Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Something to Read Online

I'm pleased that my essay "Writing Catastrophe" has been published online as part of issue 2 of Salt Magazine's "Horizon Review," and for two reasons. Firstly, I sometimes bemoan that although I spend a lot of time on the web, I don't read that much on the web. There's a generosity about an online magazine like Horizon, both in terms of the amount of material it makes available, but also from the writers themselves, some very well known, who are beginning to value an online platform such as this, as much as a paper magazine. The second reason relates to the essay itself, which, almost alone amongst the content of issue 2, talks primarily about the "novel." It's perhaps not surprising that Horizon concentrates on short fiction and poetry, but in terms of critical culture - and I'd perhaps include literary blogs and review sites amongst this - I think its important that the novel is not just left to the more august paper publications, the reviewer-bloggers and the academic monograph.

That said, it's interesting to read my essay, alongside Sophie Mayer's "Queer British Poetry". The full title, (and the shortened version does it a disservice) is "Hanging Out Beneath Orlando's Oak Tree, or, Towards a Queer British Poetry." Here she talks of poets needing to be more militant, in their subject matter, to be, in the words of post-punk band the Au Pairs, "equal, but different." Strangely she asks "Where are the great AIDS elegies?", well, I mention one, in passing, Thom Gunn's "The Man With the Night Sweats," in "Writing Catastrophe." Mayer's is a fascinating essay, because so much experimental writing, turned out to also be transgressive writing; if gay writing today is conventional novels like "The Line of Beauty" and "Fingersmith", then maybe it isn't sexuality that determines our artistic self, but repression of that sexuality. The Writer, I would tentatively say, wants acceptance for the writing, far more than for the self. (Though, aren't they indistinguishable?)But think that's edging into a different essay...

So I've already been inspired into other directions, other tangents, just skimming the magazine this Tuesday morning. I'd say there are considerable tensions, not consensus, in the contemporary literary firmament, which get articulated every time I speak to a writer; between poets of different styles; between the literary writer and the commercial writer; between the young and the slightly older. It is one of the reason's I want to write about novels that others may have read - since, they have become cultural artefacts that have a life of their own in the way that only very rarely a poem or short story does. Yet, like a glass of expensive wine, after two many cheap bottles, the right poem or story (and there are surely plenty here that will fit that bill), can raise the palate. Horizon, is, after all, a literary magazine. Who'd have thought they'd survive into our modern age?

Elsewhere in the magazine you'll find stories, (inc. one by my friend Elizabeth Baines), poems, (Katy Evans-Bush delightful Pirate Prufock) plays (!), reviews and interviews and in its podcast - which, editor Jane Holland rightly says - might be a good place if you are "looking for somewhere to start" you'll find Gwendoline Riley and Fiona Sampson.

And like any literary magazine, I don't think its for reading all at one go, but dipping into next time you're looking for something more inspiring than that dog on a skateboard. Woof. Wheeee.

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