Warhol understood our need to stare, reflecting what tabloid newspapers have always been doing – only as Warhol under-hyped, the tabloids by default over-hype.
from Edie Sedgwick’s film test
Turning a ‘cool’ eye to the zeitgeist mood, Warhol caught the details of his (New York) times. He dealt with celebrity and near-celebrity uncritically, his own included. His instinct for finding meaning in what many thought was meaningless is as sharp now as it was then. Warhol invited us to evaluate and re-evaluate the banality of everything. His Diaries (1976-1986) are filled with commonplace responses to his celebrity-laden life, written as if his existence and the objects of his attention were banal – they were and weren’t. This is his entry for 30 years ago today.
Saturday, December 20, 1980
Vincent was having a party so cabbed there ($5). It turned out to be a really great party. I was taking pictures of this handsome kid I thought was a model and then I was embarrassed because it turned out to be John-John Kennedy. Fred brought him and Mary Richardson. And Chris Makos was there taking party pictures. And Debbie Harry gave me a present, and she said to open it up and I said no, that I’d wait till I got home, and I’m glad I did, because I just don’t know what it is. It’s this black thing. I wonder if it’s a cock ring, because it’s rubber with a stick on it, but it has this one piece that doesn’t make sense.
Monique’s getting ready to push her book, and she wants the cover of Interview, which actually might be fun.
Sunday, December 21, 1980
Jed’s decided to move out and I don’t want to talk about it. The apartment he bought on West 67th Street to work in, now he’s decided he’ll live in it, too.
Went to Church. Worked in the freezing cold at the office and I’m not going to send in the rent.
A review by Kristin Johannesson.“… the random cannibalization of all the styles of the past, the play of random stylistic allusion.” Fredric Jameson.
ʻUncorrected Proof’ could be seen as a labyrinthically shaped many-dimensional map, pointing above and beyond itself by showing mirrored images of other places in literary time and space. And that’s one reason why you do not feel trapped by the, also present, postmodern paranoia. In this book as in real life. Painting pictures pointing beyond themselves out into a vast literary universe, you may feel lost in a labyrinth but it can, and for me does, feel like an opening, or a broad road, in it’s freedom to play out and stay away from an apparent order of themes according to fit the forms in the styles of the past, and norms or ideas of originality and individuality. The text stretches out of and becomes wider than the thickening plot, which is something I think can be inferred if employing multiple perspectives on the puzzle pieces presented – which, to use the map metaphor again, can be viewed from a distance at the same time as you are caught up in it/them.
In other words it does, in my opinion and to my appreciation, knit parodies and parallells into something in which it is possible to discern a pattern, in and through the somehow accented spy novel style, making the pictures and scenes full rather than fragmented in relation to the substratum one can sense somewhere in the heart of the text. To try and concentrate my impressions in one sentence I would describe it as confusion in association with the flexibility of not being one and itself. I have personally become deeply involved in this hectic story, and though I have read it over and over from cover to cover I still do not feel I am done with it. I use the word hectic as at many points there is a bit of a stressful atmosphere with the characters and the ones who in parts in their turn play the characters, as with the authors from various times and places who file past. Others such as the fishing scenes and the pasta recipes are a bit of a break, through being a bit more worldly.
Alba’s work in itself is in my view an original one. To pick but a few illustrative
quotes which echo my impressions when reading:
“It is not just a runaway relentless river of words following mental storms or unauthorized brainwaves”,
“Themes do not overflow story into labyrinths of uncertainty, ruthlessly impoverishing if not demolishing, exactitude”.Who in the book in the end is the one or ones who has/have done wrong, if there is such a one in the story, is hard for a non-literary person like myself to express. As for picking the parodies, who has written what may not be the (only) point of interest. Hopefully. I for one am unable to identify most of the over a hundred authors said to figure in the text. To try and espy one final conclusion, a main paradox may be that the novel builds a lot on parody/pastisch as technique and in turn plagiarism as a theme, which could lead to some interesting questions on where the line can/should be drawn, for what kinds of creators, and what you have the right to do what with/with what.
Notes from the diary of the reviewer’s work
raw thoughts which c(sh)ould be refined. the truth may be purer in this version than in the next. i’ll go with the next one.
The first copy I read was from the library. I saw some review, got curious, and made a suggestion for the library to buy it (which is my normal way of getting many of the books I read). I read this first, borrowed, copy of the book, among other contexts, while washing clothes and while watching clothes wash.
1: Excerpt Six; Inside the plot (UP, Acknowledgements)
2: Excerpt Four; Archie thinks it through (UP, p 65)
3: Excerpt Five; Alessandro gets on the case (UP, p 71)
4: Excerpt Three; Archie & Cal try to sort it out (UP, p 81)
5: Excerpt One; Ellen Spartan contemplates her fate (UP, p 86)
6: Excerpt Two; Chaos at Folio (UP, p 109)
And later, through X months’ hard labour, resulting in the above, I won my own copy. Fair enough. And fair and square. “[I] found the order (or found the copy on Google Book Search 🙂 Either way, [I] did it.”
“Hi Kristin, the copy will be sent to you on Monday.”
I re-read it when on a flight to New York. And back. I might not have concentrated as hard as I should. At this moment a clarinet played by a neighbour is mixed with birds singing through the open window mixed in turn with relatively silent electroacoustic music from my computer. The temperature is very/too high. And in addition coffeepipyng hoot out of the glede. I also made my own correspondences between style, theme and reading. For example, eating haggis when I read the part on scots. “And yer nae even scottish”. I made the pasta in the recipes in the book when I read those. Following the instructions I did use olive oil. And then I didn’t. (But to use another one of my jotted down quotes from the book “every author lies in every case”, you shouldn’t take my word(s) for this. As for haggis, I’m a vegetarian.) I have also been pondering on the author. One personal (but still quite unoriginal, I have read this opinion in other places) guess on the subject of the author Louisiana Alba, is that this is not a non-fictional character. But I would not swear on that either. “Because I know nothing about this guy.” But I am a “friend” of “his” on Facebook. Some other intriguing passages are for example the equations describing how the book (the book(s) in the book/the actual book) was written, the question “Is that Heidegger quoting Kundera or Kundera quoting Heidegger or Homer Simpson misquoting both?”, and speaking of Homer; blurbs by Homer and Brontë, the pictures of authors on the cover, the thank yous to many more in the preface. The familiarity of them seem to cover and cushion some of the literary tumbles of the eponymous author, the implicit author, the fictional author and the reader.
As at the moment being involved in library and information science, I also at points in my reviewing progress saw parallels to knowledge organization and cataloging, as well as some kind of hyper- or at least intertextuality, in the alphabetical list of authors and artist in the preface, pictures of some of them quite neatly organised on the cover, and and as mentioned reminds me of a map – which a catalogue can be as well, often concerning documents such as literature and often interesting in itself in what has been chosen for representing and how it is represented, making new stories out of, as well as new relations and associations, between older works. Some of the charm of this book lies in it waking curiosity and associations, and some of the challenge with the book lies in it making you want to solve some of its riddles, such as where allusions are, to whom, and what this in turn might imply if interpreted “correctly.”
The Paste Land “Lou maintains you have look through the prism of Duchamp’s Mona Lisa..the mustache on the most famous woman in art..Everything is a comment, a value add on, a parodic piece of fun, a slide off the original text into something else..built inside text which itself is built inside text and so on..Foucault’s comment in ‘What is an author’, an author is only a collection of statements that have come before, comes into play. Writers often play with borrowed stories (Shakespeare mercilessly so)..Lou referenced over 100 styles. T.S. Eliot borrowed from the whole of the literary world. The Waste Land could be The Paste Land. (You are quite free to use our emails as well if you like – Uncorrected Proof is an open book published by an open press)”
The components of a novel that readers care about most are, in order: story, characters, theme, atmosphere/setting.
Remember that nobody agrees on what a beautiful prose style is and most readers either can’t recognize “good writing” or don’t value it that much.
A sense of humor couldn’t hurt.
Anyone who champions rules of commercial fiction risks sinking creativity to the lowest common denominator in the reader’s mind. It is so easy to force feed unknowing audiences junk culture, just as easy as it has been to promote junk food. And where has junk food got us? If Laura or anyone attacks quality or ‘difference’ be it in art, commercial fiction, food or politics, in the end, logically, it leads to totalitarianism. Commercial control of a cultural market, or political control of a society have similar roots.
We are not animals tethered to a plot line only – sophisticated readers want more than plot. If anyone reads War and Peace (a great read by the way, easy to read, entertaining and enjoyable) it is a long time before any one character assumes ‘the what’s going to happen to me next driver’ aspect to his or her role, but it is there – but it is always there as part of ‘the life’ in the novel – what will happen today? It is part of all of us – but there is much more to enjoy in Tolstoy’s novel, as there is in reading Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis,The Outsider, As I lay Dying, and A Hundred Years of Solitude – all examples of novels and narratives that are far more mysterious and compelling than commercial fiction that obeys these silly rules Laura speaks of. In The Great Gatsby, what do we ever discover really of Gatsby? – not a great deal, more than half Fitzgerald’s point. Nick, we get to know, the character we engage with, the thinking centre of the novel. Hamlet was introspective and procrastinating and one of the greatest characters of all time. Just because lowest-common-denominator is now the major dollar driving factor in contemporary reading culture doesn’t make it good or good to read. The only comment I agree with is the last – laugh while you write and hope like hell the reader laughs with you!
“Naturally, writers of genius have broken these “rules” as well as every other rule ever conceived. But, let’s face it, geniuses don’t need lists like this and couldn’t follow them even if they tried. Most writers are not geniuses, and most readers would be exhausted by a literary diet that consisted only of the works of geniuses.”
This is Laura’s ‘a genius can do it, but the rest can’t argument’ which in effect shuts down experiment, closes the door on dissent. Who knows what genius is? It was 200 years before the Romantics woke up and declared Shakespeare a genius. All we can really hope for is that creativity in any novel is whatever form it takes when exciting readers. If a writer takes readers somewhere we haven’t been, surprises us in some way then it is an achievement worth applause. The ‘Only a genius can break the rules’ argument is another argument for more gatekeeping. This ‘we know the rules’ is nonsense. And even if someone like Laura could for a moment make a good fist of why she subscribes to her only a genius-can-break-rules-theory, very few of the ‘genius writers’ she’ll choose will surprise even her all of the time. No book or writer is untouchable. Everybody can be criticized, even Shakespeare. Logically, if anyone follows these, or any rules, they will become slaves of a market mechanism. Rules for fiction or any other art form only end up filling the pockets of the chosen and promoted writers. Rules lead straight to homogenization (though that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with rules, while you’re doing other more interesting things) …go-go genius go.
Who is Louisiana Alba and what does she (or he) have against the publishing industry? It’s a rhetorical question since most authors inevitably have some gripe against the media giants they are forced to rely upon to shepherd their creative works to the masses. Yet usually, besides the odd drunken cocktail party diatribe or expletive-laden rant to one’s spouse, authors won’t, or can’t afford to, bite the hand that feeds them. Alba on the other hand has decided to go straight for their throats, going public with the writer’s eternal screech – the bastards have (add your own word here – ruined, stolen, fucked up, etc.) my book! – then framed it within a literary conceit so audacious and capricious, that to stumble just a little bit is to fall off the mountain completely.
It’s a high wire act that literally co-opts the style of dozens of literary untouchables and pop culture icons from James Joyce to Jimi Hendrix, Anthony Burgess to Andy Warhol, Ernest Hemingway to Quentin Tarantino (there are over a hundred authors and artists listed in the book’s acknowledgements starting with ABBA!). Alba (an obvious nom de plume) uses each successive voice in her vast arsenal to tell the story of Archie Lee, the plagiarized author who schemes to get his novel back from the people who stole it – the celebrity novelist Martyrn Varginas, his greedy publisher Menny Lowes, and his man-eater of an editor, Ellen Spartan.
Using The Iliad as a starting reference point (in a deliberate cracked mirror image to Joyce’s use of The Odyssey in Ulysses), the novel playfully winks at Homer not so much for his epic poem’s style as for its archetypal tale of love, abduction and revenge. The characters all are sly doppelgangers for their Greek counterparts; Archie Lee for Achilles; Ellen Spartan for Helen; Menny Lowes for Menelaus and so on. But the book does not rely solely on post-modern mimicry or clever homage to keep our interest. It more than holds it’s own as a thoroughly enjoyable pulp story about stolen manuscripts and deferred vengeance in the volatile, cutthroat world of publishing. Making publishing a life and death enterprise involving kidnapping, murder and the CIA is a nice conceit that no doubt will give even the crustiest of publishing execs a knowing chuckle.
The novel starts with Archie out to expose his literary theft at the Crocker Prize banquet (read Booker Prize). He gets cold feet when he comes face to face with his nemesis Varginas and Varginas’ attractive editor Ellen. She unexpectedly offers Archie a position at her new imprint when he stammers out that he’s “expert with espionage thrillers.” From there the story follows Archie’s desperate scheme to wreak revenge from inside the publishing mecca using his newfound influence to try to get his original novel into print under the name of an opportunistic young hustler he has hired for the part. Nothing goes according to plan as the novel ricochets from London to Barcelona to the South of France to New York and back; from pulp crime to spy thriller, memoir to meta-fiction, screenplay to redacted text.
It may sound like a daunting task for the narrative to constantly shape-shift from one disparate source to another but the effect is breathtakingly kaleidoscopic and in most cases wholly appropriate (even the few typos in the book seem correct given the title). In truth it would probably take a tenured literature professor with a vast music and DVD collection to decode all the stylistic shifts in Uncorrected Proof but that’s not really the point. Given all the literary byplay and conceptual ambition, the story is still amazingly accessible, so when you are able to pick up on a particular author or style, it just adds to its kicky pleasure.
In the end Uncorrected Proof is also a cautionary tale about ego and ambition run amok in a world where ego and ambition are the only character traits that seem to really matter. With no clear winners or losers it could almost be read as a twisted metaphor for our own troubled times, with the publishing industry standing in for Wall Street and the banks, where the “best and brightest” have had their way for too long and have grown fat on the bones of those crushed under their Gucci loafers and stiletto heels. Perhaps I’m reading too much into Alba’s remarkably varied prose, but the seeds of a revolution are there, if not on the economic front, then maybe just in the publishing house.
Paul Duran’s films include Flesh Suitcase and The Dogwalker.
For another review by LiteraryMinded please go to:
It was calledtheintentional fallacy when I was at university – meaning for me that the author is not really a good judge of her or his work, doesn’t really understand what has been written.
Roland Barthes spoke of something similar in the The Death of the Author. I would have liked to have talked to Barthes back at university about it, instead of much later in my head when postmodernism seeped into my consciousness. It would have provided a shorter route to where I believe I am than the road I took. But at least I heard of intentional fallacy and it had an effect on my understanding of how literary works are constructed (or not). And then I heard of Barthes and many others later, and my understanding deepened.
One intentional fallacy I would like to point at in Uncorrected Proof (or maybe it’s not really an intentional fallacy, more a mistake) – I based the novel (a little tongue in cheek, I admit) on the prelude/the history of Helen and Greece prior to the context of the Iliad and then fast-forwarded to the finale of Homer’s poem itself. For me any strict following of Homer’s martial poem would have been a weight I didn’t need. I felt in my heart that I had the greatest on my side in this, and that if Shakespeare were Joyce he might have decided on a less strict following of the Odyssey for Ulysses, and given more emphasis in Bloom‘s narrative to ‘story’. For me, Shakespeare knew how to use story as a platform for other literary ventures. Joyce it seemed didn’t ‘do’ story or didn’t want to understand it, seeing story as a unnatural structure forced upon him by commercial literary progress, at least so it seems in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. But there is story in Ulysses, just it isn’t in any way commercial. Did Joyce intend to deconstruct story or did he simply not do it well?
The intentional fallacy (is it one or not?) I must own up to in Uncorrected Proof is this: in my creation of one particular character I intended for readers to read the words as I pronounced them in my head. And one word with a possible reader-mispronunciation attached to it only occurred to me recently, a mispronunciation that might have some politically correct readers catching their collective breath.
For reasons that shall remain in code, I named my genre plagiarist novelist in the story- Martyrn Varginas.
I lived in Italy and speak Italian and understand the Greek and latin bases to western European languages, so for me, Varginas, without question, is pronounced as the Greeks might, with the main accented syllable being the first Vár (as in are)-gin (as the drink) – as(mass)
If it were in Italian the accent would be on gin…definitely NOT as English speakers might read it, with the emphasis ona middle sylalble – gyne – leading the surname to more than hint at the female sexual organ in plural.
Now it is true I realised the implications of making Martyrn’s surname and ‘vaginas’ so close but as I based it on a real name, itself very close to the most actively used pejorative term for the female sexual organ, I deemed it just and fair use. Suddenly (I kid you not) I realised of course that, just as swimmers at my local pool mispronounce Lido lie-dough, instead of lee-dough as it is in the original italian, they would just as readily mispronounce Varginas.
So, for the record: It is Vár (as in are)-gin (as the drink) – as(mass)..okay?
Phew. Now that this has been clarified I will move onto the main characters in Uncorrected Proof that are based on the Iliad:
Dolon – Dolon (perhaps western literature’s first spy)
The first part of the story’s premise: Archie Lees gatecrashes the Crocker Book awards in a hairbrained scheme to get his novel back from the bestselling genre novelist..Martyrn Várginas..the ‘gin sodden half-assed’ hack who plagiarised Archie’s book …
Anymore from me on this subject could inspire some virulent shouts of intentional fallacy.….or worse…
Can something be playfully and overtly postmodern and still be readable – driving you through a compelling plot? Louisiana Alba proves it can be done. Uncorrected Proof is a postmodern novel that entertainingly riffs on form, style, character, tense, person – but with an overall thriller/quest type plot appropriation, it folds you into its delicious bizarro metascapes and humorous oft-satirical, oft-homagical visions.
Somehow Alba (if that’s who she really is… death of the author etc.) incorporates stylistic elements of hard-boiled fiction, screenplays, cookbooks, metafiction, the spy novel, cyberpunk, the literary novel, A Clockwork Orange, Gaelic, intertextuality, memoir and so much more in a book that self-consciously satirises the entire book and publishing industry – authors, editors, publishers – literary celebrity, literary delusions, literary snobbery, literary stupidity and so on.
So what’s it ‘about’? Archie’s novel manuscript has been pilfered and plagiarized by Martyn Varginas, prolific mystery writer. Archie and his friend Cal plot a convoluted revenge through Archie getting work as an editor, and employing a re-plagiarisation of the book by a young hired-gun (or pen, as it were). What follows are kidnappings, political intrigues, sex, jaunts to New York and Paris (from London), Stake-outs, party crashings, a couple of book launches, boardroom drunkenness, author cameo appearances, mean streets, cop/spy banter, and a few disturbing murders.
I was completely absorbed in this book – somehow Alba makes it so easy to read, despite the switcheroos in style, and shifts in narrative drive and character motivation. The book’s title Uncorrected Proof displays irony – those not in bookselling or publishing may be unfamiliar with a ‘proof copy’ or ‘uncorrected proof’ – books that become available before release, oft-unedited versions of the final with spacing, grammatical and typing errors. This ‘published’ book, has a few (tongue-in-cheek) placed throughout.
Alba has worked in publishing, and is actually avoiding traditional distribution methods for the book, keeping in the uber-hip underground spirit of the novel – with a well-handled guerilla internet and out-of-hand distribution system. I came across the author through Facebook.
This book proves to me that extraordinary talent can be represented through shunning traditional publishing methods. This book is inventive, imaginative, and inspiring. It is a unique publication. If you enjoy Italo Calvino or John Fowles, or if you also work or have worked in the book industry, even on the fringes, you would get a great kick out of this novel.
Louisiana Alba is the author ofUncorrected Proof, which I heart, so I asked if she would write something just for me (and you lit-lovers). Here ’tis:
Italians have a phrase: nonmettere le mani avanti, don’t put your hands out in front (to prevent the fall you fear). Let the scholars sort out my fictions. I am trading here on memory and instinct alone, a dangerous line, I know, particularly as I was going to do a piece on Windschuttle and other historical fabrications. Do you know Windschuttle? Does anyone care? No? Then, I best leave him for another time.
Nam Le has just won the Dylan Thomas Prize. This is no small prize and no small feat, I said to myself, then realised I was staring at my own. My feet were the only feet in the room. I was intrigued though I confess I didn’t know Nam Le’s work before I went online and ordered the one copy of The Boat held by the British Library. The book of The Boat. The Boat in book form. It says a lot about the focus of readers in London that it hadn’t been snapped up already. After the Booker Prize shortlist was announced every copy of every book the BL had by every writer on the damn list was in use. Hell, what’s going on? I said at the time.
Nam Le, who is he? When no answers came I could interpret I webbed wider to find out more. I came upon: ‘Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice’, from The Boat itself. I read the screen-printed story. Even in the twenty-first century I still find it hard to read fiction this way. Yet Nam Le had me hooked with his first words. The Boat had cast me a line. ‘LHPPCS’ is a fine and good story, as Hemingway might have said. I saw echoes, or imagined I did. Thom Jones’s an-American-in-Vietnam stories, what was Nam Le doing here, a parody of memoir technique developed by a writer come writing-teacher in an Iowa writing school? Many stylistic lines from many American short story writers crossed my eye-line, Le skilfully self-addressing the author, wannabe, manqué throughout.
Thom Jones is still on that Iowa program I believe. I have long admired his work and reference him in Uncorrected Proof. Judging by ‘LHPPCS’, I feel no less strongly about Nam Le’s capacities, finding the comments of praise I saw this morning true and right down to the last syllable. Hemingway is an apt voice to mention as well, I suspect, for what happens at the end of ‘LHPPCS’ happens to the Hemingwayequestrian character in The Garden of Eden as well – the writing and story of both characters ending up…No, I can’t say it either.
Let me be frank or… Nam Le. This writing strikes more than one chord, literary and life chords. When I first left Australia, after university and film school, my first assignment abroad was to film a boat full of ex-Vietnamese hitting land in southern Thailand. Pure fate. It was only the second time I had professionally put an Eclair 16mm camera up on my shoulder, only the second time I had used one live full-stop. As I clambered about the decks of beached boats, sweat running in my eyes, the stench of summer in the Gulf of Thailand all around, somehow I kept the excitement of the waving forms motoring towards me in focus, somehow I maintained the other arrivees close-by in frame, somehow I didn’t end up in that murky Thai seaside drink all sides up. All along I had no idea I would revisit this plot and theme several times in my life.
I move on to Hong Kong filming and producing two more films on escapees from a hell on wheels inside Vietnam, to a fate far worse than the Thai camps, if my olfactory memory of the warehouses along Hong Kong’s Pearl Harbour serves me well. My fourth and last experience is back in Sydney six years later, making a film for Special Broadcasting Service on a need some Vietnamese children developed for writing up their experiences. In a Strange Land, one girl titled her poem, or was it tilted, living out a nightmarish late childhood horror that was Cabramatta, or as some Australians casually called it back then, Vietnamatta. Reading Nam Le brings it all back.
What is Nam Le’s ‘LHPPCS’ all about then? Writing in Iowa? Growing up in Australia? Relationships? Remembering Mum? Revisiting or leaving Vietnam behind? Getting onto livable terms with Dad? Memory in ‘Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice’ is a wonderfully cruel trick. We live and die by it along with his character in the same instant. Nam Le’s memoir, the memory of his life’s truths as laid out in fiction, is an examination of a fictionalised ‘ex-Boat person’ narrated in such an unadorned air of truth that if the other stories in the collection are even half as good, then I know in truth I am in for even more of this rare treat.
Can’t wait to see what she says after reading the rest! – LM
I have been trying to get a blogger of note to become a reviewer of note, that is, get to her to do a notice on my book. Or should I say write a note, postice me, no, well notice me in her..well I think you get what I mean by now.
The problem is or was she was taken up with blogging the Hirst thing as he was selling 111 million or whatever pounds worth of what, we don’t really know yet, in the middle of what we’re not sure yet is the second worst (or just the worst) finance mess of all time. I fear the financial bang down on economies and hell only knows what else, all that money stuff that holds us all up in the first and last place has much yet to say.
My own hazy memory of other memories tells me that 1929 was the first big stock market etc crash, but 1931-4 was the real pain that the ordinary bloke felt so keenly, pain the world felt all over. Ditto for 1987, which became 1991-3, when the real ordinary mess that was house values falling down around people’s ears really hit home.
I remember 1987 very well. I was in Sydney and was about to try to sell my apartment, and, a few days before the crash, went to a property auction in the suburb of Bondi Beach to see what I could possibly do, auction or straight sell. That auction day was a scene from Fellini. It was dizzying mad, like nothing I had seen, people shouting over each other to buy huts and hovels for double and treble their one day prior worth. Perhaps I exaggerate the doubling and trebling but that was what it felt like being packed into that auction house room.
At that time the king of all things moneyed down under, particularly the market gambling sort, was a one Robert Holmes a’ Court, greenmailer and white knighter extraordinaire, who became Oz’s first billionaire. He was richest but still (unofficially) vying for the title of most wealthy man in Oz, fighting with two redoubtable dark nights and media souls, Rupert Mudoch and Kerry Packer, for the privilege, probably, I guess, because he came from the West not the East. But all up before the 1987 crash Holmes a’ Court was worth 2 billion dollars, a tidy sum even today, and from reports of Hirst’s worth, enough to buy him out twice over.
And Robert Holmes a’ Court – like that other Robert from Oz, Robert Hughes, the bloke that Hirst doesn’t too much like apparently – was a lover, no, a connoisseur of Art. I say Art with a capital, because Robert Holmes a’ Court was into ART in a big way. A horse lover, a stocks gambler, he also bought into the big and small art stables. He bought and supported big and small names. And one of his stable of small names was a one Paula, an artist I knew in passing. Paula created holograms, a pioneer of minor reputation in a part of the world that by geography alone diminishes the adjective minor to very very small in the world of ART – her end of it, at least. She told me about her brush with Robert.
Those who know what happened in 1987 will remember the face of Robert Holmes a’ Court standing at the glass wall of an upper floor overlooking the Sydney Stock Exchange that day his fortunes went a little too far south for his liver to digest. His face was a newsprint picture, financial grief of power disappearing faster through him than a bad curry. Post crash, when the bits stopped falling, when the exchange chit dust cleared (long weeks on after much gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands, and of course, horse trading), he was worth 600 million, not too bad either even for a mogul today. He devoted himself to other matters thereafter, his horse stud, his art and perhaps some charity if I remember well.
Paula told me how he arranged to see the work she had been doing under his patronage some days after his catastrophic crash – he was dead in three years, at 53. She described a distracted figure walking into her studio and standing trying to get his head around what she was doing, trying to fathomize what she was telling him (and Paula could tell you at twenty fathoms). The world of finance had done his head in. Getting his mind in a grip with tiny green hologrammed figures was beyond him. Robert stared at one of her projections stuck out in thin air. ‘But it’s so small,’ he said and left without another word. And that was it for Bob and ‘er, the last Robert H. a’ C. dollar she ever saw.
Now no one could say that Hirst’s work is tiny in the way that Paula’s experiments were back then. And what with that artistic industry of so many hands, his tanking of animals in preservative somehow brings Holmes a’ Court’s newsprinted face to mind, this apparition of a human staring at this watery cow, and turning to an assembly of art gamblers I see him trying to say something. Only I can’t hear him against all the clamour of bidding. Was it, what’s next Damien, the white elephant? No, that’s what I would say. Was it something about it all being so small? No, that cash cow aint tiny. I’m still looking, trying to read his lips as they disappear into the thin air of a reconstruction of a long-lost auction room – moments, ethereal elements caught up in a hologrammed memory – along with a good part of the world’s financial infrastructure, coming soon to a leaky tank near you, not to mention that review of my book, Bob H. a’ C ., his horses and Paula, my apartment, the diamond encrusted prices a Russian miniature oligarch saw fit to pay for a Hirst tanked up thing – all those mad, dizzying seconds.
With tongue in cheek humor and a sly poke at genre fiction, literary untouchables and the publishing industry this book seems tailor made for smart praise. Even though I wasn’t able to pick out all the literary styles interwoven playfully within the book — and frankly at a certain point I was so into the story it didn’t matter — when I was able to pick up on an author or style it just added to the fun. Very impressed with the versatility of the prose and the ability to coopt all these writers and yet still make it all work within the story being told, a story that holds its own as a larky genre thriller with literary overtones and a lot of humor too. In the end all came off as clever parody. Especially enjoyed the “genre thriller” kick of the kidnapping and rescue of Ellen mirroring the story within the story within the story. Given the levels of literary byplay and the scope and ambition of the prose styles, the story is amazingly accessible. It even is a bit of a high concept as well — literary high concept (or highwire act) in which, while flawlessly speaking in all these different voices the book still tells a thoroughly enjoyable pulp story about stolen manuscripts and deferred vengeance in the volatile, cutthroat world of publishing. Making publishing a life and death enterprise is a nice conceit that allows all the tropes of detective and spy fiction to come into play and gives it much of its kicky fun. Bravo!
– Paul Duran, LA director and writer (Flesh Suitcase and The Dogwalker)
I found your book very refreshing..very readable but also so postmodern and referential. I delighted in your sources.
Richard Olafson, Editor, Pacific Rim Review, San Francisco
Quite an extraordinary work. Initially the surreal plot threw me then I realized that the plot, the use of various styles and forms, present continuous, film scripts and cooking instructions etc, were creating a particular structure.Eventually, I concluded that it was some sort of a coded book, either intentionally or as some kind of experiment, which I failed to appreciate.Like most coded works, the book consists of two novels seamlessly interwoven.In this case the characters from at least one are able to inhabit the other.This is clear when you separate the two novels by the plot and other code markers.The two novels are quite different, and even seem to deal with different subjects and are sometimes contradictory. I have tried this coded thing but I used simple invisible multi-layering as you do when encoding engineering drawings.This form of yours is way beyond that.This is a very brave new world you have stepped into, or invented, a new realm.
Eric Willmot, author of Pemulwuy and Below The Line
It reads like a splendidly maintained & protracted metafictional elaboration of the climactic shoot-out in the fun-fair corridor of mirrors at the end of Orson Welles’s ‘Lady from Shanghai’. I was glad to see refs. to ‘King of Comedy’, surely one of the last century’s vy best films…
Tom Gibbons, painter, writer (Rooms in the Darwin Hotel) and academic
From the UK
Uncorrected Proof by the wonderfully-named Louisiana Alba… I’d read it. If I were reading anything.