Two new posts from Anonymous have appeared.: "Anonymous is everyone and everywhere. We have no leaders, no single entity directing us…"
I still owe this weblog posts about graduation, the Deckchair guide and what I’m up to right now, but that’s going to wait until I reach my destination and get settled. Meanwhile I’ve been thinking about Anonymous.
The recent Anonymous videos have been fantastic as works of art, reminiscent of the footage from Pattern Recognition, which Beth studied in her dissertation. Anonymous’ work puts into play many of the theoretical concepts I love. Who is it that signs a work as Anonymous when anyone can give a work or a tract that name? It is impossible to canonise Anonymous work – it is up to the reader to agree or disagree with an individual piece, since unpleasant or insulting messages might be signed as Anonymous. Anonymous is potentially juvenile and pointlessly offensive at times; but since anyone might be Anonymous, you can judge the messages only on content. Anonymous might be anyone.
Anonymous’ pirating and remixing of pop culture reminds me of the situationists and their practise of detournement (the Fox news report on Anonymous is like something from Chris Morris). Anonymous has the advantage that it cannot be recuperated as the work of the Situationists was. If someone steps forward and repudiates or sells out their own anonymous work, they are no longer Anonymous. You can’t negotiate with Anonymous. You can’t make terms with Anonymous.
I don’t have any particular feelings for or against scientology, but I thought the anonymous video was interesting, even while it seemed to crib Keanu’s speech at the end of the Matrix. (Matt Webb has some interesting thoughts on the footage)
Walking past the Jubilee Library in Brighton I saw the following poster outside one of the boarded-up shops (link to full-sized version):
It will be interesting to see how Anonymous crosses over to the real world. It’s like religious persecution as some weird ARG
Just been for breakfast with Mum & Dad and came home to change into my suit. Looking forward to the ceremony but expect my feelings to be different after two hours of listening to names read out.
Tom has a post on last night featuring photos and a link to a video of Spliff Richard.
OK time to change. Had to buy a new shirt because I didn’t fancy wearing a black shirt with my suit.
Yesterday was my last day with Sigmer. I’ve very much enjoyed working with everyone there, and will hopefully stay in touch with them in the future. Hopefully it won’t be too long until my next visit to The Swan!
After work I went to the Jubilee Library for the launch of Queenspark‘s Deckchair Guide to Brighton and Hove. The book is a guide to Brighton, written by local residents, which I helped with last year. I haven’t blogged about this before, so it deserves a post of its own (probably next week).
After that I met Tom and Sophy at the Komedia for Hammer and Tongue‘s 5th Annual Poets vs MCs Slam. The event featured a lineup of rappers and poets and was framed around the idea of seeing which were best. In the event it turned into more of a showcase of two Brighton scenes, with interesting combinations such as an MC freestyling over a ukelele song.
I’d seen a number of the rappers at Slipjam:B in the past and, for whatever reason, they didn’t seem as tight as usual last night. The poets (including Robin from BPS, Chris Parkinson, Rosy and Jimmy McGee) were very good , thriving in front of a massive crowd. The most impressive performance came from Spliff Richards, who won last year’s Hammer and Tongue slam competition.
Today is another busy one, as I’ll be graduating from my MA. Expect photos of me wearing full robes in due course.
As I posted recently, I’ve been looking at the writer BS Johnson, reading his novel Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry and Johnathon Coe‘s biography Like a Fiery Elephant. The biography is excellent so far, making Johnson sound like a character from a novel (which in some ways he was…), as well as raising questions about the genre of literary biography.
One sign of a good book is that it leads to other interesting things, and Coe’s biography led me to the writer Ann Quin.
Quin died the same year as BS Johnson. She came from Brighton, growing up in Lewes Crescent, and committed suicide weeks before Johnson himself, swimming out to sea off the Palace Pier.
I found a long article including some exciting excerpts from Quin’s work. It points out "The University of Sussex library contains none of her books", which remains the case, despite recent re-releases of her work.
The article also quotes a review stating that her book Three is "exquisitely written from the first page to the last. If you don’t read it then you’re not interested in the present and possible future of the English novel". I hope it’s still as good now as it seemed to be then.
I’m not the only person thinking about Ann Quin, as Lee Rourke wrote an an article on her for the Guardian website:
"Berg is a beautiful novel: it is dark, esoteric, haunting – sometimes disturbing. It is saturated with detail, particulars and minutiae. A novel of voices and voice. The best novel ever set in Brighton in my opinion – forget Patrick Hamilton (as splendid as he is), Ann Quin’s Berg is the real deal. It cuts through the superfluous like acid and marvels in the seamier mystery all our seaside towns, and especially Brighton, keep hidden. For an insight into what British literary fiction could have been if we’d only have listened, I’d start with Berg by Ann Quin every time."
"The Brighton Pebble Museum is as irregular as the tides; an occasional project that addresses the formal beauty and abstract mystery of the pebble in all her forms through workshops, geological lectures, field trips and afternoon walks."
Since finishing the MA I've read a lot about the Beats. The biographies are entranced by the writers' literary genius, and make their lifestyles seem great fun. Sometimes I want to read a book that's more balanced – their work may be great, but they left death and unhappiness in their wake. Burroughs shot his wife dead, his son destroyed two livers drinking himself to death; Kerouac too killed himself with drink, dead at 40. Howl, for all its power, is a poem of despair. The same openmindedness that allowed Burroughs to take staggering leaps of imagination also left him prone to grotesque errors such as his misogyny and (later recanted) support of scientology. Maybe every critical flattery, every collaboration by Burroughs with right-on acts like U2, REM and Kurt Cobain should come with an outline of his grotesque side to provide a sense of balance.
One of the most tragic figures in the Beat Generation was Joan Vollmer. Furiously smart, she was fated to die at 27, shot by Burroughs. I've been reading Jack's book, an oral biography of Kerouac by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee. This book has a sad glimpse of Vollmer during a period when she was addicted to benzedrine and barely sleeping. Helen Hinkle, wife of Al Hinkle, describes the scene:
"Joan, of course, never slept. And because the kids would be sleeping, and Bill would be sleeping for part of the night, she had to do something. There was a barren tree right outside the porch. The house was L-shaped and porched all-round, and there was this dead ghastly tree. It was just covered with lizards, and she used to rake the lizards off the tree at night. I don't think she killed them. Of course they went back. That was their home. It just gave her something to do at four o'clock in the morning in the moonlight"
Last night was the second anniversary of Wordplay at the Sanctuary. The event opened with poetry from Rosy and Byron Vincent. Rosy was excellent (of course I’m going to say that, but she was) and everyone seemed to enjoy her new material. Byron was someone I’d heard about and enjoyed watching perform.
I also got to see Bunty once more. Bunty performs alone on stage, sat on a chair,and builds a series of improvised loops she then sings over. I bought a copy of her album Licking La Lune after her set. The packaging on this is incredible, beautiful illustations on the case and booklet. The back states "All tracks recorded live on the 5th December 2006 using a Boss Loop Station, Boss DDS Delay pedal, one SMS8 Microphone and Bunty’s Mouth". The tracks are so quiet and funky – sultry perhaps? – and sound like nothing else I’ve heard.
The next event is February 12th – no idea who’s performing there though.
One of the best things I've read recently is John Lanchester's introduction to BS Johnson's novel Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry. The essay opens:
"Many people, entirely reasonably, regard the novel as an exhausted form, one whose heroic period at the center of human culture has passed. Others choose to dedicate all their creative efforts to the novel, as if it were still an all-important medium. It is difficult to belong simultaneously to both groups, but BS Johnson did, and the resultant tension fuelled the extraordinary decade of creativity he enjoyed between the publication of his first novel… and his death by suicide"
Johnson is quoted as saying "If a writer's chief interest is in telling stories… then the best place to do it now is in television, which is technically better equipped and will reach more people than a novel can today". In a world where adaptation to a film seems to be the crowning glory of a novel that seems pretty obvious. After all, how many stories have been successfully adapted from film to book?
Johnson is interesting as someone who acknowledged the limits of the novel. I've been finding the idea of a straightforward novel increasingly difficult. The linear novel, written in a single unified voice, is obsolete. Life is a series of intersecting texts, with fiction simply part of a stream of information, alongside messages from friends, adverts and 'news'. House of Leaves is far closer to my experience than Wuthering Heights, as great a book and an achievement as the latter is. The world needs books whose form reflects it.