Thursday, 31 December 2009
10 Octobre - 22 Novembre 2008
The Consistence of the Visible
For this, the 10th anniversary of the Prix Ricard, it seemed important to me to complete the normal function of this exposition (a thematic presentation of emerging artists from France’s artworld) by having a critical preamble which would include ‘historical’ or confirmed artists. This inclusion poses a very simple question: what marks the boundary of an artwork? By what gesture is its terrain brought about, puts in places its limits, outlines the perimeter of its exploration?
In thinking of the concept of ‘bricolage’ with which Lévi-Strauss defined mythological thought, I thought to present this subjective story in the form of a reunion of fetisches: that is to say, objects which, despite their apparence of detail, represent a complex thought which is found suffused throughout them. Such is a hologramme.
This question, regarding the ‘plan of composition’ of an artwork, is not innocent or free, nor without repercussions from the choice of ‘young artists’ that continue it on.
In one way it underlines the importance of initial gestures and of the necessity, when making a work, of laying out a terrain and to define a specific manner of surveying this terrain. As so many artists today content themselves with the production of objects under a vague ‘theme’, more often than not borrowed from the contemporary ideological notebook, it is better not to forget that an artwork resembles a journey more than a mere tour of the local gallery quarter.
Elsewhere this question shares a surprising point in common, without doubt the only, between two key actors in French art whom this exposition would like to to pay hommage: Pierre Restany and Bernard Lamarche-Vadel. They were, for the young art critic I aspired to be at the turn of the 1990s, two unique role models. Between ‘the technological humanism’ of one, directed toward social production and the totalisation of the visible, and the subtle aristocraticism of the other, through the singular and the inexpressible, we find ourselves in the presence of two disimiliar trajectories belonging to two different generations, but united by the same independent spirit and a similar engagement in the world of the French artworld.
Restany celebrated in 1960 ‘the autonomic expression of the real’ in launching the Nouveau Realiste movement, which insisted in the radical gesture of ‘direct appropriation’, founder of all artistic practice – ‘automatic manifestaion of the sensible’ – explored in a new ‘urban nature’. Twenty-six years later, Lamarche-Vadel was to regroup twelve artists for his exposition ‘What is French Art’, by the pertinance of their ‘posture’ or their ‘process’, that is the invention of ‘ways to put in process (their) existance in the course of creating their artwork’. At first glance dissimiliar, these two propositions constituet in my eyes two levels of the same conceptual discourse.
The nine artists that I have choosen for this 10th edition of the Prix Ricard respond to this double promulgation: supporting their work on one hand with a collective sensibility and on the other with a personal composition, riding the waves emitted by the social but dissociating themselves from it by a singular point de départ. They can subscribe to the formula of Lamarche-Vadel which gives this exposition its title: ‘Therefore what we consider in the visible, the art work, must above all have the texture of an extreme doubt about the consistence of the visible.’
Monday, 7 December 2009
The New York Times. What was the biggest surprise for you, editing the collection?
Aleksander Hemon. It was less of a surprise than a reminder: how unabashedly comfortable many of the writers are to engage with literary forms that would be perceived as experimental or avant-garde here. In turn, I was reminded how deeply conservative contemporary American literature is in terms of form. And that conservative bent is a recent development, I believe. The European form flexibility is not a consequence of some snotty, elitist aesthetic but rather of the fact that there are many stories to be told and many traditions to draw from.
Q. It would be hard from this anthology to characterize a particularly “European” style of writing, to say nothing of a particularly Irish or Albanian or Norwegian style. But in your introduction, you make a compelling case for the role of Europe’s geography and history in shaping the continent’s fiction. Could you, then, venture to define what makes a story particularly “European”? What about specific national characteristics?
A. Europe is fantastically dense, varied and small by American standards. Everything is within two hours by plane. It takes as long to drive from, say, Norway to Greece as it does from Chicago to Miami. And if you were to drive from Norway to Greece, you would pass through countless different landscapes, cultures, languages, histories. Yet each of these autonomous spaces is bound together by a common uberhistory — no country or language or people managed to escape the calamities of the 20th century, for example, or the vast migrations that have been taking place since World War II, peaking in the last couple of decades. It is impossible to retain an ethnically clean space in Europe, despite periodical genocide or the exclusionary policies of European governments. What is European, then, is that cultures and literatures always see themselves in relation to other cultures and languages — sometimes in opposition, sometimes in kinship, often both at the same time. An educated European — a reader of serious fiction — is likely to speak two or more languages.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Monday, 21 September 2009
These coloured chalks
Fell into my lap
Fruit from a swaying bag
On a passer by.
So I use them.
To plead and swear
upon the slabs
That you wear and tear upon
and smooth out with your feet.
'Look at me!', I write
'I am beneath you, like the pool
from a leaky radiator,
like the roots beneath the trees.'
My knees don't feel
the cold housed in the concrete
I gave up on heat.
Is a barren whore to me
I seek to plant nothing
And if the rain
washes them away
If no-one sees what I say
The chalk dust
will brighten the dirt
trapped by my fingernails.
Friday, 11 September 2009
Friday, 4 September 2009
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Saturday, 8 August 2009
Friday, 7 August 2009
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Monday, 27 July 2009
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Monday, 20 April 2009
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Saturday, 21 March 2009
Friday, 20 March 2009
Because, in spite of what he said, it’s not the reactionaries or the old fogey’s who pose the greatest threat to the novel. It’s the dilettantes. The gentlemen (and –women) amateurs. The resting actors and the bored journalists and the ubiquitous media people hungry for kudos and the talented but directionless Oxbridge graduates who’ve all got agents queuing up to take them out to lunch. And because it’s so easy for these people to get published, we end up with bookshops piled from floor to ceiling with novels that aren’t really novels at all, written by people who haven’t given the form and its possibilities a tenth of the thought that B.S. Johnson gave to it before he even set pen to paper.
(Coe, pg. 7)
This essay is about what one of the last English modernists, B.S Johnson, thought to be the threats facing the novel in the English language. It is concerned with writers, like Johnson, interested in the form and new aspects of the novel and their difficulty in getting published in an environment driven by the concerns of large businesses rather then the artistic concerns of individual novelists. It will look at these aspects of publishing by focusing on one contemporary publication history, that of the novel Remainder, by Tom McCarthy, a writer not far removed from the artistic rigour Johnson brought to his writings. In the process of outlining this case history, the importance of literary production outside the Anglophone world will be stressed; the importance and continued security of small, independent publishing will be argued for along with, in an age of ever increasing celebrity and bestseller-fixation, a realistic and focused outlook for new writers and their art.
Each country is a different publishing environment – even within the Anglophone world there exists a wide spectrum of markets and audiences. But this essay is arguing the difficulty of treating the novel as the art form it inherently is and the restrictive restraint put on it by nationality. The novelist is open to outside influence, to die Weltliteratur qua Goethe, and if their publishers are not, then the true aesthetic value of the work will be, in a large, important part, lost. Milan Kundera points out that it is the big context of the die Weltliteratur – not of global Anglophone literature it must be stressed – that alone is best capable of understanding any novel’s aesthetic value. It is a risky business, as far as maintaining an audience’s interest, but necessary he says: a novel’s aesthetic value is not just about the story or the message it conveys, but also how it conveys it. The novel is up against other, more mainstream media such as television and cinema that convey stories just as well, if not better, to the masses. This is to say, that an avant-garde novelist tries to light up the unknown aspects of the novel, find out the newness of form necessary for its continued good health. (La Rideau, p 51) And this spotlight on something new, this looking forward, is clad in that thing which this essay’s argument will hinge. Cervantes’ first publishers knew it, Sterne’s first publishers knew it, Sylvia Beach certainly knew it: risk. This, more than anything, is what we have to talk about when considering the avant-garde writer and the world of publishing. Risk is important for any artist in any media, especially, I am arguing, for what I term the avant-garde novelist; but risk is bad for business.
So the question arises today, as I see it: is the only way to originally respond to the novel’s big context of die Weltliteratur, to push it forward as a form and get published, to by-pass the no risk world of big business and conglomerate publishing houses and go to small presses? Those tiny, shaky businesses driven first by the desire to recognise the high aesthetic value of work they like and who worry about the mass commodity value of it second.
We need to go back to 2004 when Clementine Deliss and Thomas Boutoux, two contemporary art curators, started going about establishing such a small publishing house in that erstwhile centre of literary embarkment, Paris. They made the decision to take Clementine Deliss’ international Metronome series of art publications to a new level and to start looking for those writers who felt there was a ‘renewed need for stories, narratives, and forms of fiction that stimulate and nurture the imagination’ (Le Joker, unpaginated). Their paths were to cross with Tom McCarthy soon after and together, inside the next eighteen months, they would produce one of the most unusual success stories in contemporary publishing.
However, in terms of the larger, historical story of publishing, there wasn’t that much unusual about it, in fact. Indeed, if anything, this merger was to be couched in past avant-garde practices. Deliss and Boutoux’s new venture was to be called Metronome Press and it was to bring their series of artistic publications to the level previously set by people like Sylvia Beach, George Reavey, Jack Kahane and, more significantly, Maurice Girodias. The contribution these people made to 20th century English literature does not need to be stressed here: the first pair both published Joyce, Kahane in the 1930s going on with his Obelisk imprint to publish such luminaries as Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Frank Harris and Laurence Durrell. The later man, Girondias, who was to be of particular influence to Deliss and Boutoux, founded the Olympia Press in Paris in 1953. In the post-War years Girondias gathered together scores of displaced British and American writers, all living or passing through Paris and produced ‘DBs’ or ‘dirty books’ under his Traveller’s Companion series. Girondias, as a business man, knew what would sell, and in order to keep his fledging press alive he got some of the best writers of the time to write smut, place it alongside pornography, and sell it. This financed the serious stuff on the side. But it was more than just a cash source: beside the tits and ass he would ‘seduce’ people into buying the new collection of titles with an exposed ankle of script or seductive shoulder of a new novel.
In comparison with the Arts Council reliance and the increasing pressure of conglomerate-takeover of many small publishing houses, Girondias seems adventurous, risky, and perhaps, creative. It worked for him (for a while at least): he published the original English editions of some of the seminal works of that century: JP Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, Nabokov’s Lolita, Burrough’s Naked Lunch and Beckett’s Molloy, to name just a few. He worked against any idea of moral censorship for reasons that seemed to come down to aspects of his singular personality as much as his passion for literature.
How does this relate to the situation half a century later? It does so by giving the framework, and style, to Deliss and Boutoux for them to self-consciously copy and appropriate and in so doing start Tom McCarthy’s career as a novelist.
Tom McCarthy (b. 1969) has led, one could say, the usual sort of life for his sort: his route to publication took him to Europe, Prague in the early 1990s, then to Amsterdam where he was literary editor for the local Time Out and later worked in television and editor in various publications. The first novel he wrote did not make any head way and was not picked up. Around this time he became heavily involved in the London art world, tellingly heading his own fictive avant-garde network, the International Necronautical Society, which echoed Modernism’s big avant gardes, Dadaism, Futurism, Surrrealism, through its structure, organisation, manifestos et cetera. It seems that creatively McCarthy admired his contempories in the artworld for their engagement with his first passion, literature. It also seems to have been a difficult time for a highly literate, passionate author well read in high-end literary theory (McCarthy has taught in Central St. Martins and the London Consortium) and whose work seemed to have little chance of being published. As he put it three years later in an article for the London Times, the distance between the mainstream publishing world and the world of his audience and his work, was widening:
A few years ago I was invited to a dinner for young British novelists at the ICA. The other guests were for the most part successful published writers – unlike myself back then. The talk was of lucrative three-book deals with major publishers, review coverage, agents – anything, in fact, but literature.Nothing in this excerpt should be very surprising, indeed one is tempted to say there is a time and a place for everything, including Joyce and Bataille, but what is surprising and worth pointing out is the insight it gives of a young, unpublished novelist’s disappointment with the mainstream and the honing in on, the identification of, his core target audience. In 2001/2002 McCarthy’s second effort, Remainder, got stonewalled by the conglomerate houses due to a lack of interest from editors or resistance from, as he has said ‘the marketing people who run these places nowadays’ (ReadySteadyBook, interview with Mark Twaite, 18 December, 2005). He turned his attention more and more to the visual art world (it should be pointed out that McCarthy had no background or training in visual art) and seems to have had there, as a literary enthusiast cum budding young novelist, a great time! In the same interview with Mark Twaite he said: ‘In the current climate art has become the place where literary ideas and themes are creatively discussed and transformed – not publishing.’
When I steered the conversation with a couple of my neighbours that way, I discovered way: they were both indifferent to, and largely ignorant of, literary history. Sure they’d read a book or two by E.M. Forster or Jane Austin back at college – but Faulkner, Joyce, Kafka, Sterne, Cervantes? Forget it. I did end up having a great conversation about Bataille and Sade, but it was with one of the institute’s curators. (McCarthy, The Times, June 23, 2007)
So this was to be his first audience, the art world – he had correctly identified where the audience and engagement he saw fit for his novel existed. And this is where Deliss and Boutoux with their Metronome Press step into the picture and make McCarthy a lucky novelist by being publishers who fully understood and respected his artistic ambitions as well as understanding, importantly, his audience very well.
Remainder is a novel in which the narrator has suffered an accident that leaves him with a case of post-traumatic syndrome, as well as 8.5 million pounds in compensation to idle away. After a severe bout of déjà vu he embarks on an elaborate series of re-enactments of varying scale, banality and increasingly violence. In a search for authenticity his re-enactments are exact, repetitive and increasingly, deranged. It's a clever narrative for a clever book, a decidedly ‘non-British’ kind of novel involving many echoes of Robbe-Grillet (a hero for McCarthy) and the nouveau roman. 3AM Magazine even called it the first French novel written in English! But saying all that, the style is limpid, clear and it is not at all a difficult read – if anything it is funny, accessible and oddly engaging, a very good read in short. McCarthy was pleased that some reviewers made the link with a lot of contemporary art practice in which artists rebuild and re-enact scenes, stories, environments in videos and within galleries , but he made his narrator an ordinary Joe Blogg without any literary or trendy art world knowledge. The book explores ideas, unusual high end literary concerns, but doesn’t have a word of philosophy in it, or any moralising at all. He very obviously wanted to write a straight up novel, that was not a piece of art or theory, but just a good novel.
When Deliss decided to move into fiction publishing she asked Tom McCarthy if she could read his novel because she ‘was curious to follow up the hunch that fiction within art practice might be the way forward.’ (3AM interview); she knew McCarthy from the art world, liked the novel a lot, and decided to take it on as one of Metronome’s flagship books. Along with Remainder the other novels to be published were Stunning Lofts by Tom Gidley (an artist and co-founder of the powerhouse Frieze art magazine); Fat Mountain Scenes by Phyllis Kiehl (a German artist and writer); and The Young and Evil, a reprint of the 1933 gay cult book by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler. Deliss said that Metronome Press was to be ‘inspired’ by Olympia Press (she didn’t want, understandably, the multiple bankruptcies that plagued Girondias!), it was to be based in Paris, publish books in English, but not to have any one particular nationalist identity, French or otherwise. As well as being romantic, with a strong wiff of nostalgia, Paris was convenient as a location in that it was considerably less expensive to print books in France than in say, the UK. The books themselves were elegant, compact and reminiscent of an Editions des Minuit or Gallimard paperback.
Judith Ickowicz, a French lawyer and friend of Deliss and Boutoux made out the unique ‘contrat d’agent de passe’ which made Metronome Press a crossroads between places of creation and assured that Metronome Press would act as both publisher and intermediary, a place that, as Boutoux said in a letter in 2005, ‘on (sic) the long term… could give Paris a kind of maison de passe, a place unlike a museum or gallery [or publishing house for that matter!] … where you meet other patients in the sense of people who don’t want to see things happen instantly, and who are not drugged by visibility.’ (Le Joker). In another clause Metronome Press promised the movement and dissemination of the books across geographical frontiers, building bridges outwards from Paris to the major cities across the world. The contract acknowledged the ‘caratère expérimental’ of the initiative and therefore the need for it to function at first on an ‘échelle réduite’, a reduced scale. I think this is very important point in the genesis of Tom McCarthy’s (and Metronome Press’) subsequent success.
And with these basic bridges in place, Remainder, quite simply, took off. The art world immediately appreciated its strong concern for matter and representation and saw in it a warm send-up of much of the art being produced at the time; the online literary blogging community reviewed it and interviewed Tom McCarthy himself. The importance of the online literary community cannot be underemphasised in mapping out McCarthy’s success. Only a note can be made about this emergent scene, resplendent with echoes of bygone days, of literary salons and writing circles, the literary e-zines of today are themselves avant-garde networks of which even the big UK daily newspapers must keep tags on to stay up to date. Reviews also appeared in the TLS, the Independent, the Independent on Sunday as well as a full page in the London Review of Books. Crucially, within the contract devised by Ickowicz there was a clause stating that ‘Metronome Press can publish previously unpublished manuscripts without excluding their authors from the possibility of such Metronome Press publications being acquired by a maison d’édition litéraire classique in France or abroad.’ (Le Joker, translation by the author). This perhaps being the key bridge and one that was crossed by McCarthy, and once over he looked around the literary landscape that he had found so inhospitable a year or two previously. There he discovered a new, internationally minded independent press, Alma Books and joined their bourgeoning list. And the terrain grew stranger still – McCarthy soon had an excited email from Marty Asher, US vice-president and editor-in-chief of Vintage, an email full of enthusiasm about Remainder. He is now represented in the US by Melanie Jackson and on Asher’s impressive list. Further into this new landscape, McCarthy sold the film rights of Remainder to FilmFour (the film is in pre-production). The foreign language rights were sold to Japanese, Korean, Greek, Spanish and Croatian houses and in 2007 a French version (entitled: Et ce sont les chats qui tombèrent) was published by Hachette Littérature.
I argue that a lot of this came about by McCarthy correctly understanding what his audience was and the ability of small presses to find them, starting as he did with the smallest of presses imaginable, and choosing Alma Books over the bigger houses that started to reconsider Remainder. Once the reviews came pouring in his response to the many conglomerates who did about-turns and offered to take his book up was full of pique, the kind of pique that had driven BS Johnson before him (‘Well, fuck off: it’s the same book as it was two years ago.’ Tonkin, The Independent) Asked in an interview about the reception of Remainder McCarthy answered that he was, without surprise, very happy with the response and the reviews. But his response is more precise than just a writer basking in the limelight after years in the dark. His response is a worthwhile apercu into the necessity that any intelligent writer needs to know what they want from the realities of the industry:
[Remainder] seems to have by-passed the commercial sector and gone straight into the critical one, which is exactly where I wanted it to play out. Distribution is a problem, though. A corporate publisher would get your book into all the bookshops - but then to be with a corporate publisher it seems to me that your book would have to execute the kind of brief dictated by their market research teams, which would make it not worth writing in the first place. You may as well go into advertising and become a copywriter instead. You'd make more money that way, that's for sure! (McCarthy, ReadySteadyBook)
The company's whole emphasis lies on quality over quantity, all the way from choosing projects for publication to creating the physical look and feel of the books. Alma works closely and intimately with authors to develop the best possible finished scripts, and displays a commitment to the kind of professional editing, copy-editing and proofreading that is dying out elsewhere. (Company Statement, www.almabooks.co.uk)In short this is an environment in which a novelist could actively engage with the weltliterature of the form and develop challengingly and appealing new forms. Publishers of novels have to be open to outside influence and the reality of literature; without adopting a Marxist approach I argue that if the logic of commodity marketing is applied at editorial level the work that gets produced will be far removed from Kundera’s idea of the aesthetic value of the novel and its ability to advance in form. It is risky to produce and publish this sort of work, that is not being denied, and that is why it seems that small presses are so important. But more than that, the funding that they receive is equally more important. In the UK it seems that funding by the Arts Council has gotten so poor for presses that only in the last few months of 2007 it was announced that a huge impersonal conglomerate would have to bail out a small press such as the Dedalus Press by Informa, a subsidiary of Routledge, due to obligations of ‘corporate responsibility’. This is an exemplary case of the quandary of independent, international minded small presses: Dedalus Press’s £25,000 annual funding was withdrawn by the Arts Council, and as such the press was threatened with imminent closure. Informa moved in, with promises of exerting no editorial influence and three years of assistance. Dedalus’ Eric Lane is now planning to sue the Arts Council. (The Guardian March 7th, 2008) It can be noted here that in 2007 the Arts Council of he Republic offered considerable support to, among others, New Island books (€100,000), Lilliput press (€80,000), Carysfort Press (€100,000). And there is no doubt that this support helps these houses publish novels that may otherwise not be published in Ireland. Smaller presses such as the Stinging Fly Press also have published a small number of important books (most notably in the context of this essay, the formally exuberant Watermark, 2005, by Sean O Reilly). This support is vitally important, because just like in the visual art world were non-commercial art spaces are publically funded in order to guarantee the creation and circulation of non-commodity based art works, the Arts Council needs to fund independent literary publishers directly.
Last year, during a conference to mark the centenary of small press avant-garde publisher George Reavey, a round table discussion that included the poet Billy Mills agreed with the idea of Professor J.C.C. Mays about there being two basic ‘types’ of writers. Those writers who have a lot invested in reaching the biggest possible audience (a writer whom is more and more up against strong competition from cinema, TV, the internet) and a more ‘writerly’ writer who is concerned more with the text, the form, and who sets out to find the unknown aspects and new forms that this essay is arguing are so important for the novel’s continued vigour as an art form. This essay has shown how such small presses render their services perfectly to serious writers passionate about their art form. I would posit that Tom McCarthy is a ‘writerly’ writer, who made the cross over from small press publication to global rights and mass readership. The response to Remainder alone shows that there remains a wide appeal to books that try and push the form forward in terms of both form and content.
It should be restated here that this essay is not some sort of lament for the neglect of the Modernist project in contemporary literature and publishing or indeed a lack of avant-gardism, it is a study in alternative paths to publication for, in want of a better word, ‘alternative’, unapologetic literary fiction. There are a whole plethora of books and writers that I am currently excited by and engaged with, the problem seems to rest in the dissemination, the reality of the market and assuring a wider audience for challenging, literary work. There are a multitude of diverse outlets for quality writing, as this essay has shown. Even as I write Penguin books have launched a new series of ‘digital short stories’ with writers such as Toby Litt, Naomi Alderman and Mohsin Hamid, attracting no doubt an audience more comfortable – sadly – with computer games than hardback books. For the novel too, there are constantly influences outside it that force welcome change and crossover of forms. As Tom McCarthy himself said of the current climate:
I think it’s a great time to be a writer; it’s just an awful time to publish. But…a result of the closing out of literature by corporate publishing here in the UK has been that literature runs underground and bubbles up elsewhere: art, film, philosophy and so on. The borders between these disciplines get blurred, there’s hybridization, new forms emerging. That’s a good thing.Perhaps here is where a ‘readerly’ writer can find their mass audience – the danger being that what they wanted to do in the first place, write a book, will be lost and subsumed by the other discipline. One problem would seem to be that gifted ‘writerly’ writers now produce work with very little idea of for whom (or indeed how) their novels will be published. Eager to take any contract that comes their way, these writers are more likely to sign their books off to the first conglomerate that comes asking. To whom they plan to sell the book is not considered outside the marketing department; artistic success lies in a few good reviews, maybe a place on a shortlist or other, the people sat in front of their TV sets watching one book club or other (a real non sequitur, that one) that features their literary work. As Boyd Tonkin put it:
Literary fiction in Britain is in a quiet but deep state of crisis. While plenty of publishers and agents aspire to nothing higher than the mass-market heaven of a Richard & Judy pick, awareness-raising rituals such as the Man Booker shortlist make more modest waves then they once did. Beyond the odd blue-moon emergence of a David Mitchell or a Zadie Smith, the business no longer knows how to lead ambitious younger novelists out of a shrinking comfort-zone of coterie approval. (The Independent, 21 September, 2007)Crucially, this last ‘comfort-zone of coterie approval’ is ambiguous – I am arguing that what Tonkin means is something close to ‘the actors and bored journalists and ubiquitous media people’ that BS Johnson had railed against. Because for a writer who cares deeply about their art and wishes to expand their talents as much as they can within its forms, mainstream approval should not equal artistic success, at least not immediately. Nor should sales figures, nor should a place on some shortlist or other. All artists need to survive (along with everyone else involved in their business) and I am not denying that fact. But to state, as the latest Booker prize winner has, that money helps as a means of measuring your success is, I feel, at a very far remove from the process of art, from the majority of writer’s lives and is, simply, economics not art. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that some novelists, out to cut their own idiosyncratic path, need to work toward much smaller sales figures and to focus on getting the right publisher – no matter how small, how local, how left of the field, and to concentrate on getting directly to their audience, the one they should hope will fully appreciate and engage with their work. This was, after all, the key to McCarthy with Remainder and the art world.
McCarthy went on to publish that first book that was turned down many years before, Men In Space, in autumn 2007. Personally I find this an odd decision for Alma Books and McCarthy to have made. This was an older book, pre-dating Remainder by several years; he reworked large parts of it and it was well covered in the media, releasing another wave of publicity and internet activity in the same vein as Remainder. While not as engaging as Remainder, the appearance of his book perhaps in a way aided McCarthy to finally shake off the restraints he felt from the mainstream publishing industry dating back to his very earliest efforts in publication. And then with Granta Books he published the very well acclaimed Tintin And the Secret of Literarture. All of which hopefully means he is now well ensconced in the literary landscape that Metronome Press delivered him into during the autumn in 2005, and will continue to push the novel in new directions by being able to follow his own unique course as an artist and novelist. A position that is very difficult for young writers to reach, but a position this essay has shown not to be completely out of bounds for those writers eager, intelligent and open-minded enough to get there.
Saturday, 14 March 2009
The second largest river in Europe
flows for 1,770 miles,
that being 2,850 kilometers,
from southern Germany to eastern Europe,
this riverrun drains roughly 315,000 square miles
of land, that being 815,000 square kilometres,
it has the largest volume of flow of any European river and
beginning in the Black Forest it empties into the Black sea.
The Germans call it die Donau, I call it the Danube.
(and I thought it was nice place to start).
Frankfurt am Oder,
The ice packed by
marching on the ascent
to the station or Kreuz-
berg further across the river.
but where’s ‘home’
I do not know, and this makes
me think of all those
extent in the world, right
then under the falling sky
who wish they were on
that train, or that train,
or perhaps standing with me
viewing this O2 World,
this very particular advertisement,
not the one closer to their home,
and whether I want to be
in their place:
crowding at the doors
between carriages yes,
as the train glides into
or maybe, with forgive-
ness needed from one,
on my way to others’:
Frankfurt am Oder,
Chaos was the goal, an aim to smash one set of facts against another and to end up living nowhere, to spend the future killing the world, hobbling between the broken list of low-cost destinations as if the apocalypse had descended and différance had grown and finally taken over, leaving nothing identifiable, nothing recognisable or accountable, all footholds gone and obliterated.
Ciampino is not Roma, Torp is not Oslo.
Paris is not Beauvais, the Pryrenees are not the same as Pau; Skavsta is not Stockholm nor is Vasteras; Treviso is not Venice; Brescia is not Verona; Vitoria is not Bilbao; Altenburg is not Leipzig; Girona is not Barcelona; Charleroi is certainly not Brussels; Weeze is not Dusseldorf; Pisa is not Florence; and Stansted is not London.
Torp is not Oslo. Oslo is not Torp.
And while we’re at it: Dublin is not Dublin.
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Monday, 9 March 2009
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Thursday, 26 February 2009
Wednesday, 11 February 2009
C’est nul. Ridicule. Une putaine de connerie et ça m’ennerve.
Cet mec est un idiot, un vrai con.
Ça ne me ressemble pas d’ecouter des mecs si longtemps.
Le paradis? – c’est pas les autres. Pas les irlandais en tout cas.
Il y a trois ans une amie était en couple avec cet irlandais – deux ans plus tard j’étais lá bas, dans la capitale, pleine d’ennui, toute seule &tc, &tc et on s’est croisé dans la rue Nassau – juste comme ça. Tout simplement il m’a regardé avec un air plein de haine, plein de désir, mes seins comme un spectacle français – pas un spectacle slut-fuck.