I don't seem to have had much to write about recently. I'm sure there's plenty of literary debates going on, but with limited time to read, I've not a lot to say about stuff. Last week I made it to see one of my favourite writers, Ben Marcus, the American "experimentalist", who read at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester. I was asked to blog about it for the Manchester Literature Festival blog, so you'll find my piece there. I'm currently reading his excellent novel "The Flame Alphabet" which I'm sure I'll blog about here when the time comes. Not many writers who make me starstruck, but he's one, and interesting, as he was talking I realised that part of it was some kind of shared concerns and consciousness - after all we were born in the same year. Yet isn't that weird that you can feel that with someone from the US? I wonder if our English-speaking culture creates a shared understanding as well as a shared culture. I think the key thing may be that the cultural signifiers are often the same. Its like when you meet someone your age who was into similar music to you; there's an identification wherever you came from. More interesting for me, as a writer, is where I think I was when he had his experimental breakthrough novel "The Age of Wire and String" in the late 1990s. I had been trying to writing something - anything - and part of that had been to take on more conventional styles than some of the stuff I had been writing; I felt like I had to get someone to listen to me, and the easiest way was to write in a familiar language. Marcus offered an unfamiliar language, and part of me has always responded to that. Anyway, that's digressing a bit - my MLF piece describes his point of view a bit more in detail.
Over Christmas I spent a while sending out stuff and in dribs and drabs it comes back. But a couple of things got published. As well as three poems in "Bare Fiction", I was very pleased to have a non-lyrical piece of art/music published online in "Verse Kraken." Actual proof of my cross-disciplinary work, I think.
There sometimes seems to be a writing event every night, and a writer on every corner, and blogger Simon Savidge addresses this in a new posting for "Fiction Uncovered." "Some authors had been trying for several years, some for several decades" he writes, about the annual selling show that is the London Book Fair. It's strange in some ways, that we should think of this of as in any way odd. For surely the best writing is a compulsion whether or not it finds an early audience or a publisher. I've seen writers have early success that has then seen them give up at the first hurdle. I guess I've always seen writing as much about exploration of process as end result, though I'm always intent on "finishing" whatever it is I'm working on. Seems that these are the only bits I have any control over. The "getting published" is out of my control (not to say, we can't make it easier for ourselves.)
My other obsession is, of course, music, and tomorrow is "Record Store Day" when men of a certain age (not only men, and not only of a certain age) queue for several hours to buy an overpriced piece of vinyl of an album they already own in three different formats, and which they will never listen to. It is of course, brilliant that this is the case. Though I can't help notice that there seems a lack of "specials" (other than special formats) this year, and prices have crept up. Piccadilly Records in Manchester is one of the most popular destinations in the country and so "getting there early probably means four hours before it opens. On past experience, and with nothing specific I want, I'll head down mid afternoon and pick up any dregs. Not quite true that there's nothing I want. I'd be tempted by the Psychic TV live reissues, a few of the 10" and 12"s on offer and also by a couple of 7" boxsets by Dinosaur Jr. and Dead Kennedys - I suspect that most of these might go really quickly, so unless I get sleepless at 4 in the morning, I'll just have to give it a miss.
Everything seems late this year - Easter, spring, my hayfever - which means that there's probably lots piling up in the next few weeks. I'm looking forward to the next Other Room even though its a while away - featuring Leanne Bridgewater, Agnes Lehoczky, both of whom are brilliant live, amongst others on 4th June. With no Manchester International Festival this year, (its bi-annual) there is, I think an opportunity for that June/July period to be filled with the unexpected, and I hope promoters and festivals and organisations take hold of it - as I somehow expect next year's MIF, coming as it will after the General Election, might be a massive event. With my art-loving hat on I have to mention the next Castlefield Gallery show curated by Bob and Roberta Smith which features art by "offenders" - an oft-overlooked outsider art community, that its great to see in the gallery. The show is intrigueingly titled "Snail Porridge." And at the start of May - May 1st to be precise - Emma Jane Unsworth launches her 2nd novel "Animals" at Waterstones, with, no doubt, a large % of the Manchester literature scene in attendance.
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