Saturday, October 07, 2006

Connecting Things

I bumped into Andrew Biswell in the Cornerhouse last night, his very readable biography of Anthony Burgess is just out in paperback he tells me. He had a story in the latest Lamport Court, which I enjoyed, though its probably fair to say its straining to be part of a longer piece. Typically, another alumni of Lamport Court, Max Dunbar was also there. Its not that Manchester's such a small town, just that the Oxford Road provides a perfect cultural strip from the town hall and library at one end, down to the university's and the Whitworth at the other. Either that or I go out for a drink too much. I'd just been reading what Martin Amis had to say about Burgess in his essay collection "The War Against Cliche"; I think Amis, probably uniquely amongst that generation of writers, saw Burgess as some kind of kindred spirit. Burgess was never that clubable a writer; perhaps being published later in life, he had grown out of a peer generation. Its somewhat odd coming up against Martin Amis as literary critic rather than literary titan, though the first at Oxford and the job as literary critic on the Spectator were obviously as important in his literary development as the real and adopted fathers of Kingsley and Bellow. Last week's Observer had an interview with him, and it was good that these days they occasionally send a woman to interview him, rather than the young turk male wannabes. Rachel Cooke teases out a few of his contradictions. "Mine aren't the sort of books that produce a consensus. It's why I don't win prizes", he says, which is one way of deflating the annual debate of the eighties and early nineties about whether Martin would be on the Booker list. (It happens with Scorsese and the Oscars even now.) I like the ending of the piece, where Martin has difficulty opening a screen door and his wife does it with practiced ease; if only because in comparing his books and his fathers, Martin always said that he felt his fathers books had too many people opening doors and his father thought his books had too few. Now we know why - don't write what you're not very good at! My copy of "The War Against Cliche" is a handsome American hardback - an increasing option when the quality of paper and binding in UK paperbacks is so abysmal. Last week was a very quiet National Poetry Day, as if the original idea has run out of steam. Can we put it to death, please? I was wondering if Andrew Motion had still some life in his laureateship, (it was for ten years if I remember correctly), but it goes on till 2009. More interestingly, I guess, the first Manchester Literature festival rolls in to town next week. Next Saturday's pairing of Nicholas Blincoe and Palestinian writer, Sahar Khalifeh, sounds interesting, and the Manchester Blog Awards with Verberate on 16th at Urbis should be as well. Highlight of this week was a musical one, Public Enemy at the opening night of the Warehouse Project. Though it wasn't probably like seeing them back in the day, for at least two thirds of the gig they were a still awesome sonic assault, playing classics such as "Fight the Power" "Don't Believe the Hype" and "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos." The gig was a little late for a school night, the place only letting people in from about 10.30 and Public Enemy coming on well after midnight. Its a superb venue, though, even if the sound was a bit muddy - with two rooms and a genuine chill out area (its called outside!) It was a mixed crowd, thirtysomethings, serious clubbers, and scallies. Let's say I imagine Collyhurst was a little empty on Thursday night. It had the genuine feel of somewhere edgy, and one can only imagine the vibe when they've 2000 clubbers getting down to some serious drum 'n' bass. I'd forgot how many great songs Public Enemy have got, just look at last year's Greatest Hits. Mine's mostly on vinyl, naturally. Manchester's always been a hip hop town, and the audience seemed pretty knowledgeable whatever their age.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Baines said...

On the subject of UK paperbacks: they are getting worse and worse. I spent only an hour yesterday reading a Penguin edition of 'In Cold Blood' for my reading group, and I had eyestrain! The paper is so rough that there are miniscule shadows all over the page, and the print seems to float. Dire.