William Gaddis in the Paris Review (1986) predicting the financial collapse of 2008

I've not put much here for a while, as I've been researching and writing, but I found this excerpt in an old Paris Review interview with William Gaddis and thought it was blogworthy.

....I’m frequently seen in the conservative press as being out there on the barricades shouting: Down with capitalism! I do see it in the end as really the most workable system we’ve produced. So what we’re talking about is not the system itself, but its abuses, I don’t mean criminal but the abundant abuses just within the letter of the law. The essential question is whether it can survive these abuses given free rein and whether these abuses are inherent in the system itself. I should think it is perfectly clear in my work—calling attention, satirizing these abuses—that our best hope lies in bringing things under better and more equitable control, cutting back the temptations to unmitigated greed and bemused dishonesty . . . in other words that these abuses the system has fostered are not essential, but running out of moral or ethical control can certainly threaten its survival.

Gaddis and his interviewer, Zoltán Abádi-Nagy, go on to discuss his novel JR and its central character, a child entrepreneur who becomes a millionaire. In these few lines seem to be another hauntingly prophetical sentiment that I find deeply true and deeply uncomfortable. 

What JR is about is a radically new situation from the point of view of the American dream, too, and radically new as a literary treatment of that theme: the novel seems to be about how the American dream claims you before you are socially mature enough to dream it.
Fine, yes, well put. Very much the heart of it in fact.


Father's Last Escape

The latest NewYorker Fiction Podcast is absolutely brilliant, Nicole Krauss reading Father's Last Escape from Bruno Schultz's Street of Crocodiles. 


The Painful Agitations of Dunby F Lee: Part 1

Dunby was not a child in the traditional sense of the word.

For a start he never had a mother, in the traditional sense of the word. The woman who gave birth to him was a chain-smoking teenager named Heather Hoover. She was the youngest daughter in a wealthy Scottish family of free-thinkers who were famous locally for doing little that was not stylish, reckless or extraordinary, and usually all three at once.  When Dunby was just 3 months old it was decided unanimously that her sister Elouise was a far more suitable mother, and certainly looked better doing it, more elegant and maternal than the awkward and bad-tempered Heather. After two days of transitional breast-feeding to see that Dunby took to the new arrangement, they switched. And that was that.

Dunby’s father, Maxime, the household’s 23 year old Haitian gardener, was not consulted and kept a silent distance. He was understandably horrified and confused, but his financial dependence on the Hoovers was absolute, and he had evolved a somewhat laissez faire attitude to most things they did, however strange or distressing. Heather had only spoken to him once, on the night of Dunby’s conception. Between his poor grasp of English, and her thick accent, delivered through shallow whiskey-scented breaths that butted at his face like angered moths, he understood virtually nothing. Before Dunby could walk his would-be mother travelled to China to teach English, where she died of cholera within the month.

In this way Dunby began.


New flash fiction by me at Small Doggies Magazine

Big thanks to Matty Byloos / Small Doggies who have just published my flash piece Sex Goddess online. It's a thrill to be attached to Small Doggies, and coincides with an upcoming review of Matty's book Don't Smell The Floss some time soon so it's like one big happy family. It appears that only Dog themed publishers like my work, which is good to find out early on. Knowing and becoming comfortable with your limitations can save a lot of wasted energy on fruitless ambition.

Here's an excerpt if you're too lazy or afraid to click on the link:

"to flatter his potato torso"

Look out for my new Short Story 'Labrador! Labrador?' out next month in Horse and Hound.

In other news, Structo Magazine has begun to accept submissions for issue 6 through submishmash and I will be on the editorial staff once again, which is exciting.  


My review of Orange Juice is online now at Pank

So I wrote another review for the legendary Pank Magazine. I can't believe they're still letting me do them. It's for Timothy Willis Sanders' book of short stories Orange Juice put out by Awesome Machine Press, part of Publishing Genius.

Good luck to Adam at Publishing Genius and to Timothy, it's great and deserves to do well. With hindsight, I forgot to say anything about the cover art. Not my cup of tea. But the words, the words are really good.

You can read my review here. It's my longest yet, so you might want to take a break half way through. Perhaps do some stretching, watch a little TV or make a call. But please don't get distracted. The end is the most important part. I really can't stress that enough.


My Subversia review is online at Pank

So I wrote a review of DR Haney's very excellent Subversia, and you can read it now on the Pank blog.

Here is an excerpt:

Banned for Life, Haney’s ten-years-in-the-making novel about a musician/filmmaker hunting a vanished punk-frontman, comes up often. So regularly does it contextualise anecdotes and feelings, it’s like a character of its own. But you never feel like Haney is overdoing it; he just seems proud. This is offset by an equally rough, though much less rewarding time writing ‘Friday 13th Part VII’. And for someone who has endured life both as an actor and screenwriter, and been smashed up by a car, there’s very little cynicism. His enthusiasm for people, creativity and the whole world, is bottomless.


Structo 5 is alive

Everybody's favourite newsprint literary journal Structo Magazine have just released their brand new 5th issue, for which I gave my twopence worth as an editorial assistant.

Not only has it been filled to bursting with a hefty amount of poetry and short stories, it also features an article with Ian Banks and this lovely cover illustration by Rachel E Morris. Well done to Euan for crafting another read, and a lovely product well worth investing in. And thank you for letting me be involved.

Please buy from the Structo site right here, follow Structo on twitter and tell your friends to do the same.



My father always had holes in his pockets and nobody knew why except me. My mother used to think it was down to the cheap trousers he bought from the market. She scolded him like a child, but always darned them anyway. She was wrong as it turned out.

I first noticed something was up when I was 6. Giving him a surprise leg hug, I felt a sharpness press into my cheek. I was offended, and slipped my hand into his pocket to see what it was, but he caught my wrist and slid it skillfully out again. Then he tipped me upside down, and blew a raspberry of punishment on my bare stomach. He said I was trying to pickpocket his coins. But there were no coins in there, I would have felt them.

When I was 8 he took me and my brothers swimming. I had gone back into the changing rooms, supposedly to go to the toilet. This time I was pickpocketing his trousers for coins. I reached into his pocket, the inside thick with my mother' stitches. I found no money, just a small, brown nail. I watched my father often after that. I could see him picking at the threads with the nail under the fabric. It was something only I knew about. I didn’t mind. The next time we went swimming I found it and made a mark with blue crayon. I looked for it again some months later and the blue mark was still there. It was the same nail. They were not the same trousers.

When I was 12, and we were on holiday, and my father fell over on slick grass, and pierced the fat muscle in his leg with something sharp, hidden in the grass so he said, we all had to go to the hospital together. As he was being stitched up, my mother gave him a look that meant she did still think about what it would be like not married to him, even though she had promised not to. I didn’t say anything about the nail even though I’d known about it all along, and had imagined all these things happening before they actually did.

When I was 35 and my brother Jack found me going through the pockets of our dead father's sad suit in the hospital room wardrobe, and I cried because I found only holes and no blue tipped nail, it was not an easy thing to explain.


Boy meets girl

They met in a restaurant at the nicer end of town, though it wasn't all that nice. He was already smiling when she caught his eye and went to join him at the small, round table.
"Lovely to see you, Marcy" he said with a wink that seemed in slow motion.
"Charmed" she said, sliding her chair under in several awkward jerks. She had never said charmed before as a greeting in her life. He ran his palms across the white tablecloth. She saw the backs of his hands were brown and hairy. Big and brown and hairy. She noticed the tablecloth was smooth around him, to a point - between there and her it became increasingly less happy. Her cutlery lurched on a frozen, cotton sea. He chuckled.
"What?" she said.
"Nothing" he replied. She waited for the explanation. None came. He leaned forward. She leaned forward. She suddenly became very conscious of her coat. She hadn't taken it off yet. She was warm. She was roasting hot. How awful. She had said nothing of interest and she was going to die. She slid her shoes off under the table.
"I promised myself I wouldn't rape you," he said. She felt cold again.
"You don't mean that," she said.
"No. Of course not. My friend Alex bet me I wouldn't say that to you straight off. Now he owes me money."
"You didn't say it straight off, you said 'lovely to see you' straight off."
"It still counts" he said and looked hurt. He picked at the tablecloth a little.
"Not really" she said. "You don't deserve his money. He deserves yours."
"That's total bullshit" he said sitting back. His face seemed more his own now, it was not as attractive as his smile had made it seem.
"If he asks me, I'll tell him the truth." she said.
"Thanks" he said sarcastically. "Maybe I should rape you". He was pouting now, like a little boy with problems.
"Maybe you should" she said, feeling bad. Nobody spoke. She looked at her cutlery. It was shiny. The knife looked sharp. She wondered if it would stick into something if she threw it like a ninja or circus performer. She wondered how far it would stick into him. To the hilt, perhaps. It didn't have a hilt. She thought about the word 'hilt'. She bit into a breadstick.
"I didn't bring very much money," he said.
"Oh," she said, sliding her shoes back on.


The Burden

This short was written for a 300 word flash fiction competition that it didn't win. It's been a long while since my last post, but I've not been sitting around.
The Burden
It all happened because Patrick left his less-expensive camera at my house. All I wanted to do was give it back.

I arrived at our rendezvous early, keen to relinquish my irritating responsibility (even 'less-expensive' was still expensive to me). I smoked a cigarette and tried not to think about it. But, growing bored and mischievous, I sought distraction and ascended the car-park roof to catch the approaching sunset.

Mesmerized, I watched it: hot and bloody and important. Then I noticed the girl.

Young, poised. Head tilted back as if to give the dying rays easier passage up her nostrils. A tattoo - winding flower stems - ran up her sleeve somewhere interesting. I approached silently, never thinking she wouldn't be happy to see a strange man so high up. So close to the edge.

Hi, I imagined her saying to me.

Hello, I would reply. We are siblings of the sunset, we would acknowledge telepathically. The only ones who understand.

Then I saw she had removed her moccasin shoes. She turned to face me, and I realised what she was doing. She wasn't a child of the sunset, she was a very unhappy woman who had no right to be so unhappy and so beautiful at the same time.

Dumb, childlike, she smiled a soft hello-goodbye. Dumb, childlike, I photographed her smile.

Then she jumped.


I met Patrick and his daughters, returning the camera without words. I went home and climbed into bed, frighteningly alive.

How dare you, I dreamed. Damn and fuck you for violating me with such private matters.

I woke late to many messages, all Patrick.

A beautiful shot. Incredible. But. Isn't that the girl? From the papers. Responsibility to the family. My decision.

I smoked a cigarette and tried not to think about it.


My first short story prize

This week I found out that my short story 'Invisibility Ray' won first prize in the latest Cooldog Publications competition. As well as a cool £100 I will be published in their next E-mag and enter their online Hall of Fame, with the story receiving automatic entry into their annual comp. Want to read an amazing excerpt from the brilliant prize-winning Invisibility Ray? 'Fraid not. You'll have to buy the E-mag - http://www.cooldog.co.uk/emag/.