Tuesday, 30 September 2008
I'm currently a commercial failure.
It feels a lot like trapped wind.
I'm reading Mysteries by Knut Hamsun.
I always feel good when I read Knut Hamsun.
Though so far I don't think it is his best work.
I saw Patrick Wolf the other day. Not in concert, just in the street.
I like his album Wind In The Wires a lot.
I couldn't really comment on his other works.
Monday, 29 September 2008
I want to write some new novels but I should probably take of the old ones first.
Actually I want to live in a log cabin in Iceland, but that can wait.
Adelle got sent an advance copy of Down And Out On Murder Mile, the second full novel by our pal and fellow Brutalist poet Tony O'Neill. I'm reading it now. It's good. It's out in November on Harper Collins and you can read all about it - and see Tony read some extracts - on his site.
My friends Death Of London (who features former members of Captains Of Industry recordings artistes Team) have made a great animated video for their single Keys To The Zoo. It has big riffs and an air of animal snuff about it. The way I've been feeling about our fair capital recently Death Of London is a pretty good name too. Here is the video.
Friday, 26 September 2008
and then I looked and it is only eight days. That's not so long.
Although they say a week is a long time in politics, so maybe
it is in the real world too. In those eight days: the economy
has collapsed, I went home to Durham, slept lots, went fishing
with Davey James (see forthcoming novel), swapped 50 crap
books for 10 good books (Jean Genet, HE Bates, Jean Rhys,
something about gypsies, etc), started reading The Icelandic
Sagas, felt 'anxious', stopped feeling anxious, cycled 35 miles,
sorted through 10 years worth of CDs, thought about writing
a poem about a cornfield then decided against it, saw a rabbit,
saw a stoat, saw a cat, saw some family and friends, ate a
peshwari nan, worried about health, contemplated the 'future',
realised such thoughts can be futile so rejected all thoughts of
the future beyond the weekend, went to Tadcaster, went to
Newcastle, went to Alnwick, came back to London and,
perhaps most importantly, bought some ear candles. That's it.
(pictured: faintly amused girl I don't know w/ ear candle)
Thursday, 18 September 2008
Friday, 12 September 2008
in early June I've been working on writing
projects every day for seven months now.
I think it's time for a rest. So I'm going to Iceland
for a short while. The country, not the supermarket.
Consequently "I'm not here".
It's also Roald Dahl's birthday tomorrow.
Roald Dahl was a dude. I wrote this
article for The Guardian in celebration.
Thursday, 11 September 2008
On a very, very different note, Michael Collins, also of The Guardian, has made an interesting short film about the Thamesmead estate on south-east London, a few miles down the road from where I live. Thamesmead was built 40 years ago as a town planners futuristic utopia and is perhaps most memorable as the location of some of the key scenes in A Clockwork Orange. What the town planners overlooked however was a basic lack of infra-structure, and the possibility that humans don't like to live in concrete rabbit warrens and sky-high blocks. I went there around about the time this film was made and felt utterly depressed by what I saw and just how wrong the architects got it. You can view the film here
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Monday, 8 September 2008
the Manic Street Preachers, then I went
off them mainly because - well - they went a
bit boring and there were better bands to listen
to. Recently I've found myself thinking about
Richey Edwards quite a bit and now I've got
back "into" them - their earlier songs anyway.
Here they are playing 'Faster' at Glastonbury 1994.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
Friday, 5 September 2008
Thursday, 4 September 2008
I think this week is probably one of those times. I think
it is down to a number of factors coalescing into one
big hunk of nothingness that lodges in your throat
like a baguette swallowed sideways.
Those factors might include:
a) this shitty weather that heralds the end of a summer
that never happened.
b) the recent completion of a book I've spent 15 months
working on and the inevitable creative void that follows.
c) the outrageous slings and arrows of misfortune hurled
by internet lurkers who don't normally get me down but,
who, if you hang around The Guardian blogs often enough,
slowly begin to gnaw away at your spirit like malevolent
beavers in the darkness of night.
d) the 'internet' in general.
e) world politics / the credit crunch / having to pay 50p for
g) the endless hustle of trying to find work, doing work, and then
spending 3 months trying to get paid for said work.
h) thieves. Thieves worldwide.
i) Rock Of Love with Bret Michaels (Series 2).
j) men who drive white vans and who beep their horn and
make gun-shot motions with their hands because I don't
drive fast enough for their liking in 20mph zones.
k) that junkie guy who wanted to punch me on Saturday.
l) in fact, 73.4% of people in London at the moment
m) six varieties of tax.
n) "indie" music circa 2007-2008.
o) the crap weather again.
p) dead cats.
q) The entire US presidential election campaign apart from
- hopefully - the outcome.
r) Facebook 'gifts'.
s) MySpace emo bands.
t) some other stuff, none of which really matters in the grand
scheme of things.
I'm sure it'll pass in a day or two though.
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Time to rediscover the glory of chapbooks
It is sometimes easy to forget about chapbooks in an era of immediate online publishing and personalised literary blogs - a modern environment where any poem, review or piece of short fiction can be published the moment it is finished. Yet, against all the odds, somewhere within this grip of modernity, the age-old chapbook continues to delight and inform.
Over the bank holiday weekend, I spent many an hour reading the diverse collection of poetry chapbooks Blackheath Books had recently sent me.
The first thing I did before reading them, was marvel at the sheer beauty of these things. The feel of them, the texture and quality is just right. Each Blackheath chapbook is handmade and "printed on 100% recycled paper and card containing a high percentage of post-consumer waste", according to the inside front cover. If you want to get an idea of how much love and attention goes into producing each chapbook, just watch this wonderful short video of a batch in production at Blackheath Books' workshop in Pembrokeshire.
It isn't all that surprising chapbooks are still popular today as they have been around for a rather long time. Records a mere click away report the earliest known chapbooks dating from as far back as 1553. In the days when daily newspapers were a luxury for the elite, handmade chapbooks - from collections of bawdy verse to general everyday news - served as the only communicative device for the general public to rely upon.
Literature as we know it, in terms of its underground distribution, just couldn't have survived without the original 'chapmen' who peddled issues from village to village, it seems, so culturally indebted to them are we and important their history is. The samizdats of Russia, the poetry chapbooks of Budapest and Prague, the Dadaist manifestos, the counter-culture publications of the '60s and the Punk era's cut-and-paste ferocity of 'Sniffin' Glue' all spring to mind. Amazingly, it seems that even the most internet savvy of young writers are publishing their own chapbooks today, with some interesting titles, for example: 'I Will Unfold You With My Hairy Hands' by Shane Jones, 'Paul Simon' by Chris Killen, 'The Name Of This Band Is The Talking Heads Vol. 1' by Zachary German.
The first chapbooks I ever bought were back in the early '90s. In fact, my first ever piece of published work - complete with glaring typo (how 'chapbook' is that) - appeared in issue 25 of 'The Kerouac Connection', a serious publication with a worldwide readership and contributions from writers such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Carolyn Cassady. It was painstakingly printed and stapled together up in Glasgow of all places. I'm sure it's moved stateside now.
I was first introduced to the wondrously savage early writing of novelist Ellis Sharp, whose Malice Aforethought Press chapbooks were a real inspiration and are highly sought after today. Chapbooks have been part of my life ever since. Life honestly wouldn't be the same for me without yet another individually produced Stewart Home chapbook dropping through my letterbox - and long may it continue.
So, Blackheath Books has to be celebrated in these increasingly digital times for standing up to progress and retaining a firm footing in a publishing environment that finds itself in a constant state of flux, and saluted for publishing a series of beautifully produced chapbooks that refreshingly continue a worthwhile tradition in the underground dissemination of literature.
As a chapbook enthusiast, I'm asking you to list your favourite chapbooks. I want to expand my chapbook library, you see. I know there are myriads out there just waiting to be discovered. Let's rediscover the literary chapbook together.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
Monday, 1 September 2008
I met with my new UK agent last week. My first UK agent in fact. It's exciting. I'm in that strange limbo-land of finishing writing a book and having tonnes of ideas for new ones. I'm averaging about two a day at the moment.
I've been invited to go and see lots of bands play but I just haven't felt like it recently. I just feel like staying in and reading The Damned United by David Peace. It's one of the best books I've read in a while.
Adelle and I went adventuring in London though. I like the fact that after 11 years of living here I'm still discovering tonnes of great new places, like The Hunterian Museum, which is in Lincoln's In The Fields square, and is full of pickled body parts, surgical equipmen, mad medical stuff and really nice staff. Across the square is the John Soanes Museum, which houses one of the greatest private collections of antiquities in Britain. Maybe even the world. The whole day was like stepping back in time by about 100-150 years, when real men wore tweed and sported whiskers. Both of these museums are free. Which is amazing. So there is such a thing is a free lunch.
The piece I wrote about mountains for The Guardian (see below) was trailed on their website's front page for a while. Alongside horrendous news about Hurricane Gustav, the threat of nuclear war and the usual foreign policy atrocities was a nice picture of a big mountain and a user's comment "Ben, You must not read books and climb mountains at the same time." I'd like to think that, in some indirect way, the piece lightened the load slightly. I know that I have to limit my daily news intake lest I become utterly depressed.
Talking of which on Saturday night I narrowly avoided a confrontation with a junkie in a pink baseball cat after his unleashed Staffordshire bull terrier killed my neighbours' 18 year old blind cat, before he fled, leaving a group of children and their mother crying their eyes out. When we followed him to the local pub and verbally took him to task he threated me, then did a runner by hiding in a garden. The police were called but never bothered to show up, or return our calls. Quelle fucking surprise.
Fellow Brutalist Tony O'Neill's new book Down & Out On Muder Mile is getting great advance reviews. Click here for more info.
I'm still writing tonnes of poems from inside the head of Axl Rose. It's weird. A poetic compulsion. But I can seem to stop.
I still can't believe it is September.