My latest column for Sluice magazine.
The latest issue of Sluice magazine is out now. The theme this time is looking to the natural world and to deep time for survival strategies. As usual I wrote an article for the magazine, and there's the now traditional cheeky decontextualised quote from it on the back cover... Londonians may wish to join us … Continue reading Sluice Magazine, Autumn/Winter 19-20
Notes on two new exhibitions of work by queer artists.
New edition of Sluice magazine out now, May 2017.
Saturday 30th April at IMT Gallery, London E2, 6-9pm
Writing workshops for artists based in Northumberland and the Borders.
Some good advice for writers who would like to get better and a comprehensive demolition of clichés by bad writers in William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well. As I point out every single damn time I do a post about good writing, forty years on from this book’s original publication, people are still making all the mistakes Zinsser pointed out as ancient and trite even at the time. Many a supposedly professional author or journalist is still allowing themselves to be “a writer lives in blissful ignorance that clichés are the kiss of death, if in the final analysis he leaves no stone unturned to use them, we can infer that he lacks an instinct for what gives language its freshness. Faced with a choice between the novel and the banal, he goes unerringly for the banal. His voice is the voice of a hack.”
Old never meets…
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From Marie Corelli’s The Sorrows of Satan (1895), about a failed writer who makes a deal with the devil in fin de siècle London. It’s actually a terrible, repetitive and badly structured book. Nor has Corelli’s prose style aged well. She was very popular at the time, but like many popular writers then and now she hardly bothered writing anything but complete shit once she’d found her audience, with more concern for quantity than quality. She also wrote a (likewise popular at the time) book inspired by Jack the Ripper but the only thing she succeeds at in The Lodger is making the Whitechapel murders seem like a total bore as well. Her not very fictionalised, undigested chunks of rant about the publishing industry are enjoyable, though, perhaps precisely because she was so looked down upon as a writer and took the opportunity to vent her…
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Otherwise known as the now traditional lazy retrospective listicle
We all know by now don’t we my little blackguards my pretty roadside fartflowers of the friggingfields my dearest filthy fuckbirds yes we know yes yes yes oh yes that the top pages on the site are invariably James Joyce’s paeans to using the tradesman’s entrance and the translation of Hokusai’s tentacle hentai. Tens of thousands of you, constantly, from all over the world, day and night. You must have massive right arms by now (if you’re right handed).
But there is so much more to explore, and some of it doesn’t even involve sexual fetishes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
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… or at least the last word that isn’t from a “slopebrowed weaseldick”
The shrill conspiracy mongering and toxic threats of Gamergate [sic] are the side effects of Western culture, and US culture in particular, finally getting around to saying out loud to a certain type of obsolete man that the rest of us have come to a consensus in which degrading women and denying the rights of sexual or ethnic minorities to equal treatment is not acceptable. Nor should anybody have to endure constant insults and discrimination because of what they are or how they choose to live, or have to see constant, unrelenting and unapologetic images of people like themselves being treated as subhuman. Anyone who thinks that “social justice”– to use the Gamergoatfuckers favourite insult apart from saying they’ll rape or kill you– is a bad thing needs to sit down and shut the fuck…
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Some good advice for aspiring writers from successful writers, who are usually far better sources of such guidance than all the writing gurus who write nothing but books about how to write. These are all extracted from Shaun Usher’s splendid and beautiful Letters of Note book, based upon the always interesting and inspiring site of the same name in which the famous are humanised and the unknown are honoured.
Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1934:
“You can study Clausewitz in the field and economics and psychology and nothing else will do you any bloody good once you are writing. We are like lousy damned acrobats but we make some mighty fine jumps, bo, and they have all these other acrobats that won’t jump.
For Christ sake write and don’t worry about what the boys will…
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“Paris will become a winter garden; espaliered fruit trees on the boulevard. The Seine filtered and warm – an abundance of fake gemstones – a profusion of gilding – the houses lit up – the light will be stored, for there are bodies that have this property, such as sugar, the flesh of certain molluscs and Bologna phosphorus. The fronts of the houses will be made to be daubed with this phosphorescent substance, and their radiance will light the streets.”
Visions of a lovely biotech future Paris from Gustave Flaubert’s unfinished draft of Bouvard and Pécuchet, the novel he was working on when he died in 1880. I suspect he may have had more than one sip of the laudanum on the night he wrote this. If it was the 1980s instead of the 1880s I’d say Ecstasy. It has that kind of E’d up I LOVE YOU SO…
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Today, the 16th of June, is Bloomsday: the annual celebration of the life and work of James Joyce in general, and of his landmark Modernist novel Ulysses in particular. It’s a landmark in the literary sense and also in the geographical sense, a dauntingly huge and dense wodge of cellulose. If ever a book was better read weightlessly as an e-book, Ulysses is it. June 16th 1904 is the Dublin day described in hyperreal detail by the book’s protagonist Leopold Bloom, and re-enacted by Joyce fanatics every year since 1954.
The 16th of June was also significant as the date of Joyce’s first outing with the woman who would become his beloved wife, Nora Barnacle. So why don’t you celebrate Bloomsday by starting on Ulysses if you haven’t already? To be honest you might regret it and give up in frustration as many have done before, but you definitely won’t…
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In 1973 archaeologists digging at Vindolanda– the former site of a Roman fort, about halfway along Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England– uncovered a store of letters and files on wooden tablets. Between about AD 85 and 122 the wall was being built to mark the farthest extent of the Roman empire. Boudicca and the Iceni had kicked off and destroyed several Roman cities only a few decades previously, and the tribal people of Britain were still far from pacified or assimilated, but Hadrian made the strategic decision to physically isolate the Picts who lived in what is now called Scotland because they were even more troublesome. Most of the tablets seem to date from roughly this frontier period. Ironically the documents may have been preserved because they were dumped out periodically with the rubbish, which led to them being buried instead of taken away or lost.
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