23 December 2011

Inside out

My mother turns her coat inside out and asks me which side is better.

I flick through the rare book of photographs my brother has bought for my father, Jerusalem through my father’s eyes.

A photograph of a Bedouin family in 1935.

The caption: The woman is wearing her jacket inside out. This meant. “I am in a hurry; don’t stop me to talk.” People seeing her dressed like this would realize that she intended no rudeness by not pausing to greet them.

Obvious signs.

Clear symbols.

Strange ritual.

9 December 2011


He said it would be easier to just let the old people die in the heat. Those in charge were secretly glad of the heat wave. So were their tanned daughters. These are the people who are afraid to use their own things. They are people who are fastidious in their own homes but slobs in other people’s. They want things to be abrupt and clean. These are the people who use sleep aids and know they are 'doing well' only when something is being lost. They want to be alone but not because they value privacy. They prefer lakes to oceans. If lots of pensioners die over a short period of time many practical changes can be made and everyone will save a bit of money. The tanned girls will always have thick hair because they will cleverly regulate their crash dieting.

25 November 2011


At once too much and never enough.

My favourite bench is vacant.

A man stands in a sunbeam breathing hard through his nose. Perhaps close up his nostrils are flaring.

Mothers wait at school gates, happy to have something to fill the afternoon with. On a nice day like this anything is possible. Frightened children whine at crossings. Bold ones stamp and crush the leaves.

From here I can see so much of London. The Shard, the Millennium Wheel, the Gherkin. But I am glad to be far away.

I can tell now the scarf she gave me is acrylic not wool. The tell-tale plasticy sweat.

This bench is for R.K. Never being boring. Great hair. Big smile. 1974-2011. Only nine years my senior.

I am so sorry to only be able to see things from where I stand. I do not want to be involved. I do not really live here.

It is no longer an interesting situation.

S.N. 1955-2008. She loved this park. Stop and rest a while.

Caught between young and old I no longer yearn for travel. I am almost unbearably fond of this place. The longer I stay the more I uncover.

A white dog streaks along the black path.

From here the world is safe. No blood and shit behind those windows. No medications, dead pets, insomnias and good intentions. No tiny Christmas tree in the window. I want so much to be all these people. I want so much to be that cat slinking along the wall.

8 November 2011


The woman opposite me is pretty like a cheap magazine. Her husband keeps referring to them as 'we'. He is proud to be with the girl the drunks say have perfect teeth. How did you get teeth like that they ask her. Just born with them she giggles. She must have spent a long time on her make up. Her husband has hair which is totally ordinary. There is nothing about him at all.

4 November 2011


I try to write the past but there is already too much of it. Excuses are all always in place, hanging between my eyebrows. A vice. My shoulders ache from holding up my own weight. I don’t want to go out tonight...

He spray paints the gun silver. Andy has realised his own weapon and I am a traitor again.

I cake their hair in flour over the tub. Really, they have come as themselves. I am a crazed and violent person who occasionally wears make up.

J and I watch the leaves turn red. Leathery and slick, trees should always be maroon. We never see them from this angle, from above. We’re on the fourth floor and we can see from the top down into the structure.

I am here for 24 hours. A woman across the green put a chair out and sat on her balcony all evening. She wore a pink sleeveless top. She was alone. The next day she put her chair out again and sat again. I love to see the rhythms of other people’s lives. For time to run on habit and deduction. Ritual.

When I get home I open the big blue bag. Inside it is the world’s smallest jack-o-lantern. It is a tennis ball with a ghoul drawn on it. A had presented it to me earlier in the night with a tea light on top of it for me to blow out. She came all this way for us and I am pleased.

There is a slight but noticeable difference in the sound the pencil makes when it crosses the grid lines on the squared paper I currently favour.

I am given books full of pictures.

He has cut an old skirt of H’s into squares. He has cut some of these squares diagonally in half to make triangles. He has followed the instructions and sewn together the squares and triangles to make a quilt. He has given me the quilt.

We walk. Sick of the heat of home, sick of the small space, sick of seeing trees through windows. I am grateful for the cold air and the wild orange leaves spreading all over this part of town. Even in the smallest places...

Silhouettes of witches are framed in the warmly lit doorways of suburban houses. I feel sick and happy. I want to walk all night but I am expected somewhere.

My thoughts are less coherent than ever. But every clause is lucid. As usual I can only see close up.

Tonight is a family meal in a family restaurant for families coalescing for special occasions. Everyone will try. The waiters will smile. We will talk about politics and babies. I hope to leave half drunk and smiling.


There are no pictures on the wall. We sit opposite each other in comfortable matching chairs. They say: there is no judgment here. There is a box of off brand tissues on the table just out of reach. The chairs are pushed right up against the wall. I don’t know why. He is gentle but interested. He looks tired, he looks like he wants to go home. He says I look ill. I am offended. He says I have a lot of dilemmas. You are between so many things he says. But I think it is simple really. Eliminate the gap. 

L told me she is going to quit choir. She doesn't want to sing with the half-hearted and still-sleeping. She wants to hear her own voice streaming out of her skinny body like smoke. In games she always wins. She is still but vibrant, vibrating within a home-made framework. She would hold a lit match until it burned off her fingertips if it helped her prove her point.

1 November 2011

from Thomas Bernhard's On the Mountain (1989)

...we all live at least three different lives, a real one, an imaginary one, and one we're not even aware of

...even though it's a crime to undertake anything at all, everything is a lie, every comma is a lie, all of it nothing but an appalling babble, trivial, degrading, humiliating, yet I cling to these few thoughts, and every letter matters, it comes down to every last letter and to recognizing the stupidity of it all

26 October 2011


Slowly I am unsubscribing from every mailing list I have ever signed up to.

Two jumpers and a blanket and I’m still cold.

Eight open documents. Eleven tabs.

Fret not lovely, the leaves are finally turning orange. (Yesterday’s favourite colour.) Time is passing as promised. I worried about you so much when you refused to jump with me into a pile of leaves, or even to kick them about really. Some squirrel-like mischievousness has returned to your eyebrows.

L gave the finger to the stupid indoor joggers, she likes to see her breath.

I am thinking about Anne Carson again, and Sappho, about fragments and distant friends, about all things turning inside out.

Yesterday I was still and good.

23 October 2011

from Kandinsky's Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1911)

The unbounded warmth of red has not the irresponsible appeal of yellow, but it rings inwardly with a determined and powerful intensity. It glows in itself, maturely, and does not distribute its vigour aimlessly.

We stand and gaze fascinated, till all of a sudden the explanation bursts suddenly upon us. It is the conviction that nothing mysterious can ever happen in our everyday life that has destroyed the joy of abstract thought.

Conventional beauty must go by the board and the literary element of "story-telling" or "anecdote" must be abandoned as useless. Both arts [literature and painting] must learn from music that every harmony and every discord which springs from the inner spirit is beautiful, but that it is essential that they should spring from the inner spirit and that alone.

Kandinsky, Colourful Ensemble, 1938

Bus stop

An old lady smokes and nods at the other old ladies at the bus stop. She squints in the sun, her forehead is smooth but her cheeks are craggy.

I misread my bus number, get up, lose my seat.

A fat Spanish woman wears a pink t-shirt with a faded picture of a silver butterfly stretching across her chest. It says Ultimate Catch.

A different old woman with puckered lips smokes and licks her top lip. She’s holding a can of K and making jokes with her friend.

Every kid I’ve overheard says they’re going to be a vampire for Halloween.

I am hollow and hungover, things are flooding in. I am late and I haven’t brushed my teeth.

All the old ladies wear purple.

A pair of teenage girls drink pink and blue slushies and argue over whether they should go to Brixton or Crystal Palace. One of them keeps telling the other one she has to buy some cocoa butter lip balm today. I’ve seen two boys wearing the same overpriced backpack from American Apparel. The girls stop then start arguing again.

I count yuppies.

My friend’s friend is moving to Singapore. She needs someone to take her two cats. She doesn’t want them to live in a skyscraper and she doesn’t want them to be separated. I wish I could take them.

My bus doesn’t come for another twenty minutes. At least I get my favourite seat. There are too many misplaced apostrophes on the way home.

An old man, also in purple, gets on. He has small cuddly toys clipped to his shopping trolley. There’s a puppy, a monkey, a gollywog and Hello Kitty. Everybody loves Hello Kitty.

20 October 2011


Half way thorough we realise we are suffering caffeine withdrawal. We drink three caff sized cups in a row. This still only amounts to one and a half normal sized mugs. My preferences for honey in tea are unpredictable. Though always yes in the morning.

A complicated politics, but it keeps the conversation going. I feel like a traitor sometimes, not having one preference above all others.

We switch to rum and coke.

At the same time we are struck to go into the white silence of notebooks, heads down, breath heavy, black marks straining towards shape. To dip out of the world and into life.

I am re-reading a book I have long stood by as a favourite, while only remembering glimpses of why. M reads it for the first time and I am so jealous.

Wanting to disappear, wanting to appear, stuck always in between. It is overcast and we are secretly relieved.

On Tuesday we will be cooked for. Meat will be barbecued on the living heat of the earth’s core. The leaflets say it is a lunar landscape. To me it is a black desert.

The criss-cross pattern of a wicker chair has imprinted itself onto the back of the skinny thigh of the girl walking in front of me. I watch it change slightly back and forth as she walks.

The black cat in front of the white wall arches its back as I approach it. I look into the green eyes in its small, almond-shaped skull and think about holding its head in my palm.

Black sand eroded into temporary shapes by the sea that will rush into and fill it like breath in lungs. Flooding the tiny bay and stretching its capacity, forcing it to change.

Do you suppose the cats eats lizards? I am too fond of both to imagine it happening. T says maybe some do but perhaps others just catch them and play with them then go in for their dinner. We wince.

I finish my book and reread the last ten pages obsessively for an hour or so. Each time something happens. I will never have you pieced together entirely. I put it in a specific list in my mind. I must write to M.

We come home, we hear the Coronation Street theme tune from next door. We take pictures of the moon and zoom in to marvel. After beer, after tea, after another card game, we go in for our dinner.

We hear Professional Widow playing from a beach side cafe where bocadillos are 2.50, the same price we paid for the ice creams we ate by the sea the day before.

Climbing over red rocks the next day, across hills like desert mountains in flip flops and swimsuits, doubt returns, filling the gaps like water. We climb down tight crevices, jumps that seem steep to me. I say I’m in flip flops, this is extreme walking for someone in flip flops. Let me take your bag he says. I insist on carrying it myself, proud. Tiny stones of black volcanic residue and grey slate shift fast under our feet. We press about for steady ones. Lean into the cliff, for – like – balance. Down into a narrow gap he goes, looks up and says mind the shit. His face squirms as he smells baby shit. Someone has left numerous soiled nappies right here in this purple crack of cliff. Who would do that? What kind of people would ever think this was ok? I rant and rave about the State of Things until I feel better.

I stare at an obese half-naked woman from behind dark glasses. I have to look hard to find her crotch, hidden as it is under rolls the size of bread loaves. There is something impressive in it. The man beside her has a big round barrel belly covered in tattoos I cannot make out. They stretch over his skin like patterns distorting on an expanding balloon. Every day I see him by the pool reading The Farmers’ Guardian and drinking small plastic cups of cold free beer.

The workmen sweat through their overalls, shirts becoming fluid and see through. Young girls in empty bikinis read magazines and dangle their feet over chair arms. A tanned old man rakes away dead red flowers. I love the sound of the rake against the black gravel.

The other fat woman taps a rhythm onto her thigh with one hand and adjusts her cap with the other. She has a tattoo of a diamond on the top part of her left arm. She is restless, she picks up a book and puts it back down. She smokes a cigarette.

Later I tell him I am sick of trying to be well-adjusted. I plan on a full and true maladjustment very soon. He tells me to take it easy.

13 October 2011


Sentences break apart, into adjunct clauses I cannot follow. Rules of grammar so ingrained they apply themselves without context. The bus changes its destination, people shuffle and curse. Local councils fund dim decorative lights, attempts at cheering the municipality. The next step is knocking it down. I heard there was an empty high rise they'd reinforced the walls of and filled with water, now you can scuba dive there and look out of the windows at the dry city and the pigeon shit on the window sills. Windmill Row. Butterfly Walk. Hordes of eager cyclists. Words break into syllables, then letters, then just the alphabet out of order, wanting to line up again. There is too much noise to read. Post office, town hall, cinema. My home town is a story book. I remember about abandoning ideas of success. A page, a paragraph, a sentence, a word, a letter. To you, to say: last night I swore I had tinnitus in my left ear. A distant high pitched constancy. I opened my mouth and talked to myself until I fell asleep.

11 October 2011

from Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays (1970)

By the end of the week she was thinking constantly about where her body stopped and the air began, about the exact point in space and time that was the difference between Maria and other. She had the sense that if she could get that in her mind and hold it for even one micro-second she would have what she had come to get. As if she had a fever, her skin burned and crackled with a pinpoint sensitivity. She could feel smoke against her skin. She could feel voice waves. She was beginning to feel color, light intensities, and she imagined she could be put blindfolded in front of the signs at the Thunderbird and the Flamingo and know which was which. "Maria," she felt someone whisper one night, but when she turned there was nobody.


Behind the clouds the perfect circle of sun is visible. This is the sort of mood I am in: optimistic. The surface of the pool is covered in hairs and dusty skin, brown leaves (remember, it is Autumn) and coral coloured geranium petals. I see H in them, all geraniums are for her, our little Joan of Arc. We eke out the last rays of heat, shivering in deck chairs. We keep our water in the (spreading) shade to pretend things must be kept cool.

9 October 2011

from Thomas Bernhard's Yes (1991)

...and at least make an attempt to fix my recollection of her, even though this can only be done in a fragmentary and incomplete way and, like anything written, cannot be done in a complete or perfect manner, now that so many attempts in that direction, made by me lately, have time and again failed. But anything to be written has to be, time and again, begun from the start, and time and again attempted anew, until one day it succeeds at least approximately, if never quite satisfactorily. No matter how unpromising it is and no matter how terrible and hopeless, if we have a subject which time and again, and yet time and again, grips us with the utmost persistence and no longer leaves us alone, it should time and again be attempted. In the knowledge that nothing at all is certain and that nothing at all is perfect, we should, even with the greatest uncertainty and with the greatest doubts, begin and continue whatever we have determined to do.

30 September 2011


I went searching for my lover’s only jewel. It is made of a sharp and shiny stone. He wears it around his neck and it catches the light. I went searching in the dark under the apple tree with a torch. I knew the real thing would glint. I lunged at every shine. A chocolate bar wrapper, tin foil, snail trails. This is love I think. But it is not. It is, at first, in part, a game. The tree is shining with snail trails. I do not want him to lose a thing. I continue to search until dinner is called once, twice. I plan to go back when he is at work and search with gloves on. This is love. The cat comes to watch me for a while. I shine the torch at him and his crisp shadow falls on the wall. He leaves, bored.

The evening passes. His housemate finishes reading Jane Eyre two seconds before the movie starts. She will be it’s truest judge.

A woman sings. She says take love as it comes. She seems to mean it. I don’t understand her.

We eat carrots. We are extra nice to each other. I give him the power supply from my laptop. He asks how my knee is, (I had bumped it). We eat dinner at the table for the first time in a long time. He looks up, he wants to know how it is. It is good. It tastes like something he would cook.

After dinner my lover wraps each apple one by one in yesterday’s newspaper. It will stop them from shrivelling. It means if one rots they won’t all rot. It will keep them safe. He harvests with his hood up, his head down. He wraps each apple tight, he warms it in his hands as he wraps. He half reads the news as he goes. He thinks about different kinds of apple pie. He says losing the jewel in the apple tree is too heavy with potential symbolism. He tries not to read it into his life.

His housemate comes home and says the break in her mother’s shoulder is the worst the doctor’d seen in his forty year career. And she did not like Jane Eyre. She smokes angrily and tells us why.

In the morning I am determined. I leave the tea to brew and look at the garden in the sunshine. I try to be systematic in my search. I look deep between the cracks of things under the apple tree. A basket, a tricycle, a bin full of worm juice and mulch. I dislodge worms, spiders and woodlice. They come scuttling out. I stare at the mush of compost and use a stick to rifle through it. I climb the tree and my hair tangles in the branches. I look over the fence and see nothing gleaming. I see apples in all stages of decay, I see one that is completely black and still solid. I wonder what has happened to it. A pair of black knickers has fallen from the line into a wedge of tree. I widen my parameters, I search between the mouldy apples on the concrete, I search in the shallow pit of an old fire, I search in the makeshift structure of broken fences covering the compost, I search even where I know it will not be. The cat in his infinite boredom reminds me to attach no myth to this, reminds me that I am ankle deep in warm, fly covered muck on a beautiful day before I’ve even had my breakfast. My lover finds me searching and tells me to stop. The tea is cold, I stink of hot rubbish. I start the tea again and think about my day.

22 September 2011

Rave on

The kind of book that you contemplate taking in to the shower with you, the kind of book that you eat or your meals over, the kind of book that makes you skip meals and coffees and dinner dates and parties, the kind of book that you get off the bus reading – your pupils dilating in the dark, the kind of book you read before you have your morning tea, the kind of book you get up early and stay up late for, the kind of book that changes your mood, the kind of book you bribe yourself with – if I do half an hour of work I can read a chapter, the kind of book that makes you think: maybe I do only really need books, the kind of book that you like more than half the people you know, the kind of book that gives pace to your day, the kind of book where you have to ration out the last few pages, the kind of book that you want to reread immediately...that’s what I’m talking about.

20 September 2011

An attempt to get back into blog writing via a stream of consciousness list of stuff I have been thinking about...

Whether writing reviews of books I know I won't like is worth it, high waisted jeans, Stewart Lee, neglect, my brother, the colour red, planning the south east London 'zine fest, what new books Monster Emporium Press is going to make, meditation, swimming, Mexico, getting places by boat, jobs, milk, raw chocolate, puppies, how it's getting dark and I don't mind, perfect curls, threesomes, aging, disappointing people, cryptic crosswords, Joss Whedon, how I'm not thinking about anything I'm that interested in, holidays, the sea, boredom, flatness, stillness, life drawing, headstands, writing, writing every day, discipline, ball-gags, expensive clothes, matching crockery, whether West Norwood is getting gentrified, how I spend too much money in Tesco, how I can't keep up with what's happening in the Middle East, Mute, how I must watch Night Porter, Ken Loach, social realism, asceticism, isolation, space, Arabic lessons, money, pianos, forgetting everything, missing everyone, the filthy rich, whether Speculative Realism is worth it, the new babies in the family, my family home, leaving, ice cream, new crushes, struggling, money, novellas as a form, the possibility of really exciting contemporary literature, Norway, log cabins, how I have to watch the rest of Twin Peaks season two and I kind of want to see the Othello that McNulty and whatshisname are in, theatre, distant friends, minutiae, Woody Allen's Interiors, Ibsen, melodrama and humour, Justin Kirk, writing for TV, underacheiving, not getting angry enough, Weetos, melamine, moths, smoothies...

25 August 2011

Prose poetry...

The Bicycle Review published something I wrote, it's over here (scroll down/read the rest!).

20 July 2011


I wrote with Mme Tlank on parenting, care work and nannying over at Mute (the letter bit is me, the clever bit is Mme Tlank) after going to the Mamsie study day I posted here about a while back.

By the way I'm aware this blog has become a shameless exercise in self promotion of late, I promise to stop this soon. Plus I have very little work pending publication now which means I actually have to (get to!) do some new stuff, which I am excited about.

13 July 2011

Short story...

at Zouch (some of you may have read this before...)

6 July 2011


published at The Literateur...yes!

Statement in relation to the outlawing of the Copenhagen Free University: All power to the free universities of the future!

Dear Friends,

Please find below a statement in relation to the outlawing of the
Copenhagen Free University, please circulate and let us know about
conditions for self-organisation where you are!

All power to the free universities of the future

The Copenhagen Free University was an attempt to reinvigorate the
emancipatory aspect of research and learning, in the midst of an
ongoing economisation of all knowledge production in society. Seeing
how education and research were being subsumed into an industry
structured by a corporate way of thinking, we intended to bring the
idea of the university back to life. By life, we mean the messy life
people live within the contradictions of capitalism. We wanted to
reconnect knowledge production, learning and skill sharing to the
everyday within a self-organised institutional framework of a free
university. Our intention was multi-layered and was of course partly
utopian, but also practical and experimental. We turned our flat in
Copenhagen into a university by the very simple act of declaring 'this
is a university'. By this transformative speech act the domestic
setting of our flat became a university. It didn't take any
alterations to the architecture other than the small things needed in
terms of having people in your home staying over, presenting thoughts,
researching archival material, screening films, presenting documents
and works of art. Our home became a public institution dedicated to
the production process of communal knowledge and fluctuating desires.

The ethos of the CFU was critical and opinionated about the
ideological nature of knowledge, which meant that we did not try to
cover the institution in a cloud of dispassionate neutrality and
transcendence as universities traditionally do. The Copenhagen Free
University became a site of socialised and politicised research,
developing knowledge and debate around certain fields of social
practice. During its six years of existence, the CFU entered into five
fields of research: feminist organisation, art and economy, escape
subjectivity, television/media activism and art history. The projects
were initiated with the experience of the normative nature of
mainstream knowledge production and research, allowing us to see how
certain areas of critical practice were being excluded. Since we
didn't wanted to replicate the structure of the formal universities,
the way we developed the research was based on open calls to people
who found interest in our fields or interest in our perspective on
knowledge production. Slowly the research projects were collectively
constructed through the display of material, presentations, meetings,
and spending time together. The nature of the process was sharing and
mutual empowerment, not focusing on a final product or paper, but
rather on the process of communisation and redistribution of facts and
feelings. Parallel to the development of the CFU, we started to see
self-organised universities sprouting up everywhere. Over this time,
the basic question we were constantly asking ourselves was, what kind
of university do we need in relation to our everyday? This question
could only be answered in the concrete material conditions of our
lives. The multiplicity of self-organised universities that were
starting in various places, and which took all kinds of structures and
directions, reflected the diversity of these material conditions. This
showed that the neoliberal university model was only one model among
many models; the only one given as a model to the students of capital.

As the strategy of self-institution focused on taking power and not
accepting the dualism between the mainstream and the alternative, this
in itself carried some contradictions. The CFU had for us become a too
fixed identifier of a certain discourse relating to emancipatory
education within academia and the art scene. Thus we decided to shut
down the CFU in the winter of 2007 as a way of withdrawing the CFU
from the landscape. We did this with the statement 'We Have Won' and
shut the door of the CFU just before the New Year. During the six
years of the CFU's existence, the knowledge economy had rapidly, and
aggressively, become the norm around us in Copenhagen and in northern
Europe. The rise of social networking, lifestyle and intellectual
property as engines of valorisation meant that the knowledge economy
was expanding into the tiniest pores of our lives and social
relations. The state had turned to a wholesale privatisation of former
public educational institutions, converting them into mines of raw
material for industry in the shape of ideas, desires and human beings.
But this normalising process was somehow not powerful enough to
silence all forms of critique and dissent; other measures were

In December 2010 we received a formal letter from the Ministry of
Science, Technology and Innovation telling us that a new law had
passed in the parliament that outlawed the existence of the Copenhagen
Free University together with all other self-organised and free
universities. The letter stated that they were fully aware of the fact
that we do not exist any more, but just to make sure they wished to
notify us that "In case the Copenhagen Free University should resume
its educational activities it would be included under the prohibition
in the university law §33". In 2010 the university law in Denmark was
changed, and the term 'university' could only be used by institutions
authorised by the state. We were told that this was to protect 'the
students from being disappointed'. As we know numerous people who are
disappointed by the structural changes to the educational sector in
recent years, we have decided to contest this new clampdown by opening
a new free university in Copenhagen. This forms part of our insistence
that the emancipatory perspective of education should still be on the
map. We demand the law be scrapped or altered, allowing self-organised
and free universities to be a part of a critical debate around the
production of knowledge now and in the society of the future.

We call for everybody to establish their own free universities in
their homes or in the workplace, in the square or in the wilderness.
All power to the free universities of the future.

The Free U Resistance Committee of June 18 2011.

Practicalities in Denmark: Please send a mail to the Minister of
Science, Technology and Innovation declaring your university
(min@vtu.dk) and cc. to the The Danish Agency of Universities

Please circulate!

1 July 2011


I wrote some sort of poetry, which I put up here before under 'Writing Restraints'. It's been published by Zouch, which is pretty cool...here it is!

28 June 2011

Cinenova interview...

I interviewed Emma Hedditch and Marina Vishmidt about Cinenova...you can read it at Mute.

16 June 2011


Here is a cut-up made from the blurbs of shit descriptions of shit movies:

An ageing World War II veteran guards a rebel leader’s harem at a Catskills resort when a huge snowstorm gets pulled into the virtual world created by a 19th century inventor and his acrobatic butler. In the unprecedented storm a platoon of marines overcome racial differences by perpetuating rumours that they sleep around. To detach himself from the agony of boot camp and the futility of war a man endangers himself by befriending two locals. He charms and scratches his way through the turmoil of the American Civil War and rethinks his life in the light of his daughter’s pending marriage. Meanwhile the feuding cat and mouse duo turn to a life of crime to pay the bills after a delinquent gang leader weighed down by unfulfilled aspirations makes a pact with the Devil (an insensitive jerk). Embarrassment ensues.

6 June 2011

Mary Midgley's 'The Myths We Live By'

an extract...

'I lately came across a mug inscribed with the following remark, which it attributed to Margaret Mead: 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does.' It struck me at once that this was a mug badly at odds with current thinking; indeed, it cannot lately have been attending to the media as an educated mug should. These days, the message that we chiefly hear is that changes in the world are due to something on a much larger scale - perhaps economic causes, perhaps a shift in the gene pool, perhaps cultural evolution - certainly far grander than a few people worrying in an attic. Is the mug therefore wrong?

This seems to me rather an important issue. We always have a choice about the perspective from which we will look at human affairs, whether we will examine them from the inside, as participants, or from some more distant perspective, and if so, which of many distant perspectives we will choose. Or can we combine these angles? In theory, we know that these points of view are not really alternatives but complementary parts of a wider enquiry. Yet current thinking urges us to find, somehow, one key explanation, a single standpoint that is guaranteed right because it is scientific.'
p75, 2003

This is a really interesting book by moral philosopher Mary Midgley about how that which we consider myth is not the opposite of science...

Hopefully more on this at some point.

2 June 2011

Goon writes to snack company

date17 May 2010 22:33
subjectIced Gems

To whom it may concern,

Having been, as many children of the '80s were, a great fan of your product 'Iced Gems', I found myself embroiled in a debate with my then classmates which has yet, after some 15 querulous years, to be resolved. 

It consisted of the following disagreement: Your biscuits - a delightful and colourful sugary shape sitting on a biscuit base - suggest that the jewel shaped sugary treat is the 'gem'. However, grammatically speaking, the biscuit base is in fact the gem given that it (the biscuit base) is the noun being described by the adjective 'iced'. 

Thus, shouldn't the biscuit base look more gem-like and the icing look less so?

Unless of course the intention is that the sugary shape is the iced gem, presumably an invisible gem that has been covered in icing, that is; iced, and is now resting on a biscuit base which, sadly, has no place in the title. If this is the case the product becomes 'iced gem on biscuit base' or, better; 'iced gems on biscuit bases'. Wouldn't you agree?

Granted, neither of the above are catchy names, but isn't the name 'Iced Gems' somewhat misleading?

I am an editor of various prestigious underground publications and a proud pedant to boot. Plus I have a sweet tooth and would like once again to enjoy your lovely treats but find myself unable to do so when my stomach recoils anxiously from this grammatical error every time I extend my hand towards your product in a shop.

As you can imagine this is, at times, very distressing.

If you could reply with some explanation or solution I assure you of my lifelong custom.

Many thanks,
M. Mattar

----- Forwarded by Joanne Jones/Technical/UK/United Biscuits on 19/05/2010 11:12 -----
From: Jacobs Consumer Services
To: miramatter@googlemail.com
Date: 18/05/2010 12:36
Subject: 20/024263JJ
Sent by: Joanne Jones

Dear Ms Mattar

Thank you for letting us know about your disappointment with Jacobs Iced Gems.

We thank you for taking the trouble to contact us with your views, as consumer opinion is very important to us. Your comments have been passed to the appropriate quality control personnel at the factory where the product is manufactured.

We acquired this product from Jacob’s over five years ago, and have not considered altering the name or product.

It is very important that people let us know their opinions, as they help us to continue to look at ways of improvement and for us to ensure that each and every one of our products reaches our consumers in the best possible condition.

Many thanks for taking the trouble to contact us.

Yours sincerely

Joanne Jones
Consumer Services Coordinator


frommira mattar miramattar@googlemail.com
date3 June 2010 10:49
subjectRe: Fw: 20/024263JJ
hide details 03/06/2010

Dear Joanne,
Many thanks for this reply. I appreciate it. I would like to know about the current status of my query, and if it has been passed to the appropriate person.
Mira Mattar
date4 June 2010 09:44
subjectRe: Fw: 20/024263JJ Iced Gem enquiry.
hide details 04/06/2010

Dear Mira
Thank you for your E-Mail, as previously stated we have referred your comments relating to the product to the appropriate personnel.  However, the product has always been branded as 'Iced Gems', and is the name known and recognised by Consumers.  Our interpretation of the product is, that the icing is the gem not the base.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us.
THE IDIOTS WIN AGAIN...but at least we have an answer...

27 May 2011

Lots of Monster Emporium Press news...

(OK this is cross posted from the MEP blog...apologies)

Hey there Monster lovers, so here are a bunch of dates you *may* want to note down. How else will you get your fix of MEP goodness? Exactly. So...

We will be of course at the International Alternative Press Fair this weekend! It's going be very exciting and is the first time Alt Press are going international. It's a mere £2 to get in and it takes place at Conway Hall (25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL) from 10am - 4pm on both Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 May.
There may even be cake...

ALSO We will be at the Sassoon Gallery on Sunday 5 June as part of their show, Holy Sh!t: The Visions of the Walworth Jumpers which sounds awesome and is in Peckham (yes! South London 4 eva).

AND there is a zine festival at the Women's Library (East London) on Saturday 25 June which looks pretty exciting...we're not organised enough to have applied for this yet so we will confirm closer to the date. But still...

FINALLY (and similarly we have yet to apply but sounds very interesting...) on 22-24 July there's a slightly more literary/academic event taking place at Galerie 8 (Hackney) where many Chris Marker films will be shown and there will be all sorts of artists' book and self-published goodness.


23 May 2011

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve by Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon's eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb    disgraced    goes on doing

now diagram the sentence

10 May 2011

'The first fiction is your name'

I *really* want to read Inferno by Eileen Myles.
“I’m not an exclusively emotional poet, but I start with a problem and I keep returning to the feeling of it, not the idea. I don’t replace it. It seems if you stay in an actual groove (a non-verbal pot) then the poem never really gets lost or boring.”

from the great OR Books

Here is a sort of weird 'advert' for it but it's good because it's mostly her speaking, and boy is she cool. She is a hero in the sense that she says what she fucking thinks. So hard to find.

There is also a very interesting piece on her, Bruce Benderson and Gary Indiana over at 3:AM...which then led me to this manifesto by Benderson - Toward the New Degenerate Narrative...

'Today, for the first time in a long time in this country, the literary discourse of the Outsider has been diluted and deformed. In place of true Outsider narratives or manifestos like Djuna Barnes' Nightwood, Ellison's The Invisible Man, Algren's A Walk on the Wild Side, or Selby's Last Exit to Brooklyn are sentimental researches into mythicized ethnic histories. Obscure facts about lost African civilizations or neglected female artists are supposed to fill the enormous gap left by deconstructing the canon. In humanities departments, women and ethnic minorities are taught to see their present existence as a socially mediated hallucination. Everything they experience has been reduced to being a symptom of their oppression.

This is depressing in lieu of the fact that America produced some of the world's most powerful voices of alienation: the postwar Beats. In the late 1950s, when the Beats burst onto the American scene, audiences and writers were less ghettoized. The fact that Hubert Selby, Jr., a straight man, was able to create a powerful portrait of a drag queen in Last Exit to Brooklyn brought him accolades instead of censure. The fact that macho, white Jack Gelber could portray black or gay junkies in his minimalist play The Connection was not looked on with suspicion. Nowadays conferences on gay, feminist, Chicano, or Black literature demand that the voices for these groups come from within. No one is allowed to write about Chicana lesbian experience except a Chicana lesbian.'

It is quite a rich and complex piece but I think I'm excited by it because he is saying that the voice of the outsider is not exclusive to the outsider. And similarly the outsider is not defined simply by his outsider status. Read it! It's way better than I made it sound.

This links in part also to Howard Slater's work on the notion of Walter Benjamin's 'affective class' which I think I have clumsily spoken about before. A little explanation via a quote from Real Phôné:

'If it could be said that the working class was formerly in the position of the excluded and seeking access to representation, then, the reframing of its anger and suffering into the language of politics, has to a degree made it a consensual figure. Its visibility by means of representation has made it into a “figure possessing a specific good or universality” upon which a hoped-for practice is based. Is this maybe why Rancière asserts that “politics cannot be defined on the basis of any pre-existing subject” (p.28) for the pre-existing subject, one that ‘possesses’ the logos, is already a representation made visible, made perceivable, by the currently operative ‘distribution of the sensible’ and as such cannot effect a new “dissensual reconfiguration of the common experience of the sensible” (p.140)? This may go some way to guessing at Rancière’s reasons for the abandonment of class struggle politics, but it does not explicitly explain what ‘supplement’, what non-existent subject, could come to take its place and effect what could take on a pro-revolutionary hue: the ‘redistribution of the sensible’.

Monster Emporium Press: New project, open subs

The monsters are planning a new fanzine, taking a different object of obsession / adoration each issue.

The first issue will be dedicated to JOSS WHEDON, creator of more good things than I can list without making this sentence too long.

Open submissions. We’d like fan fiction, articles, drawings, blurred stalkery pictures of the man himself or affiliates, etc. etc.

Deadline: 20th June. No money made will go to any individuals, just back in the pot for more zines. Contributors will get a free copy.

Images should be .jpg, minimum 300dpi, maximum 10mb file, suitable for B&W printing. Documents should be .doc (please, no .docx files), maximum 1500 words.

Send to hive@monsteremporiumpress.co.uk

15 March 2011


New. Well sort of old. Over here.

28 February 2011

Writing restraint 2 and 3

My friend gave me a writing task.
It was:
1. Using the prompt word 'simplicity', write a very short piece (about 100 words) using only words containing four or less letters.
2. As above but prompt is 'balance', words are five letters or less.
3. As above but prompt is 'complexity', words are six or less.

I posted 'simplicity' ages ago, and have now done the other two. I'll post all three so it seems complete:

4: Simplicity
Gram by gram heat rose, soft like fur or hair over cold skin to warm it only when it asks. To warm up here we have to burn book upon book. It is safe and easy and and we stay dumb and good. We cook eggs in pans over the fire and eat them with salt. We pour the salt in a form to keep us from harm and dig our toes into the dirt for fun. Each page bows down into the fire and each word like love goes away with a char on your brow as you lean in to read.

5: Balance
His body has been made. From thigh and knee to thick, white wrist. Even the water which coats his eyes is there, older than its Latin name. Under heavy stone he waits. Men come. They think their role is great. They try and fail, they fight and lose. They did not see his body in the block. With tools too sharp or hands too heavy they break and split the cube into only crumb and ash. They think they must make his veins, guts, hairs and nails. He waits in the quiet to be seen. Even he who will chip with care and grace at the block will in the end carve only his name into it in bold. The body's name will be faint and small on the edge of the stone. But it will stay. 

6: Complexity
My hands fall open in doubt. Palms arch up hoping the wind will shape the frayed lines into clear paths. They are pushed and peaked into new forms and like sand dunes or cliff faces, eroded and formed over time. Then they buckle into guilty fists. The head line caves in with fear. The heart line bleeds over its border. They form no myth. No secret is there. I am lured by too many roads. One: sweet and plain as home, pulling with bribes and tears. Two: rich and deep as oceans, braced for new logics. Three: light and fine as skin pulled tight over pale, hollow-boned wings, void of the weight of effort, clean and high. Soon the white pillow and sweet tea I met each day with will be a happy blank. Then I will step out only with desire.

9 February 2011

‘Wars come and go, bugs are forever.’

Mary Gaitskill on writing, Nabokov, MFAs, rejection, mystery, her early career, pointlessness...
Mary Gaitskill, 1989

Her writing essentials:
1. willingness to be lonely
2. maniacal persistence
3. courage
4. and then something else that makes it impossible to quit, even when, rationally, you really ought to
5. let go of the idea of success

The full text (I think it's from a talk/speech) is worth reading, honest and brave - over here.
Mary Gaitskill, recent

25 January 2011

George Orwell on the im/possibility of political literature

Here is part of Orwell's brilliant Inside the Whale (1940), which is worth reading in full, but a taster:

However, there is more than one kind of irresponsibility. As a rule, writers who do not wish to identify themselves with the historical process at the moment either ignore it or fight against if. If they can ignore it, they are probably fools. If they can understand it well enough to want to fight against it, they probably have enough vision to realize that they cannot win. Look, for instance, at a poem like ‘The Scholar Gipsy’, with its railing against the ‘strange disease of modern life’ and its magnificent defeatist simile is the final stanza. It expresses one of the normal literary attitudes, perhaps actually the prevailing attitude during the last hundred years. And on the other hand there are the ‘progressives’, the yea-sayers, the Shaw-Wells type, always leaping forward to embrace the ego-projections which they mistake for the future. On the whole the writers of the twenties took the first line and the writers of the thirties the second. And at any given moment, of course, there is a huge tribe of Barries and Deepings and Dells who simply don't notice what is happening. Where Miller's work is symptomatically important is in its avoidance of any of these attitudes. He is neither pushing the world-process forward nor trying to drag it back, but on the other hand he is by no means ignoring it. I should say that he believes in the impending ruin of Western Civilization much more firmly than the majority of ‘revolutionary’ writers; only he does not feel called upon to do anything about it. He is fiddling While Rome is burning, and, unlike the enormous majority of people who do this, fiddling with his face towards the flames.

In Max and the White Phagocytes there is one of those revealing passages in which a writer tells you a great deal about himself while talking about somebody else. The book includes a long essay on the diaries of Anais Nin, which I have never read, except for a few fragments, and which I believe have not been published. Miller claims that they are the only true feminine writing that has ever appeared, whatever that may mean. But the interesting passage is one in which he compares Anais Nin — evidently a completely subjective, introverted writer — to Jonah in the whale's belly. In passing he refers to an essay that Aldous Huxley wrote some years ago about El Greco's picture, The Dream of Philip the Second. Huxley remarks that the people in El Greco's pictures always look as though they were in the bellies of whales, and professes to find something peculiarly horrible in the idea of being in a ‘visceral prison’. Miller retorts that, on the contrary, there are many worse things than being swallowed by whales, and the passage makes it dear that he himself finds the idea rather attractive. Here he is touching upon what is probably a very widespread fantasy. It is perhaps worth noticing that everyone, at least every English-speaking person, invariably speaks of Jonah and the whale. Of course the creature that swallowed Jonah was a fish, and was so described in the Bible (Jonah i. 17), but children naturally confuse it with a whale, and this fragment of baby-talk is habitually carried into later life — a sign, perhaps, of the hold that the Jonah myth has upon our imaginations. For the fact is that being inside a whale is a very comfortable, cosy, homelike thought. The historical Jonah, if he can be so called, was glad enough to escape, but in imagination, in day-dream, countless people have envied him. It is, of course, quite obvious why. The whale's belly is simply a womb big enough for an adult. There you are, in the dark, cushioned space that exactly fits you, with yards of blubber between yourself and reality, able to keep up an attitude of the completest indifference, no matter what happens. A storm that would sink all the battleships in the world would hardly reach you as an echo. Even the whale's own movements would probably be imperceptible to you. He might be wallowing among the surface waves or shooting down into the blackness of the middle seas (a mile deep, according to Herman Melville), but you would never notice the difference. Short of being dead, it is the final, unsurpassable stage of irresponsibility. And however it may be with Anais Nin, there is no question that Miller himself is inside the whale. All his best and most characteristic passages are written from the angle of Jonah, a willing Jonah. Not that he is especially introverted — quite the contrary. In his case the whale happens to be transparent. Only he feels no impulse to alter or control the process that he is undergoing. He has performed the essential Jonah act of allowing himself to be swallowed, remaining passive, accepting.

It will be seen what this amounts to. It is a species of quietism, implying either complete unbelief or else a degree of belief amounting to mysticism. The attitude is ‘Je m'en fous’ or ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’, whichever way you like to look at it; for practical purposes both are identical, the moral in either case being ‘Sit on your bum’. But in a time like ours, is this a defensible attitude? Notice that it is almost impossible to refrain from asking this question. At the moment of writing, we are still in a period in which it is taken for granted that books ought always to be positive, serious, and ‘constructive’. A dozen years ago this idea would have been greeted with titters. (‘My dear aunt, one doesn't write about anything, one just writes.’) Then the pendulum swung away from the frivolous notion that art is merely technique, but it swung a very long distance, to the point of asserting that a book can only be ‘good’ if it is founded on a ‘true’ vision of life. Naturally the people who believe this also believe that they are in posssion of the truth themselves. Catholic critics, for instance, tend to claim that books arc only ‘good’ when they are of Catholic tendency. Marxist critics make the same claim more boldy for Marxist books. For instance, Mr Edward Upward (‘A Marxist Interpretation of Literature,’ in the Mind in Chains}:
Literary criticism which aims at being Marxist must... proclaim that no book written at the present time can be ‘good’ unless it is written from a Marxist or near-Marxist viewpoint.
Various other writers have made similar or comparable statements. Mr Upward italicizes ‘at the present time’ because, he realizes that you cannot, for instance, dismiss Hamlet on the ground that Shakespeare was not a Marxist. Nevertheless his interesting essay only glances very shortly at this difficulty. Much of the literature that comes to us out of the past is permeated by and in fact founded on beliefs (the belief in the immortality of the soul, for example) which now seem to us false and in some cases contemptibly silly. Yet if is ‘good’ literature, if survival is any test. Mr Upward would no doubt answer that a belief which was appropriate several centuries ago might be inappropriate and therefore stultifying now. But this does not get one much farther, because it assumes that in any age there will be one body of belief which is the current approximation to truth, and that the best literature of the time will be more or less in harmony with it. Actually no such uniformity has ever existed. In seventeenth-century England, for instance, there was a religious and political cleavage which distinctly resembled the left-right antagonism of to-day. Looking back, most modern people would feel that the bourgeois-Puritan viewpoint was a better approximation to truth than the Catholic-feudal one. But it is certainly not the case that all or even a majority of the best writers of the time were puritans. And more than this, there exist ‘good’ writers whose world-view would in any age be recognized false and silly. Edgar Allan Poe is an example. Poe's outlook is at best a wild romanticism and at worst is not far from being insane in the literal clinical sense. Why is it, then that stories like The Black Cat, The Tell-tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher and so forth, which might very nearly have been written by a lunatic, do not convey a feeling of falsity? Because they are true within a certain framework, they keep the rules of their own peculiar world, like a Japanese picture. But it appears that to write successfully about such a world you have got to believe in it. One sees the difference immediately if one compares Poe's Tales with what is, in my opinion, an insincere attempt to work up a similar atmosphere, Julian Green's Minuit. The thing that immediately strikes one about Minuit is that there is no reason why any of the events in it should happen. Everything is completely arbitrary; there is no emotional sequence. But this is exactly what one does not feel with Poe's stories. Their maniacal logic, in its own setting, is quite convincing. When, for instance, the drunkard seizes the black cat and cuts its eye out with his penknife, one knows exactly why he did it, even to the point of feeling that one would have done the same oneself. It seems therefore that for a creative writer possession of the ‘truth’ is less important than emotional sincerity. Even Mr Upward would not claim that a writer needs nothing beyond a Marxist training. He also needs a talent. But talent, apparently, is a matter of being able to care, of really believing in your beliefs, whether they are true or false. The difference between, for instance, Céline and Evelyn Waugh is a difference of emotional intensity. It is the difference between genuine despair and a despair that is at least partly a pretence. And with this there goes another consideration which is perhaps less obvious: that there are occasions when an ‘untrue’ belief is more likely to be sincerely held than a ‘true’ one.

17 January 2011

Lux Interior

I really like this excerpt from an interview with The Cramps' Lux Interior:

'We're just people who remain ever-curious. We're just attracted to whatever comes in handy. Again, like the Surrealists, anything you run across is actually beautiful; within a single city block, you can find miraculous things. It's a good planet - and good things can happen.'

(Thanks Tom)

I am done with pessimism.
Even though almost everything is terrifyingly shit.
The time is now.