again, time is out of joint. Palestinians are so scattered and so vulnerable, this short book only sets out the parameters of the problem: How can the Palestinian leadership offer security to Palestinians in the occupied territories? In camps in neighbouring states? inside Israel? or in the wider diaspora? What is the best army/security apparatus that the current quasi-state of Palestine could hope to get up-and-running, while still under occupation? Questions like this.

Simon Lewis, Bad Traffic
Simon was the quietest of the writers who took part in the New Puritan project, ten years ago. He did nothing at all, then came out with this, a great thriller and perhaps the best novel of 2008 - a tough Chinese cop searches for his daughter across an alien landscape he cannot hope to understand - mostly Essex.

Nicholas Blincoe is a novelist and critic.

New Year, New Thomas Pynchon

I'm so slow it's embarrassing, but there we are. The news you all already know is that there's a new Thomas Pynchon to look forward to in 2009. Called "Inherent Vice," apparently it's a detective novel set at the tail end of the sixties. Anyway, according to the Penguin catalogue (via The Ampersand"), the "cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists." At this rate Mr Pynchon will start hammering out a book a year like Mr Roth. Just give him the Nobel now, for heaven's sake!

December 26, 2008

Doug Nufer - The First Star Spangled Banner


Doug Nufer in acapella vocal mash-up mode. Why? Because it's there...

(Finished "2666" last night. Whoosh. More when I have time to write properly...)

December 24, 2008

Bolaño translator on the Today programme

Natasha Wimmer was on the Today programme on Radio 4 on Monday morning, comparing "2666" to "Moby Dick" and "Don Quixote. She was accompanied by Philip Hensher, of all people. Go figure. You can listen here. Scroll down until you get to 8.45am.

Sam Mills - Books of the Year (and a film)


The Books
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
I read this after God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin – another book I’ve enjoyed this year. Both employ idiosyncratic narrative voices from the point of view of young men. Ness’s book has been published as a Young Adult novel, but in many respects it’s the more sophisticated of the two. Please don’t let the teen tag put you off – once you start reading this book, you’ll discover an utterly fresh voice you’ve never come across before.

The Butt and Liver by Will Self
In an era where creative writing courses seem to be steering writers towards a recognisably uniform, pared-down prose style, Will Self’s verbose, sesquipedalian prose seems increasingly anarchic and unique. He’s my favourite writer, and he is still on top form.

Beat The Reaper by Josh Bazell
Strictly speaking, this wasn’t published in 08 – it comes out next year. When I started reading a proof I was convinced I wouldn’t like it - thrillers aren’t my usual thing. I ended up reading the whole book in a day. It’s a brilliant pageturner and also extremely clever and quirky – the texts is littered with hilarious footnotes. You will find yourself learning bizarre but intriguing facts about sharks, modern medicine and World War II along the way – as well as the most ridiculous and extraordinary way of killing someone in a fight when you are naked and locked in a freezer with no weapons.

The Film
3-Iron
I caught this Korean film by off chance – it was showing for one night at the Manchester Cornerhouse. It’s such an unusual and enigmatic film that it’s almost impossible to describe, and I also think the less you know about it, the more powerful the film is. It’s moving, and funny, and romantic, and frightening, and surprises you at every turn. The ending left me feeling elated for several days…

Sam Mills is the author of the Young Adult novels The Boys Who Saved The World and A Nicer Way to Die. She is now working on her first novel for adults.

December 20, 2008

Melissa Mann’s Blue Peter-style review of the year or “things that made me go mmmm in 2008”


Music
• Amanda Palmer's debut Who Killed Amanda Palmer - this girl sounds like the secret love child of Siouxsie Sioux and Tori Amos and excites me in ways I find confusing!
Flowering Spade by Sean Hayes - this guy has that perfect ‘gargle-with-gravel-and-Jack-D-twice-daily’ type voice you need for ambient folk. Plus any album with a banjo on it gets my vote every time, oh yes siree-bob!
Two by Kathryn Williams and Neill MacColl (Ewan’s son, Kirsty’s brother) – close harmonies, heartstring-tugging lyrics and sparse guitars make this a sublime ‘tell-someone-you-love-em’ type listen.
• Eliza Carthy's Dreams of Breathing Underwater - sounds a bit like a musical jigsaw puzzle deliberately put together the wrong way, and includes a fine drinking song, Oranges and Seasalt.
Love Tattoo by Imelda May - infectious fusion of Dinah Washington, Billy Holiday and the undisputed queen of rockabilly, Wanda Jackson.

Books
Down Where the Hummingbird Goes to Die by Justin Hyde – debut poetry collection from a storytelling poet-of-the-common-man, with a gift for writing killer left hook lines that come out of nowhere and floor you. Dudes like Hyde don’t come along very often. Never heard of him? Well if there’s any justice in the literary world, you will.
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas – by jove, mainstream publishing finds its balls and has a punt on an “ideas” novel… halle-friggin’-lujah!
Jim Giraffe by Daren King – anyone who doesn't laugh out loud at the Toilet Tart and Rhinoceros Poo chapters is far too sensible for their own good and should be banished from society in my view.
Boys' Night Out in the Afternoon by the "Alan Sugar of Poetry" and one-time housemate of Buster Bloodvessel, Tim Wells - this collection is a rare thing: accessible, lowbrow poetry that’s clever, inventive, poignant and guffaw funny. Erm, so yeah, I liked it, a lot.
Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen - twenty years in the making this poetry collection, but worth every second of the wait.
Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo - I like being surprised when I read a book, something this novel kept doing, e.g. with its scenes of anarchists spinning rats by their tails in a cafe and a parachutist falling from the sky with his slogan-inscribed penis hanging out.

Art
• Juan Munoz Retrospective at Tate Modern – a master of contradiction and a storyteller who used sculpture instead of words
• Cy Twombly's Cycles and Seasons at Tate Modern - another rule-breaker with his graffiti-like scrawls on canvases and his found-object sculptures.
Francis Bacon at Tate Britain – wasn’t a massive fan of Bacon before I went to this exhibition, but was inspired by his obsession with fixing movement to the canvas.

Film
No Country for Old Men – oh that gun, that gun!
Persepolis – it’s got punk, it’s got ABBA, it’s got women in full hijab. It’s a cartoon that shouldn’t work but spookily, it does.
In Search of A Midnight Kiss - an intelligent, witty US indie film set in monochrome LA on New Year's Eve. A bit A Bout de Souffle-ish.
The Orphanage – not since The Shining have I had the bejesus scared out of me quite so much.
I've Loved You So Long - Kristin Scott Thomas does sad and angry, in French!
• Patti Smith – Dream of Life – in the spirit of ‘f**k the word, the word is dead’ read someone else’s soddin’ thoughts on it…

Melissa Mann is a neon sign outside a derelict transvestite shop on Manningham Lane in Bradford. She continues to act as a beacon of false-y hope for all those who now have to rely on Evans Outsize in the Arndale Centre for their extra large fishnets and foundation garments. Yes, Melissa Mann talks even more shit than Will Ashon for slightly more than free… you are paying me for this, right?

December 19, 2008

Richard Thomas - Some Thoughts on 2008


(...but not this Richard Thomas...)

Music
January – Marcin Wasilewski
A wonderful piano trio from Poland best known for backing trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, The album contains a stunning instrumental version of Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls”

A Town Called Addis – Dub Colossus
Traditional Ethiopian music meets Jamaican dub masterminded by Nick Page formerly of Transglobal Underground.

Miles From India
A double cd in which several musicians associated with Miles Davis play with traditional Indian musicians on several of Miles’ tunes, occasionally flawed but mostly brilliant.

Stan Tracey/Keith Tippett
Great concert at the Barbican in January 2008 where the two great British jazz pianists came together to perform some wonderful improvised playing.

Books
Kill Your Friends – John Niven
A laugh out loud black comedy set in the A&R world of the mid 90’s when everything was being done to excess.

The Butt – Will Self
He’s long been a master of the short story but his novels are now getting better and better and this is his best so far

Film
Jar City
A wonderfully bleak police procedural set in Iceland directed by Baltasar Kormankur from the book by Arnaldur Indriasson

DVD
Mad Men
Great HBO series set in the American advertising world of the late 50’s and early sixties

41st Best Stand Up Ever! – Stewart Lee
A very self deprecating title from Stewart Lee who goes on to prove that he is far better than the 41st best stand up.

Richard Thomas runs Vox 'n' Roll at the Boogaloo in London and at festivals including Latitude and the Carling Weekender and is director of the Laugharne Weekend literary festival. Impressively, he has managed to keep any images of himself off the internet so instead I'm using a picture of John Boy Walton, othrwise known as... Richard Thomas. I know that's a little misleading and everything, but what's a man to do?

December 17, 2008

Roberto Bolaño - "2666," "Part 4 - The Part About The Crimes"


"The truth is, none of it made any sense" (p.595)

The fourth and longest part of "2666" details the deaths (or rather, the discovery of the corpses) of the 106 women murdered in Santa Teresa and the surrounding area in the five year period between January 1993 and December 1997. Some of the crimes appear to have been committed by a serial killer or serial killers, others by husbands, lovers, clients, narcos (drug traffickers), police etc etc. Every new discovery begins with a description of the body and how it is found. If the police manage to identify the victim we find out a little about the woman who has been killed. In a few cases they work out who has murdered her and, in little more than a handful, they manage to catch the perpetrator before he escapes across the border to the US or seemingly vanishes into thin air.

Interleaved between these grim, matter-of-fact vignettes are the stories of policemen Inspector Juan de Dios Martínez, Lalo Cura (who, if I've read it right, may be the son of Arturo Belano or Ulysses Lima from "Savage Detectives") and Epifanio Galindo (the book's three 'good cops'); arts journalist Sergio González; suspected serial killer Klaus Haas (the Lynchian giant who ends "The Part About Fate" and who I'm guessing will be related to Archimboldi from Part 1 in some way); US sheriff Harry Magaña; herbalist and 'seer' Florita Almada; ex-FBI expert on serial killers, Albert Kessler; and congresswoman Azucena Esquivel Plata. And in addition to these main stories are many others which are folded in, introduced as clues or as red herrings, or just as static.

The effect is slightly bewildering, presumably deliberately so. We're forced to follow the police - the way they become distracted over and over again from the main task at hand, are always being pulled away from the central core of what the whole book is about. At root, the cause of the murders seems to be the deep misogyny of society as a whole, the police joking about how many orifices semen has been found in, husbands killing their wives for no reason, a city working at a fever pitch of violence, the economy fuelled by illicit drugs money, occupying a strange interzone between two states.

But perhaps the most shocking thing about "Part 4" as a book is its refusal to draw conclusions. The only stories that end in this Part are the ones that end in death. This is not done in a standard "aestheticized" manner, where the tone of the prose is supposed to offer the 'closure' which the narrative appears to refuse. The stories simply stop as if only half way through. No conclusions are drawn. No poetic language is offered, the characters benefit from no new insight, however small. Any hint of an 'arc' to the story is denied. It's brutal and wholly effective - the temptation is to see the book as unfinished. But why not read it as a deliberate strategy? To offer any aesthetic sop would be to cheapen what's being described. "None of it made any sense."

"Every life, Epifanio said that night to Lalo Cura, no matter how happy it is, ends in pain and suffering. That depends, said Lalo Cura. Depends on what, champ? On lots of things, said Lalo Cura. Say you're shot in the back of the head, for example, and you don't hear the motherfucker come up behind you, then you're off to the next world, no pain, no suffering. Goddamn kid, said Epifanio. Have you ever been shot in the back of the head?" (p.511)

Books of the Year will be back tomorrow, with the choices of Richard Thomas, director of the Laugharne Weekend literary festival. Apologies for the interruption in service, but I promised the Bolaño updates first...

Clare Pollard - Books of the Year


"I have read 104 books this year. I know this because I am a loser and keep a list. Highlights have included 'discovering' some authors it turns out everyone in the know read about a million years ago - Richard Yates, Cormac McCarthy and Aldous Huxley (whose Doors of Perception is a real mindfuck - your dad calmly trying to convince you to take mescalin). Of this year's publications, the book that has inspired the most drunken rants is Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. The book that made me want to strip off and menstruate in a desert is Wild by Jay Griffiths. And my favourite poetry books were Nigh-no-Place by Jen Hadfield and Stingray Fevers by Emily Berry. So this year girls beat boys."

Clare Pollard is a poet, playwright and sometime broadcaster and is currently writing her first novel.

December 16, 2008

Ewan Morrison - Books of the Year


"True to this year's DIY philosophy of finding beauty in the crap of the world, The Happiest Man In The World by Alec Wilkinson (Vintage) is a this-can't-possibly-be-true-but-it-is biography of one of the 20th century's most eccentric eccentrics - Poppa Neutrino - a man, who among other things, at an age when most men would be accepting slippers and Horlicks, sailed across the North Atlantic in a boat made out of junk he found on the streets of New York.

"Another great work about being a bum is the 19th century classic - Hunger by Knut Hamsun. 'A work of pioneeering modernism' it may be but for me it was a deep look at the kind of ecstatic madness that can be entered into when you turn your back on civilisation and the many satiations and distractions it offers. Both these books had me secretly dreaming of some kind of escape from the consumerist world, which is perhaps a pity as I'm still in it and did nothing other than read two book, so they therefore had a reactionary effect and prevented me doing anything other than - well shopping for books.

"Anyway, the final best book is by someone who did actually escape, and whose escape has thrown a great shadow over the whole purpose of writing at all. Consider the Lobster: and other essays by David Foster Wallace took me to the limits of what can be thought and said and made me very conscious of the prison walls of self-conscious and impotent knowledge that, it would seem, became too much for the man himself to stand.

"In spite of what seems the case, the thing that should be said about these three books is that they are all, in some impossible way, 'funny.' Don't ask me how or why."

Ewan Morrison is a novelist and writer-director for film and television. His second novel, Distance, was published by Jonathan Cape in June.

December 15, 2008

Matthew De Abaitua - My Best Imaginary Friends of 2008


"Entourage
Since the birth of my third child, I have become a full-time family man with no opportunity for male bonding. So the adventures of young movie star Vince and his gang of young bucks have become my equivalent of a night in the pub talking shit. The Entourage are my proxy mates. In previous series, their problems revolved around beautiful women, enormous pay cheques and artistic integrity, problems I no longer share but am keen to dither on the fringe of, in the hope I may overhear some of the carefree idealistic bonhomie of my salad days.

"Russell Brand's podcast
One of my four long weekly commutes was given over to a podcast of Russell Brand blathering away with his mates Matt Morgan and Noel Gallagher. Again, they became imaginary friends of mine – to the point that when I bumped into Brand, my heart leapt. But I resisted to urge to cross the boundary between fantasy and reality. Over the course of the year, Brand's narcissism got the better of him, and when Matt Morgan disappeared from the show to be replaced by a succession of celebrity mates, the show lost its check against Brand's worst instincts. As for the fateful broadcast with Jonathan Ross and Andrew Sachs, I listened to it on the platform of London Bridge station and thought, God, BBC compliance are slack these days. And then thought nothing more of it.

"Anathem by Neal Stephenson
A brick of science fiction that initially seems impenetrable, with its own argot and weird names. But I persisted and discovered an exciting parallel world of philosophy and a brilliant fictional execution of the multiverse theory. The novel features a cast of monks who are the custodians of learning cut off from a grimy secular world. Their conversations are paragons of reason and I found myself wanting to converse in similarly elaborate and devastating terms. But the world of Anathem was too far away from ordinary social discourse, so I remained mute.

"Music To Fall Asleep To, Klimek
2008 was the year I discovered Kompakt, the electronic music label operating out of Cologne. Their minimal techno is the sound of me chugging on Southern Trains from Sussex to London. Sometimes, when I have drunk heavily in a parody of my former social life, I have foolishly listened to Kompakt on the last train back to Sussex. Inevitably I fall asleep to Klimek's echoing Music To Fall Asleep To, and wake up thirty miles away from my bed. Then I am forced to "share" a cab ("hijack" would be a more accurate term) to get back home, cursing over every needless mile."


Matthew De Abaitua's first novel The Red Men was nominated for the 2008 Arthur C Clarke Award, and his friends tell him he is quoted in Iain Sinclair's forthcoming majestic work on Hackney.

December 13, 2008

Jamie Collinson - Books of the Year


"Writing this has led me to discover that I haven’t read many books published in 2008, which either means I’m not very current, or (hopefully) I’m still mining the past. As a result, I’m listing books that were new to me. Tim Etchell’s The Broken World was clever and moving, very addictive and just plain brilliant. Hitomi Kanehara’s Autofiction was enjoyably experimental and revealingly different in perspective. My book of the year (and my greatest newcomer shame) was Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama. Avant-garde, psychotic, masterful, and still a bestseller - he’s the Beatles. Roberto Bolano's Savage Detectives made me feel as I did reading Pynchon for the first time, in terms of pleasure and awe. The most poignant was reading The Girl With The Curious Hair, and thus finishing off all available David Foster Wallace a few months before he died. The title story of that collection is one of the best I’ve ever come across; frightening, clever, funny… R.I.P."

Jamie Collinson is label manager of the mighty Big Dada and writes for Flux, Clash and the Guardian blog.

December 12, 2008

Steve Finbow’s four-word review of 2008 books.


"Published in 2008
Miracles of Life by JG Ballard. Moving, elegant, dry, penultimate.
Nazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto Bolaño. Borgesian, subversive, clever, funny.
Violence by Slavoj Žižek. Explosive, confrontational, intelligent, paradoxical.
Born Yesterday by Gordon Burn. Brave, contemporary, disappointing, perspicacious.
The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Fresh, informative, funny, dippable.

"New books read in 2008 but published earlier (i.e. ones I haven’t read before; so no Celine, Robbe-Grillet, Peace, Guyotat, etc.)
Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson. Gripping, literary, exciting, challenging.
Remainder by Tom McCarthy. Brilliant, different, philosophical, readable.
Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell. Dark, poetic, psychological, precise.
Homicide by David Simon. Realistic, gritty, funny, depressing.
The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break by Stephen Sherrill. Surreal, dirty, modern, mythical.

"Three worst books read in 2008 regardless of publishing date.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Egotistical, sloppy, unnecessary, ker-ching.
Beautiful Children by Charles Bock. Over-hyped, overwritten, unedited, sentimental,.
What is the What by Dave Eggers. Worthy, worthy, worthy, worthy."

Steve Finbow is a Londoner (but plans to move to Tokyo). He has worked for the artist Richard Long, the biographer Victor Bockris, and was researcher/editor for the poet Allen Ginsberg. He blogs as The Glass Hombre, runs the show at Red Peter and is 3:AM Magazine’s newest editor.

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes he thought it was precisely because he was an atheist that he didn't read anymore. Not reading, it might be said, was the highest expression of atheism or at least atheism as he conceived of it. If you don't believe in God, how do you believe in a fucking book? he asked himself." - Roberto Bolaño, "2666," "The Part About The Crimes"

December 11, 2008

Rodge Glass - Books of the Year


"This summer I was lucky enough to travel round South America for a month. I was under strict instructions from my partner not to take any books that could be described as ‘work’ with me, so instead I took several by South American authors I’d never heard of or had always wanted to get round to. Augusto Roa Bastos’s I the Supreme is a brilliant, complex satire on the dictatorships that spread across the continent in the 20th Century; Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold is as taut as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and just as incisive about the society it analyses. The Tree of Red Stars by Tessa Bridal explored beautifully and sensitively how Uruguayan citizens coped with the ripple effect of Che Guevara’s nearby revolution.

"But all those are old books. My favourite published this year is, by a long way, Oliver James’s Affluenza, which explores why the richer a country is, the less likely its inhabitants are to feel satisfied. James travelled to seventeen countries and proved again and again how the one thing so many people think will make them happy – money – is actually the thing most likely to make them miserable."

Rodge Glass is a novelist, biographer, journalist and musician.

December 10, 2008

Matt Thorne - Best Three Lee 'Scratch' Perry Records of The Year


"1. Repentance by Lee 'Scratch' Perry: This is the best album Perry has released in 2008. It has brilliant production from Andrew WK and features members of Lightning Bolt and apparently Moby (but don't worry, you can't hear him).

"2. Scratch Came Scratch Saw Scratch Conquered by Lee 'Scratch' Perry: This is the second best album Perry has released in 2008. It has cameos from Keith Richards and George Clinton and has a song about aliens having a party with depressed bank managers. How prescient can you get?

"3. The Mighty Upsetter by Lee 'Scratch' Perry: This is the third best album Perry has released in 2008. It has brilliant production from Adrian Sherwood and if he hadn't released two other albums it would be the best album Perry had put out in 2008."

Matt Thorne is a novelist, critic and all that good stuff. He didn't give me his own byline so I made this one up..

December 09, 2008

Niven Govinden - Books of the Year


"Short fiction is alive and well, and provides the perfect antidote to some of the year’s more bloated novels. Julia Leigh’s Disquiet (Faber), a tightly-knitted novella about a battered wife returning to her mother’s house in France is a must, reminiscent of early McEwan in the way it unnerves; Yoko Ogawa’s excellent trilogy of stories The Diving Pool (Harvill Secker), is a glorious mixture of Japanese suburban ennui and alarm, no more so than in the title story, where a teenage girl schemes to feed her growing obsession with her foster brother; Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff (Harvill Secker), a series of interlinked stories about the fictional eponymous Ohio town, is unafraid of shying away from the brutal desolation of small-town life, but written with real humanity – the sort of stories you imagine Raymond Carver to have written whilst drunk - and finally, to read Tobias Wolff’s short story collection Our Story Begins (Bloomsbury) is to immerse yourself in a master of the form. Staggeringly good.

"Rinsed plenty of new music this year, but what stands out is usually what helps me to write: MGMT, Goldfrapp, Fleet Foxes, and N*E*R*D."



Novelist Niven Govinden is the author of ‘We Are The New Romantics’ and most recently ‘Graffiti My Soul’ (Canongate).

December 08, 2008

Books (and Other Stuff) of the Year

Motivated mainly by boredom rather than righteous anger, I've emailed nearly everyone I know who is connected to writing or publishing and so on (a surprisingly small amount of people) and asked them to send me their choices for books of the year (or other Important Cultural Business of the year). The lists in the newspaper are always so dull, so I thought it would be interesting to find out whether this is because the format itself is tired and played out, or the people they ask to write them are tired and played out, or I am and it's all really a hell of a lot of fun and I'm just too much of a wet blanket to play along. It's an experiment, see? Or at least I think it is.

Anyway, the responses are already rolling in (or at least, trickling in) and I will post them up one at a time over a number of days or weeks for added excitement. Please feel free to leave your own suggestions, comments etc in the section provided...

December 05, 2008

More Phorm

Spooky. Within 45 minutes of posting about "Black Monday" Lamont and his new chums on the board of Phorm, someone from a Phorm-registered IP address checked out what I'd written. Which just goes to show, never fuck with the deep packet miners. They may not know where you live, but you can be pretty sure they know how you live...

Phorm and Content - Norman Lamont wants your Deep Packets

A couple of interesting pieces on Bad Idea's blog about the internet advertising company Phorm. The first focusses on the addition of Norman Lamont to their board of directors and the second on the simultaneous appointment of Kip Meek, one of the founders of Ofcom, apparently... The MD of Phorm, incidentally, is called Kent Ertugrul, which makes me wonder if Thomas Pynchon is now in charge of naming business executives...

December 04, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I am not that sensitive or that weak to believe that because someone says I can't do something it means I haven't done it." - Ornette Coleman. It could be self-help nonsense but read it carefully...

December 03, 2008

Techno Techno Techno Techno


Techno-paranoia story of last week goes to the Grauniad's Technology section for more stuff about How Fucked Up And Evil Google Are (Or Potentially Could Be, Fella). Seth Finkelstein used his rather excellent column to point out the various ways in which we perhaps don't want Google predicting flu trends, because, hey, once they get into that shit, what will they data-mine on us all next...? Feel that shiver run up your spine...

I still think they're only collecting data to feed into the giant, God-like A.I. they are intending to build in a few years, which could be a good thing, if you are to believe recent reports in the Telegraph about how the US are developing robot soldiers because they are less likely to rape, pillage, torture and maim than good old Johnny Human. Despite the Today programme taking a Daily Mail line this morning about mad, rampaging robots, this is more Isaac Asimov than the Terminator, or so the experts claim.

If you're interested in this kind of thing (although I have to say that I think in this day and age we're less moved by ideas of Good machines than by Very Very Bad machines) then there's a new book out called "Moral Machines" and the authors blog here.

December 01, 2008

Tom Raworth - more

In a republic of poets, receiving an email from Tom Raworth would be like getting a telegram from the Queen. So, it follows that yesterday was my 100th birthday. A friend of his had seen my post about his film "Hands," and so he emailed me to tell me about a more complete version which appears on his site.

"It is, indeed, my left hand," he writes, "photographed (sometimes just one frame, sometimes two or three) as still images once every day of 2007." Anyway, the full version is up here. This particular take is soundtracked by Billy Bragg because "when I'd finished the video I checked its time-length, ordered what music tracks I had on my computer by length.... and the Billy Bragg took exactly the same time. Serendipity too good to miss".

Be sure to check the news section of the site, too, for Raworth's excellent downloadable music podcasts, his battles with the law-drones of The Independent and much other good stuff. Or browse all the music here. He has a very fine record collection...

November 28, 2008

David Foster Wallace, Rolling Stone and the leaving-be of dead geniuses

I guess the Rolling Stone piece on David Foster Wallace is old news in the States, but the magazine doesn't carry quite the same cultural weight over here so I only read it last week. It's a well-written, well-meaning piece, I think, very readable - almost compulsively so - and with some quotes from DFW, that would be cherishable in other circumstances ("if I'm hanging out with you, I can't even tell whether I like you or not because I'm too worried about whether you like me"). But there's something vaguely distasteful about the whole thing, this urge we have to pry into his life and the lives of those who loved him (loved him, not his books!). From the title onward ("The Lost Years & Last Days of..." - what "lost years"? the guy seemed pretty fuckin' productive to me...), the piece also plays the "tortured genius" card to the max, which is how we like our real-life geniuses, it seems, perhaps deep down because we want to punish them from being cleverer than us. But surely you reduce DFW as a writer and as a human being by shoe-horning his life and work into such a cliched old narrative? At times the article treats him like Hal (the computer, not the young prince) - an oversensitive uber-brain that eats itself. In fact he was a great writer who also happened to suffer from and struggle with mental illness, much as Charlie Parker was a great musician who had to suffer from and struggle with heroin addiction. The one doesn't make the other, or illuminate it.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say here. I guess just that there's nothing we all like better than a dead writer, preferably a brilliant one who has been given a genius medal. It gives us something to write about (like this equally despicable little piece) and in doing so we all get paid - either directly or through basking in reflected glory, or just generating a few more hits for our pathetic little blogs. Really, we should all just read "Infinite Jest" again and shut up. Or not read it. But definitely shut up.

November 27, 2008

Sara Maitland, Silence, Leonard Cohen and that Monky Business


Despite the Crunch I find myself still obsessed with property-porn - those bits in the weekend papers where they show you pics of beautiful little houses you can't afford in interesting places you've never been to. In particular, I look out for crofts on isolated Scottish islands, even though if I were ever to live in such a place, I would go insane quicker than you can skin a sporran. All of which goes some way towards explaining my obsession with a new book by Sara Maitland. I didn't really know her work before, but this socialist/feminist/christian has spent the last few years in search of silence, culminating in building a small house in the middle of the moors of Galloway, where she seeks to spend 80% of her time in total solitude and silence. Anyway, she's written a book about it and you can read a chunk of it here. Alternatively (or additionally?), there's a nice piece about the bothies of Galloway here, complete with photos (one of which I've stolen and used here, tut tut).

I'm not sure what fascinates me about the idea of silence. I remember reading a piece about Leonard Cohen when he was a Buddhist monk (I think I just found it here (you may notice a preponderance of links from the Guardian newspaper group here, which tells its own story)) and being transfixed by the idea that he had retreated up a mountain to serve a Buddhist master, even though I hate getting up in the morning, hate doing as I'm told and am a mouthy bastard at the best of times. What is it then? Just escapism, I guess, although I suppose it's possible that in the consumption of others' silence as Alt.LIfestyle there's some deeper need that I should be addressing (earplugs?). Not ready for a monastery yet, though, I don't think. Oh, and while we're on monks, here's a quote from Thelonious: "Wrong is right". Ya know dat.

November 26, 2008

Roberto Bolaño - "2666," "Part 3 - The Part About Fate"


Jesus Christ, I'm out of my depth. First up, as I've said before, I'm not a literary critic, or even a book review drone. Second up, this is a remarkable book, something which people better qualified than me will spend years unpicking. The ending of "Part 3" is one of those rare reading moments when your hair stands on end and you feel the cold creep up your back. Or maybe that's just too much cough mixture. No, I'm reasonably certain that it genuinely is amazing.

So, the plot. Part 3 concerns Oscar Fate, an American reporter dealing with political and social issues for a small Harlem magazine. When the magazine's boxing correspondent dies, he is asked to go and cover a fight in... Santa Teresa, Sonora. Once there he hears about the abduction and murder of over two hundred women (based, I presume, on the real situation in Ciudad Juárez) and decides this would make a more interesting story. His editor refuses to cover it. He goes to the fight, where the Mexican boxer is easily beaten. Whilst there he bumps into a Mexican reporter he has been hanging out with and a very beautiful girl: Rosa Amaltifano, the daughter of Oscar Amaltifano, the central character of the previous section. I won't tell you what happens after that. I don't want to ruin any of it.

There's some pretty clunky plotting in this section and some stuff which I'm sure an editor would have advised removing if there had been time before Bolaño's death (why introduce a character as Quincy Williams, only to say that everyone at his magazine calls him Oscar Fate and refer to him like that through the rest of the book? Though I may be missing something...). But the sheer, disconcerting brilliance of his prose and imagination renders all that besides the point. People talk about books being "haunting" far too easily. "2666" makes you feel as if you are being haunted.

November 24, 2008

Roberto Bolaño - "2666," "Part 2 - The Part About Amalfitano"


The shortest of the five books or "parts" of "2666," I've realised that to do it justice I need to tell you a little more about "Part 1".

So, "The Part About The Critics" revolves around four academics who, for various reasons, all specialise in the work of an obscure German author called Benno Von Archimboldi. In the manner of a joke, we have a Frenchman, a Spaniard, an Italian and an Englishwoman. They meet at various conferences and become, first, friends, and then something more. But there's also a hole in all of their lives, a dissatisfaction which seems to have its personification in the "hole" of Archimboldi himself, a Pynchonesque figure who only his publisher and a few chancers have ever met. Eventually they get a tip-off that Archimboldi is in Santa Teresa in Sonora in northen Mexico and three of them travel out there to try to find him, as if the act will somehow rescue them from the essential meaninglessness of their lives.

Whilst in Santa Teresa, a Chilean academic from the University is tasked by his boss to look after them. This is Amalfitano, a person who they treat with a kind of patronising affection, but no real interest. The second part of the book goes back before the Critics' arrival and focusses on Amalfitano's own early days in Santa Teresa, including his recollections of his dead wife and his time living in Barcelona.

Despite its brevity, it's a much messier section than "Part 1," a kind of phantasmagoric unravelling, which is perhaps even more concerned with dreams than Part 1 and ends with Boris Yeltsin singing philosophy. There's a clue here, perhaps, as to the theme of the book: "Life is demand and supply... but that's no way to live. A third leg is needed to keep the table from collapsing into the garbage pit of history... So take note. This is the equation: supply + demand + magic. And what is magic? Magic is epic and it's also Dionysian mists and play." Or is Yeltsin a stand-in for Garcia Marquez and what he says obviously meant to be bullshit?

After the elegance of Part 1, Part 2 is hugely disconcerting and disturbing, but in an utterly satisfying way. We begin to learn a little more about the mass murder of women in and around Santa Teresa which seems to be the central linchpin of the book. And we're left wondering whether Amalfitano is going mad or whether something even more odd is being enacted.

Bolaño also throws out what can only be seen as a challenge: "Now even bookish pharmacists are afraid to take on the great, imperfect, torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown." Despite his quiet irony, it's clear what kind of book "2666" is...

November 21, 2008

Louis Scutenaire


Apparently it's the 110th anniversary of the birth of René Magritte today, at least if Google is to be believed (and why would they lie about it?). He's one of those artists who it's tempting to take less than seriously. His images have become so mediated and compromised that it's hard to look at them as anything more than blueprints for adverts. Last autumn, however, I read an article by Bernard Marcadé about Magritte's Période Vache, a kind of (failed?) revolt against the snobbery and growing dogmatism of the French surrealists. As much as the art, though, what really captured my imagination was a quote from the introductory essay written for the original exhibition catalogue by Louis Scutenaire, a fellow Belgian Surrealist and close friend of Magritte's: "We’d like to say shit politely to you, in your false language. Because we bumpkins, we yokels, have absolutely no manners, you realise.” It seemed so perfect for the book which I was just about to send off to the printers that I added it as one of the quotes at the front. The translator of the piece, Shaun Whiteside, had not seen Scutenaire's original essay, "Les Pieds Dans Le Plat," so I tracked it down to make sure the two sentences ran into one another. The first page, which I photocopied, is (badly) reproduced above. I wish someone would write an English translation of the whole piece. As for Scutenaire himself, if Wikipedia is to be believed (and why would they lie, haha) he became disillusioned with the commercialisation of Surrealism immediately after the war. So he was a little way ahead of me...

November 20, 2008

All Publicity = Good Publicity...?


If Mark Waldron ever looked at this blog I'm sure he would be glad to know that he is attracting international interest. Last night alone I had two hits on my post about his book. One was from the Rheinland in Germany and they'd Googled his name. Hit! The other was from Anakara in Turkey and they had Googled "Dog Sex". Oooooooooh. I guess that's my fault. Sorry Mark. And, if you've found this post by the same route, I can only apologise. What you long for is not here.

"2666" - Part 1, "About The Critics"


Finished the first part of "2666" last night. It's perfect. A superb, beautifully constructed, free-standing short novel. In a foreword at the start of the book, Bolaño's family say that as he was dying the author told them to publish "2666" as five separate books. The implication is that he only suggested this so that the family were financially supported after his death, hence their decision to publish "in a single volume, as he would have done had his illness not taken the gravest course." But I think there's certainly an aesthetic argument for doing it just as he suggested. The ending of "The Part About The Critics" is so uncannily right that it seems a shame to start in on the next volume. I won't be able to stop myself from doing so, but maybe it would have been good if I'd been forced to.

It also makes me wonder why FSG didn't go the whole hog and release the "2666" paperback box set in five books. Now that would have been something... (although, flicking through, I realise it may be because Part 2 is only 65 pages long!)

November 19, 2008

Life, Friends, Is Boring - John Berryman


The poem itself is about four and a half minutes in. He has a nice pint during the interview and seems more than a little drunk. I'm not sure you'd want to be stuck in a pub with him for too long but I like his introduction: "Poets don't get much fanmail, but I had a lot of mail after I published this Song in the United States. I may say that the mail was entirely hostile."

November 17, 2008

"2666" - the first 100 pages of "The Part About The Critics"

I'm nervous of spoilers and - as you will know if you've ever read any of my posts - I'm no literary critic, so I probably have much less to say about this than I should, but there you are. My main observation so far is how different "2666" seems to the rest of Bolaño's work. For one thing, there's no sign of his alter-ego, Arturo Belano. For another, the settings are literary conferences in London, Paris and all parts of Germany, rather than amid drunken avant garde poets in Mexico City and beyond (although having said that, at p110, the characters have just arrived in Sonora, also a kind of Ground Zero in "The Savage Detectives," if I remember rightly).

As you'd expect from any self-respecting writer, Bolaño is suitably acid about the critics, although in a fundamentally sympathetic way: "those eager and insatiable cannibals, their thirtysomething faces bloated with success, their expressions shifting from boredom to madness, their coded stutterings speaking only two words: love me, or maybe two words and a phrase: love me, let me love you, though obviously no one understood." Which, in some ways, sums up the theme of the book so far - people leading empty lives and searching for a meaning.

But really, the first hundred pages, as well as a really funny story of a menage a trois, is a folded together density of dreams, potted biographies, precise, simple prose and the occasional rush of hallucinatory mania. Something about the tone reminds me of Perec a little - there's a playfulness here, but one which doesn't undermine the seriousness or the underlying melancholy of the story.

Incidentally, I enjoyed the guest appearance by Rodrigo Fresan, who turns up at the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens on page 60. The joke is, of course, that Fresan wrote his superb novel "Kensington Gardens," without ever having visited London.

Blah. Enough.

November 14, 2008

Roberto Bolaño - "2666" in English


It's arrived! After various traumas with the Post Office my three volume, paperback boxed set of the US edition of "2666" has finally reached me (apologies for the quality of the picture).

I'm intrigued by "2666". All the hype suggests that it's Bolaño's masterwork, published posthumously to huge acclaim (which in itself can interfere with people's critical faculties). But my sister (who lived in Spain for a decade) also heard that it was in some way cobbled together by his family after his death, although this seems to be contradicted in a brief foreword. Certainly things seem to have taken a turn for the murky in the estate of Bolaño since Andrew Wylie took over, as this report suggests. I have to say that the more there is to read by him, the happier I am. May more books be discovered in dusty drawers for many years to come.

Incidentally, I also received New Directions' paperback of a selection of the man's poetry in a bilingual edition just yesterday (Bolaño's, not Wylie's, though I hear he writes a mean photocopier sonnet/bill). I looked at "The Romantic Dogs" late last night but my already weak critical faculties were subject to huge system overload and I have nothing of interest to report.

Talking of being tired, I want to apologise for the rather platitudinous ending to my not very revealing post on Harry Mathews. I wrote it just before I tried to read "The Romantic Dogs" and the whole Insight Thing was obviously in short supply.

November 13, 2008

Harry Mathews - Tangled Up In Blurb


I've been trying to think of a reason to write something about Harry Mathews on here for as long as I've been typing all this nonsense - trying to find something interesting to say about him, or at least to find an interesting link to give to people. I have failed. But my previous post on Paul Griffiths allows me to cast some light on an under-rated part of Mathews' writing - some of the shortest, most haiku-like, most constrained of his output. His book blurbs. I have found over the years that where Harry blurbs, the book is always worth reading. Griffiths gets the following: "I found let me tell you a beautiful and enthralling work, as well as a great success in Oulipian terms." Which is enough for me. Doug Nufer, who I've also posted about before, got "A scientist whose experiments are consistently successful acquires the status of genius, and this is the proper status of experimental writer Doug Nufer." Which, if it were about me, I would have tattooed right across my chest in huge black, Gothic letters. Though, obviously, I would have to change my name to Doug Nufer. Then there was Richard Beard, who received "A wonderful book – hilariously upsetting from beginning to end" for The Cartoonist and "Lovely, funny, touching, and exciting" for Damascus. Now, setting aside the generosity of his compliments, the important thing is that Mathews is always right. All those books were (are) more or less as good as he told me they would be. Yeah, as the Grand Cardinal of English Language Oulipiancy he kind of has a duty to support all members of the church of creative constraint. But unlike the more snotty, academicised wing of this tendency (which I admittedly may have imagined) he seems genuinely to want and foster as broad a church as possible.

In many ways, I think, Mathews is a model of how an author should live his life. He writes exactly what he wants to write when he wants to write it. He doesn't seem to get upset about its reception or the fact that a writer of his skill and talent should be way better known than he is. He appears to do what he does because he loves doing it. And that's reflected in his blurbing and hence support for a kind of writing he genuinely believes offers up a chance to make books new, to liberate readers and writers. So he gives - in his writing and beyond - again and again and again.

I'm sure if I met him he'd turn out to be a right bastard, but luckily I don't need to. I have his books. If you haven't read them, I would recommend you getting them, too.

Paul Griffiths - "Let Me Tell You"


Interesting new book coming up from Reality Street. Paul Griffiths has taken all the words that Ophelia is given to speak in "Hamlet" (483, fact fans) and used them and only them to write a short novel in which the soon-to-be-dead lassie tells us her life story up until the beginning of the play. You can read quite a long extract in The Golden handcuffs Review and it really is very good.

(I wanted to find a good pic to use for this piece but it was all John Millais, so instead I half-inched this shot of Daisy Bell - daughter of ALexander Graham Bell - resuscitating a drowned lamb with a prototype artificial respirator. Aw.).

November 10, 2008

November 08, 2008

Mark Waldron - Dogs, Sex and TV Programmes from the70s


As you'll know if you've looked at recent posts, I read at the 3:AM PP evening last Tuesday. And what larks it was. Also on the bill was a poet called Mark Waldron, who I hadn't come across before. He was promoting his new book, "The Brand New Dark," published by Salt, read from memory (if that isn't a contradiction?) and performed a section from a long, erotomaniacal piece about Dougal's obsession with Florence. It was intriguing enough to follow up online and - thanks be to Salt! - I found you could download a pdf of some of the poems. I haven't had a chance to read them all yet, but my first impressions are very good. Now I just need to buy the book...

(Incidentally, looking for an image I stumbled across this cover to the soundtrack to "Dougal & The Blue Cat" and a shudder of cold fear riffled through me. Does anyone else remember how terrifying "Dougal & The Blue Cat" was? (Apologies for the middle aged nostalgia confessional)).

November 07, 2008

More Old Links from a New Man


What with my last links being at least 15 years old, I thought I could get away with this one from May. Micachu is meant to be recording something for an artist on Big Dada next Monday but besides that I've got nothing to do with her except I think her music is really good. She's a fantastic contrast to all those singers using a UK accent as this year's pop affectation, she records hoovers and is signed to Accidental, which is itself some kind of recommendation. Oh, and the film is really funny. Have a good weekend!

Pynchon On Sloth


Wandering the byways of the internet I came across this. It's fifteen years old but very good and funny. It's in the New York Times archives so you have to register but it's free and there are other goodies to find, like this, in which Mr Pynchon asks whether it's okay to be a Luddite and coins the immortal phrase, "except maybe for Brainy Smurf, it's hard to imagine anybody these days wanting to be called a literary intellectual". Amen.

October 29, 2008

More Drink = Less Reading


More information has been forthcoming about next week's reading. The evening runs only from 7pm to 8.30pm so don't be late. The "PP" in the title "3:AM-PP" stands for Pen Pusher magazine, of course. Other people reading include Lana Citron and Joseph Ridgwell plus the previously mentioned sculptor Andrew Logan plus "Marie Murphy on vocals and Lizziness on Bond Girls" (I'm not quite sure what that means or entails, but I'm sure it'll be fun).

Anyway, the address (again) is upstairs at The Green Carnation, 5 Greek St, Soho. If you want more info and are on facebook, check the page for it here. Oh, and it's next Tuesday 4th November...

October 28, 2008

Ivor Cutler, Looking For Truth..


...while a young lady waggles his squeeze box. The Poet Laureate of Spam in existential beauty shock..

October 24, 2008

Cormac McCarthy - "The Road," God and Toothpaste


Finally got round to reading "The Road" this week and it does most of the things it says on the tin, even if I'm slightly concerned about how many times it's acceptable to use the verb "to lave" in a book (I would have said once, but McCarthyland is no country for old pedants). Anyway, once I'd finished blubbing and tearing my hair out and promising to remember to turn off all the lights behind me, I couldn't also help wondering about America and the God Thing. I mean, really the only reason the boy doesn't get spit-roasted and eaten is because he stumbles across some Chrissies. And his papa gives God and the Carrying The Fire thing quite a working over, too (someone should do a fan fiction version about a Salvation Army brass band). Following hot(tish) on the heels of the publication of David Foster Wallace's commencement speech (?) to Kenyon College in which he seemed to say that if you didn't worship one god or another you were doomed to a life of misery, and a US presidential election in which everyone's pastor has been scrutinised, I was wondering if there's anyone left in America who doesn't believe in God? Or, even better, who - placidly, calmly, without screaming - doesn't believe in any Big Thing?

Talking of ol' Cormac, I was having a writer's whinge to a friend a few month's back about my general lack of success and, to cheer me up, he used McCarthy as an example of a writer who had spent years toiling in obscurity before his rise to the tippety-top.

"Yeah, it got so bad, apparently," he told me, "that to eat he had to steal the toothpaste samples from other people's mailboxes." My family will sleep sounder for that...

"More Colgate, darling?"

My (weakest) Link Contributions To The US Presidential Election

I'm not American so I have no idea whether the Huffington Post is a Good or a Bad thing but I enjoyed this post from Larry David. And for US election commentary combined with major conceptual art figures and bad German pop, go here. Yes, that's Joseph Beuys on Ronald Reagan. Dancing. And check out this Grauniad analysis of the Presidential "Bend Sinister". Don't say you never learn anything here...

October 20, 2008

"QUEEN'S WASPS OF HATE SEIZED"

What could give a Londoner more pleasure more simply than a selection of random cut-ups of lurid Evening Standard billboard headlines? Other than Boris Johnson being crushed to death beneath the collected works of Pliny, of course...

October 13, 2008

Drinking and Reading, Reading and Drinking


All you lucky souls in London Town have the chance to hear me reading again in November. I'm going to be doing my 10 minutes at 3AM:PP on November 4th. It's the second night promoted by the esteemed peoples at 3:AM (of course) and is put together and marshalled by the formidable Sophie Parkin (don't pitch your tent near hers - I mean this literally, not metaphorically). Anyway, the night involves one fiction person (me), one non-fiction person (the sculptor Andrew Logan), two poets and two musicians. The other names haven't been announced yet, but I'll pass them on as they come in... Anyway, details: Upstairs @The Green Carnation, 5 Greek St, Soho, from 7pm. And no, I don't know what the PP stands for...

October 08, 2008

Multi-Story Revisited

You may or may not remember that I told you in a past post about the strange story-relay Matt Thorne asked me to contribute to along with Ewan Morrison, Chris Manby, Stella Duffy, Alison Macleod and, of course, his good self. The result was called "Messenger," I said, and was published in the new issue of Another Magazine. But I also said you couldn't read it there and it turns out I was wrong. Go to "Literature" on the menu at the top of the page and then "NEW Another Document" on the far right of the menu that appears. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on "Download Another Document (PDF)" and it shall be so. The whole thing is edited by Dan Crowe (Zembla man) and contains writing from AM Homes, Willy Vlautin and many other good and worthy individuals...

Holy Roll-Outs


And just in case you're reeling from the sheer artiness of yesterday's post, here's a YouTube classic - much Christian ecstatic dancing cut to a d&b soundtrack. "Somebody make some nooiiiiise!" (With thanks to Infinite Livez for the link...).

October 06, 2008

Ubu Roi!

How to acknowledge a link w/out looking like you're name dropping, part 99. I recently read "The Broken World" by Tim Etchells and enjoyed it so much that, like the sad fanboy that I am, I 'befriended' him on Facebook. Recently Mr Etchells posted a link to www.ubu.com, describing it as "YouTube for the avant garde" and he wasn't wrong. If you've never been to the site I'd highly recommend it as it's an absolute treasure trove of 20th Century art, music and writing, with hundreds of audio clips and films. So far, some of my best finds include:
"Film" by Samuel Beckett starring Buster Keaton, which I haven;t seen for the best part of twenty years.
John Cage Meets Sun Ra, which I didn't even know existed.
And a doddery Bill Burroughs making his 'shotgun paintings,' because it's funny.
More will undoubtedly follow...

October 02, 2008

The Irresistible Rise of Roberto Bolaño

A sneak preview of Roberto Bolaño's poetry in translation is available here. It's taken from the collection that New Directions are publishing at the beginning of November. The American edition of the English translation of "2666" follows at the end of the month from Farrar, Straus & Giroux, with the UK version traipsing in from Picador next January. I can only hope that Picador bother to print it properly. I recently bought "The Lazarus Project" by Aleksandar Hemon in hardback and it looks like they bashed it out on a dot matrix printer that was a little low on ink. If you're going to ask people to spend fifteen or sixteen quid, surely you should make some kind of effort?

September 30, 2008

Beyond Our Ken


And while I'm going YouTube crazy, here is the marvellous and sadly deceased Ken Campbell on the Big Bang. Long may he haunt the internet...
Oh, and check this one, too. It's about Jackie Chan, eventually (part 3, I think). Aren't they all?

September 25, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Forever stuck in moral mediocrity, I could afford myself neither self-righteousness nor orgasmic existence" - Aleksander Hemon, "The Lazarus Project".

September 23, 2008

Raworth's "Hands"



Tom Raworth is a poet I very much admire, so I was really pleased to find this on YouTube. If the blurb is to be believed, it's a piece of "video art" (I suppose) by the man himself. Anyway, even if the hand is of another it's very beautiful indeed (though not as funny as the Lithuanian swimmer...).

Quote of the Day

"I just make the best book that I can and try to not worry about audience or if it will sell. The odds are against you, so why abuse your talent for the sake of a chimera? The only real pleasure for me in writing comes from pleasing myself." - William Vollman

September 19, 2008

September 16, 2008

New Story


The good people of 3:AM have very kindly posted a short short story I wrote over the summer. I was originally going to read it at the reading I did at Boogaloo (see previous posts if you care) but I didn't have time. So, anyway, go here if you want to see it. It's not long...

September 12, 2008

Multi-Story


Matt Thorne asked me to take part in a strange kind of story relay with Ewan Morrison, Chris Manby, Stella Duffy, Alison Macleod and his good self. The result was called "Messenger," came out rather good and is now published in the new issue of Another Magazine. You can't actually read it on that link, just stare dreamily at a picture of Scarlett Johanson and imagine yourself drinking classic cocktails with a contemporary twist.