Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Attack of the Nanodross

Listen up, homies: I hate writing flash fiction. It’s true. I especially HATE penning that most egregious blight on civilisation: the drabble.

Writing an amusing blip of fiction in one hundred words can be a strenuous task. For the writer who thrives on endless tangents, long-winded sentences and paragraphs big enough to house five immigrants, the drabble is my natural archenemy.

So what’s the big deal? It’s only 100 words, after all. Well, in the space of these 100 words, the writer is required to tell a complete story, introduce a fully rounded character and put him through the emotional meat-grinder, be amusing and clever, AND end on an ‘awww’ or ‘ooohh’ climax.

Screw this. The drabble boils down all I despise about airport fiction: the constant reader fellatio. Leaping through hoops to keep the reader grinning like a willing fellatee. Of course we must please the reader, but we should make love to them slowly, not tongue them to climax in one great über-lick.

So, I ask thee: what is wrong with looooooooooooooong sentences that jab the reader repeatedly like a boxer pummelling through the sallow face of his opponent until tears and blood ooze out in gloops of cathartic horror? Must we embrace this obsession with miniaturisation, conciseness and teensy-weensy Twitterpated blah-blah?

What's next? Shrinking novels down to the size of peanuts or stories imprinted on the bodies of centipedes? Isn’t there a danger literature will get so small, we won’t be able to find it?

In Japan, the top ten bestsellers are nano-books – novels delivered in instalments through text messages. Is having a one-second attention span to be applauded? Do these pocket-sized burps of feel-good fiction help disseminate good writing to a wider audience? These are the questions. What are the answers?

I dunno. For now, so long as I have a flash fiction assignment, I will retain my prejudices against the humble drabble until someone enlightens me as to their purpose with a strong argument in the comment box.

While we wait, here is a picture of a nice lady holding a flan.


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A Diverting But Intellectually Hollow Blog Post


We live in an age of overwhelming paranoia and self-awareness. Well, I do, at least.

This morning, I was musing (over some muesli) on the role of self-awareness in contemporary fiction. Ever since
Dave Eggers legitimised the role of the twitchily self-conscious narrator in his Promethean doorstopper A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, millions of would-be staggering geniuses have dabbled in the realm of ‘self-aware’ fiction, or ‘metafiction’ as some label it – I don’t. Then again, I am a bespectacled bumfinger.

Now, you might be wondering why I put myself down like that. Well, I’ll tell you, dopey-doo. This self-deprecating character trait is infiltrating our books! In life, we are surrounded by hundreds of people who are unsure of themselves: charming folks who are constantly aware of being found out to be hopeless, incompetent and ludicrously idiotic. This is understandable. We are. I am.

In the olden days, we bit our tongue and carried on regardless, hoping no one would out us as useless. Nowadays, we express our fears through giddiness and excessive dithering – “Oh, what do I do? Oh, what if I mess it up? Oh, I’m such a clumsy idiot!” – as though we’re living in a Jennifer Aniston vehicle. Well, I do.

So how does this impede upon fiction? Well, I recently wrote a book addressing this question: what if fiction meta-stasises itself so much, we reach a state of pretentious deadlock? A neverending cycle of continuous self-referential hogwash – a self-regurgitating series of books referencing themselves, the other books being written during the writing of these books, and the books about books that attempt to be books in their own right. Still with me? No? I don’t blame you.

My book was an (attempted) satire on Eggers’ hatched phenomenon. Although it’s amusing to have books poking fun at themselves and other books – there becomes a point when this grows tiresome. Like the person constantly questioning their every move and requiring reassurance about the quality of their actions (how we love a pat on the head from time to time), after two weeks in their company, you want to stab their nipples off.

I believe we live in an age permeated by so much self-awareness, and literary awareness (esp. the nothing-is-new-only-reworked syndrome), that the future of fiction will fork out twofold: self-consciously throwback novels. i.e. novels that acknowledge their tradition and attempt new things, and self-consciously ‘original’ novels. i.e. novels that acknowledge their form and arrogantly attempt to prove there is still such a concept as literary innovation.

The latter is the most reassuring to me. True innovators can whiff out a passé trend at fifty paces and pioneer their own cutthroat ideas that go on to spawn the next passé trend. So, although literature might stumble from one passé trend to the other, while this trend is new, dazzling and original, we should appreciate it as a temporal but outstanding piece of genius, and lap it up. The greatest crime of the novelist is mining the same concept ad nauseam. Diversification is good, silly-cheeks.

Then again, I am so enamoured with the self-referential quirks of modern fiction, I doubt these will escape my writing for quite some time. For, as you might have been able to detect by my overwhelming use of the word ‘self’ – there is no one more interesting to write about than me.

May fiction crawl inside itself and snuggle up tight for many years to come.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Inseminate the Dropouts!


Where I come from, the secrets of the universe are found nestled between fag ash and spilt cider. The path to truth and enlightenment is buried beneath a burnt out Ford Fiesta and the road to happiness is littered with poo-filled potholes and malnourished dogs.

Perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps the scenic vista of the local youth club – renowned for its popular stabbings – or the condemned corner shop where teens go to smoke dope and spit at things is vastly underrated. Perhaps.

However, it has come to my attention recently that too many fourteen-year-old girls have been getting pregnant ‘round my (former) way. And, as an alumnus of this village, I should have the civic responsibility to confront this depressing trend and come up with a solution. Or not.

See, I have conflicting thoughts about my hometown. Firstly, my parents – who are pretty good guys – live there. Likewise, my aunts and uncles and cousins and sisters do too. Good guys. However, I can’t help but find it rather amusing it when news of civilisation crumbling reaches a place I know. Perhaps it’s pride.

Hurrah, I think. My village is the crummiest in the country! We have the most pregnant aimless self-loathing junkies in the whole of the UK! Go hometown, go hometown! This is amusing. It is also amusing since I know these ne’er-do-wells are hardly a threat. See, much is made about aimless school leavers turning to crime and drugs.

Crime, admittedly, is the one downside to the dropout culture. However, teenagers on dope shagging each other and spitting out sprogs are the sweetest little fuckers in the world! Oh, sure… they’re about as pleasant as a deep-fried testicle slathered in vinegar, but… bound together in a mutually hopeless situation, cashless, stressed out, and doped-up… they’re cutie-pies! They might ask you for a tenner for dope or nappies, but they aren’t going to shoot your granny.

So I say… let’s keep the current generation of teen mums and dads tucked in smelly slums on copious amounts of dope and let the government’s rehabilitation and hardship schemes take care of the infant later.

Viva la backwater shitehole!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

The Realm of the Pendulous Beard


Obsessive behaviour has always permeated my life in some guise, whether it be obsessively reworking an evil sentence that refuses to make grammatical sense, obsessively following a woman until she looks me in the eye, or obsessively tidying every square inch of my flat so it remains cleaner than a nun’s bumhairs. Obsessive behaviour is my friend. A strange and comforting friend with warm, yet invasive, arms.

However, I never thought I would end up as one of those gin-huffing obsessives I used to spy in indie record shops – frog-chinned saps flicking idly through the dusty vinyl for pressings of an ancient Lionel Ritchie EP only released in Singapore and sold to three people during the bubonic plague. These men, with their pendulous beards and their searching blank eyes, were to me – at best – a curio. One of life’s many burps of comic tragedy.

Then, as I mused on these hairy sound-lurkers some more, their lives began to fascinate me. These men, it seemed, were hanging on to last vestige of a faded fantasy life, one soundtracked by the perma-tanned pop divas of yesteryear who have long since retired their ivory pipes for catheters and stair lifts. These men represented the need to cling on to a golden age, or an age romanticised as golden, merely since it resides in the surreal backwaters of their youth.

When I listen to the music of
Vashti Bunyan, I am transported to an era I have never encountered: a hazy dream of an idealistic 1960s – a romanticised country retreat where the simple pleasures of lapping streams, glittering icy mountain peaks, and quaint evenings spent reading by the fire, fill my days. I attribute this sickly pleasure to moments in my own youth: the splendour of an endless childhood winter, the longing to regress to a carefree life, and a general disdain for adulthood I have carried into… adulthood. Also, reading the sentimental fiction of Lewis Grassic Gibbon has scarred me.


Anyway, the point is… I’ve been on the Bunyan hunt now for almost a month. For those unfamiliar with Vashti, she released the timeless folk masterpiece Just Another Diamond Day in 1970, which stands alone in its impenetrable beauty and haunting transcendence. Since then, she has recorded another album, Lookaftering, plus a handful of miscellaneous tracks with other artists, and it is these songs I am trying to attain.

It’s not easy for the completist in this frugal climate. Especially the completist with a limited budget of £2.50. This obsession to find everything began when
FatCat Records released the splendid collection of 1960s Vashti material Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind in 2007. However, as a nasty marketing ruse, they released TWO versions – one with no bonus tracks and an expensive limited edition with four (not very impressive) bonus tracks.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't have bothered me, but one of these tracks, ‘I Won’t Say’ was an unreleased demo unavailable elsewhere. I began to wonder: What if this song was earth-shatteringly beautiful? What is this was the greatest Vashti performance ever and I was missing out? What if in the future I become obsessed and replace my old copy anyway? So I shelled out the £10 extra for these four tracks. When I got the CD, the tune was quietly beautiful, but the original source tape cut out towards the end, ruining the impact of the song. Bastards!

This burning need to find every Vashti performance eventually crept up on me after I went to see her in concert. This was, of course, the best gig I had ever been to (and the cheapest) – a moving set of her finest songs delivered with the most incredible humour and gentleness. So that was it. I had to find everything she had ever released.

I soon discovered the plight of the curio-finder. Tracks appear on obscure EPs, then are re-recorded on full-length albums, or are unavailable for some reason for large periods of time. And then there’s locating bootlegs of live performances which, as any collector will tell you, is harder than finding good quality heroin. Plus, there are one-off songs on compilations, or guest appearances on terrible albums. It all adds up to a hole in my wallet.

The good news is: all I need now are three tracks Vashti recorded with singer Anthony Reynolds, and my search is complete. These tracks, together with the dozen or so others, will comprise the ‘lost’ Vashti album I will spin until my ears die of pleasure.

I have also learned to respect the weary vinyl-hunters, who nowadays ply their trade online, and have found a home for their obsession through the accommodating world of internet forums. God bless the bearded freaks.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Gleaned Genius (Pt 2)


In 1960, François Le Lionnais and Raymond Queneau formed – when it was still possible to do such things – the most radical and inventive literary movement of the last half-century: the OuLiPo (or Oulipo).

The movement is still going strong today, and involves (mainly French) boffins – mathematicians, dextrous wordsmiths and poets – composing constraint-based fiction. That is, fiction with one crippling or impossible constraint, such as
Georges Perec’s lipogrammatic epic A Void: the only novel ever to be published without a single letter E.

The idea of the movement is to smash through one’s existing perceptions of the limitations of writing and to attempt something utterly different. To test one’s idea of what can and cannot be done. In this respect, the Oulipo philosophy is accessible to all writers.

To the outsider (or reader), the Oulipo movement might be perceived as a convoluted headache: a bunch of intellectual behemoths waggling their enormous brains before the reader, flaunting their cleverness in unreadable and confounding texts. Yes. This is an issue.

However, for all their (often sublime and hilarious) indulgence, erudition and staggering technical genius, there is a simple underlying truth in their outlook. The writer entrenched in their own style will inevitably become predictable and banal. Imposing a constraint upon one’s writing – whether it’s beginning every chapter with ‘b’ or writing an entire palindromic novel – forces the writer to confront originality, to be daring and fresh by challenging their own limitations. Which is hardly a crime now, is it?

My favourite Oulipian writer is Queneau (pictured above), whose landmark text
Exercises in Style should be made compulsory reading for every emerging writer. In this book, he rewrites the same mundane story – boarding the ‘S’ bus and getting his toe stepped on – in 99 different styles, demonstrating the vast creative scope available to a writer who adopts a constraint.

Some doubters dismiss these constraints as gimmicks. Those doubters should be shot. Or, at least, ought to loosen up and experiment with adapting their own style into these constraints. More to come on this theme.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Bulgakov: Master Satirist


Mikhail Bulgakov is one of the most overlooked Russian satirists/geniuses of the 20th century.

I’ve read two works of his now, and both have floored me with the scathing cleverness of their satire, the sheer originality of their ideas, and the fact that both these Russian texts – written during Stalin’s reign – are instantly accessible to the modern reader.

The Heart of a Dog (1925) is a short blast against the ‘New Soviet Man’ – a comment on the declining power of Communism and the changing tides in the Soviet power structure, which up until then, had been an excruciating series of proletarian rebellions and bourgeois sanctions.

Most importantly, though – the book is utterly hilarious. Narrated by Sharik, a stray dog hours from a chilly death on the streets of Moscow, the tale follows our mongrel hero through his rescue from the ‘mad Professor’ Preobrazhensky, his transformation from a dog into a man, to his life as an unruly proletarian scoundrel, mooching off his bourgeois masters.

The humour is mainly farcical – most certainly inspired by the work of
Nikolai Gogol, esp. his masterpiece The Overcoat. A metaphorical war between the classes ensues as Sharik tears the doctor’s flat apart, kills wandering tabbies, and lands a job for the Moscow Cleansing Department through a vengeful trade unionist seeking the haughty professor’s arrest.

Bulgakov, who spent most of his writing life as a dramatist, has a perfect ear for dialogue and captures the absurdities of his homeland with a sense of unfazed abandon. It is his fearlessness as a satirist that makes this novel such a pleasure to behold, and even more telling that it would take a further sixty-two years before this book was printed in the Soviet Union.

A man ahead of his time who defined his era so wonderfully. Read him.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Blog Etiquette with Janis Der Von Füberünter


Hallo, fish-tickling European blog visitor! I write the blogs, as I am sure you do too, ja? Over the next four chocks, I will guide you through the bumps and belches of the blogging world, and will share with you my Klugheit (intelligence) and Unterwäsche (knowledge) on the blogging scene!

1. Arrival on the blogging scene.

So, you have chosen to write a blog. Congratulations. Now… it is your task to offer something NEW to the lacklustre world of confessional blather, self-promoting über-tedium and amusing pictures of gurning kittens. Use your words, ja? Wield those words like a pirate on Vaseline! We have a saying in my hometown: Ich bin ein Arsch (the word is sacred).

2. Make blogging acquainti and read their bloggings.

So… you expect ten comments on your first post, ja? Nein! You must network. Sample the giblets of another blogger’s effort. The most loyal blogging friends are those who read your work in return on a regular basis and spread the news of your blogging snippets. Test blogging buddies! Dump those who ignore you! You will find your friends, do not worry!

3. Be friendly.

Fill your page will smiling kittens! Write amusing kibbles of thought and spurt your brain lard about the place, making sure to invite feedback! You don’t want Fräulein Der Von Füberünter to come and spank your plank, nein? Do not set your comments to the ‘approval only’ option! It makes you look like a llama licking his own anus with his tongue. Invite all comment!

4. You are not interesting!

Remember this! Give the reader something to work with, ja? We do not want to know about the size of your underpants. When you write about you, make it über-giggletime and leave scope for a dialogue. We do not care how brilliant you are! Never make your reader feel inadequate! You perp.

Thus concludes Fräulein Der Von Füberünter’s blog squirming. I invite feedback, but I will neither goose your chickens, nor essen Sie Ihre Penis (take care of your children’s socks).

Danke, word-spankers.

Friday, 18 September 2009

101 Dalliances


Dan Rhodes makes micro-fiction writing look pimps.

His lauded collection,
Anthropology, collects 101 stories, each approx 101 words (the word count isn’t rigidly adhered to), and over the course of 200 pages, breaks down the bulk of a billion novels about heartbreak, obsessive lovers, hapless male losers, and pouting femme fatales into hilarious, touching and poignant mini-stories.

I have been a doubter of micro-fiction for some time, but reading this collection has opened my eyes to the possibilities of the form. How often have you written a meandering story of some 2000 words, only to realise the idea could easily be encapsulated in one tight block of brilliance?

Rhodes takes the overdone subject matter, slathers his vignettes with wit, insight and pathos, creating a tight set fit for the modern ADHD reader.

I still abhor the prevalence of micro-fiction, esp. on the net, where everyone is meant to have the attention span of a Chelsea bimbo, but a unified collection like this is inspired. Had Rhodes written one of these pieces and posted it on a website somewhere, it would have faded into insignificance quicker than a bull’s belch – locking antlers forever with the million or so other attempts at sublime cleverness and Wildeian pithiness.

However, because Rhodes has sunk his gnashers into this mammoth undertaking – this obsessive pursuit of the ultimate conciseness – this project feels as deep as a novel or a short story.

So… hurrah to Rhodes to converting me to the form and saving me from a depressing world where anyone can commit 100 words to a 'submit' box and become a four-minute interwoob sensation. He may not have the length or breadth, but he certainly has the depth.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Gleaned Genius (Pt 1)

When I told people I was doing a Creative Writing MA, there were predictable howls of scepticism.

The consensus among the league of beleaguered writers I liaise with (and whom I love with massive slabs of affection) seems to be that writing courses are bunk, bollocks and bungleable.

I thought so too. The argument that tutors mould writers in their own image is a powerful one. How can one writer, imparting their wisdom and experience on a class, sidestep the clone treatment, subliminal or otherwise?

However, this one at Napier Uni seems to be tight. The tutors are on the same wavelength as the disillusioned doubters, and have devised an attack plan of writing that encompasses a whole smorgasbord of innovative approaches to fiction and non-fiction.

This blog will be filled with actual thoughts about writing from now on. Yes, actual thoughts, as opposed to feeble-minded rants and passive-aggressive whines. The freedom, the brilliance of using one’s brain!

Or… the tedium of navelgazing and pseudo-academic windbaggery. We’ll see. Ta-ta for now.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Rejection Missive From 322Review.org

Could this be a contender for the most generic rejection EVER?


Dear Writer,

We regret to inform you that your submission to 322 Review was not accepted for publication. However, we would like to thank you for considering our magazine, and we hope that you consider us for future submissions.

Best,

The 322 Review Editors



It's the personal touch that counts.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Mitchell Tapes [2]

In his late twenties, Mitchell Hampton was in the habit of giving live readings of esoteric 17th century poems in techno clubs around Glasgow. This one snippet finds him performing a poem by London-born poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) entitled, "A Night-Piece to Julia."

This sentimental piece sits well with the surrounding drum 'n' bass cacophony from local noisemakers The Slit Nipple. The music becomes louder towards the end, drowning out the text, but most of the original poem is intact and the crowd of stoned listeners were no doubt enthralled by Mitchell's reading.

video

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Novel-In-A-Day Fiasco

Tuesday:

I sit, barren of inspiration, at my desk, attempting to fluff up a rather generic narrative about unpleasant wankers in the publishing industry. After hours of humming and tutting and sighing I abort the project and waste as much time as it is humanly possible to waste without watching terrestrial television.

I eat a Kit-Kat. I pace around. In my inertia, I even contemplate phoning my parents for a chat. Then, in a moment of inspired stupidity, I recall a plan I once made to write an ENTIRE NOVEL IN ONE DAY.

“It can’t be done!” scoff the cynics. “You fool!” say other cynics. “Give it a go, handsome!” says my uncynical girlfriend, who wasn’t even in the room at the time. And so, armed with nothing more than a desire to unclog my barren inkwell, and to prove I am the best writer in the whole room, I vow to complete a 75,000 word novel in 24 hours.

On Friday, I would spend 23 hours writing non-stop, with two 30-minute breaks for eating and pooping. Simple. Well, not exactly.

Wednesday-Thursday:

I prepare mentally and physically for my feat by catching up on sleep, eating enough food for a week, and informing everyone that I will be incommunicado for the day and
to leave me the hell alone.

My ego inflates to ludicrous proportions. At one point, I draft up a list of writers I wipe the floor with – among them Dickens, Shakespeare and Cartland. I post an ill-informed rant about how I am too good to be published (see below) and get blocked by five former friends on Twitter. Yes, the stakes are being raised – a sense of mounting drama is mounting.

I go to bed early, apply my beauty moisturiser, tuck myself into beddy-byes and drift off to sleep, dreaming of victory.

Friday:

I rise at 8AM sharp and have a quick breakfast as my computer slowly boots itself. Scotland’s nine-month autumn/winter melancholy has begun outside, and when I shut the curtains, it’s pitch black – a perfect darkness to lose myself in as I begin my project.

To keep me energetic, I have a stack of music to listen to as I write, some nibbles and a vat of coffee. Then – when the coffee gets cold – Coke and Dr. Pepper. All distractions vanquished, and comfortably moulded into my luxury chair, I launch into my story.

I begin with a flourish – writing a not-hideously-egregious paragraph establishing the protagonist and the setting. We meet Leslie as she pops down to the council building to complain about her electric bill. We meet a verbose man, whose lengthy, rambling dialogue is the perfect excuse to up my word count by hundreds and keep the story entertaining.

Then I hit the one-hour mark and check my word count. To complete my task, I need to write approximately 3200 words per hour. After the first sixty minutes have elapsed, I have only reached 1800 words. Never mind, I think. Let’s solider on… increase my typing speed.

So, I battle through the next three hours, hammering the keyboard at an alarming rate and filling the page with enormous streams of drivel. No time to check spelling or punctuation. Just have to crank it out, and worry about the rest later.

After four hours continuous clacking, my sides are aching, and my word count is only a feeble 9000. This means I’m completely off target. Oh dear, I think. I’m never going to do it! I’m behind. Yes – doubt sets in.

Doubts dogs me as I prepare lunch. Unfortunately, preparing lunch takes longer than I had expected, and I have to extend the break by thirty minutes. I launch into the next four-hour block. The words come, at first with the same bolt of enthusiasm, then with increasing defeat, then – at last – with a crushing realisation that I’m never going to do it.

To sit in a chair alone for 23 hours is a mammoth feat, never mind completing a whole novel. At 3PM, I stop completely. Suddenly, a sense of freedom overcomes me – I don’t have to complete a novel in a day! Hurrah! I leap from my desk, hurl on my coat, and go for a walk.

While out, I decide writing the novel in three days is definitely possible. This way, I can get a proper snooze each night and write in a less brainless frenzy. If I can hammer out another 10,000 words over the next four hours, I can average 20,000 a day, taking me short of my 75,000 target – but still in the acceptable novel-length range.

I return home and begin the next block. This is moderately successful until, upon reaching 15,000 words – a sense of utter futility and melancholy sets in, as though I am the most stupid man on the planet, and every word I write is a smelly waste of virtual ink. In short – I’m blocked.

OK… it’s not too bad, I think. I’ll write 20,000 words tomorrow and on Sunday. I’ll have an acceptable novel done over the weekend. Oh, the naiveté!

Saturday:

I wake up at 11AM. Half the morning is gone and I stink. I shower and eat breakfast and waste time reading emails I’ve read twice before until 12PM. Waking up at this awkward time means I’ll need to break for lunch in an hour and a half. This being the case, I postpone the first writing session until 1:30. Big mistake.

In this time, I have become so lazy and demotivated, I can only manage a feeble 3000 words before my block sets in. Frightened shitless the whole project will die a horrible death, I run outside for a walk and regroup. Perhaps I can write the novel over the week, I think. No. It’s too late. You’re a bottler, Nicholls – a wretched bottler!

Bottler. Bottler. The bottler returns and stares at the screen for an hour, making strange faces at his words. He reads and corrects the work so far, and gets some motivation back reading the funny and not-hideously-egregious bits. Perhaps I can tailor it into an acceptable novella instead?

Bottler.

Sunday:

I wake up with a throatful of snot feeling like someone’s been repeatedly choking me overnight. Not good. Not a good physical state in which to write.

And so, as I approach my computer, sit down and begin, I realise that I want to cough up my lungs into a waste bin and collapse back into my bed with a bucket of Beechams and a good book.

The project will never be completed if it is left today, I think. So, I tack on 1000 words, wrap up the bugger in a rush, proofread the text, and ironically send it out to publishers to see what kind of hilarious rejection letters await me.

I managed 19,000 words. I failed by 56,000. I am 56,000 times a failure.

So, my advice to anyone who wants to complete a novel in a day, or three days, or any unworkable period, is this – don’t.

You’re not impressing anyone with that swaggering behaviour. Grow up and toil like the rest of us.

On the plus side, the project has taught me to be less of a slow, plodding neurotic arse when writing. Hammer it out first, then worry about the quality later. That’s the credo. Thanks for your time.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The Mitchell Tapes [1]

Several months ago, talented Scottish poet and micro-fiction genius Mitchell Hampton disappeared from his flat in East London. The police are treating his disappearance as suspicious. Mitchell has, for years, been a curious, sub-cult character. His works are often immature and self-mocking, yet – for all his apparent horesplay – he is capable of some truly outstanding works of genius.

The "lost tapes" are being circulated on the web among his close-knit group of fans. I'd like to share some of these micro-fictions on my blog to give an indication of the scope of Mitchell's talent, and to show why he will be sorely missed.

This is the first micro-fiction found from Mitchell's home tapes. His technique was to dictate his work aloud, and then scalp it into fiction from his ramblings. His work often veers towards the parodic, but is enjoyable all the same.

video

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Blowin' the Trumpet


Listen bitches: although I own a considerable trumpet (four metres in diameter and eight hectares in width), I prefer not to blow it.

Nothing infuriates me more than writers morphing into self-promoting robots. I am referring to the Twitter culture. The links within links within links. Soon, people will become so self-absorbed, the planet will be populated with four billion people-countries. The adage ‘no man is an island’ will become true, and will have to be adapted to accommodate women.

What? Well, imagine I have a new piece of writing randomly splatted into some obscure corner of the internet. Imagine I wish for people to read this adorable tale of mine. Well… stop right there, Jane! First thing: no one reads linked work. In fact, the best thing about online magazines is the remarkable sense of stillness that surrounds a piece once it is popped online. A Zen-like calm surrounds a piece of work once it is dumped onto some ‘hot’ e-zine.

I for one like this stillness. Getting a piece published online is like finding a retirement home for an elderly grandparent. Put the beautiful creation to bed with a nice diazepam and Nytol cocktail.

Notwithstanding my writing confreres, who can hoot whenever they like, I’m running head-first into the woods at the first sight of a link to an e-zine or an online mag.

Self-promotion is a hectare of wank.