Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Your Place in Higher Torment

Have you ever wondered why universities put pictures of smiling undergrads on the homepage of their websites?

No? Then leave this blog at once.

Yes? Good. Me too.

I believe that these smiles are good indicators as to the actual experience prospective students will have as undergrads. So let’s take a look at few examples from Scottish universities, shall we?

No? Didn’t I tell you to leave?

Yes? Good. I was going to anyway. I don’t need your approval.

Edinburgh Napier

The image is out of focus, but we can clearly see the poor bastard in the grey shirt being ridiculed by the coffee-cupping chuckler on the right, while her accomplices restrain their giggles for the camera. What we can infer from this is that male undergraduates will undergo a humiliating time at the hands of laughing female cliques and have a miserable four years. Sounds like a normal university experience to me.

Edinburgh University

This image is somewhat misleading. It depicts an undergraduate in awkward-looking specs reading a textbook with an enormous beam of pleasure on her face. This alludes to the fact that beautiful female undergrads will derive much more pleasure from reading tedious textbooks than the other students. So again – male students can expect a miserable time as they sit reading textbooks in their rooms, taking no pleasure from their courses.

3. Glasgow University

Once again, the male undergrad faces ridicule from the laughing females as they mock his photograph album and make snide comments about his old haircuts. I sense a great misandrist streak running through these homepages. Once more, the male must retreat to his room and seek comfort in his Leonard Cohens while the females have a giggling funtime.

4. St. Andrews University

Now this is terrible. Look how the male undergrad has been exiled from the libraries, forced to crouch against a wall with his laptop on the floor! Other pictures on their homepage show an exercise class and other students walking together looking wistful. I hate to be the planter of suggestions here, but could the student’s ethnicity have anything to do with his ostracism? Oh, no! Surely not! I’m saying nothing here.

5. Robert Gordon University

As we can see here, a more honest approach has been taken, and men have been banished from studying completely. Quite right too. A special shout-out should go to Abertay University’s homepage. They have a series of students from every ethnic background and gender group, whose images you can click on for specialised advice.


Friday, 23 April 2010


Yesterday, I attended the inauguration festivities of James Robertson into the Napier MA Creative Writing Course. I arrived there on a flea-powered hovertrike to the strains of Verdi’s I Lombardi alla prima crociata.

I was ushered inside Edinburgh’s renowned venue
The Hub (formerly a pet shop) and greeted by dedicated staff who tried hard – bless them – to conceal the murderous loathing on their faces.

I had the great privilege of mumbling incoherent trivialities into the ear of
Steven Hall – author of The Raw Shark Texts. I then partook in larks with co-students (the most entertaining part of the evening) until it became impossible to stand or comprehend their vowels.

I also met
Lin Anderson who is a crime writer of esteem. Unfortunately I had chosen to sit on a chair rammed against the wall, so she was forced to stand half-leaning at an awkward 20° angle while informing me about her book, Driftnet. Eek.

However, despite the formidable literati present, and the canny organisation by those involved – plus a moving speech from Mr. Robertson – I would like to voice a serious and important complaint about one crucial part of the event.

It is a complaint I think I share with my co-students, and exposes a fundamental weakness in the university’s approach to teacher-student relations, and indeed the entire ethos of Napier’s approach to higher education.

The canapés. The first thing we were served was a Wham bar wrapped in extruded fish innards. I mean – gentlemen! Hardly befitting of the inauguration of such a distinguished Scottish writer, is it? Then we were treated to slugs of salmon on spiteful melba toast, wriggling from their lily pads in disgust. Sound harmless so far? Well. Listen. To. This.

The final canapé of the evening was inexcusable. (Do you hear me, King Napier?) Someone had passed apple strudel through the inside of a Findus Crispy Pancake, then squeezed the resultant slurry into a haemorrhoid-on-toast. Fortunately, I chose not to partake of this particular delicacy. I will never forgive the university for the horror I endured that night.

After the event, we descended to a pub wherein we were talked at by a very clever author who made very much sense, but whose name escapes me now.

So, all in all, a top night. I’m looking forward to meshing antlers with Mr. R and feel privileged to have been there at his inception.

Before I go, please remember to donate to the #1 resource for
Bollards on the web.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

On idiot ezines that make you paste your work into boxes.

You do not understand, darling. You see, I am an artiste. I have spent hours – count them, hours! – formatting the story I have been gracious enough to let you read. So imagine the horror and disgust I feel when, having pored over ten pages of your patronising and aggressive guidelines, I arrive at the submission page to learn that I must PASTE my work into a box!

Have you lost your minds, you decrepit bunnies? Do you know how much my soul SINKS when I am told that submissions with curly inverted commas will be blasted into the stratosphere, or that indents for paragraphs is anathema in your pedantic, self-pleasing realm?

Idiots! You buffoons do not understand how we writers TOIL for our art, how we strive to take our stories beyond the banality of conventional formatting and embrace the creative possibilities of the technology upon which we write. We should not have to pander to your archaic whims! Tish and piddlecock!

On an unrelated and self-glorifying note, my story
For the Sake of Argument is in the Spring issue of Twisted Tongue – a PDF and print (glorious print!) magazine of sci-fi and crime larks. Very happy to be included there.

On another unrelated note, why is using Blogger in Mozilla Firefox harder than prising open a can of beans with one’s toenails? I had to use IE8 to post this, which meant logging in AGAIN!!! Curse this infernal life!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Four New Stories

April has been a slow month for publishing success, mainly because I've been ensconced in writing my novel, and submitting short stories to contests rather than magazines.

However, I do have four new scrumptious beasts good to go.

The first is the only children's story I've ever written (though it was meant to be sci-fi). Cooperating With Ghosts, after one or two hitches and stupidities from me, is alive at Broomstick Books.

Jeff Chon was a nice cookie and worked hard formatting my Polish head lice epic Jeden Pošetilý Povídka! at his hip lit-blog vis a tergo.

My flash of no consequence The Arcing Crystals is available for readers of Monkey Kettle, Issue #33 in the UK. I've no idea how to use their website or order anything on there. You'll have to beg the man in charge for an issue. Odd policy, I know. He's at:
Alternatively you can read it at Frostwriting.

The FINAL FINAL story in my series of experimental faff-arses is up at Piker Press. Watch Lucy save fiction from the clutches of the eternal dullards! A Modern Narrative [6] truly is the end, friendettes.

Thank you and have a merry April 16th.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tears in Ma Soup

I wrote a song for my spurned lover Alice B.V.H.J.H.K. Homplummp the other afternoon. I hope you will approve.

I purchased the rights for my own song before I wrote it:


Oh, sweet Merideth Poison,
I got tears tears tears in ma soup!

I met you on the A927 sliproad to Acton,
I thought that you loved me, you weren’t just actin’


We walked to the service station
and you showed me your ankle socks
and we had a good laugh at the bald man
with the spider tattoo on his forehead


We made love on the Tewkesbury bypass
you tickled me right on my underpass
Then, after our lovin’ we hit an impasse
and left our love squashed like a hedgehog


Then you took the night bus to Brunswick
and bid me teary adieu
And that’s when I knew
I’d never see you again, no never, no Lady Sweet, never again ever!


Refrain: Oh, Merideth, won’t you give those socks to me!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Naps I’ve Taken Listening to Lou Reed

Jan 2nd 2006, Lou Reed – The New Year’s Day aftermath. I wanted to sleep all day, stuffed as I was with sherry and chocolates. I wanted to avoid the wrath of my Auntie Jen. So I spun this tame, overcooked debut album and entered dreamland around Lisa Says. Yawn.

Feb 28th 2006, Sally Can’t Dance – Suffering a bout of insomnia, I lay down on my bed with the record sleazing in my ear. As the eternal dullness of the sensationalizing glam rock began, I soon felt woozy. I passed into unconsciousness as Lou impersonated a cat.

May 18th 2006, Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart – On a car trip to Galashields. I was looking forward to catching some Zs before we saw my cousin Paul, so I put on this embarrassing stoner soul album and drifted off to the farting awfulness of Banging on My Drum.

June 1st 2006, Metal Machine Music – Insomnia again. I was asleep in the first thirty seconds of this ear-bleeding snoozefest that even Lou hasn’t listened to. I had many nightmares.

July 19th 2006, Street Hassle – On a bus going to Paris. I struggle to fall asleep on public transport. I’m frightened someone will nab my possessions, and besides – it’s so uncomfortable. But as I listened to the barely audible, murky fuzz of Dirt, I soon caught forty winks.

August 31st 2006, The Bells – Coming home from a stag do. A little tipsy, in that half-life between alert and sozzled, I needed rest. Listening to the murky disco funk of this appalling album, I fell onto the lap of my friend Jeremy, who never spoke of the moment again.

September 30th 2006, Growing Up in Public – Visiting the wife’s parents. Her father, a BNP canvasser, wanted me to sign a petition banning Pakistanis from being alive. I went upstairs and put this record on my Walkman. Over the weird, campy music, I zzzed.

October 8th 2006, The Blue Mask – Playing draughts with Bill Bryson at the Google HQ in Maine. Bill wouldn’t stop chatting about his nephew’s cur Steve Davis Snr. Jnr., so I slipped this dated, plodding album onto my W-man, and drifted off as Lou declared, ‘I love women, I think they’re great.’ Nice one, Lou.

November 7th 2006, Legendary Hearts – My birthday. To escape the ritual humiliation at the hands of my Uncle Simon, I plopped on this album, and soon dozed off under its dated bass and banal words. So banal, Lou!

December 25th 2006, Mistrial – Having scored drugs from my mate Scootie Pie, we gatecrashed an Xmas gathering and took heroin at Cath’s flat. I wanted to let the spectral pleasure seep into my dreams, so I needed sleep. I put on this plastic, modish, laughable, embarrassing album from a 44-year-old Lou, and... zzzzz.

January 30th 2007, New York – My boyfriend Corg wanted to make love to me, but my penis hurt from the abuse I had given a squirrel the previous night. I had to go to sleep to shut Corg up. I placed this spoken-word dirge-fest on, snoozing as Lou mumble-spoke his droll garbage.

February 2nd 2007, Magic & Loss – So I didn’t have to speak to Alan Coxin, who was coming over the hill, I needed sleep right away. So I hooked up this plodding and banal and dull and lifeless and without-interest album from Lou’s can’t-be-arsed period.

March 17th 2007, Set the Twilight Reeling – Just saying the title of this album sends me to sleep.

July 4th 2009, Ecstasy (2000) – I wanted to get some Zs after my squash game with Gore Vidal (who had previously whipped my ass 90-10). By the ninth rhyme Lou found for 'mad,' I was gone.

March 56th, 2010, Hudson River Wind Meditations – At last, an album designed to send me to sleep! Thanks, Lou, but you needn’t have tried – you’ve been doing it well enough for decades.

Lou Reed albums I like:

Coney Island Baby
New Sensations
The Raven

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Have a Robert Johnson Easter

From Four Till Late:

Me & the Devil Blues:

Hellhound on My Trail:

Thursday, 1 April 2010

My Month in Novels (Mar)

I had hoped this blog would cultivate a tongue large enough to lick readers the world over. In between toes, up to the navel, leaving a loving slobber on the eyelids. Instead, I’ve ended up posting inconsequential drivel month upon month, rarely discuss my current writing goals, and take delight in the tedious business of discussing books. Gah!

So what about it, huh?
JT Leroy would have something to say about this in her novel The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things which is a tale of irredeemable depravity among a comic-book underclass, written with a sharp attention-to-detail for grotesque specifics. Think Babes in Toyland meets Hubert Selby Jnr. Nice.

Jonathan Lethem would also be angered in his non-fiction collection The Disappointment Artist which is a charming selection of countercultural discourses and ponderous Brooklyn waffle. Nice too.

Vanessa Gebbie wouldn’t be narked. She would sit me down, pour me a lemon tea and pass me a volume of the snappily titled Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story. I would remark at how this was a cut above most How to Write 101 books in terms of direct advice, then snipe at the contributors’ obsession with concision and Carver.

Next I would read
B.S. Johnson’s book-in-a-box The Unfortunates, which can be tackled in any order, barring the beginning and end. I would make a humorous remark about the style being Samuel Beckett meets Ron Manager. Hee hee.

After a shower and an oily massage from a muscle-bound laddie, I would read the salacious
Pulitzer-plucking epic The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Despite the title being one syllable too long and unrepresentative of the novel, author Junot Díaz tells the story of tyrannous Dominican dictator Trujillo with buckets of attitude and flair. Impressive.

Kurt Vonnegut’s second short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction would be eaten whole with turmeric and a shoelace. I would remark that these embryonic tales from the ‘50s and ‘60s are poor representatives of the master’s craft, but are a sly peep at his genius nonetheless.

I would then dial my manservant Pedro to loofah my lumbar. He would read to me from
Gilbert Sorrentino’s brilliant satirical novel The Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things. “A ludicrously witty assault on literary losers, Pedro?” “A comment on the limitations of the conventional novel form?” “A rambling and indulgent slab of postmodern cleverness, maybe?” “Silly Pedro, his book is all of these things and more!”

I would then secretly read
The Crowstarver by Dick-King Smith because it is sweet and charming and will break the hearts and minds of those small people without prominent bits. Then I will go to sleep and wake up to a whole new approach to this post.

Lydia Millet is groovy. I liked How the Dead Dream so much I almost enveloped my chair.

Tim Etchells wrote a book called The Broken World which has a very snazzy and disorientating website. At first the notion of a novel written as a walkthrough for a video game repelled me. But I was wrong. It is original in how it manages to wed the two worlds, real and unreal, so seamlessly that you feel you are part of two narratives, caring deeply about both. Yeah.

I read too much this month. I should have been waxing lawns and writing novelettes about deranged acrobats.
Riddley Walker was among the books I read. Russell Hoban’s invented language is the benchmark by which other fictional tongues should be judged. But I couldn’t tell what was going on 99% of the time, so either I’m an idiot or a complete ninny.

Then I read the best novel of the year so far. There will be a gushing future post about
Jonathan Safran Foer’s remarkable Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close later. You better believe. (His website is also rather brilliant).

Lynne Tillman’s This is Not It. Classy and thought-provoking stories from the Manhattan-based multimedia artist. Tillman has a distinctive approach to storytelling. She approaches the page like an artist approaches her canvas, painting vivid and surreal pictures of strange, hyperreal worlds. (Yes, I thought those words up by myself).

I have to go squash bugs now. Before I do, I also managed to squeeze in the first selection of
Psychogeography by Will Self & Ralph Steadman. The latter has a groovier website and draws better than the former. However, the former wrote the entertaining words in this collection and clearly knows his way around the words 'animadvert' and 'oetechnical.'