November 26, 2009

November 22, 2009

Lee Harwood, Marginal Gloss & Synchronous Mottramisation

Here's a good enough excuse that I can justify my theft (re-blogging?) from my dear, anonymous, unknown online source of refined literary youngsterism, Marginal Gloss. Outside my bathroom is a big pile of books which were on some shelves which had to go somewhere else. Near the top is an old collection of Lee Harwood's poetry, "Monster Masks," that I bought many years ago. The other day I sat on the floor reading it while I waited for my son to finish on the loo and go to bed. It includes the excellent "The Beginning Of The Story," which Marginal Gloss has now discovered a pdf of online (you have to scroll down through the other piece. Or read it and discover that you have it in a book you've found piled up outside your toilet...). I interviewed Lee Harwood around sixteen years ago when I lived in Brighton. He had me round for tea and was absolutely lovely. I was trying to be a poet but luckily I was far too bashful and awed to ask him to look at anything I'd written, despite (because of?) the debt it owed him. I was very pleased to find out, years later, that the article ended up on file in King's College as part their Eric Mottram archive. Mind you, he had a lot of magazines. I hate to think what the hall outside his bathroom looked like...

November 19, 2009

Superb Diagrams Stolen From The Internet

Part 1 of a series of diagrams stolen from across the World Wide Web... In this case, their theme is the superbity. Stay tuned...

November 16, 2009

News, You Lose

Just in case you care, I wanted you to know that my Twitter story, Trundlespike, is once again All Systems Go. I'm up to 80 tweets on that bad boy, so don't miss them. I like, in particular, that none of them make any real sense in isolation, so they are kind of anti-tweets. Anyhow...

In other 'news,' I'm writing again, properly, with some real sense of forward momentum and purpose. I have been working on a book in some form or other constantly since summer 2001 when I started "Clear Water". Then this February I finished a draft of something and just... stopped. I fiddled around with an idea, did a couple of months of research, began writing and then realised my heart wasn't really in it. Truth be told, I felt like I was doing it more because I felt it was the sort of book people would feel I should be writing than because I wanted to write it. Since then I've been dabbling with an idea which I've been thinking about and developing for years, an idea which, I've often felt, may well signal literary career suicide. But I guess I don't have much of a career in any case, and it's only in the last week or so that I've developed enough momentum to feel like I'm doing something worthwhile (from my point of view). It's such a great feeling and one I've missed. It will all vanish again, shortly, of course, and I'll be left with upward of a year's worth of plodding towards the end, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts. Updates to follow...

In the meantime, revel in my Boredom playlist on the Evil Empire of Spotify. It does exactly what it says on the box.

November 13, 2009

Thatcher Dead...

Funny yet disappointing all at once...

Free Ebooks - Tony White Bridled

James Bridle of has launched his new venture, Artists' eBooks, with three short stories from Tony White, all available for download to read online, on your mobile or iPhone, or an an e-Reader (though not the Kindle, haha). They're in the ePub format which it is generally hoped will become the industry standard, as, unlike the aforementioned Kindle's AZW, it's an open, non-DRM format.

All three stories "grew out of a residency at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London, and are part of an ongoing series called Balkanising Bloomsbury. Each story was written using a process which included cutting-up, remixing and renarrativising fragments from a number of sources including travel writing, Hague tribunal transcripts and mass media texts, to create completely new works of fiction which explore ideas of European identity." Mr White's work is always superb and Mr Bridle is a whizz-bang techno animal, so I'm off to download them now.

November 10, 2009

Apologies, Excuses, then Greene, Lin, Conrad, Bolaño, Vila-Matas, Marias & Barker (N)

I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. Not only have I failed to stick to my seven-posts-a-week rule with my twitter story, Trundlespike, I haven't posted anything on here for ages either. I looked at Marginal Gloss last night and thought of ripping off some of his posts, but I tried to load some flash game called Small Worlds he had said was "one of the most unlikely, thought-provoking online experiences I’ve had in some time" and it crashed my browser, which can only be taken as A SIGN (and not even a very unlikely one).

This morning I rowed half-heartedly with my little-but-good-peoples publisher and then we all made up again and agreed to Battle Onward. I did an interview about the record label with the esteemed Stevie Chick for a book about Ninja Tune. I read some Graham Greene.

I haven't read Graham Greene for absolutely years - over 20 I would think. But I went to a gig a few weeks back (the most-excellent Juice Aleem, who reminded me why hip hop will never completely die) and on my way to the tube I walked past two dodgy geezers laying out secondhand books next to the Cafe Nero on Tottenham Court Road. In the dark... I bought "The Honorary Consul" for £2 because it looked at a distance like it might be a first edition (WRONG! It was a Book Club edition) and because I thought I'd read somewhere that it was his darkest and best work (WRONG! That one had something to do with World War II and this one is set in Argentina in the '70s). But mainly because you don't often come across mobile booksellers at 11.30 at night on Tottenham Court ROad so I felt I should. Anyway, I haven't got to the Catholic Bit yet, so I'm quite enjoying it.

Before that, I read "Shoplifting From American Apparel" by Tao Lin. Hmmm. Dunno what to say really. I really loved "Eeee Eeee Eeee" but in his attempt to stop himself inserting the stuff which he says he deliberately inserted to "ruin" that book (in particular, the animals) he's made something which is maybe more true to his aesthetic but less sympathetic with my head. It works. It does work. He's still a million times better than all the Tao Lin imitators (and he must be doing something right to have spawned these bastards, who remind me of the lesser lights on anticon). But it doesn't catch me in the same way as it did with the bears. I really liked the bears.

Before that I read "Lord Jim," by Joseph Conrad which was strange and marvellous, oscillating between the sheer magnificence of the first section, the slightly odd colonial fantasy of the second section and then the fiendish denouement of the third, which makes sense of the second and casts the first in a completely different light.

Further back before that I knocked off "Skating Rink," the latest Eng-lang mini-masterpiece from the Bolaño estate. Familiar characters (minor South American poets ending up as exiles/immigrants in Spain and, in particular, working on a campsite) but here roped into the clutches of a murder mystery of some sort, in which the murder is the least important aspect.

Now we're working back into the mists of time and "Montano" by Enrique Vila-Matas, his follow-up to "Bartleby & Co". While I loved that book, Vila-Matas got a little too European on my ass this time around. I still read it all and bits were really funny but I'm not sure I wanted a book on literature sickness and the death of literature etc etc. I haven't got a degree in English Lit so I don't see why I should be subjected to this stuff now. Nevertheless, it has something - just maybe something a little too intellectual for me. I could kind of see why it had never made it into paperback, though.

Ooh, it's getting dark, or grey, or just hazy. I read the first part of "Your Face Tomorrow" trilogy by Javier Marias (I believe the last part is about to come out). I quite liked it but the sentences were all too long, which made it far more exhausting than it needed to be. That and the fact it was about memory (whilst purporting to be about predicting people's future actions) account for the reference to Proust on the back. But blimey, how many sub-clauses can I hold in my head at once..? Less than Javier, obviously. I like a nice full stop, me.

And I reach full stop with "Darkmans" by Nicola Barker, read some time last century (or maybe at the end of the summer?) which I absolutely loved. A big book made to seem short. She's a very unassuming writer - full of ideas and theories but wearing them lightly, slightly in love with all of her characters, amiable but tough, too. Much darker and odder than the summaries of it suggest. It's a really good book and shows, for that year at least, that not all Booker shortlists are full of unadulterated bollocks. Huzzah!

October 23, 2009

Twitter Chain - or, How To Kill Yourself Slowly Through Insignificance, You Wasteman Twit

I've discovered a great new way to waste time (actually, it's probably only new to me). You click on your most recent 'follower' on Twitter and look at their most recent tweet. Then you click on the person who appears bottom right in the square of people who they're "following." You look at that message then you move on to the person at the bottom right of their square and so on (okay, for it to be conceptually consistent, you should click on someone you're following in the first place. But I ain't following anyone, just dribbling out a kind of story - which is why no one knows it's there...). Anyhow, what you end up with is something like this:

sevensnaps: added #camerakit and #focallab to my iPhone apps, thanks @twin_arrow
glennjersey: New Be-mag Interview
SuicideGirls: Win an iPod Touch from SuicideGirls! See who gets closest to dating a sexy girl who lives inside their iPhone. -
dla35: This person has protected their tweets.
HMXkfan: Almost too busy to write here about how busy I am.
whiskeyfingers: This person has protected their tweets.
alyankovic: Documented proof that I’ve suffered vandalism at the hands of @rainnwilson:
SklarBrothers: Performing tonight in Ann Arbor, Mi. At Live At PJ's. Come by to hear us expound on a new VH-1 Dating Show For Mike Vick: Vick of the Litter
michaelianblack: Idea for invention: a koi pond you pee in called "The Koilet."
marcmaron: @DaveTitle I'll give you a tshirt if you subscribe--maybe a couple of stickers.
enKirkman: @PFTompkins please remove me from this list.
nottjmiller: The Detroit airport is like hell but with a worse layout.
MarkBomback: finally i have a story for 'unsolved mysteries.' my son awoke this morning with a lone sock stuck to his head by a piece of duct tape.
MartinAmis: I need to work on my work-work balance.
vintagebooks: ...of someone famous buried in Highgate Cemetery plus the name of Diana Evans' prize-winning novel about twins
AnaBanana83: Miss Frank - more than the sum of their parts, deffo in my top 3 but that wasn't a great song for them #xfactor
marshawrites: Sod Blogger; I'm going to get my writing done for the day now! Ciao!
KwanaWrites: @ritzberries Hey you!
BlazeAuthors: I'm blogging on the 20th at the Blaze Authors Blog...on the "S" word and what to do about it.
TawnyWeber: New blog post: Quick Six with the Awesome Jeanne Adams

I guess the real question is whether this is in any way interesting. I don't know. In a weird way it kind of is. Or maybe I'm just really bored...

October 13, 2009

"I Love The Darkside"

Speechbreaker is the best web-toy I've found in ages. You get to cut up and paste together the recent conference speeches of the three party leaders in the same style as Chris Morris's famous George Bush skit, then you can upload them straight to YouTube. What could be better? There are various glitches, like the fact that you can make you speech longer than it allows you to upload, but despite these irritations it's great fun. The first half of my attempt is above... The second part won't bloody upload. Tories in the machine...

October 08, 2009

Twitter, Ellroy and DeLillo's Swimming Trunks

Have been a bit crap at adding to this blog recently, for a number of reasons, but mainly because I'm having so much fun with my Twitter story. There are 35 tweets now, making a huge 4,900 characters-worth of prose to read. If you don't join up soon you'll have no idea what's going on (and if you do, you might not either). Thanks to the founding fathers, by the way - my 22 current, noble followers. That's more than Jesus had, for heaven's sake.

Meanwhile, if that doesn't entertain you sufficiently, check out Jame's Ellroy's promotional trailer for his new book. Jimmy Cash sent me the link but we can't agree as to Ellroy's levels of sincerity. I think he comes over as an egotistical dick, Cash thinks he's hamming it up for laughs. You'll have to decide for yourself (incidentally, Cash also says the book is great). The Ellroy publicity machine is obviously cranking up, as the man was also in this morning's Guardian, writing about Ed Ruscha. And while we're on the subject of book trailers - first Pynchon, now Ellroy..?! Is a film on YouTube now considered the must-have marketing tool for the heavyweight male American novelist? I look forward to DeLillo in his trunks, a tour of JD Salniger's kitchen, Philip Roth releasing a techno record. Oh, that one already happened didn't it?

October 02, 2009

Hyperkinetic Q+A

I've contributed a story to an anthology called "Hyperkinetic: High Velocity Tales From The Inner City. " (I actually live in the outer city, or possibly the outer inner city, but that wouldn't have made such a good title). As part of my punishment (possibly for living in the worng part of the city) the editors have made me fill out a questionnaire about who and what I am. They didn't tell me they'd posted said Q&A up because of my anger management issues but I found it anyway. Now, as part of your punishment, you can read it. Not sure when the collection is coming out. Thought it was this November but now I'm unclear. Anyhow, you can find out more here or here.

September 28, 2009

Techno Techno Techno Techno (part 2)... and Lispector

So, the good persons of 3:AM Press have started a Facebook page. By becoming a fan you can find out stuff about my upcoming book and what else they have planned. But you don't have to take the "fan" part too seriously...

While I'm feeling technologically empowered I've begun a story on Twitter. I don't really know how long I'll keep it up or where it's going yet. The only two rules are that I have to post at least seven times a week and that each entry has to be exactly 140 characters long. So have a look or follow it or whatever people do on Twitter. Oh, and remember to start at the bottom if you want to catch up...

And another thing. There was quite an interesting piece in the paper at the weekend - Lorrie Moore on Clarice Lispector. You can read it here.

September 21, 2009

New Book Coming Soonish!

At the end of last week I signed a contract in blood with 3:AM Press to publish (one of) my new book(s), called "work". It'll be coming out some time towards spring/summer in 2010. I'm absurdly excited. A few years ago, a particularly astute (if occasionally rather mad) friend and music business associate read one of my books and told me that I had made "the classic mistake. You're an indie artist and you signed for a major." At the time I told him that there weren't any real indies in UK publishing (a point which I could expand on and explain, if anyone were interested..). But now there is and suddenly the process of publishing feels a little more like I always felt it should. Oh, and the double-headed Andrew has even started a dedicated Twitter so follow it, follow it, follow it now (it's fun to have fun but you have to know how).

Officially an SF Writer

That's me, that is. At least, it must be because none other than the BSFA (or rather, Martin Lewis, sometime BSFA cohort) asked me to contribute to a pamphlet called "SF Writers On SF Films: From Akira To Zardoz". I'm presuming mine's in there though I haven't seen a copy yet. And you can't either, unless you're a member. The BSFA is hardcore like that. I will post my contribution here soon. Promise.
(Incidentally, should that title be "Officially an SF writer" or "Officially a SF writer"..? If I really were one I would surely know...)

September 02, 2009

Bob Mortimer - We Salute You!

Was bored and tired last night and trawled iPlayer for something to watch and there it was - the return of "Shooting Stars"! Apparently they stopped making it cos Bob got fed up with it but now they is back. And I still love Bob Mortimer. Vic always played the evil dictator and Bob his angelic stooge. It's great to have him back on screen, particularly as he has gone bald and has his hair unfashionably long at the back, whereas Vic is all bleached and styled and celebrity-knickers. A quiet telly genius. Vic needs Bob. Him on is own is a bit like watching an Ernie Wise special. Even that Matt Lucas is funny when basking in Bob's glow. Bob for Prime Minister!

Attack! Attack! Attack!

Most of the obituaries for Steven Wells focussed on his role as angry music journo for the NME (I know, an almost inconceivable notion in the era of Conor McCorporate of Top Gear future-fame). But he was also the man behind brief-supernova pulp-punk publisher Attack! Books. So the good people at 3:AM have organised a tribute to the man featuring readings (rants? sperm and blood-spattered ravings?) from the entire Attack! Books roster: Mark Manning, Stewart Home, Tony White, Tommy Udo and Stanley Manly. And it's free to get in. Should be fun.

16 September 2009
From 7.30pm
Basement, Zebrano 3am Bar, 18 Greek St, London W1

September 01, 2009

More Morrison

There's a big interview with Ewan Morrison over at 3:AM. It's very interesting. Read.

August 27, 2009

Drug-Driving - The Truth Shall Be Told!

What the fuck is this advert supposed to be telling us? That taking "drugs" (any drugs, or presumably any illegal drugs) turns the imbiber into a Large Grey Alien?? That a policeman driving a police car at night in the rain will be able to spot you, you mutant scum-dribbler? That he will then come and arrest yo' ass FOR HAVING UNFEASIBLY LARGE EYES?? Personally, I'm tempted to go out and score right now so I can spend all evening staring in a mirror and giggling at my ocular munificence. You twats, you've spent my taxes on this drivel...

(Incidentally, I once met the rather marvellous screenwriter - and possibly director? - of "Buffalo Soldiers," the Joaquin Phoenix-starring US army satire. Anyway, she told me an excellent story about Rick Rubin's predilection for hunting Large Greys. So now you know... Want to be America's Greatest Rock Producer? Being a Buddhist is not enough - chase other life forms in your spare time).

Ashes To Ashes, Bring Back Bopara, Cunning Cricket Chat, Deathly Dull, Delusional...

I feel, having posted on the very first day of the Ashes series that I should say something at the end, preferably something which reveals me to be a perceptive and deep-thinker on the game and sends cricket fans from all over the blogosphere rushing off to read "Clear Water," a book which features a former spin bowler and hence should be top of their reading lists for days when only unremitting bleakness will do. So here we are.

It wasn't as epic and scintillating as 2005, more about two brittle teams, each hoping to implode less than the other. But it was pretty compelling, if in a similar way to watching two drunken tramps trying to bend down to see who could pick up a 2p coin first. (England seem to have got their implosions down to about one per series). My man of the series is poor old Ravi Bopara, who not only had a nightmare but wasn't even invited to the players' celebratory party at the end. Oh, and Ricky Ponting, who I must admit to having booed - strictly panto-style - at Lords, which I've felt guilty about ever since. And Michael Clarke was fantastic. Last time he was over he had long hair and the Aussies would make a seat out of their arms for him between overs in order to stretch out his dodgy back, which made him look like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Now he looks like a dour Australian but has batted brilliantly. As for the England team, while I'm glad they won I haven't really warmed to any of them. And please, please, tell me that Ian Bell will be dropped again..?

(I know, not that perceptive or incisive - I'm hoping my cheap and politically incorrect joke about the tramps will paper over the cracks...)

Pynchon, "Inherent Vice" and Other News From The Sixties

So, yeah, like, this actually is the Voice of Pynchon, man, pretending to be, y'know, like the character in his new novel. It's been proved by some straights at the freakin' Wall Street Journal. Crazy, man, crazy...

(The book is wonderful, by the way. Very funny and affectionate and beautiful. Enough to make you like hippies).

In other Sixties throwback news, Harvey Pekar has begun publishing his first web comic here. The first episode is him and Robert Crumb on the telephone going on about the evils of the avant garde. Bleurch.

Crumb, meanwhile, has gone all the way back to the Book of Genesis to get his kicks (men with big beards and women with... well, we all know what the women will have). Due out in the UK in October, this is old news. But then I'm old...

August 05, 2009

Holiday Reading - Pynchon, Berry, Vila-Matas, Barker, Marĺas, Macdonald

I'm off on my jolly ol' hols soon so I've been stockpiling books to take with me. I always take more than I can possibly read in the time available. I like getting them out when I arrive at my destination and piling them all up. I like humming and hawing over which to start on. I like having the option to switch or read two or three at once. It's an essential part of holiday luxuriousness to have an excess of books to hand. So, these are the books I've decided to take with me:

"Inherent Vice" by Thomas Pynchon. Got it on Sunday, have already started it. It's like being on holiday early. Very funny, very good fun - Pynchon's Cali books are always a blast. Like, dude.

"The Manual of Detection" by Jebediah Berry. Read an article about it ages ago, I think, and stuck it in my basket on Amazon. So have now bought it, in hardback, without knowing much about it. That's holidays for you. The booktrade is relying on poor suckers like me. This means that William Heinemann can limp on for another, erm... hour?

"Montano" by Enrique Vila-Matas. The follow up to his excellent "Bartleby & Co," I meant to buy this shortly after I read the aforementioned but decided to wait until it was out in paperback. Which it never was. Sounds strangely familiar...

"Darkmans" by Nicola Barker. Have decided not to hold its Booker shortlisting against it - it might still be interesting, well-written, clever, possibly even innovative. It might. It really might. Also, having just read and enjoyed the considerably shorter "Reversed Forecast" I promised myself and an expectant world (haha) that I would. Also Jimmy Cash rates it. Incidentally, do authors have to write a big, long book before they're taken seriously?

"Your Face Tomorrow. 1: Fever and Spear" by Javier Marĺas. Someone else who I've been meaning to read. This one seemed to have the worst reader reviews on Amazon so is undoubtedly his masterwork. I found out recently that Marĺas is now King of Redonda. The first king having been M.P.Shiel, whose "masterpiece", "The Purple Cloud" I failed to finish on my last summer holiday. I hope it's not an omen...

"The Galton Case" by Ross Macdonald. There was a piece in the Guardian Review at the weekend saying he was better than Chandler and Hammett. A bit like saying that eating creamed cockroaches is "better than sex" (you know what these weekend supplements are like...) so I thought I'd better give him a go... arker

August 02, 2009

Recent Reading

Apologies for the alliterative title and uninspired subject matter - I can't think of anything worth writing about, so I'm going to list the books I've read or failed to read in the last couple of motnhs or so (a lot of failures on my part in here - no idea why). (Also in no particular order):

"The Widow" by Georges Simenon. Another nasty and marvellous roman dur from Mr Simenon. This one has the introduction from Paul Theroux that I thought I blogged about previously but can't find. If you wanna read it (the intro), the link is here.

"Woman's World" by Graham Rawle. This should have been sensational but somehow it wasn't. Graham Rawle used to do the "Lost Consonants" cartoon in the Guardian but when he wasn't he was writing this book, pieced together entirely from the words found in women's magazines of the sixties. This constraint made graphic by actually chopping up said magazines and then pasting the pages together. So it looks great and seems like a great idea. But somehow it didn't take flight for me.I don't know why. I wanted to love it and instead I admired the idea more than the execution.

"Berlin Alexanderplatz" by Alfred Döblin. I read that the translation was terrible but bought it anyway (it's Archimboldi's favourite book in "2666"). The translation is terrible. Or if it isn't terrible then the original is. You can sense that it should be great, but I gues it's a little like trying to read "Ulysses" in a bad translation. Anyway, I had to give up. Failure.

"The Hour of the Star" by Clarice Lispector. Very short and strange novella narrated by a man writing a book about a young peasant woman from the north of Brazil. After the first thirty or forty pages - which are a little hard going in that modernist way - it builds to a rather beautiful little climax.

"The Black Insider" by Dambudzo Marechera. I read a short piece about Marechera by China Mielville so I bought this, as the title he'd recommended was unavailable. It comes with an introduction about how the bookn was originally rejected for not being "African" enough. I think it might have been rejected for being too bloody difficult. It has a cracking opening - the central character is living in a war-torn future London inside a bombed out university building - but then the story gets more and more lost in diversion and digression and mind-bending difficulty. I got lost. Must try again.

"Give + Take" by Stona Fitch. Amiable read about a travelling jazz musician and jewel thief. It was the first release from Fitch's free-publishing venture, Concord Free Press and is enjoyable and fun without being life changing. Good on jazz.

"Hard Rain" by Ariel Dorfman. Then again, maybe I don't have the powers of concentration to get through something life changing. "Hard Rain," from what I read of it, seems to be a series of reviews or essays of non-existent books, written by Dorfman as he waited for the inevitable coup which deposed Allende. It starts brilliantly but then becomes very... difficult. I must try again. Maybe on holiday..?

"The World Doesn't End" by Charles Simic. Short prose poems by the Serbian-American. He makes a really good introduction to them in this film at around 9 minutes 30, although it's worth starting from 7 minutes 30 to watch his anecdote about Venus, the Goddess of Love. Anyway, the poems are fantastic - wide open, allusive, funny and strange.

"Menage" by Ewan Morrsion. I already wrote about this here. It's still really good.

"Printer's Devil" by Stona Fitch. More Fitchiana, this time published by Scottish-based indie Two Ravens Press. Set in a post-apocalyptic future and concerning a member of a printer's guild (something like a gang), it's dark and well-written. But I wonder whether post-apocalypse actually limits a writer's imagination - they all seem to be much the same. Perhaps we all have the same nightmares...

"Reversed Forecast" by Nicola Barker. Nicola Barker's first novel, which I found on the bookstall of my daughter's school's Christmas fair (classy bookstall innit?). Have been meaning to devote some reading effort to Barker for a long time and didn't regret it. I loved this book - the quality of the writing, the affection for her characters, the ordinary oddness, everything. Am going to read "Darkmans" now, having been previously put off only by my dislike of sans serif fonts (Something, I'm glad to say, she has made no attempt to justify, despite so many people commenting on it).

Emil Hakl - "Of Kids & Parents". Published by Czech publishers Twisted Spoon, and bought by a friend of mine in Prague, it's the funny and well-paced story of a middle aged man and his father going out on the piss one evening, which manages to deal with the topography of Prague, communism, war, drink, sex, ornithology and a whole heap of other stuff, without feeling like it is. Oh, and despite its origin it's in English, too.

July 22, 2009

Speech Debelle - Mercury Business

Yesterday was a good day. Speech Debelle got her album nominated for the Mercury Music prize (or, as we are meant to put it, was made a Barclaycard Mercury Album of The Year). Spent the afternoon in the pub. Am feeling fragile today. Hence nothing to say for myself. Hold tight for fascinating updates soon.

July 20, 2009

Infinity and beyond!

I've been immortalised in art. Okay, not me, personally, but my name. Crazy-man about town Infinite Livez currently has an exhibition, "Salvador Dali Was Half-Bengali," at the Pebbledash Gallery in Stoke Newington and he has named one of his new pieces Will Ashon Style And Pattern. The exhibition is on until the 31st so you can go and see it, if you want, or buy the art online, via my name link above. You know it makes sense...

Pebbledash Gallery, 2 Leswin Place, Stoke Newington, London N16 7NJ

July 10, 2009

Jon Baskin on David Foster Wallace

Excellent essay about David Foster Wallace's work and legacy here. Jon Baskin claims in "Death Is Not The End" that "with the benefit of time, it will be recognized that Wallace had less in common with Eggers and Franzen than he did with Dostoevsky and Joyce." Baskin argues that we should read Wallace's work as a series of Wittgensteinian therapies designed specifically to cure us of our addiction, the most fundamental of all our addictions, "to a highly reflexive and indulgent way of thinking." In particular, he seems to suggest, Wallace uses the machinery of post-modern writing and thought as the only way in which to connect with readers weened on this type of literature. "Many people in America already knew that AA worked; Wallace, however, was the first to propose it as a solution to the problem of postmodern thinking. This problem had the structure of addiction, he suggested. That was why it took a sophisticated, difficult novel like Infinite Jest to make the people who tend to read sophisticated, difficult novels think hard about things that were meaningful and true."

July 08, 2009

Test Match Cricket & The End of Work

So, the Ashes has begun. I'm listening on my computer. Already my mind is becoming mulch. Really, I may as well write the whole summer off now. Any writer worth his or her salt spends around 90% of their working day looking for an excuse not to write anything and what could be better than the gentle application of psychological pressure which is Test Match cricket? I am not going to write my masterpiece with this going on. Someone appears to be playing "Radio GaGa" on a melodica in the back of the commentary box. Two Aussies are chatting about the pitch. Nothing much is happening and that's just what I'm after. Shit. Cook's out, just as I was relaxing into a soporific stupor. Do these bastards never rest?

July 06, 2009

Recessions Sessions - Part 2

I got asked back to do the next "litgig" organised by Beat The Dust and all those good folk. If you can't be bothered to watch the rather smart "video flyer" above then I'll tell you that it's at the Betsey Trotwood again on July 31st from 7.30ish, I'll wager. Better hurry up and write something...

July 03, 2009

Portrait Of The Novelist As A Dead Butterfly

I've been thinking of novel writing as a kind of minor utopianism. While I'm working on a book, the one in my head is always perfect, a masterpiece, a kind of personal Heaven on Earth. Then I get to the end of my draft and read through the one I've actually created and it's a repressive regime. Flawed, dusty and restricted, with dog shit all over the pavements. And I polish and change and clean it and move it a little nearer to the ideal which motivated me, but it remains a disappointment. So I start again on a new novel and immediately convince myself that this time I will achieve something impossible, almost through belief alone.

Now, my question is this. Is this a necessary condition of writing novels (for me, anyway)? Or is it just immature delusion? i.e. will I only actually be able to write a truly great book (play along with me here) when I stop thinking in these terms? Part of the reason I ask is because I recently started writing something and I don't have that usual feeling at all. So I'm wondering whether this is a Bad Sign, an indicator that I'm not truly excited enough by what I'm trying to do to pull if off in any satisfactory way. Whether what I produce will be, in fact, dowdy, worthy and safe, lacking in spark. Or whether, on the other hand, due to multiple disappointments, I'm finally able to write without becoming blinded by my own excitement and so will manage to keep control of the material instead of setting off on the kind of maniacal flights of fancy which seem to come to me when I feel the burn of "the star on the forehead" (to quote poor ol' Raymond Roussel).

Of course the truth is that probably whichever way I write I'll never come close to producing what I would hope to produce. In which case why do I keep on going? There are two possible answers, I guess. One is that it's the struggle to create that ideal which is important, that it's better to spend your life chasing after a beautiful impossibility than grinding through a grim reality. That, in fact, chasing a beautiful impossibility is maybe what a good life is about. The other is less cheering. A friend told me about research which shows that cult members become more committed to a cult after the events the cult leaders have predicted fail to come to pass. I'm either a beautiful butterfly or a one man cult. My one man jury is out. He's staring through the window at an empty playing field when he should be trying to reach a decision. It's cold and wet and not even butterfly season. It hasn't, now he thinks about it, been butterfly season for years.

July 02, 2009

Mike Nelson - "A Psychic Vacuum"

Back in 2007, Mike Nelson built a huge installation in the derelict Essex Street Market in Lower East Side New York. Now Creative Time, who made the thing happen, are publishing a book of the installation. You can read an interview about it here. Nelson says that his next project will be, "hopefully some major demolition of a small part of London — but we have to find somewhere first." Boom!

June 30, 2009

Ewan Morrison - "Ménage"

I was lucky enough to get sent a copy of this and would recommend people checking it out - I believe it's published this week. It's described on the back as "a Jules et Jim for thejJilted generation," but I think the latter bit is only there for the alliteration. It is, unsurprisingly, about a menage a trois, the story of Owen, Dot and Saul, set in the early days of the YBA art boom, remembered from the crash of early 2009. So it manages to combine a fair amount of Withnailesque debauchery, a whole slew of Morrison's trademark fucking and sucking ("Penises are everywhere!" as Dot puts it), some digs at the art world ("it was rumoured that Saatchi was looking to buy online Islamic web porn as art") and much more into a quite genuine, if unconventional, love story which keeps you gripped right up until the end. And that actually sells the book a little short. Morrison uses his various trinities to explore the nature of art, relationships of power, friendship, mental illness and all that BIG SHIT without ever making the reader feel as if it's being forced down his/her throat. It's a novel about late nights, best read late at night, a strangely redemptive book which, despite a sly ending, is more about what can be than what might have been.

If you want more information about the book and what Ewan is up to, check his site.

p.s. I kind of know Ewan in that we worked on a short story with some other folk and he gave me his top tips for last year, but we've never met and I wouldn't have written anything at all about his book unless I'd enjoyed it. We are not the metropolitan elite. For one, Ewan is Scottish and for two, I'm a liability.

June 26, 2009

Michael Moorcock on Arthur C Clarke

I'm off to the woods for the weekend for a 48 hour vegetarian survivalist school run, but I leave you with this delight - Michael Moorcock remembering Arthur C Clarke. I was talking to Jimmy Cash (fresh back from the Ozarks or some such and sporting a "Guns, Trucks, Gurls" tattoo) about Moorcock's reminiscences of Ballard, wot I posted the other day and it reminded me of this piece from last year, which is very, very funny. Enjoy!

(Picture taken from

June 24, 2009

Eggers On The Brink

I sent my treatise of despair to Mr Eggers and got an immediate reply! Unfortunately it was an automated reply:

Thanks for writing to this address. I set up this new email account about three weeks ago to answer what I thought would be a handful of messages from attendees at a recent Author’s Guild event. Since then, this address has become far more public, and the volume of mail sent to this address has been a bit too much to handle. So as not to imply that this is a frequently checked address, we’re closing this email address down. But if you have questions about the upcoming issue of McSweeney’s (that which will be in the form of a newspaper) email Jesse Nathan at _________. If you want to send a message to me, best to send it to Michelle Quint at __________ (I’m a slow emailer so she’ll make sure I get back to you promptly). If you have questions about 826 National, write to Ryan Lewis at ___________. And if you’re in the mood to send anything on paper, our address is 826 Valencia, San Francisco, CA 94110.
Thanks again for writing,
Dave "

So what I feared has come to pass. The outpourings of horror, fear, self-loathing and doubt from the literary commonwealth have pushed Dave to the very edge. Poor lamb. I picture him lying, spent, on his therapist's couch, a print-Pangloss overwhelmed by electronic letters of DOOM.

(I took out all the email addresses cos I don't want to be responsible for some evil spambot blocking the collective McSweeney's/826National inboxes with messages about how you can "Gaive youur waife all the esex eshe ne-eds and desreves"... If you want them - the email addies, not the esex you desreve - well, email me)

June 23, 2009

Tom Phillips - "A Humument"

I was looking at my copy of "A Humument" last night. Back in the mid-sixties an artist called Tom Phillips bought a copy of "A Human Document" by W.H.Mallock and began drawing and painting on the pages, leaving chosen words intact to make strange poetry across and down the pages, embedded in the pictures he built around them to illustrate, comment on, decorate or attack those words. Since he finished the first edition in 1973, various volumes have been published and he has gradually replaced his original pages with new versions. Anyway, I wondered if there was much about the project on the internet and, lo and behold, I found, Phillips' rather slick and informative site, including a slide show of the complete 4th Edition.

June 22, 2009

Norwich (and Sebald)

Somehow I happened across this rather good W.G.Sebald blog and was a little shocked and surprised to find that its French equivalent (with posts on Jacques Roubaud and others), goes by the name of Norwich. I'm not being a snob or a Londonist. Some of my best friends live in Norwich (honest!). I just thought it was funny. Blame Steve Coogan.

June 19, 2009

Cor Blimey - Vintage UK Hip Hop Stuff

Got all nostalgic today and began looking up classic UK hip hop on YouTube. Really, how good is this stuff..? (The answer is VERY GOOD, smartarses).

Sindecut - "Live The Life". The Sindecut were just so good. Here, Crazy Noddy rips through his verses and all is right with the world.

London Posse - "Live Like The Other Half Do". Pure class, though overshadowed for sheer rarity value by London Posse - 1987 live

Gunshot - "Social Psychotics". Never one of my favourite acts, but a good representation of what would become Britcore.

Demon Boyz - "Rougher Than An Animal". Not their finest moment (which must be "Glimity Gamity") but fun...

Blak Twang - "Queen's Head" - From a later era than the rest, but Tony Twang and early Roots Manuva verse, plus guest cameos from Sean T etc... 1995? Seems like yesterday...

American Chutzpah part II - Eggers, Nice Books and Brand

After the fine feelings stirred in me by Concord Free Press, I came across the latest example (or maybe an earlier example) of US publishing chutzpah, you guessed it, the one and only Dave Eggers. Eggers recently offered sweet succour to the US publishing industry, giving out his email address and saying that "if you are ever feeling down, if you are ever despairing, if you ever think publishing is dying or print is dying or books are dying or newspapers are dying... If you ever have any doubt, e-mail me, and I will buck you up and prove to you that you’re wrong."

So Ron Charles of the Washington Post wrote to him and printed the reply. This morning I wrote asking further questions, but haven't actually sent the mail. It's hard not to sound sucky without sounding aggressive (for me, anyway). But here is what I thought of sending, or intended to send, or thought anyway, without sending:

"Hi Dave -

"No rush to reply to this (I'm not on the roof edge), but I read first the blog of your speech in the New Yorker and then your response to Ron Charles from the Washington Post, in which you said, 'My faith in print is buoyed by our own experiences at McSweeney's, for one thing. Our sales haven't really dropped off in the last few years, and of course we spend no money on ads or promotion. So my weird theory, or one of them, is that we need to invest in print, instead of cutting away all the value of print over the web.'

"It's an argument I've come across a lot in the music business - that in order to survive we need to be adding value over the the basic ones and noughts which make up the delivery of the music. Although I think it's easier to apply to books, which are still an analogue product, making the choice similar to that between downloading an mp3 or buying vinyl (CDs really muddy the argument as well as looking ugly).

"But I was interested in this because I thought it could be just as easily claimed that the success of McSweeney's rests on the strength and clarity of its brand rather than people finding any intrinsic value in "nice books and magazines" (and don't get me wrong, you do produce nice books and magazines). This brand in turn, relies to a large part, on your fame/celebrity (which, once again, I'm not denying you've put to good use). That being the case, though, doesn't the success of McSweeney's rest on your high profile as a mainstream published author whose books have been heavily promoted and marketed by those giant publishing conglomerates who are now laying off staff and indulging in the small joys of despair - the weeping and gnashing and pulling out of hair?

"That being the case, is there really a broader lesson that other people can take from what McSweeney's have done? Or are you an exception, much like Radiohead giving away an album (lauded for revolutionising the music industry but a useless model for mere mortals)?

"Here's hoping that you can strongly argue the opposite and convince me that all is, if not right with the world of books, then not entirely wrong either. Sorry to add to the mountain of despair you are no doubt wading through. Hoping above all that it isn't starting to get to you. You seem like a basically upbeat individual and it would be awful if you drowned in the outflow of other people's shit.

"All the best

Maybe I should just send it instead of printing it online? Oh well, too late now...

June 17, 2009

Concord Free Press

I ordered a free book yesterday. Concord Free Press (based in Concord, Mass) are currently shipping out copies of "Push Comes To Shove" by Wesley Brown for free to anyone, anywhere in the world. All they ask in return is that you make a "voluntary donation to a charity or someone in need" and that, when you've finished the book, you pass it on to someone else who might be interested so that the process can repeat.

It's a fantastic idea. The 2000 copies of Brown's book are almost guaranteed to go, and get passed on, generating much more interest and many more readers than most novels can muster, plus some Good Causes get some money. The cover looks great (as does the site) so now I just have to hope the contents are excellent as well. The whole thing seems rather marvellous - it's like getting a present.

My only slight bugbear, is the quote on their site from the Independent on Sunday who, in an article on novelist and Free Press founder Stona Fitch, said that it is a "project that could revolutionize the publishing industry."

I love this idea but I'm struggling to understand how it can transform the publishing industry because I'm struggling to see how the books and the postage get paid for. I understand it's not-for-profit and that the people involved give their time for free, but print runs of 2,000 books still cost, as does postage, especially to countries on the other side of the world. Maybe I'm just being a spoilsport. I am looking forward to getting my book and making my donation and taking part in something different, anyway. As Fitch puts it, "publishing books is not hard, it's making money from publishing that's really hard. We're blessedly relieved of the burden of profitability."

June 16, 2009

"Turn It Loose"

Alastair Siddons, who has worked on some storming documentaries in his time as well as directing Roots Manuva videos for us (and for The Streets, Kano and various other folks), finally has his documentary feature debut coming to cinemas very soon. It's about the World Breakdancing Championships in South Africa in 2007 ('08?), but, from what I've seen, it's more "Spellbound" than "Save The Last Dance" - an exploration of how hip hop has impacted on and inspired people all over the world. It's also quite sumptuously shot. You can watch the trailer here.

June 12, 2009

Friday Links

Download a brand new Anti-Pop Consortium track for free!

Look at Abebooks most expensive sales for May...

Gape at the most expensive Thomas Pynchon title on Abebooks...

Read an already-old tribute to JG Ballard from Michael Moorcock (found while thinking about Stewart Home's comment that Moorcock is better than Ballard, anyway...)

Chortle with delight at Dilshan's bizarre but effective scoop shot (this is one for the cricket buffs).

Stare at Chris Ware.

Befriend Marcel Duchamp on Facebook (just don't think about it too hard...)

Watch "Please Say Something" by David O'Reilly, winner of the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at the Berlin Film Festival (stolen from Marginal Glossagain, but what the fuck? He should stop putting up such good stuff...)

June 08, 2009

The Horrible Truth About The Internet (and Everything (and me))

It occurred to me after I wrote my cheerful piece about the futility of my blogging in particular, that I was nudging towards a wider point about the internet in general. Once again, maybe it's just me, but don't we all spend our time on the internet - making friends on Facebook, watching people jump into frozen lakes on YouTube, tweeting about our breakfast cereal - in order to be doing something? Partly to fill the gaps when we're bored, but more importantly, to feel like we're doing something significant, or that we're involved in something important. We're constantly being told that the internet is revolutionising our lives, our culture, our social relations. Like most parties, everyone else seems to be having more fun. So we hang round the edges of these various virtual dancefloors hoping that someone - Fate, Celebrity, Sex, Friendship - will notice our unique character, our Inner Light, and invite us out onto the floor.

Is this profound or insightful or just more internet bullshit, more striving for significance? The latter, probably. In which case, why post it? Go back to the top and start again.

June 05, 2009

This Is The Life

I maybe don't write about music enough (and particularly hip hop) as it's probably the only thing I have any right to claim any feel for. So... The best doc I've seen for quite some time, "This Is The Life" tells the story of the Good Life cafe in Los Angeles. In the early nineties, in the aftermath of the LA Riots, and in a situation where public space was being increasingly privatised and young Black men and women had nowhere to meet, this wholefood cafe in South Central started a Thursday night hip hop slot which acted as a crucible for acts like Abstract Rude, Volume 10, Chillin Villains Empire, Jurassic Five and, most importantly, Freestyle Fellowship. It's an incredible document, fuzzy VHS footage of the nights mixed in with extensive interviews with all the key players. It reminded me how good these performers were all, how innovative, how technically sharp and daring. These were great technicians of word and rhythm, beautifully brave and idealistic people and, as such, anyone interested in the huge input into world culture emanating from the African-American diaspora should watch this film - even if they don't think they like "rap." No, especially if they don;t think they like "rap."

June 04, 2009

The Discrete Lameness of the English Novel

Good post from Mr Gloss on Tim Lott's recent "Why-oh-why-are-English-novels-so-shit?" piece in the Independent. He is cleverer and younger and spends more time thinking than me (and Tim Lott) so I have nothing to add...

June 02, 2009

The Horrible Truth About (my) Blogging

I was asked today by another writer how I found the whole blogging thing and whether it was bringing the punters in. Below is a slightly revised and expanded version of what I wrote. I only post it up because I can't think of anything else to post, which kind of proves or at least reinforces my theory:

As for blogging, I'm not sure it does any good at all beyond the palliative effect of feeling like you are doing something. I guess I get about 4-500 people a month looking at my blog and probably less than ten of those people are actually there because they're interested in "Will Ashon". Most of them are interested in Roberto Bolano. A quite staggering amount are interested in dog sex (having a post with those words in definitely boosts your hits from Iran*).

Certainly, sales of my books support the idea that whether I blog or not makes no difference at all, but then I've only really done it seriously (i.e. frequent posting) since last September/October, by which time both of my published books were already dead in the water. I think overall I would say it's pretty pointless, but then that's how I feel about the whole book writing business at the moment. So I think the truth is that my attitudes to blogging mirror fairly accurately my attitudes to writing as a whole - or at least to that part of it which involves selling a book as opposed to making it.

In fact, overall, I think the internet is a perfect mirror. It doesn't create, it reflects, or perhaps, at best/worst, amplifies. If you have a big rep and people know who you are then your blog will probably be a great success. If you're as obscure as I am, then it will probably be a complete waste of time. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. Which, once again, makes it very much like publishing.

So really, as I started by saying, the only reason to do it is to feel like you're doing something. It goes some way to filling those moments of panic when you can't write and no one seems to be interested in what you're doing and you can't imagine that any publisher will ever take on another of your books. Though, of course, with time, the blogging or the lack of blogging becomes part of the panic itself, only on a toned down, less abysmal level. A more manageable and slightly less painful form of panic, in fact, and hence, as a result, that lesser, misdirecting panic becomes a reason to do it (and not do it) in itself.

*I'm afraid this is true.

May 29, 2009

Lindsey Kent on Clarice Lispector, China Mieville on Dambudzo Marechera, Me On My Inadequacy (WARNING: This post contains exclamation marks)

Am feeling ig'nant today, if not as hungover as I should (for which, before my god Neurofen, I bow down). While trying to finish a short story which I have been avoiding for a month or so I have been surfing round tinternet and reading the newspaper. I've submitted a story to a collection called Hyperkinetic and they are doing these author profiles of the people involved and today I read the one belonging to Lindsey Kent. Having chosen Mr Pynchon as her favourite author she was then asked who we should be reading and alongside Cortazar she went for Clarice Lispector, who I must admit I'd never heard of and who turns out to be Brazil's most famous and wonderful modernist, a woman who, if Wikipedia is to be believed, "looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf". Anyway, I've ordered "Hour of the Star" from Abebooks because it's the most readily available, so I will soon be able to nod and look sage at the mention of her name.

I was only just recovering from my dullardity qua non-Anglo-European modernism and all that jazz, when who should I read in the Indie but China Mieville on Dambudzo Marechera, a Zimbabwean "gutter modernist". So I have bought a book by him, too, tho' not the one Mieville recommends, cos like he says, it's really hard to find it. I am a consumer! I have bought off my feelings of inadequacy! Then parlayed them into a post on my fuck-boring blog! Life is sweet!

May 27, 2009

Ewan Morrison - Ménage in the Random Ape House

Ewan Morrison has recently taken up virtual residence on Random House's new Author's Place. He is devoting his time to readings (with visuals) from his forthcoming book, "Ménage," which is out this July. It looks/sounds good. Go look.

May 13, 2009

Bas Jan Ader at

To celebrate the fact that the mighty ubuweb now allows you to imbed video, I hope you enjoy these selected works (all from 1970/71, I think) from Bas Jan Ader. Apparently Mr Ader disappeared in 1975, having decided to cross the Atlantic in a 12 foot sailing boat. The work the journey was meant to form the middle part of was called "In Search of The Miraculous" and perhaps he found it. Anyway, his series of "Falls" are excellent. I particularly like "Broken Fall (Organic)".

[Unfortunately, my html skills are too rudimentary to sort out the various problems with Ubuweb's coding for embedding, so it's all wonky. You might be better off watching it at the site itself!)

May 12, 2009

Aleksander Hemon - "Love & Obstacles"

There's a new Hemon on the way, a collection of interlinked short stories apparently similar in tone to "The Question of Bruno" (still my favourite of his books, I think). You can read the title story of the collection in The New Yorker, or check his new website here.

Question: can you ever get bored or frustrated with being compared to Nabokov and Conrad, or does it feel creamy and good every single time?

Marginal Gloss

I'm really liking this blog and not only because there was a very sympathetic write-up of "The Heritage" on there a few weeks ago (though that helped).

May 10, 2009

Recession Session - fallout

So, the post-quake rumblings from the Recession Sessions slowly die down. You can look at the prepossessing bunch of wordniks who read here (I chose Paul Ewen to illustrate my piece here cos of his sad eyes) or alternatively you can read Sam Jordison's "review" here (although I must warn you that it's mainly about how much his shoes hurt and how much nicer Norwich is than London). You can also read the story I read (and many of the pieces other people read) at Beat The Dust. Whateva.

May 06, 2009

Book Club Boutique - reading May 18th

I've not been very creative with my posting recently and once again, this one is more informational than inspirational. Nevertheless, it remains the case that I'm reading a story at the Book Club Boutique on May 18th at a night organised and curated by Tony White... Here are the details...




Plus Live Music:
THE BOOK CLUB BOUTIQUE resident band and DJ

Monday 18 May, 7 to midnight
City/Town: London, United Kingdom

It's the month of May and Beer Street beckons. There's a heatwave in Hackney, chaos in South Ken, and taking photos is close to a capital offence unless you're behind a CCTV camera, BUT 'Wherever the readers of this INVITE find themselves, it may be assumed that we all agree an interest in the streets of London...' and there's a plentiful supply of ales and wines at Dick's Bar on Romilly Street for LONDON SHORT STORY NIGHT presented by THE BOOK CLUB BOUTIQUE

Monday, May 18, 2009. 7-midnight

Featuring readings that are pop-song length from:

Will Ashon (I've cut the rest, cos I figure if you're reading this you can probably work out who I am).

Lana Citron is author of five novels, Sucker, Spilt Milk, Transit, The Honey Trap and The Brodsky Touch. Her writing has been described as ‘wicked but affectionate satire,’ Daily Telegraph, ‘genuinely witty and original,’ Literary Review, and, ‘totally compelling,’ novelist Scarlett Thomas. Not one to blow her own trumpet, Citron's other works include short stories, poetry, plays and the award-winning short film, ‘I was the Cigarette Girl.’

Matthew De Abaitua's debut novel The Red Men (Snow Books) was shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke award and described by Will Self as, 'Sumptuously written, with prose that glitters with a dark lustre like a Damien Hirst fly collage.' Matthew is interviewed by 3am Magazine here.

Salena Godden almost needs no introduction here, google her if you don't believe us: poet, singer with Saltpeter, producer and host of the Book Club Boutique. Her myspace page is here.

Tony White is the author of novels including Foxy-T (Faber & Faber), described by Toby Litt as 'one of the best London novels you'll ever get to read'. More on Foxy-T Mhere. Last year Tony was writer in residence at the Science Museum and he'll be reading from Albertopolis Disparu, the short story pamphlet they've just published for free. Here's what the Londonist said: 'Weirdly brilliant steampunk thing... Anyone who loves alternative versions of London a la Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore should get their hands on Albertopolis Disparu.'

So quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee, and successfully advance to LONDON SHORT STORY NIGHT at Dick's Bar on Monday, May 18, 2009 as part of THE BOOK CLUB BOUTIQUE. (Guardian recommended!).

April 28, 2009

Doom & Gloom - a post for Spotify users

It started as a collection of the work of MF Doom, but when I realised there wasn't enough on Spotify for a really good overview it transmuted into a recession-themed Doom & Gloom playlist. "Enjoy"!

April 26, 2009

Recent reads - Aira, Waugh, Akutagawa, Nabokov, Hamilton, Boll, Achebe and a badly-dressed Fitzgerald

I've not really been keeping up with my reading, or at least, not on reporting it. So here is a brief series of highlights. (A completely pointless exercise as I never say anything interesting about books, but, ah, sigh, there you are...):
Cesar Aira - "How I Became A Nun." I was very taken with this book. It's very funny and disturbing but not in any of the ways those words are usually applied. It's a little like a slightly inconsequential dream you almost remember but which makes you feel weird all day. All the same, I don't think even cover quotes from Bolaño are going to make Aira a household name - too weird (for which, more power).
Evelyn Waugh - "A Handful of Dust". I've always been a bit sniffy about Mr Waugh (blame that whole 80s Brideshead thing) but Ms Melissa Xrabit said it was her favourite book and I read it and I have to say it was fucking storming. Funny, strange, upsetting and all those good, unsettling things.
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa - "Rashōmon and Seventeen Other Stories". A superb collection of Akutagawa's short stories, moving from his early recasting of Japanese folk tales up to his final, painful, suicidal, autobiographical works like "Spinning Gears" and the cold-as-ice "Life of A Stupid Man". Thanks to StuB for the gift.
Vladimir Nabokov - "Laughter In The DarK". I'd only really ever read late Nabokov, but someone up the road from us was giving away books and I got this. As you'd expect it's beautifully written, very funny and really quite horrible and, if the neatness of the ending gives it a genre feel, that's all the better as a cautionary tale for middle aged men contemplating going off the rails...
Patrick Hamilton - "Hangover Square". I can't honestly say that it's beautifully written, but it's very, very sad.
Heinrich Boll - "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum". According to my wife, when she did it for her German 'A' level it was meant to be about the mass media and tabloids etc, but it seems pretty tame on that level these days. Best read, instead, as a kind of compressed, capsule view of Germany in the early '70s. Very concisely written and also very funny...
Chinua Achebe - "No Longer At Ease". A kind of generational sequel to "Things Fall Apart." On one level a book about corruption and how we become corrupted but more than that, a book about being lost. "Real tragedy is never resolved. It goes on hopelessly forever."
Now I'm reading "The Great Gatsby" in an edition with the very worst book cover you've ever, ever seen, truly contradictory packaging... Classy stuff.

If you've been following past posts (you few, you unhappy few) you'll be shocked by the lack of detective fiction. Well, new year's resolutions are made to be blown asunder. I would apologise, but I can't...

April 22, 2009

"Tale" - new story on 3:AM

Another (very) short story up this week, this time over at 3:AM. I am pumping 'em out, though hopefully without any dreadful and catastrophic drop off in quality. Anyway, enjoy...

April 19, 2009

The Recession Session

I'm reading as part of the "Recession Sessions" this Friday night (April 24th) at the Betsey Trotwood. The evening runs from 7.30pm to 11pm and I'll be done by about 8.05pm, so get down there early if you want to catch me. If not, come later for everyone else...

April 13, 2009

The Worms - new short story

I have a new short story up at Dogmatika. It's called "The Worms" and, the first time I opened the page, Google had helpfully added an advert for vet services for dogs, hence allaying my fears about the awesome artificial intelligence they are building. Anyway, have a read, enjoy or fail to enjoy, complain vociferously abut the minutes of your life I have wasted. That alone should make it worth your time...

April 03, 2009

Random Links Galore

I'm not going to be posting for a wee while so I thought I would bombard you with a bunch of links to explore or ignore.

Check out Farafina, a Nigerian literary/cultural magazine, available to read online and with an interesting piece about Tayeb Salih, amongst other things.

Head to East London for a trip to Donlon Books for all your arty, political and theoretical needs (plus glass cases stuffed with rarities). They even have a rug on the floor.

If you read my post on Tony White's Science Musuem exploits, download Al Robertson's Pynchonian riffing on Mayan computing and then visit his blog for more.

Go to the Spill Festival, with highlights including Tim Etchells' That Night Follows Day.

Wait, barely daring to breath, for my new short story to appear on Dogmatika (if I remember to send it off.... And they still want it...)

Listen to random wibble on Spotify.

And that's it.

March 31, 2009

Tony White, Albertopolis & Green Beer

Went to the launch last night of a new pamphlet/book/story which Tony White has written as part of his duties as Writer-in-Residence at the Science Museum. Tony is probably best known for "Foxy T," which is generally considered to be one of the best books ever written about London. He is perhaps less well known for "Charlie Uncle Norfolk Tango" which is one of the best books ever written about ignorant, evil grunt policemen being abducted by aliens. His new story, "Albertopolis Disparu," is a sly and funny little pastiche of steam-punk, taking in Moorcock, difference engines, early telegraphy and the idea of the Listening Post (derived from this excellent installation, in front of which the launch took place and which the story is partly a response to). Five thousand copies have been printed, to be given out free at the Science Museum, but you can also get a pdf of it here. But that is not all (no that is not all). Tony also ran a series of workshops with writers during his residency and four of them read from the work that resulted. I haven't read them in their entirety yet, but the tasters were good and you can also download them from the same place. Ended up going to the pub afterwards, witnessing the horror of green beer and arriving home drunk and hungry. My stomach is a cauldron of regret.

March 27, 2009

Bolaño, N+1 - The Bad and Ugly

Two slightly contrasting pieces from N+1, which have been around for a while, both of which seem as interested in the US "canonization" of the dead Chilean as they do in the work. There's a proper bit of Devil's Advocacy going on here, though this one decides he's worth it and this one decides he ain't. Full marks for contrarian zeal, but I can't help feeling that the "No" camp gets a little carried away, making much of what a hard read the book is and spouting this kind of vile insult: "2666 is a desert of negative space covered with smudges and chaotic scrawls." To me that just makes it sound even better. Maybe that's where I part company from both the sanctifiers and hired oppositionalists.

March 26, 2009

Post-Lasdun & Post-Apocalypse

So the next James Lasdun story on R4, "Totty," was a disappointment after the magnificence of "Annals of the Honorary Secretary". It was fine as a fairly conventional short story, I guess, but, unless I missed something, offered little more. Mind you, it was read by Greta Scacchi and she wasn't a patch on Bill Paterson's deadpan delivery, so maybe the comparison is unfair. Shame, I guess, but not the end of the world...

Incidentally (what a segue!), AbeBooks have just put up a mini-feature on post-apocalyptic fiction. What larks!