What are you doing here?

The party's moved to a new joint. And it's way better! www.mattcookthewriter.com


Who could it be at this hour? Lemony Snicket of course.

I'm a big fan of Lemony Snicket, and took the opportunity this Christmas to listen to The Composer is Dead, his macabre introduction to the orchestra, and to read the first in his All The Wrong Questions series. It's a classic gumshoe mystery, with some amazing illustrations by Seth , but that's all I'm going to say. Buy it, read it. It's ace. Some images below, stolen from Brainpickings (as usual).


Imaginary Prisons. So much better than ordinary prisons.

On a recent trip to Manchester's fantastic Whitworth Art Gallery I was completely blown away by an exhibition of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's sketches of imaginary prisons. Each macabre world was intrinsically fascinating as a bleak, cavernous circus of human torment - I mean, come on. 'Imaginary prisons'? From the 1700s? What's not to like! 

That was before I learned each one had impossible architectural features built into the designs, convincing at first glance but physically paradoxical on closer inspection. Bridges that went nowhere, walls that couldn't be there, all contributing to an underlying sense of unease and spatial confusion.

Now that's my kind of art project. 


Writing is tiring, eh?

Anyone who has written anything knows that writing takes it out of you. Anyone who has written, then re-written, then re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-written a book knows that eventually time and space no longer exist and all you can hear is white noise.

Some people love to tweet and blog whilst writing - "I'm having a terrible time with this chapter! #writingistiring" - that sort of thing, but I don't. I like to hide and think those thoughts and pretend twitter and the internet don't exist until it's finished. It's a kind of don't tweet anything until you are worthy mentality, but since worthiness is taking a lot longer than expected I thought I should show my face and see if anyone still remembers me.

Basically I've been re-writing a children's novel which is now ready to send out and wait for the offers to come piling in. It's a series of cautionary tales, messy comeuppances, that sort of thing, so if that sounds like your cup of tea then please send a cheque for £40 and I will email you the word document.

In other news I met the lovely people at Manchester SCWBI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and they seemed to like the first chapters, which was nice.  Also I have been reading a lot of Gideon Defoe, who is amazing.


More nice illustrations

I've gone a bit nuts blogging illustrations recently, but what the heck.  These are really nice.

Gorey's Donalds

More illustrations from Brainpickings, this time beautiful artwork from a hero of mine, the legendary Edward Gorey. These are taken from his 1968 children's book collaboration with Peter F. Neumeyer focusing on Neumeyer's character Donald.

As Brainpickings tells it:

Their remarkable illustrated correspondence tackled topics as diverse as metaphysics and pancake recipes, but focused primarily on the three books at the heart of their collaboration. The third book, Why We Have Day and Night, was released last year and was among the year’s best children’s books. The first two are now out as a boxed set for the first time in The Donald Boxed Set: Donald and the . . . & Donald Has a Difficulty — a lovely duo of smyth-sewn casebound books in a beautiful slip-case, brimming with Gorey’s signature black-and-white illustrations of eccentric characters and strange creatures.

You can read more about their correspondence in the original article here.


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.


Vintage Circus Posters

Double love these Victorian circus posters from Double M via Eight Hour Day.

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. 



I've been hammering out a first draft of my new cautionary tales book, hence the continued quietness blogging, but now things are a bit quieter I'm taking a break and thinking about what to do when this is finished. I've had an idea for something involving monsters, and been reading some good reference stuff including Ten Sorry Tales by Mick Jackson and Nicholas Nickleby by someone or other. There are no monsters in either, but that's not why I'm reading them.

Feeling pretty good despite a rejection last week. Nothing new pics wise, so I thought I would post this recent one from John Kenn. He's got a book out don't you know? About time too.


So here we are again

Well I thought it was probably time to get this show back on the road. I've taken a long break for a number of reasons, some of them traumatic and some of them pretty brilliant. Either way I have some exciting projects back under way, and a blog that needs stoking. I spent some hard-gifted Christmas money on books this week including Bears of England and Ten Sorry Tales both by Mick Jackson, and The Bird King and Tales from Outer Suburbia both by Shaun Tan. The Shaun Tan ones I ordered from my local Didsbury bookshop too, as per my New Year's resolution. I am half way through and chuffed to bits with both. I've also updated the fiction section here so you can read the entire version of my children's poem The Bookworm. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

More news will appear once something happens.