I grew up watching Superman, The Cisco Kid, O.S.S., hearing war stories, chasing down moth-eaten army uniforms back when milk arrived in a horse and cart marvelling at the colour style of actual coca leaf sugarpop in Coke bottles blinking at motor cycles Dick Van Dyke falling over a couch cowboy films shot in daylight B/W then coloured nights of my father’s home-grown vegetables, born with words in my mouth – ‘gimme-that’ , ‘how-dare-you’, ‘what-the-fuck’ –
– ideas as fixed and eternal as the motives for every war, growing into Kidnapped bicycles desert boots Seventy Seven Sunset Strip Disney Land Rear Window Psycho Lawrence of Arabia, the annual anxiety of packing the car at holiday time, each and every moment stilled in memory of the forever mysterious parodies of life or art even if parodies weren’t even an option back then. I knew the Beatles before the Monkees, Bogart before Belmondo, but I can’t say I recall the idea behind the Summer of ’42 before it was a film conjured into a Mad magazine parody or whether it co-existed in the smash crash and kill dinky toy mind of George W. Bush. I believe I’m not alone, even growing more bewildered year on year by the incoherence of images and texts surrounding me from birth arresting my natural river environment in the far southern climes the commercial and cultural ink-blotting over my childhood my natural world a parody of some story my mother told me, those seconds on a baked sidewalk hearing JFK was dead, pink socks on the rock ‘n rollers, moments things events sounds sent to make life even more dangerous curious frightening, a direct result of the industrial military complex, Elvis Presley Chuck Berry even, the jack shit political influences beaten into the worrying shame of death in the world, prejudice, organically connected and woven into a general valueness held dear by so many years on from that day when morality was gunned down in broad daylight.
I went to Paris for my birthday (had to say it at least once). Found a wonderful hotel, with the sort of market just two minutes away you can only find in France. Combination of food on sale and items and atmosphere. Checked the book in Shakespeare and Co. Have a look, too – Uncorrected Proof, under A for Alba.
Walked the streets. Passed through, open-mouthed, the commercial alleys of the left bank. Should manic tourism do this to such a brilliant part of the city? Up and away through Montparnasse, by the Pantheon and back down by Joyce’s home (one of 13 while he was in Paris).* I just found the address without any idea where it was, wasn’t even thinking of him. Now I’m asking myself what are the chances of chancing on it in a city the size of Paris.
Not one for tourist plaques or gravestones but this is worth lingering by.
Really didn’t do all that much in two days – didn’t lunch or dinner at expensive restaurants, didn’t even tea or coffee in les deux magots. Just absorbed the sounds and sights from train to train. It’s enough to be in Paris.
* As the New York Times tells us, it was Joyce’s “prettiest place…Valery Larbaud’s apartment in a kind of mews at 73 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, on the Contrescarpe behind the Pantheon and with curving view of Paris.”
It is, I assure you, an infuriating mess, a refuge, a joy to behold, an acrimonious cesspool of computerisable angst, an endless checklist of outso(u)rcerized disputes – a hole in the wall for all the world’s minds to filter down onto damaged DVDs. They will in time. And this you will find will be their final resting place.
The staff are miraculous, critically underpaid, limitlessly incompetent, irritatingly profound, delightfully empty, lazified beyond imagining, utterly perfect in their rhombus like cartoon feature creatures silicon graphic simulatoring carnival spirit. They sit there one at a time in that hell’s kitchen like Camusian sentences in utter knowing decrepitude.
If I could ever find the title I crave, the one I have up here, I will throw a week long party for all of you (send me yr contact). As a photocopier – though – to be honest – let’s be fair – my local is the soul of efficiency. As a printer of documents it is besmirchless –
….any fault the computer hard-drives at you is not down to the poor beleaguered impoverished centre.
It is a meeting, as it were or was – point by point – planned, for the perfect silence of minds, brought to life ONLY by murmuring mobile phonies and at least one hundred SE-a-MLESS dialects.
Not a letter I know is transferrable in order to patronise misapplication by default (if you know how to approach it). So…All hail to my local
This is a taut moving beautifully realised post-apocalypse narrative. The beauty of it ameliorates the subject. It is a tale filled with almost unbearable tension, a tiny thin thread of hope throughout. Someone wrote that it is not particularly American, but I thought it very American, almost at times a touch too cowboyish in parts. But looking back now I see no flaws in this now. At first I thought: this is a searing tale right up until the end but McCarthy wandered off into Hollywood territory with an (almost) all’s wells that ends well roundup, even in a post-apocalyptic hell on earth, and this is some hell on earth.. At first I thought: has McCarthy snatched literary defeat from the jaws of victory? Did he dismantle 300 odd pages of narrative perfection ..Does he want to wipe the slate clean? I thought: maybe it’s his irony on the myth, ingrained it seems in the American psyche, the good guys and bad guys stuff ..but I realise, thinking again, I was wrong.
The Road is too spare and taut for happy endings. It does end better than it could have … It doesn’t matter that the hope comes from and to the boy..there is much left of the road still to go for him..
I put it alongside the bittersweet end to Nam Le’s The Boat…Both tales are about that thin thread of human hope in so much despair. Even if at times I find myself asking why does Cormac McCarthy gives us this cowboy stuff every now and again…..Maybe, I wanted to say: I would prefer a bet each way on human nature…….but looking again I realised it is the hope in that upside-down burned-out world throughtout, the tiny impossibly thin thread of it, so beautifully captured and centred in the boy, that tense last thread that truly resonated with me throughout the telling of the tale, and it still resonates with me long after I finished reading..
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
Lately, I have been following Amazon’s attempt to monopolize Print On Demand, to force independent publishers to accept Amazon on terms designed to crush the life out of the independent publishers and booksellers. It’s a disgrace – Amazon only got where it is because readers like you and me helped them become a force. We supported them in the early days because we wanted diversity, because we believed they were for us. Not anymore they aint!
Amazon wants to monopolize bookselling and print on demand publishing. They want to to kill off publishing independents and consumer independence. Don’t let them. Buy from small independent presses like ElephantEars. Support small and ignore the big homogenizers of creative output.
I was doing my 1500 metres in the pool yesterday, lap, swim, turn, lap, roll, stretch, concentrating on my breathing, thinking of what novelist, inventor, academic, Eric Willmot said to me on the phone the other day, talking of his recently written essay on human and planetary survival. I had read the pages he sent me, describing our progress of us all, the twenty third species of human on this planet..the story aint all pretty. Well, I think we know that, but where do we go from here? We seem to be running out of time. Eric is convinced that the global warming we are experiencing is a prelude to another ice age.
Our nearest refuge, that is, nearest to our earthly conditions in toto, is Venus, but that planet is a green house gaseous inferno. So that’s out. Another solar system like our little ‘Goldilocks zone’ around the sun, surrounds the star Gliese 581, but that is twenty light years away, beyond our capacity to reach in all our lifetimes. Without some sort of quantum leap in our capacity to travel, our interplanetary air bus is going to run out of gas, if not time.
And even if we get there Gliese 581 may not be quite for us. It hasn’t sent us any kind of signal, let alone a welcome email they want us over for any holiday coming. We better find out then. We could send the executives of Fanny Mae and Freddi Mac and a few bank presidents, the whole of Wall Street in fact, on ahead to check it out, investigate the real estate and other markets and set up for us. In the meantime, we’ll sit it out and wait down here, glued to the telly for messages, filling our neighbourhoods (and the silent universe) with the sounds of humanity, eating, drinking and getting inordinately merry, all those goings on, as we use up the planet we’re whizzing around on.
Eric has some ideas on what we can and can’t do. Are we facing extinction? Are we staring into the abyss, not so blissfully un-a-ware as impotently more-than-scared? Rabbits in the headlights of some rogue comet or asteroid heading relentlessly our way? What should we do? Recycle our rubbish, turn off our appliances, walk to work, invest in nuclear reactors using Thorium (pronounced /ˈθɔːriəm/ wikipedia tells me).
Well, I think the first thing we should do is get up to speed on the actual conditions, educate ourselves. Get to know our options (even if the picture aint pretty). We’ve faced threats before – Hitler, the Cold War, the nuclear holcaust. Let’s face this one, form neighbourhood groups to discuss intra and interplanetary survival.
Well..okay…let’s do nothing then..just sit and wait and watch it happen. Let’s climb into the warming pot we call this world and boil slowly and then when the fuel burns out, slowly descend down into that big freeze.
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. 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.