The price of second-hand books seems to have fallen in Brighton. On my last trip I picked up some good books including The Secret State, The Manual of Detection and a volume of Eldridge Cleaver speeches, all for two pounds each.
I also picked up a copy of Toby Litt's i play the drums in a band called Okay. I'd read a couple of the chapters as short stories so thought I would give the book a try, although books about rock bands are generally disappointing. This turned out to be a lovely novel. It's written as a rockstar's autobiography and makes an episodic sweep across his life. The book's origin as disconnected short stories works well. In fact, it's arguable that the book is actually a short stort collection – but, if it is, then it's one of those rare collections where the selection and sequencing make the stories far stronger.
Another cheap book I picked up recently was Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein. I'd expected this to be entertaining but I've been surprised at how much it's made me think. The book explodes with ideas like godzilla bukkake / macroherpetophiles, Aaron Sorkin as a CIA plant, saline infusion, the ethics of human/canine relationships and the meaning of America. But the book also has some interesting things to say about what the Internet means for fringe culture:
"Consider this, though. If I've seen it on the Internet, is it still underground? 'Underground' always connoted something hidden, something difficult to see and find. Something underneath the surface of things, yes? But if it's on the Internet – and I do praise the Lord that I lived long enough to see such a thing – it cannot possibly be underground."
We live in a time when anything interesting is quickly propagated on twitter. Jokes can be stale within hours. Hype cycles can be so fast that they never recover from the 'trough of disillusionment'. There is less time for things to brew in secret before being brought to light – it's ridiculously to throw up a website for a minor project. And that may be a bad thing, it may not, but things have definitely changed. Crooked Little Vein might look like be an extended gross-out at points, but it's also a very clever little book and well worth reading.
A new short story of mine, The First Time is being read at Are You Sitting Comfortably, a Brighton short fiction night where the stories are read by actors. It sounds like an interesting event:
White Rabbit presents: Are You Sitting Comfortably?- Pyjama Party!
Saturday 19th June 2010, from 9pm, The Basement, Kensington Street,
Slip on your slippers, bring blankets and bed rolls ready to camp out
at the White Rabbit’s storytelling sleepover inspired by the summer
solstice. Midnight feast available from our kitchen, and fairytale films
to send you off to sleep… you‘re welcome to toddle off home, or stay
the night and have breakfast with us…
Dress code: glamorous PJs /nightwear
Bring: something to snuggle down with: sleeping bags etc
Extras: pass the parcel, musical chairs, prizes for best dressed…
Follow the bunny….down…down…down
Doors open 9pm, stories start at 10pm, followed by midnight feast,
films, more stories, then lights out! breakfast available for those who
Full details here. Also reading is Louise Halvardsson, who has been writing some fantastic stories lately.
"When I was fourteen, a
girl on the estate disappeared and I was the last person to see her.
I was asked a lot of questions afterwards. Some of them were
friendly, others were impatient, and there were some implying that
I’d done something wrong. I never told the full story, not to any
adult, but I did tell the other kids on the estate. They were the
only ones who would have believed me."
I have a new story available online, in the latest issue of Streetcake Magazine. The story is called The Dirty Bits and was read at Short Fuse's erotic fiction night last year. As the continuity announcers like to say, it contains strong language from the beginning.
It's a fairly experimental story, featuring 'samples' from Anais Nin and Georges Bataille and was an interesting piece to read in public. Issue 11 of streetcake magazine is available from here.
A story of mine, In the Night Supermarket… is one of ten short horror stories that will be appearing in the next issue of Black Static Magazine:
"Ellen always comes to the
supermarket after two, when it’s quiet. She used to have terrible
nightmares but late night shopping keeps them away."
The story was entered as part of the Campaign for Real Fear run by Christopher Fowler and Maura McHugh. I can't wait to see the magazine – firstly, because it's so exciting to be appearing in a magazine that I've been subscribing to for a couple of years. Also, as I said in my last post, I can't wait to read the other stories the Campaign has produced. Hopefully it should arrive in the next couple of weeks.