Brooklyn Magazine

Jenni Fagan knows what it’s like to be an outsider. It’s a trait she shares with many of her characters, including the heroine of her 2013 debut, The Panopticon. That novel follows the prickly Anais Hendricks as she maneuvers the foster care system in the UK, a childhood reality Fagan also weathered. When the book opens, Anais has just arrived at a juvenile delinquent center for putting a cop in a coma—a crime she cannot remember committing. Voice-driven, acerbic, and sharp, the novel earned Fagan a coveted spot on Granta’s prestigious Best Young British Novelists list, along with powerhouses like Sarah Hall and Helen Oyeyemi.

While Fagan’s latest couldn’t be further from the all-seeing eye of The Panopticon, she says she was still very much thinking of fringe culture while writing The Sunlight Pilgrims. A gritty survival tale set in the not-too-distant-future, The Sunlight Pilgrims takes place in a caravan park in Northern Scotland. Thanks to melting sea ice, temperatures fall to inhospitable levels, and the residents of the caravan park are especially vulnerable.

As the days grow colder, newcomer Dylan, grieving the loss of his mother and grandmother, befriends Stella, a transgender teen, and her survivalist mother, Constance. All three characters must learn how to navigate challenging emotional landscapes, even as the physical world—portrayed as both beautiful and deadly—shifts under their feet. For a tale about the end of the world and the brutality of nature, The Sunlight Pilgrims is human, intimate, and weirdly hopeful.

Fighting the time difference between the U.S. and the UK, I spoke with Jenni via phone while still on my first cup of coffee (she was well into her afternoon). We discussed climate change, Brexit, the origins of Stella, and outsider modes of art.

Did you set out to tackle climate change in the novel, to make it part of the setting and the thrust of the story, or did it sneak up on you?

No. I didn’t want to write a climate change novel at all. I was thinking about light, the quality of light, and how we interact with light. I had had two quite close bereavements and a baby all in a short space of time. So I was thinking about light, and I was thinking about mortality, how we incorporate grief in our life. We look for light in darkness. We look for light in all things. So really that’s what I started out with.

I came back to Scotland from London, where I had been living for quite awhile. And I kept remembering these really extreme winters when I was a child—I lived in a caravan for quite awhile when I was a kid at one point—and I remembered having very extreme Scottish winters in rural areas. I moved back expecting to have one of these winters, and it never happened. I missed the last big winter here by one year. The year before I moved back, they had to get the Army out to clear the streets so people could get milk and bread and that sort of thing. And since I moved back there hasn’t been another extreme winter.

I was looking for an opportunity to inhabit these landscapes personally and artistically. Quite often the two things merged. If I wanted to write something about climate change, I’m far more likely to write an article or a thesis or a campaign. Certainly it’s not a subject that can be ignored or should be ignored, but it wasn’t the founding purpose of the book.

As the book began to progress, and I realized it was going to tap into these Ice Age conditions, I began to meet with meteorologists and research what was going on in the global community regarding climate change. I’m always intrigued by the way that modern life is designed to detract from the fact that we’re living on a planet, and our lives our very short. I really felt that when people are living to extremes, they can no longer afford to ignore that. So really, artistically, that was the thing that intrigued me most.

At least in the beginning of the novel, the bureaucracies of the village are still functioning, so we haven’t been thrown into complete chaos yet. There’s a sense of normalcy that helps ground the book in a recognizable reality. How did you strike a balance between the day-to-day and extraordinary in the book?

I was fully aware that I could have immersed myself in the Arctic chaos that is going to ensue right across Europe. The characters in this novel, they see parts of it, but they’re very removed from the cities, they’re very removed even from the village. They’re very much on the edge, and because they’ve always been on the edge, they’re probably better suited to just getting on with it. Certainly Constance, the mother, is a natural survivalist, and she doesn’t want to freak her child out. She doesn’t see that there’s anything to be gained in running around being dramatic about it, so she knuckles down and gets on with it.

People live through extreme circumstances all the time. And they don’t always go out and loot their neighbor’s house or shoot somebody or any of those things. But quite often people are just still doing life. They still have to eat, they still have to wash their clothes, they still have to look outside the window and think, “I wonder if I’ll make it to the end of this year.” At the end of the day, nobody really knows that. We all live with great uncertainties in our own lives and in the world. And that’s just become more extreme, I think, and more publicly discussed, over the last five years. That is one of the main questions of the book: how do you live your life well in uncertainty? How do you live well and stay true to your identity?

We do live on a planet, and the weather conditions that we’ve had over the last 10,000 years have been pretty unusual. Humans have enjoyed relative stability in some ways, and obviously each year we see more and more disasters happening. We live on a planet, and planets are massively changeable. Our impact on them is huge, and we’re collectively getting to the point where we can’t ignore that anymore. We shouldn’t have been ignoring that in the first place.

There’s something really hopeful about the way characters discuss the possibility of survival, right up until the end of the book.

They choose to accept what’s happening. If they were different kinds of people, if they had different philosophies, they might fight it more. They’re not so shocked that [death] would happen. And being in a position of acceptance doesn’t mean you’re without hope. People have survived Ice Age conditions. They are all still hoping they will get through it. I often think of winter as the other main character in this book. Dylan’s completely besotted with the landscape. And it’s beautiful, stunning. But deadly, utterly deadly.

When your book published in America, Brexit had just happened. Did the politics in the book and the politics in real life resonate for you at all?

Of course Brexit happened here long after the book came out in the UK, so it didn’t feel as connected. We’re seeing a huge flux in populations, now more than ever, because of war or famine or climate change. The book has an awareness of people being in transition—and you can’t not engage with [that reality] as an artist or a writer. The question of what happens when people are denied safety or denied basic human rights is hugely important. These things always feed into my writing. I think writers, musicians, and artists are always filtering politics through basic, staple emotions. Art and literature, in particular, are a place to have these conversations. There’s something about fiction, about the imagination having free reign that isn’t afforded in real life, that makes this possible.

I was interested to learn that you’re both a poet and a novelist. Do these modes of writing inform one another, or are they quite separate?

They definitely inform one another. I recently published a book of poems, The Dead Queen of Bohemia. It’s 120 poems collected over time. I find when I’m writing a novel, I have to curb the poetry, I have to strip the words back. I write, as many people do, in a sort of stream of consciousness. I touch type, so it’s really just pure brain to the page. The image [in Sunlight Pilgrims] of “a woman polishes the moon” I lifted from a poem. Sometimes it’s a line, a theme, or imagery from my poetry that becomes a whole novel.

I don’t believe in literary monogamy. Every time I try out a new form, I gain a skillset to take back to other forms. I was a playwright for quite a long time, and it helped me learn dialogue. Now when I read a novel written by a playwright, I can always tell. There’s a stripped back quality, allowing yourself to be avant garde, to not be connected to traditional narrative forms. Every page in a play, every scene, has to be as clear as the others. When you’re writing a novel that’s 80,000 words you can’t just waffle for 40,000 of them.

So much of how you handle writing Stella’s transition is subtle and affirmative. Her narrative POV always uses gender terms like she/her. I even think about the first time Dylan sees Stella—she reads as female to him. I found that incredibly moving. How did you develop Stella’s character? What was it about the story of transitioning—or the contrast between a global change and a very personal one—that captivated you?

No, I don’t think like that. Stella just turned up on her bike, stripy tights, glittery nails, and she never stopped moving. She’s a character who’s had to fight for her own identity. She lives in fear in a small community. I grew up in care, and I identified as a child from care before I identified as myself because that’s how other people saw me. So that was my point of contact with her.

When I was younger I played in punk and grunge bands, which had a large LGBT community, so it wasn’t unfamiliar. Still, I did a lot of research because I wanted to make sure I got it right. I sent my manuscript to the writer Kate Bornstein, who edited Gender Outlaws, and I met with trans writers. And they were all like, “No, no, you’ve found her!” Ideas about gender are important to everyone; we’re all being forced into gender normative roles. But the thing I love about Stella is that it doesn’t define her. It’s not all of who she is.

In fact I was a bit hesitant to write her because of the last book. I thought, “Oh! Isn’t this a bit too close?” but I loved Stella’s relationship with Dylan. Both characters have been brought up by unconventional mothers. Stella, in her way, wants to rebel against her survivalist mother. She wants to get married and live in a house of bricks and be liked by other people. Constance doesn’t give much of a shit whether other people like her or not. When Dylan and Stella meet each other, Stella asks, “What about your dad?” and Dylan says, “My mum didn’t catch his name.” They both have to lay out their identities after being raised by such strong, unconventional women.

I was thinking quite a lot about the overlap between Stella and Anais, from your first novel, The Panopticon. They’re both spiky, young female narrators. What is it about the lives of young women who have been pushed to the fringes that captivates you? Is this territory you’ll return to?

I’ve really been writing the books I’ve wanted to read. I kept seeing fifteenyear-old girls in books who wore sparkly clothes and drank shandy and thought they didn’t resemble any of the girls I knew, or the women I’m friends with now. And I suppose in that sense I think like Patti Smith. She said the females were her muse.

All writers writing from the periphery are pointing toward the center. Because I grew up in the periphery, I think it makes you more observant of what’s going on in the culture. In my twenties and thirties, all the most vital and vibrant stories came from the periphery. Art house cinema, punk, New Wave, it all came from the fringes. I did a lot of research about the “Self” and “the Other” while writing this novel. In a sense, the periphery is a mirror, showing the center what it is. That’s why we’re artists, we’re responding to the center.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two novels at the moment. Novel Three and Novel Four take place over 110 years, and in some ways Novel Four is really the last chapter of Novel Three. But you can read them separately or out of order. I’m trying to write the Great Edinburgh Novel. It’s a huge span of time to work in, and I hate historical fiction that doesn’t make each historical part feel vital to itself. We’re not the ones who invented sex or drugs; this stuff has been around for time immemorial. In fact, the third book is some of my darkest and most graphic, most sexual work. The character who opens that novel is also related to Gunn MacRae [from The Sunlight Pilgrims], so there are these slight nods to the other books.

I can’t hassle poems, I don’t mess with them. They might take a week or ten minutes to write, but great poems come out almost whole. With a novel, I’m riffing on something for 80 pages. I have a big space to look at a problem from all these different angles. I think a lot about when I used to make music. You would go into these dirty little rehearsal rooms and play for ten hours, twelve hours, and you keep doing it and keep doing it and that hopefully produces something. I try not to hold [a novel] too close. If you trust that artistic part of your brain, it’ll bring you the good shit.

 

Interview by Kirsten Evans at Brooklyn Magazine

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The New York Times Book Review

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BOOK REVIEW | FICTION-FRONT COVER of THE NEW YORK TIMES

A New Novel Envisions a Very Cold Environmental Future, Starting Now
By MARISA SILVER JULY 15, 2016

THE SUNLIGHT PILGRIMS
By Jenni Fagan
272 pp. Hogarth. $26.

As carbon dioxide levels rise, as humans create more and newer justifications for institutionalized murder and as lethal diseases ravage unsuspecting populations, writers respond. They bring us novels of the post-apocalypse — philosophical explorations of what the world might look like when the fraying center finally shears. Whether the approaches are starkly realistic or fancifully speculative, these visions generally posit an end-time far enough into an unrecognizable future that we can maintain our illusions of safety from the comfort of our reading chairs.

Jenni Fagan, the fierce and cleareyed Scottish writer, will have none of that. In her new novel, “The Sunlight Pilgrims,” she is committed to disrupting our ease by setting her story of impending cataclysm at a moment unnervingly near at hand. Fagan’s novel is set in 2020, and the world is familiar in every way but for one menacing difference: It is very, very cold.

The polar ice caps are melting, and the seas are rising. The mercury, as the story opens, is set at minus 6 degrees — ­colder than most of us regularly experience, but not unimaginable. And it is not so for the three characters who are the novel’s focus: Dylan, an unusually tall man who, at age 38, is grieving the back-to-back deaths of his mother and grandmother; Constance, a self-reliant survivalist; and her daughter, 12-year-old Stella, a transgender girl who is on the cusp of a puberty that, unless she is able to begin a course of hormone treatments, will deny her the external appearance that matches the girl she knows herself to be. Mother and daughter are part of an off-the-grid community of caravan dwellers who live just outside the fictional town of Clachan Fells in northern Scotland. Constance relishes her independence as well as her distance from the townspeople, who judge her harshly for carrying on open affairs with two men simultaneously, one of whom is Stella’s married father. Dylan, a Londoner, is an “incomer,” newly arrived having inherited a caravan from his mother. Cut off from any future he ever imagined and lacking in basic survival skills — he greets the deep freeze in a pair of thin-soled Chelsea boots — Dylan strikes up a friendship with Stella and Constance just as what is predicted to be the worst winter in 200 years descends over much of the planet.

Fagan’s novel balances the oncoming climate disaster with the human-scale stories of these characters, focusing especially on Stella, whose feelings about her sexual identity are refreshingly resolute. Her confidence about her girlhood, and the pleasure she takes in it, as well as the way she stands her ground when dealing with the hurtful rejection of schoolyard bullies, reveal that she possesses a kind of resilience that may serve her well in uncertain times. She is supported by her mother, although not by her birth father, a fact that causes her to hope for the romance between Constance and Dylan she senses brewing.

Stella’s intrepid and sometimes dangerous attempts at self-care, and her ­coming-of-age under the pressure of ­societal disapproval and global threat, are the emotional anchors of the narrative. The interior lives of the adults in the novel are not quite as precisely drawn. We don’t learn much more about Constance than that she is an adept survivor who keeps her emotional entanglements at a safe distance. Dylan is a somewhat unformed man whose lack of direction and self-­knowledge might be ascribed to the fact that his lineage has been kept from him, information that he will uncover during the course of the novel and that he fears will threaten his relationship with Constance and Stella. This conventional narrative ruse — the unearthed secret — is not wholly persuasive in a book that admirably avoids melodrama, especially since the revelation does not have the weight of meaningful consequence. What does matter, and something Fagan handles with deceptively effortless prose, is the way in which ordinary, even banal, life dramas unfold while the existential noose is tightening. The girl’s sense of the dislocation is tender. “Her voice is sending her odd notes. Her body is becoming a strange instrument,” Fagan writes evocatively, and then, easing from the distanced poetry of the writer’s omniscience into the mind of this witty child, “Any day now a tiny man is going to set up a loudspeaker in her throat and his voice will make declarations in a baritone and everyone will think it is her speaking, but it won’t be.”

The mercury plummets, ultimately reaching an unfathomable and unsurvivable minus 56 degrees. As the days grow short and most of life must be spent inside the confines of a trailer, the claustrophobia Stella feels inside a body that might soon betray her is mirrored by what is happening in the world. When she takes an ill-advised bike ride into the freezing weather, we feel not only her physical desire to break out of her trailer home but also her desperation to escape the gender she was born into. Fagan joyfully summons the sheer jubilance of the girl’s physical power as well as her fear when she realizes she’s out of her depth in the freeze. The evocation of that maturational tipping point where wisdom trumps desire is one of the novel’s wrenching explorations. There is so much for this young girl to lose. That she receives news of frozen bodies and devouring sinkholes, of food shortages and economic collapse from the internet makes her isolation that much more devastating. A young Italian transgendered man who is Stella’s online consigliere suddenly disappears from the web, and we, like Stella, can only wonder if he has fallen victim to the freeze.

“The Sunlight Pilgrims” is a stylistically quieter novel than Fagan’s bravura debut, “The Panopticon” — a fiery and voice-­driven effort that landed her on Granta’s 2013 list of the best British novelists under 40 years old — but it is no less critical in its portrayal of marginalized people under the pressure of society’s norms. When Stella and her mother visit a doctor in hopes of getting Stella started on hormone therapy, the unhelpful man suggests antidepressants. At a community meeting, the nuns who run Stella’s school, and who do nothing to support or accommodate the girl’s gender transition, greet the oncoming freeze with educational leaflets and announcements about community preparedness plans including “ideas on how to insulate and heat your homes,” information that will be useless when the temperature drops and resources become scarce. At the meeting’s closing prayer, “Stella gazes around at the bended heads and Mother Superior is looking at her . . . and there is a faint distaste in her eyes.” It is easy to imagine that this young, marginalized girl and her anti-authoritarian mother will get no special help from their local church, insulation or otherwise. The difference in the argument from Fagan’s first novel to her second is that with the world tipping into disaster, intolerance will seem like a petty thing. No one, not even those who hew to ideas of perceived “normalcy,” will be spared. In this way, the satire in this novel is even sharper. A church that largely recoils from embracing difference can do nothing when it comes to protecting the earth from human abuses and vanities.

Fagan is a poet as well as a novelist, and many of her images of this unbidden winter are shot through with lyric beauty. Early on, we are told that in this worst of winters “icicles will grow to the size of narwhal tusks or the long bony finger of winter herself.” Later, when the threesome venture out of the caravan to witness an iceberg’s arrival, they observe “all those peaked figures of ice, like all of their ancestors have been caught by the elements on the long walk home, their souls captured by ice and snow, and below them the North Sea cracks and groans as ice floes creak and collide.” Strange beauty can be found in destruction, and Fagan is fearless and wise to allow her characters to be as entranced by nature’s awesome power as they are terrified of it. The mythic reach of such imagery mirrors the way Fagan overlays elements of the tribal onto the quotidian. The novel’s three central characters are as much recognizable humans as they are visitations from a folk narrative. Dylan is an orphaned giant whose mother, to obscure his troubling lineage, told him he was the product of a fallen angel and a mortal woman. To ward off the worst of the chill, Constance frequently dons the pelt and preserved head of a wolf, so at times she seems a strange hybrid. Stella is a double, both a boy and a girl. The local lore about the sunlight pilgrims of the novel’s title tells of a race who drink light to live through the darkest times. But Fagan does not use metaphor as poetic immunity for her characters or her readers. The novel leaves them — and us — in a deeply troubling and unresolved moment. The world looks like a place of our darkest imagination, but it is all too real.

 

The Dead Queen of Bohemia (New & Collected Poems)

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The Dead Queen of Bohemia (New & Collected Poems) has been published by Polygon, Birlinn Ltd. It features 120 poems and goes all the way back to the early years of Urchin Belle & The Dead Queen of Bohemia (published by Blackheath Books in Ltd. edition – you lucky ducks if you have one) and now encompassing over 65 new poems as well. It has been emotional, to put them all together and take them out into the world but I love the book and really love the production values. I have effectively drawn a line under the last few decades of poetry and I am starting over with a new body of work now. I was lucky to get drawings by Nathan Thomas Jones on the front cover and in some of the illustrations inside as well. I’ll write more on the poetry later, the picture above is of myself and Nathan at the York Hall launch in East London. York Hall is an amazing old boxing club with stunning art deco features. I read to a beautiful crowd, they roared, they drank, they were present, my brilliant publisher from William Heinemann was there alongside newer film acquaintances, it was a great moment to remember, Jx

Hope Is Not the Opposite Of Despair

Hope is not the opposite of despair. It is a talent. Suffering is not a talent but a test of it. And indifference is one aspect of hope. Jasmine is a message of longing, from nobody to nobody.

This is by Mahmoud Darwish in his book A River Dies of Thirst, a Diary — introduction by Ruth Padel. I read alongside Ruth Padel, and Lydia Cacho as part of the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers Series. The Scottish PEN event took place at EIBF.

As a young man, Darwish faced house arrest and imprisonment for his political activism and for publicly reading his poetry. He published thirty poetry and prose collection in his lifetime and was an editor for a Palestine Liberation Organization monthly journal. He won the Lenin Peace Prize, the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from France and the Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands.

They fettered his mouth with chains,
And tied his hands to the rock of the dead.
They said: You’re a murderer.
They took his food, his clothes and his banners,
And threw him into the well of the dead.
They said: You’re a thief.
They threw him out of every port,
And took away his young beloved.
And then they said: You’re a refugee.

When Darwish was awarded the Prince Claus Fund of principal prize in Amsterdam in 2004 his acceptance speech explained how he felt about exile, and identity.

A person can only be born in one place. However, he may die several times elsewhere: in the exiles and prisons, and in a homeland transformed by the occupation and oppression into a nightmare. Poetry is perhaps what teaches us to nurture the charming illusion: how to be reborn out of ourselves over and over again, and use words to construct a better world, a fictitious world that enables us to sign a pact for a permanent and comprehensive peace … with life.

Ruth Padel wrote the introduction to A River Dies of Thirst, a Diary, by Mahmoud Darwish. She read his poetry at the PEN event and beautifully articulated the spirit of what Darwish has created in his legacy as a poet.

It was a great honour to read with Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist who has just arrived in the UK after being faced with a death threat in her own country. She was introduced on the evening as the ‘bravest woman in the world’. I read a quote recently that said ‘to speak truth in a time of censorship is a political act’ — it is also a hugely courageous, and humane act. As a retaliation for her work — Cacho has been kidnapped, tortured, threatened with murder, raped and left for dead — all without backing down from her position as a journalist exposing criminality in Mexico.

Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to work as a journalist – since 2006 at least 67 journalists have been killed and a further 14 have just disappeared. In 2005, Cacho published Los demonios del Eden: El poder que protege a la pornografía infantil (‘The demons of Eden: the power that protects child pornography’). In 2010, Cacho published Esclavas del poder, in which she revealed names of people in Mexico involved in the trafficking of women and girls. The English translation,Slavery Inc. The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking, will be published at the beginning of September by Portobello Books.

Talking to the IFEX Global Forum on Freedom of Expression in June 2009 in Oslo, Norway, Cacho said: “When I was tortured and imprisoned for publishing a story about a network of politicians, organised crime, child pornography and sex tourism, I was confronted with the dilemma: ‘Should I keep going? Should I continue to practice journalism in a country controlled by only 300 powerful men, corrupted and rich? Was there any point in demanding justice or freedom in a country where nine out of 10 crimes are never investigated? Was it worth risking my life and my freedom?’ Of course the answer was ‘Yes!’ “
Cacho’s work exposes the very real threat free speech represents to those in positions of power — and the amazing potential of an individual to fight for human rights and freedom. I chatted to Lydia afterwards and was extraordinarily impressed by everything she has achieved and continues to fight for. Some people make you want to always remember why words have power, Lydia Cacho is one of those people.

Lydia Cacho will be in conversation with Helen Bamber OBE, who works with victims of trafficking, in London on 29 August

You can also send messages of support c/o: Fundación Lydia Cacho. Email: info@fundacionlydiacacho.org

To sign a petition for Cacho and all the other writers under threat in Mexico — click here: http://chn.ge/usUDUa

Wood & Wires Session

This morning the sky is blue and the clouds are unconcerned. There is a beach nearby, it’s not the most beautiful beach but I won’t hold it against it. I feel like walking. The baby has begun to say words, and dance, and shimmy backwards. I am going to stop drinking coffee for four days. My thesis is almost complete, I am writing about Frances Ellen Watkins Harper whose short story The Two Offers was published in 1859. She was one of the first black short story writers to gain publication and was one of the best selling young authors of her day. As time went on, her feminist principles helped to outcast her work and she was dismissed by scholars. Recently her work is being rediscovered. The Two Offers is about a character who believes that marriage, for any other reason than love, will cause the spiritual death of a woman (and I presume man) which feeds into one of the backstories developing in my new novel. Kafka is one of the other authors with Metamorphoses — probably one of the greatest stories in the world, I never tire of reading it. When Gregor wakes up as a bug it is only the beginning of his metaphorical transformation to the periphery. The bit that really gets me is when his Father throws the apple and it lodges in his back and somehow we all know how it feels to be that bug and live on a periphery where we clearly see the idiocy of lunatics. The third story is Mona by Reinaldo Arenas who I will blog about soon. He was a great writer, almost completely ignored in his lifetime, a Cuban poet who came from illiterate peasant parents, and was imprisoned for his sexuality. There is something about Arenas’s work that draws me back to him again. There were only six people at his funeral after he shot himself, and ended his life in Hells Kitchen in poverty, and in the final grips of Aids. The film of Before Night Falls is well worth seeing, although it does not capture his true caustic brittle nature. As soon as my thesis is finished, I can work solely on the new novel, and tidying up my short story collection — I cannae wait. Academia has had its time in my life and I’m ready to return to studying solo. It never ends the studying, writing — to me — is studying, it is how I live, and think, and dream. Right now I am studying the way my neighbour holds her son’s hand, later I’ll be studying a remote book that I had to order from a strange man, and that has taken a full month to arrive. And pianos. I’m thinking a lot about pianos. I had a Grandad who had a piano and I used to play it for hours. I always thought I’d buy one someday and keep flowers on it and sit my coffee on it, and the baby would draw on it in crayon, and the cat would sleep underneath it while I smoke at 3AM. I don’t live somewhere you could keep a piano but I will, and I’ll teach the wee one chopsticks and why you don’t need to read music to be able to play.

Here is Coeur de Pirate in the Wood & Wires session.

The Panopticon finds its North American home at Hogarth and Crown

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.” -Virginia Woolf.

 

In 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf started The Hogarth Press from their home, armed only with a handpress and a determination to publish the newest, most exciting writing. Hogarth brought the world authors who shaped the culture of the past 100 years: Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, E.M. Forster, Christopher Isherwood, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein, Vita Sackville-West, to name a few.

This year, what began in London in 1917 finds a new life in New York and Hogarth’s goals are no less lofty: bring readers the authors who will shape the culture of the next 100 years: Anouk Markovits, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, Stephanie Reents, Jay Caspian-Kang, Vincent Lam, Shani Boianjiu, Lawrence Osborne, Ben Masters, and Jenni Fagan.

A rose, is a rose, is a rose. I adore Gertrude Stein, and vintage print presses that pushed the boundaries of what was possible for their authors. I am pathologically drawn to all beautiful books, old and new. Over the last week or so I have had some great conversations with Alexis Washam, Senior Editor at H&C, in New York, and I am hugely impressed by what this new imprint are bringing to the publishing world. I am exceptionally happy to announce that The Panopticon is being published by Hogarth and Crown in the US, Canada, Greenland and all of North America. I am one of those writers with a true travelling hobo soul — so to find this kind of home for The Panopticon — to see it continue its journey out into the world, is totally amazing! I will be looking forward to updating on this one, as and when news comes in. In the meantime I am about to read a bunch of books already being published by Hogarth, can’t wait, I hope they send the canvas bag too. I love to geek out on these things, I played in bands for a long time and it reminds me of great labels like 4AD, or Sub Pop, early Geffen, or Apple. It makes me dance anyway! 

Hogarth is publishing a list of all fiction, all the time: contemporary, voice-driven, character-rich, eclectic, adventurous, provocative, vividly written. “We are honored to create an American life for a great publishing name, and we look forward to building a list of worldly, provocative, and well-written works for a broad and lasting readership,” says Molly Stern, Publisher of Hogarth and Senior Vice President, Publisher, Crown Publishers.

Dwang 3, An Artisan Anthology from Tangerine Press

tangerine press tangerine press: outsider poetry : prose : graphics in handbound limited editions.Dear people’s of the little planet, the next anthology from Tangerine Press is due out soon, I have some poems in there and the company is truly divine. If you have not encountered Tangerine Press before, then you are missing out on some of the most immaculate artisan publishing around. There are many books worth buying from TP – I keep mine in a vault, guarded by a gin soaked gun-toting troglodyte. So, don’t be square all you Daddy O’s, go take a peek through the hole in the wall.
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Previously unpublished poetry, prose and graphics. Published May 2011. Poetry from: Billy Childish, Ntozake Shange, Kevin Williamson, Charles Plymell, Salena Godden, Geoff Hattersley, Ronald Baatz, K.M. Dersley, Adrian Manning, Gerald Nicosia, Douglas Blazek, Jenni Fagan, K.V. Skene, David Barker, Steve Ely, Joseph Ridgwell, Hosho McCreesh, Ian Seed, Tim Wells, Richard Krech, Paul Harrison. Also, a chapter from an erotic novel by Johnny Goldcunt, translated by Sabine D’Estree.

Prose: News From Nowhere: six original pieces by Will Self.

Graphics: dark, disturbing b&w images by artist Jase Daniels. Also, a rare image from R. Crumb.

Special section: As Close As It Gets by US poet Fred Voss. Includes new poems, a critical essay by Alan Dent (editor of The Penniless Press) and an in-depth, exclusive interview with Mr. Voss by Jules Smith, author of Art, Survival and So Forth: The Poetry of Charles Bukowski (Wrecking Ball Press, 2000). Also ‘comments’ from, amongst others, the likes of Gerald Locklin, Joan Jobe Smith and Martin Bax of the legendary Ambit.

General information: 104 pages. Large format, approx. 7″/175mm wide x 250mm/10″ tall. Handbound at the Tangerine Press workshop, using acid-free papers and boards, conservation glue, hemp cord; distinctive Tangerine logo stamped onto the front cover in orange ink (numbered copies) and black ink (lettered copies); 3-colour title page. There are 74 numbered and 26 lettered copies available for sale. Body text set in Baskerville Old Face–three other classic fonts are used throughout the journal.
ISBN 978-0-9553402-8-4

All 100 copies have been signed by the poet Fred Voss.

Now, let Can serenade you with Mother Sky …