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Archive for the 'books, zines, etc.' Category

Artists versus writers

Posted: June 4th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Not long after writing my rant about Michel Houellebecq, I picked up (for pennies) a book of essays (Some Recent Attacks) by James Kelman. He’s the author that best transmits Glasgow’s voice, but only famous elsewhere for being the Booker Prize winner who says “fuck” a lot.

One essay, Artists and Value, argues that stereotype and cliché are marks of a bad writer. Of course. But he goes further, making the connection between bad writing and bad attitudes:

“One thing you do find is that many writers who are described as “good” aren’t that good at all, not when you examine their work closely (…) the clichés, the shopsoiled phrases, the timeworn description; basic technical stuff. What it usually signifies is a striaghtforward lack of interest in, or awareness of, particulars. They don’t reach the concrete. (…) And by quick extension of that:

“Everybody on the broo is lazy. Jews are greedy. Black people are criminals. Red haired people are bad tempered. Irish people are ignorant. Peasants are hamfisted. Glaswegian working class males are drunken wife-beaters.

(…) Writers who use too many clichés or timeworn phrases or shopsoiled figures of speech either just don’t care or they’re being lazy.”

And why are we told that certain writers are “good”?

“In our society it isn’t only works of art that have a value placed on them by external forces, so do the actual creators themselves, the artists. The value is economic although it occasionally attempts to masquerade as aesthetic, and received wisdom brooks no distinction.”

JK Rocking! Best £1.50 I’ve spent this year. He wrote this ~15 years ago and it’s still both true and hardly recognised.

Pop Culture, Trash Cinema and Rebel Music

Posted: May 8th, 2008, by Marceline Smith

Exciting news everyone – the one and only Wil Forbis has published a book! diskant oldsters will remember Wil who wrote a hilarious series of review columns for the now-defunct diskant zine on the bargain bins of the USA and also did a great interview with comic artist James Olsen which you can read here. He also runs the awesome Acid Logic webzine which kept me entertained through a number of boring jobs.

Anyway, you can go purchase Acid Logic: A Decade of Humorous Writing on Pop Culture, Trash Cinema and Rebel Music on Amazon for remarkably cheap prices so get on it. Hopefully some of Wil’s columns will make it into the exciting diskant 10 year FUN we are currently planning. More news on that SOON.

Like mother like son

Posted: May 7th, 2008, by Stan Tontas

Enjoying the spectacle of Michel Houellebecq’s Ma giving him a well-deserved literary smacking over his treatment of her in his over-rated softcore whinefest Atomised. (Though it’s unfortunate that the interview ends with the same cod-psychoanalytic drivel that characterises H’s work…)

In Standard Grade English classes, we had to put together a portfolio of creative writing. All the teenage boys included a story set in the future with an introduction that talked about the present but written in the past tense. I was amazed, on picking up this well-reviewed French literary sensation, to find that it began with the exact same “trick”. How come when we did it was clumsy and adolescent but this guy was acclaimed for his stylistic conceit?

But his work is thoroughly adolescent. Consider the novel’s main features: a relentless nihilism and a contempt for women based on almost complete ignorance of them as people. I don’t anyone who hasn’t grown out of that. (But then the number of successful novelists I know is low…)

Your man makes a fortune from middle-aged, middle-class angst on the back of a generalised backlash against feminism, sexual liberation and other concrete gains of the 1960s. Goes on to cement his reactionary politics and market niche by fulminating against Islam (this turns out to also be a way of lashing out at his mother).

In summary, Houellebecq’s book is good for nothing but wallowing in masturbatory self-loathing; his celebrity was his fortunate tapping into now-rising political trends; and a plague on all middle-aged, middle-class Brit lit-critics for fawning over poorly-written reactionary bile with the appearance of daring.

40 years after the near-revolution of May 68 we have an entrenched liberal elite repainting the Paris evenements (‘scuse spelling) as being solely about sex (cf. The Dreamers) versus a reactionary right happy to take advantage of the social gains while snarling (a la Sarkozy) about it being the source of all evil in the world.

I’m with the Situationists on this one. All power to the imagination!

The task of the various branches of knowledge that are in the process of developing spectacular thought is to justify an unjustifable society and to establish a general science of false consciousness. This thought is totally conditioned by the fact that it cannot recognise, and does not want to recognise, its own material dependence on the spectacular system.

Calling Chris Summerlin!

Posted: November 22nd, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Those of you with time on your hands (Hi Chris!) might be interested in ZineWiki, which I have just stumbled upon. Yes, a wiki directory of zines. The fact that it doesn’t include Damn You, Ablaze or indeed any other amazing UK zine that I spent my days swapping with back in 1998, means we need to act. Get on it, people!

Hello, by the way. I have no internet (this is DAY NINE) and thus have not been able to do anything much including update diskant, reply to email, activate the diskant robot etc. However:

1. I am back from Japan and it was awesome. You can look at my 700 photos on Flickr and also read my Tokyo Shopping Guide in progress.

2. My exhibition is now open so do go along and be impressed at the sight of an enormous banner with my name on it (and my handmade purses). More info here.

3. The annual diskant end of year polls will be taking place very soon. If you are a long time diskant reader why not email me (diskant-overlord AT diskant.net) and we’ll let you join in.

4. Please go round to BT and kick their asses for me. Dial-up is for losers! I want my broadband back! Thank you.

Punk Planet RIP

Posted: June 21st, 2007, by Marceline Smith

Punk Planet have sent out their final issue. Sad news. Punk Planet was a big influence on diskant, especially their columns and the range of stuff they covered (their Art & Design issues were always brilliant). They introduced me to two of my favourite ever writers (Jessica Hopper and Al Burian) as well as a lot of amazing bands, labels and people. I wasn’t aware they were having financial and distribution issues but then I haven’t seen an issue in the UK for a couple of years at least.

If nothing else, this is a timely reminder to keep buying your favourite magazines regularly and subscribe if possible. I’m off to renew my Plan B subscription. It may take me months to get round to reading them but I’d be very sad if they weren’t around.

Also, a reminder that I should do that zine roundup asap.

Thanks to everyone who made Punk Planet great.


Posted: April 12th, 2007, by Chris S

American author Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday aged 84.
I don’t read that many books because I have the same problem with them as I do with a lot of films: by their nature and the length of time it takes to ‘consume’ one, there is inevitably a certain amount of flab, or filler to wade through. I don’t like being reminded that I need to be more busy and books and films usually have this unfortunate effect on me. I suppose it’s hard to make everything count in something that takes so long to experience.
This is why Kurt Vonnegut is my favourite author. I always feel I’m wasting my time when I stop reading his books (or looking at his drawings). He had a way with the most minimal amount of words of conveying something staggeringly huge. Indescribable even. So it works better to approach the subject from a different angle, to suggest the reader thinks of it exactly how they want to, safe in the knowledge that if the reader engages with it then their own interpretation cannot be anything less than perfect.
Someone once said that there is no humour without cruelty, or that there is no such thing as victim-less humour. It’s true. Vonnegut is the only author who can make me laugh out loud reading a book about the bombing of Dresden in WWII. Alongside James Baldwin, he is also the only author that has made me re-read pages of a book as I go along because I thought they were so good.
His style of writing, with it’s cross referencing of characters, self awareness and the brilliant touch of adding his own drawings into the text, sounds uninviting perhaps if you’ve never read him before. Like some knowing, post-modern nightmare. Nothing could be further from the truth, Vonnegut was a supreme humanist. The inevitable tradegy of human life and the absurdity of it all versus the ways of dealing with it and dealing with your fellow humans.
He would have made a good president.
Like John Fahey I can now begin the period of regretting that I never met him and didn’t buy one of his paintings when they were cheap.
So it goes.

Smash Hits RIP

Posted: February 3rd, 2006, by Marceline Smith

Yes yes, none of us getting upset about Smash Hits folding have read it for years but that shouldn’t stop us mourning the greatest magazine that ever existed. My sister and I read Smash Hits obsessively from the mid-eighties to the late nineties and loved it for their enthusiasm and ridiculing and the secret language of hilarious catchphrases. Thankfully all this continues in the safe hands of Popjustice, Simon Amstell (I had a momentary regression into teen pop sulkiness the other week when my dad made me stop watching Popworld to go visit my granny) and the Pet Shop Boys. You’ll also find a large number of questions on diskant that are nicked directly from my Smash Hits yearbooks. I will now go dig out my ‘Smash Hits: more tune for your “bob”‘ badge and remember the good old days.

Smash Hits Forever
Down The Dumper! – Alexis Petridis at the Guardian

Also good on the Guardian today – the London Underground map of music.

The Wild Highway

Posted: November 28th, 2005, by Thorsten Sideb0ard

After reading Ollie’s post last week about this new Bill Drummond / Mark Manning book, i immediately went onto Amazon to order a copy – turned up yesterday..

I couldn’t wait to get home, or even onto the train, just away from work to lose myself in it!

First impressions tho, I love the Bill Drummond chapters, but it seems like the Mark Manning ones are even more disturbing than they were in Bad Wisdom. I mean, they are somewhat amusing, but i am getting kinda bored of the sadomasochistic graphic descriptions, rapes, skinnings, wanking, etc. Am i just a prude??

I havent yet, but i am thinking of skipping over the Mark Manning chapters, but wondering if i will lose much (any?) of the story..

Did you finish it yet, Ollie? Whats your thoughts?

Mark Simpson

Posted: August 29th, 2005, by Chris S

I am sure most folks who are interested in comics will know this already but I thought I’d put a post up about the passing of Mark Simpson, co-proprietor of Page 45, the comic book shop in Nottingham.
I am not the best person to write a piece about this, my interest in comics doesn’t reach the obsessive levels of a lot of my friends but anyone who can run a business they love with the level of success Page 45 has achieved as well as being such a well loved and respected person is going to be sorely missed.
Go visit the link above if you’ve never spent an afternoon in Page 45 as you probably should.

What a difference 14-15 years makes

Posted: August 17th, 2005, by Simon Proffitt

Last time I went back to my parents’ place, they gave me a stack of old Q magazines that they found in one of my bedroom cupboards. They’re all from 1990-91, and they are not mine. I can prove they’re not mine, because there’s a live review of an Erasure gig in one, and over the photo of Andy Bell wearing a white corset, suspenders and black high heels, someone has scribbled GAY BASTARD in blue biro. Anyway, I’ve been flicking through them, and it struck me that there was a lot of terrible music being produced in the early 90s. Obviously there’s a lot of terrible music being produced nowadays too, and there was some good stuff being produced in 1991 (any year that can deliver Loveless can be forgiven anything), and true, Q isn’t the best source of finding out what’s really going on in the music world, so the comparison is a little unfair. But still – there are three page articles on The Farm, for God’s sake. And the Milltown Brothers. And Tinita Tikarum. Joan Armatrading. Bedazzled. Definition Of Sound. Northside.

Meanwhile, it’s only August, but here are some of my contenders so far for Record Of The Year:
The Psychic Paramount – Gamelan Into The Mink Supernatural (I can’t adequately explain how awesome this record is)
Thuja – Pine Cone Temples
Jesu – Jesu
Thuja/My Cat Is An Alien – From The Earth To The Spheres Vol.2
Lau Nau – Kuutarha
Islaja – Palaa Aurinkoon
Fursaxa – Lepidoptera
Autechre – Untilted
Sinistri – Free Pulse
Minamo – Shining
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa – Vikinga Brennivin
Mukai Chie & Gary Smith – Eight+
Konono No1 – Congotronics
Coachwhips – Peanut Butter & Jelly
Six Organs Of Admittance – School Of The Flower
Dead Meadow – Feathers
Hood – Outside Closer
Guapo – Black Oni
Giuseppe Ielasi – Gesine
Bohren & Der Club Of Gore – Geisterfaust
Bologna Pony – Early Summer (ha ha!)

and that’s just the ones I’ve heard. Times are good for music.