Wednesday, 30 January 2008

January 2008 Reading List



Just to up the geek-dom ante slightly and in the interest of nothing in particular I thought I would keep a track of the books I'm reading over the coming months.

Exclusing the books I've half-read, here then is a list for Janaury 2008.

Repossesed: Shamanic Depressions in Tamworth & London (1983-89) by Julian Cope
Dreamers by Knut Hamsun
Lanzarote by Michel Houellebecq
The Books Of Albion by Peter Doherty
Collected Poems by Li Po
A Country Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Rock reckonings and recollections


In October 1997 I was 21, drunk, stupid, fresh out of college and working as staff writer at Melody Maker. Someone at the paper heard about the Dracula Festival in Whitby and decided I should dress up as a sort of baroque goth, hire a car, drive up there and interview a bunch of aging goths like Christian Death, then write about it. So, armed with more drugs that was probably neccessary for an overnight stay, me and ace photographer Lili Wilde did just that. Many things happened that night which I shall write about one day; no sleep was had and all I remember is dancing to techno from a car stereo alone in a suburban street. The story will make 'Fear & Loathing...' look like the Highway Code. Anyway, ten years on, I just got sent this picture (above) from Lili today.

Post-script: none of the Whitby goths had made an effort so I felt a bit silly.

It was a fun night and if you squint at the picture it looks a bit like I'm actually flying - which I was, just not physically.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Regional accents: what's yours?


I've written a blog piece about the
diversity of regional accents in
British pop music for The Guardian.

You can read it with your eyes here:

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/01/it_was_while_listening_to.html

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Monday, 21 January 2008

"It's better to be talked about than not talked about at all," said Oscar Wilde to an empty room, bless him.


Someone who draws cocks for a living has just written a review of my first novel 'The Book Of Fuck'. It is the easily most scathing review I've ever had and the first time I've been called 'fuck-face' in print and I feel quite good about it.

What's puzzling though is why he has just decided to review a book that came out nearly five years ago, and furthermore why he decided to compare it to one of Jack Kerouac's weaker works, 'On The Road'.

To me, that's like reviewing the first Libertines album today, and complaining that it doesn't taste like a cheeseburger, or is not as good as rain.

Keep up, man - it's 2008!

Anyway the review is here: http://everydayyeah.com/content/review-book-fuck-ben-myers

Or here it is in full:


Review: The Book of Fuck by Ben Myers
By Zac Forsburg

Since Ben Myers includes the word "fuck" in the title of his doorstop, The Book of Fuck, I will use it (in all its forms) shamelessly in this fucking review. Ben Myers... Ben Fucking Myers... Where do I start? Oh, I know: the title. This is perhaps the most appropriate titling of a book since, Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, or Tony D'Souza's Whiteman. Replace "Fuck" with "Shit" and it would hold the record for "Most Appropriate Title in World History." So what piece-of-fuck chestnuts of literature and culture lie behind the cover of this fucking waste of a tree? None.

Writing a book in a week (as Myers claims to have done) is an accomplishment if and only if the final product is worth reading, which this ass-wiper is not. Dear readers, please understand that as I type the rest of this paragraph I will be cringing at my own comparisons and praying fervently that a pissed-off alcoholic ghost won't haunt me in my fucking sleep tonight. Caveat sufficing, I bring your attention to Jack Kerouac's On the Road. "What do these two novels have in common?" one might ask. I assure you, there aren't many similarities (at least not in the quality of prose). However, both
1. Were written in a relatively short period of time.
2. Attempt to compare/associate certain music subcultures with a particular lifestyle: On the Road- jazz to the drifter/beatnik, Book of Fuck- punk rock to the poor urban artist.
3. Unashamedly discuss drug and alcohol use/abuse.
4. Have three-word titles.
5. Were read by my friend Ed.
6. Probably spark heated pseudo-intellectual discussions in high school hallways and on college campuses.
7. Only really appeal to people who know absolutely nothing about (or have never experienced anything like) the subjects' experiences.

The main difference between these two books? One is good, the other fucking sucks. Sure, On the Road feels rushed at points. One can't read it in the same way as a conventional novel. There are, however, pages and pages of beautiful writing in Kerouac's novel. Book of Fuck is like the On the Road for assholes and mentally retarded people. Myers seems to consider himself some sort of rebellious, new-writer-on-the-block for completing this shit-pile in a week. That is just fucking stupid as fuck. People have been completing great works of art and literature under time constraints since ever, fuck-face! That's what artists do: produce art. Praising Ben Myers as a talented writer for this paper-weight is like heralding my two-year-old's latest macaroni necklace as a future trend in high fashion. Imagine every negative aspect of reading Kerouac and multiply it by ten. Then subtract all the positives and you'll have this waste-of-effort by Ben Myers. If you haven't read Kerouac but just loved a book like Trainspotting, you might be the kind of person who could appreciate Myers' travesty.

I have been poor. I have abused illicit substances. I have listened to shitty music and thought it was great for way too many years of my life. I have been close with the kind of people Myers writes about. It gets old. Maybe if I read this book as a fourteen-year-old, yearning to leave suburbia for a place where other kids wear chucks and safety pins, I'd react differently. The truth is that this book should appeal to only the very least intelligent members of a very specific audience. Anyone else who finds anything worth reading or discussing in this kindling is lucky that natural selection hasn't yet decimated his/her gene pool.

Oh yeah, and I wrote this whole fucking review in 11 minutes.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Hurry Up Scientists

and invent a cure
for the common cold
because I feel like
a dog log dipped
in broken glass.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Sell! Sell! Sell!: the murky world of advertising, writing and hustling yo' sweet ass

'Copywriting is still writing'

Ben Myers

Lots of writers have resorted to advertising for a living. Just how different are the disciplines?


The life of a full-time writer, as we know, is very rarely one of luxury. Work is sporadic, pay (if it comes) low and each new month sees the start of a desperate new hustle. For the self-employed writer, benefits such as pension, insurance and paid holidays are replaced by paranoia, insecurity and the various vices that self-employment allows.

Personally I've lived from week to week for nine years now. And though for the most part I love it, when the taxman comes a-knocking (as he always does in January) I know I'm not the only self-employed writer who finds themselves biting the bullet and chasing the buck. Now, everyone knows unless you're John Grisham or JK Rowling there's little to be made from writing fiction. Journalism brings in an average part-time income and poetry pays - almost invariably - nothing.

Instead, struggling writers have often turned to what is often perceived as the last resort of creative authorship: advertising copywriting. Many writers have churned out lines to help companies sell their wares, especially since consumerism went into overdrive in the 20th century.

The best known example is probably Fay Weldon, who before becoming one of the UK's most successful female authors enjoyed a successful career writing corporate copy, including being involved in the creation of the slogan "Go to work on an egg". "Advertising was the only thing I could do in order to earn a decent enough living," said Weldon.

I can sympathise. When your only skill and experience is in writing, you'll use it any way you can. Recently I've found myself doing corporate copywriting. And though the accelerated worlds of sales and branding are not places you want to linger, copywriting can be as valid a literary discipline as any.

Coming up with a 10-word slogan to lure customers to spend is little different from writing a short poem about love. Both require the writer to be deft and convincing, to communicate as economically as possible. Naturally it helps if you believe in what you're selling, though unlike poetry, it is not a prerequisite. Top copywriters should be able to sell the proverbial coals to Geordies. Perhaps - and this is just a theory - it was corporate copywriting that refined the linguistic dexterity of Salman Rushdie, who spent large parts of the 1970s writing copy, or Peter Mayle, who successfully sold the "concept" of rural life in France to the English middle classes in his biographical book A Year In Provence.

Further research reveals many more authors who have been closeted copywriters and/or advertising executives - Joseph Heller (whose phrase Catch-22 has like the most effective slogans entered the language), Meg Rosoff of this parish, Don DeLillo, William Burroughs, Dorothy L Sayers, Ogden Nash, Victor Pelevin, Dashiell Hammett, Antonia White, Augusten Burroughs and - pleasingly - Frank Zappa.

Perhaps, then, a copywriter is no worse than an author? Whether it's a "revolutionary" new razor with quadruple-blade action, a running shoe or a romantic thriller set in Tuscany, the writer's job is to make a fantasy world seem tangible, to make something out of nothing. The main difference is the copywriter may not believe in that something, especially if, like me, they despise all advertising and will opt for the "no frills" option out of spite to the brand-happy marketing men.

It's only when you consider the years of meetings, focus groups, demographical pie-charts, power lunches and all-round "blue sky thinking" that they must have had to endure that you understand not only how - but why - they became masters of fiction.


(Written for The Guardian: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/01/copywriting_is_still_writing.html)

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Belief In God Is So Adorable

Coming soon on my label, Captains Of Industry.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Ukranian Water-colours

Dina in the Ukraine mailed me a picture of myself today.
A water-colour.
It's strange receiving a painting of yourself.
A little unnerving.
A little wow.
I think that’s what I said.
“Wow,”
like a home-seeker on a Channel 4 property programme.
I've never met Dina, though she had told me she was painting a picture of my face.
I thought she was joking.
"Ha, ha, ha" I wrote.
That was me indicating a sense of humour.
That's what you do on the internet in the 21st century.
"Ha, ha, ha," like an idiot.
3 months later the painting arrived like a postcard from the 17th dimension.
Like a post-Communist tractor with Communist dirt in its treads.
It only cost me a book.
A book that I had written.
I'd happily write a book for another water colour.
Here it is.
All the way from the Ukraine, via the sky.


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Local Headline Of The Day

UNICORN SIGHTING
IN BERMONDSEY.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Friday, 11 January 2008

Keith


RIP Keith Baxter.
1971 - 2008.




Wednesday, 9 January 2008

'Sad Tree Surgeon Story'

'Sad Tree Surgeon' is a new story I've written for Beat The Dust literary zine.

Actually, I wrote it in 2005 and it is in my forthcoming novel. But it's still new.

You can read it here:
http://www.melissamann.com/beat-the-dust.asp

Or as part of the Beat The Dust chapbook here:
http://www.melissamann.com/downloads/beatthedust/beatthedustchapbookjan08.pdf

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Wearing A Hat And Shivering Meekly

For one week only you can see
a picture of me wearing a hat
and shivering meekly,
on The Guardian website.

It was taken at The Angel
Of The North, which I'm
ashamed to say I only visited
for the first time last week.

It's to accompany their
regular 'What I'm Up To'
column and it is scattered
through the Arts / Blogs section.

I've also written a new piece
about music TV, Ian Svenonius
and some other stuff:

Here hair here:
http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/01/the_music_programme_tv_just_ca.html


PS. Is it wrong to listen
to Fairport Convention?

Monday, 7 January 2008

'Reverse Poem'

I’m a know it
and I didn’t
even poet.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

'Say It With Flowers'

Fuck off
and leave
me alone


ornately arranged
by our instore
professionals.

Friday, 4 January 2008

What I Did On My Holidays


Happy new year.
Let us grapple.