After our recent troubles with Facebook, our attempt to sign up with Google Books faces this unexpected hurdle:
In a previous editing life, I was once involved in a very, very long discussion with an American author about whether ‘fanny’ was appropriate in the UK edition of his work. In that case, it specifically referred to an older man touching the ‘fanny’ of a young girl. While fully aware of the term’s meaning in the US, we felt it might be rather more ambiguous to UK readers, and might be substituted without changing the meaning or the effect of the text. The author eventually overruled us.
In this case, it seems particularly egregious. What is Google hoping to avoid? Who put ‘fanny’ on the naughty list? And will they accept a tinyurl instead?
Whatever your opinion of the big FB, I think we can agree on two things: there are a lot of people there, and they deserve dirty books. I’ve heard that Facebook ads can be highly effective if targeted correctly, so I decided to fly a small kite and see what happened. (That’s ‘fly a kite’ as in run a small, limited trial of the system, not try to pass off a bent cheque in a Turkish spieler on the Old Kent Road. Alright, ice cream?)
Some of you may remember the recent silly season brouhaha over a decidedly unscholarly work by a Kafka scholar, James Hawes, best known as author of the deliciously caustic A White Merc with Fins.
Excavating Kafka took issue with the widespread assertion that Kafka was virtually unknown in his own life time, and little is known of his daily habits. We’re not really interested in the kafkakesque (ha!) debate that ensued, but you can check out a sample at ReadySteadyBook, which has recently been rejoined by the author himself. We are, however, always interested in the facts at hand: what were the actual works that comprised this ‘secret porn stash’?
And Thus we Would set About Seeking an Aeroplane Woman, Bruno Munari, c.1936
The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in North London is currently showing Cut & Paste: European Photomontage 1920-1945, and I highly recommend it to graphics lovers, type fanatics, arch-modernists and incurable romantics of all kinds. The last part may seem strange for an exhibition that includes doctored pictures of Hitler and the victims of Madrid, and much revolutionary propaganda and exhortations to Master Technology and Increase the Ranks of Proletarian Specialists, but it’s at the heart of my appreciation.
Last night I was in Soho for the gay lit salon Polari, to hear readings from Stella Duffy and Maureen Duffy (no relation, I’m fairly certain, although some in the audience were a little confused).
Maureen Duffy read from her most recent novel, Alchemy, a wonderful love story with two strands in history, the 17th Century and the present day. Duffy’s writing always encompasses a vast range of references, and Alchemy muses on Shakespearean cross-dressing and compares cyberporn with the more tactile pleasures of tart cards.
Stella Duffy is always a joy to hear, and she was in fine form reading from her new novel The Room of Lost Things as well as 2006’s Singling Out the Couples, which involved some extraordinary yogic leg-raises, and a vicious but brilliant single-person’s attack on smug couples, although she was at pains to point out that life does not always mirror art, or vice versa, and she and her girlfriend of 14 years were very happy, thank you very much.
Maureen Duffy also spoke of the lack of support for gay publishing in the UK, singling out her novel The Microcosm of 1966, a groundbreaking lesbian work set in the legendary Gateways club and now out of print. But there was obvious pleasure – tinged with sorrow – in reading from her recent poetry collection, Family Values, one of whose bittersweet verses I’ll include here – without permission, but I hope she won’t mind.
An email from The London Adventure informs us of an upcoming event surely of interest to Bookkake readers:
Niall McDevitt leads a poetic walk tracing the steps of the legendary Frenchman and his fellow communard/poet/homosexual/alcoholic Paul Verlaine.
Sunday 19 Oct meeting at the Eleanor Cross in the forecourt of Charing Cross station. 1pm. £5/3 (unwaged). Info: 07722163823
The London Adventure is an informal literary club whose regular perambulations of the English capital have taken in such favourites of Bookkake as Patrick Hamilton, Aubrey Beardsley, William Burroughs and many others. This walk should be of particular interest, as it promises to include access to Rimbaud and Verlaine’s house on Royal College Street, where the pair lived in 1873.
Only recently I picked up a copy of Rimbaud, Psychogeographer by Aidan Andrew Dun, originally presented as a lecture at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institue in 2006. If you don’t know Dun, he’s a contemporary poet of a particularly fine skill, with a special affection for London: his Vale Royal, an epic poem in 12 cantos, concerns the mythology of the city, centred on the church of Old St Pancras, once acclaimed as “the head and mother of all Christian Churches”. An early, and rather poor quality reading – by Dun, in that very churchyard – is available on YouTube:
Rimbaud, Psychogeographer covers much of the same territory as Vale Royal, but links those emanations to Rimbaud’s poetry:
Single-handedly, and by the age of nineteen, Artur Rimbaud laid the foundations of modern poetry. He then torpedoed literature, hit her below the water-line, Pearl-Harboured his vision in a surprise attack and vanished from civilisation. Let’s take an aerial view of the life and work, the doomed loves and dark fate of the great Artorius. I’ll then present you with a new theory of his literary suicide. The decision of the poet to abandon his art represents the most impossible disappearance in the history of escapology. My hypothesis hinges on the psychogegraphy of London, where Rimbaud did much of his great work, both writing and research.
Dun goes on to give a crash-course in the mythology of Kings’ Cross, from the time of Arthurian legend up until the present day, and decodes Rimbaud’s works and its references. In Promontoire, from Illuminations (French text, English follows), he finds:
Villas and dependencies? That sprawling empire of gothic hotel, ‘flanked, hollowed and dominated’ by Railtrack. Mounds in odd parks? Humpbacked Old St Pancras Churchyard with its atmospheres and willows. ‘The Japanese tree’, that dreadlocked witch-elm behind the church. All the connections! The vagabond Rimbaud had left a cryptogram in the Illuminations. Like some intentional gypsy heiroglyph made of twigs and acting as a marker, waysign to be read by the next man down the line.
Old St Pancras Churchyard, tucked away behind the railway station, is indeed a strange and resonant place, as anyone who has visited it will know, full of odd assemblages, such as the Hardy tree, arrayed with gravestones stacked up when the churchyard was first cleared by the Midland Railways.
Dun goes on to talk to old residents of the area to uncover other correlations to buildings destroyed in the Blitz, and described by Blake in his Jerusalem. It’s an excellent and poetic work, and not easy to track down, but Housman’s had a number of copies last time I was there.
My favourite reference to Rimbaud and Verlaine’s sojourn in London, however, is in Patrick Keiller‘s peerless film London, which I urge you to see if you’ve never had the pleasure. Noting that, before Camden, the pair lived in Howland Street, W1, just west of Tottenham Court Road, the narrator of the film reveals that, although that house has long since disappeared, the inhabitants of London saw fit to commemorate the relationship with a suitable memorial:
Photographs of plaque from No. 8 Royal College Street by Graham, of St Pancras Churchyard by StefZ and of the BT Tower by Uli Harder, all under Creative Commons.
In the first of a series of notices of books we wished we’d published, our favourite book of last year: Ulrich Haarburste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm.
One of the few books to make the leap successfully from cult website to physical book without sacrificing either its genius or its supreme strangeness, I first came across Ulrich… in the Broadway Bookshop in London, where the proprietors had posted up a small but highly favourable review the book had received from Nicholas Clee in the Guardian, who advises that “This self-published novel may appear to cater to specialised tastes. But it is highly recommended to non-fetishists, who will find it inventively hilarious.”
Ulrich… concerns the ongoing travails of Mr Haarburste who, through a series of unfortunate events – capture by pirates, attack by gas, “health reasons” and so on – is required to wrap The Big O in clingfilm. What is extraordinary about the novel is its inventiveness and its use of repetition to bring to Ulrich’s desires a sense of order and even sympathy. It is also damn funny.
We applaud the novel’s author for his decision to self-publish too, and advise you to check out some extracts here, and buy the novel here. We await Mr Haarburste’s next publication with much interest.
A day of lovely post. First of all, the above popped through the letterbox at Bookkake Towers – the latest One Eye Grey. If you’re not aware of OEG, it is, in its own inimitable words, “a penny dreadful for 21st century that draws on the tradition of those [Victorian ones] as well as the pulp fiction that followed.” It’s excellent, and the latest edition includes the second part of Matty B’s The Arsenal Stadium Mystery, as well as tales by Scott Wood, Anna Sawyer, Neckinger Nell and others. It’s excellent, and I urge you to buy a copy. And if you’ve missed the previous editions, you can buy sets of the earlier editions as well.
Passing the other way in the postman’s hands, so to speak, is Bookkake’s submission to the British Library. Did you know that, as a copyright library, they’re entitled to free copies of every book published in the UK? Well they are. More than entitled in fact – publishers are legally required to deposit their books with them. Which I’ve now done – after a number of increasingly threatening letters. Sorry about that. I assure readers that orders placed will be fulfilled rather more swiftly.