Sunday, February 07, 2010

Event Literature

A new novel as an "event"? It seems rare. Yet, you get the sense that this is where the "celebrity" of Martin Amis comes into it's own. "The Pregnant Widow", his 11th novel (the count seems to exclude the novella "Night Train"), is being hailed as a return to form. I've my copy already, and though I'm not sure I'll devour it immediately, the first 50 pages or so have been a joy to read. It's like when Lou Reed recorded "New York", it's like "thank God, at last he's recorded a Lou Reed album again". At last Martin Amis has written a Martin Amis novel again. He'll be reading from it as his latest public lecture at the University on Monday, though I'm not sure whether I'll make it down. Amis has always made the case for comedy, for satire - and it's Amis the satirist I think we might find has made a welcome return in this book, Amis the entertainer. More on this when I've the actual book.

I enjoyed Wednesday's The Other Room and picked up ZimZalla's "object 2" - a 3 writer collection, one of whom, Holly Pester was one of the readers on Wednesday. Diminutive, young, southern-accented, she gave a compelling performance of work that it was then a surprise to find could also exist on the page. Much avant garde works is concerned with the disconnections and disfunctions of communication, and Pester's approach is to deconstruct a topic into words and syllables and sounds and then perform the work, with these deconstructions as a powerfully shocking rhythm or subtext. So in a piece that is apocalyptic in tone, she takes on the bangs and hisses of a shortwave radio after the catastrophe, and in a piece about an eye test she turns the optician's chart into the verbal throb of the poem. Excellent stuff. Steven Waling and Rob Holloway performed either side of Holly, with very different styles, Waling's work becoming increasingly observational and anecdotal, whilst retaining a roaming sensibility, whilst Holloway's is very much that particularly avant orthodoxy of accumulation - words, images - with little being conceded to the overtly personal. On another cold snowy Manchester night, we stayed put until last orders, but my eyes were going as I slumped down on the bus.

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