Thursday, 31 December 2009

The City & The City

Finished reading The City & The City by China Miéville, which I had never heard about until it found its way into the house over Christmas. Novel of old and Slavic turns and words and layers of streets bringing out European cities on the sea, string theory, detectives and some old Europe sci fi in the world of today. 

The Consistence of the Visible - Press Release English Translatione

Couldn't find this press release/declaration anywhere in English so translated it myself.  Currently editing a draft of a novel I needed it in English; I'm interested in the line Dada has taken, through the 20s and 30s in France to Pierre Rastany and Co. in the 1960s, himself a champion for Bourriaud and the whole scene in France that came with the Palais de Tokyo in the 1990s, 2000s. Its a strange sort of backbone that appears, at times, to be a surreptitious hign Modern line, self assured, strong. Certainly when I got to see retrospective of Nouveau Realisme in 2007 in the Grande Palais I remember being struck by how contemporary they felt, or at least how faded some of the labels seemed -  relational aesthetics - in the face Daniel Spoerri & Eat Art amongst others. 

Fondation D'Enterprise Ricard

10 Octobre - 22 Novembre 2008

The Consistence of the Visible

For this, the 10th anniversary of the Prix Ricard, it seemed important to me to complete the normal function of this exposition (a thematic presentation of emerging artists from France’s artworld) by having a critical preamble which would include ‘historical’ or confirmed artists. This inclusion poses a very simple question: what marks the boundary of an artwork? By what gesture is its terrain brought about, puts in places its limits, outlines the perimeter of its exploration?


In thinking of the concept of ‘bricolage’ with which Lévi-Strauss defined mythological thought, I thought to present this subjective story in the form of a reunion of fetisches: that is to say, objects which, despite their apparence of detail, represent a complex thought which is found suffused throughout them.  Such is a hologramme.


This question, regarding the ‘plan of composition’ of an artwork, is not innocent or free, nor without repercussions from the choice of ‘young artists’  that continue it on. 


In one way it underlines the importance of initial gestures and of the necessity, when making a work, of laying out a terrain and to define a specific manner of surveying this terrain. As so many artists today content themselves with the production of objects under a vague ‘theme’, more often than not borrowed from the contemporary ideological notebook, it is better not to forget that an artwork resembles a journey more than a mere tour of the local gallery quarter.


Elsewhere this question shares a surprising point in common, without doubt the only, between two key actors in French art whom this exposition would like to to pay hommage: Pierre Restany and Bernard Lamarche-Vadel. They were, for the young art critic I aspired to be at the turn of the 1990s, two unique role models. Between ‘the technological humanism’ of one, directed toward social production and the totalisation of the visible, and the subtle aristocraticism of the other, through the singular and the inexpressible, we find ourselves in the presence of two disimiliar trajectories belonging to two different generations, but united by the same independent spirit and a similar engagement in the world of the French artworld.


Restany celebrated in 1960 ‘the autonomic expression of the real’ in launching the Nouveau Realiste movement, which insisted in the radical gesture of ‘direct appropriation’, founder of all artistic practice – ‘automatic manifestaion of the sensible’ – explored in a new ‘urban nature’. Twenty-six years later, Lamarche-Vadel was to regroup twelve artists for his exposition ‘What is French Art’, by the pertinance of their ‘posture’ or their ‘process’, that is the invention of ‘ways to put in process (their) existance in the course of creating their artwork’. At first glance dissimiliar, these two propositions constituet in my eyes two levels of the same conceptual discourse.


The nine artists that I have choosen for this 10th edition of the Prix Ricard respond to this double promulgation: supporting their work on one hand with a collective sensibility and on the other with a personal composition, riding the waves emitted by the social but dissociating themselves from it by a singular point de départ. They can subscribe to the formula of Lamarche-Vadel which gives this exposition its title: ‘Therefore what we consider in the visible, the art work, must above all have the texture of an extreme doubt about the consistence of the visible.’

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Europeans en route to the US

The New York Times. What was the biggest surprise for you, editing the collection?
Aleksander Hemon. It was less of a surprise than a reminder: how unabashedly comfortable many of the writers are to engage with literary forms that would be perceived as experimental or avant-garde here. In turn, I was reminded how deeply conservative contemporary American literature is in terms of form. And that conservative bent is a recent development, I believe. The European form flexibility is not a consequence of some snotty, elitist aesthetic but rather of the fact that there are many stories to be told and many traditions to draw from.

Q. It would be hard from this anthology to characterize a particularly “European” style of writing, to say nothing of a particularly Irish or Albanian or Norwegian style. But in your introduction, you make a compelling case for the role of Europe’s geography and history in shaping the continent’s fiction. Could you, then, venture to define what makes a story particularly “European”? What about specific national characteristics?
A. Europe is fantastically dense, varied and small by American standards. Everything is within two hours by plane. It takes as long to drive from, say, Norway to Greece as it does from Chicago to Miami. And if you were to drive from Norway to Greece, you would pass through countless different landscapes, cultures, languages, histories. Yet each of these autonomous spaces is bound together by a common uberhistory — no country or language or people managed to escape the calamities of the 20th century, for example, or the vast migrations that have been taking place since World War II, peaking in the last couple of decades. It is impossible to retain an ethnically clean space in Europe, despite periodical genocide or the exclusionary policies of European governments. What is European, then, is that cultures and literatures always see themselves in relation to other cultures and languages — sometimes in opposition, sometimes in kinship, often both at the same time. An educated European — a reader of serious fiction — is likely to speak two or more languages.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Book Release

Ann Cotten (AT), Anna Clemensensen Bro (DK), Agnieszka Drotkiewicz (PL), Martin John Callanan (UK), Volha Martynenka (BY), Francesca Musiani (IT), Christophe Van Gerrewey (BE), Urszula Wozniak (DE).

Broken Dimanche Press freut sich, die Veröffentlichung ihres ersten Buches You Are Here ankündigen zu können. Als Anthologie mit Essays, Kritiken, Belletristik, Photographie und Dramen zeichnet You Are Here ein engagiertes Europa von jungen politischen Aktivisten und Kulturschaffenden – ein Europa, welches mit dem 9. November 1989 in Berlin in Bewegung geriet.

Wednesday, November 11 @ Basso
187, Köpenickerstrasse
U-Bahn: Schlesisches Tor
(Entrance is in the lefthand corner of courtyard) 

Broken Dimanche Press are delighted to announce the publication of their flagship book, You Are Here. A ‘pantholgy’ of essay, review, fiction, memoir, photography and drama You Are Here maps an engaged Europe of young political and cultural practitioners growing out of changes set in motion in Berlin on November 9, 1989. With contributions in five different languages You Are Here has been designed by FUK laboratories™ (Berlin). 

Edited by John Holten and Line Madsen Simenstad.
Design by FUK laboratories™
256 pages
18,4 x 12,7 cm
English (with Polish, German, Belarussian, Danish)
ISBN 978-3-00-028868-5

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

You Are Here

My friend Jane Hughes recommended FUK laboratories when I told her about our plans for You Are Here, and happily I checked them out. The first impressions came through last night and they are very, very nice indeed. 

Monday, 21 September 2009

Posted Poetry

The good man Colm Keegan posted me some poetry as he promised (a long time ago it feels) A very nice surprise.




These coloured chalks

Fell into my lap

Fruit from a swaying bag

On a passer by.

So I use them.

To plead and swear

upon the slabs

That you wear and tear upon

and smooth out with your feet.


'Look at me!', I write

'I am beneath you, like the pool

from a leaky radiator,

like the roots beneath the trees.'


My knees don't feel

the cold housed in the concrete

I gave up on heat.

Your street

Is a barren whore to me



I seek to plant nothing

But words.

And if the rain

washes them away

If no-one sees what I say

The chalk dust

At least

will brighten the dirt

trapped by my fingernails.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Utopian Bus Tour

The Utopian Bus Tour went very well by all accounts. I had a lot of fun working with the group from Mind the Gap and turning all their research and ideas into an alternative Dublin, into a city that doesn't really exist. This is obviously a theme of mine, especially when it comes to writing about Dublin. It wasn't easy though, to envision a different city, a better city even, and perhaps that's half the problem, a failure to see past our current, veyr real cities, and focus on the 'invisible cities' of our own collective potential and imagination. 

Friday, 4 September 2009

Mind the Gap

Mind The Gap is a collaborative public art project initiated by
Michelle Browne to work with artists, designers, architects and
planners to look at open spaces in the city and consider new uses for
them. Over the course of two months the group have explored areas
across Dublin city considering how we can re-imagine our civic
society. Throughout Absolut Fringe we will present a range of
interventions that will inform and delight. The project is based at
thisisnotashop on Benburb Street Dublin 7 where you can get
information and contribute to our exhibition of ideas for the city.

Mind The Gap is an Absolut Fringe Commission.

Participants: Michelle Browne, Siobhan Carroll, Carolann Courtney,
Mark Durkan, John Holten, Colm Keller, Issac Lawless, Bryan O’Connell,
Jeni Roddy, Naomi Ronan, Tom Walsh, Chong Wang.

SEPT 5th - 4.30pm

Utopian Bus Tour – A guided tour through
Dublin with a difference. Drawing on unrealised
proposals for the city and imagining new uses
for vacant spaces, the Utopian Bus Tour will
guide you through an alternative vision for the
city. Leaves from Smithfield Square.

SEPT 12th + 19th 8-11pm

Don’t Quote Me – Projected on the outside
of the iconic Screen cinema, Mind The Gap
looks to the silver screen to investigate
Dublin’s current dilemmas. The city, planning,
corruption, and the fall of a nation are explored
through the history of cinema.

SEPT 7th -12th

Fare Play? – Taking off in a taxi from Foster
Place, Mind The Gap will offer you a chance
to learn about NAMA while visiting the sites
of the nation’s current big question. Informed
taxi drivers will explain the workings of NAMA
and show you where it will all happen. Various
times, limited space, booking essential. Email
for details.

SEPT 11th + 18th 6pm - 6.30pm

Operetta – A lone performer looks out over the
city and sings a lament to its citizens. Mind The
Gap presents a solo operatic performance on
Foster Place of arias that highlight the current
plight of the city and its uncertain future.

SEPT 19th 12pm - 3pm

Flower Show – Following from the tradition of
competitive window box competitions in the
Smithfield area, Mind The Gap offer you the
chance to come to Smithfield Plaza and design
your own flower box display to be adjudicated
by Lord Ross of Birr Castle, Father to Lord
Oxmantown. Take this opportunity to bring plant
life to the plaza.

SEPT 20th 3pm

The Big Freeze – Goethe famously said
“architecture is frozen music.” Taking
inspiration from the architecture of Smithfield
Plaza, a brass band will perform The Ride of
The Valkyries by Wagner. This collaborative
performance highlights the
peaks and troughs of Smithfield Square
as a public space.


Public Seating – Mind the Gap will provide
alternative public seating in the city for
visitors and commuters over the course of
Absolut Fringe. Seating will be provided on
Aungier Street, Hawkins Street and other
city centre locations

Sunken Site – Hammond Lane – A series
of visual proposals will be presented for an
unused site on Hammond Lane and Church
Street. A collection of proposals taken from
an open call from designers and architects
explore the possibilities of the disused spaces
in the city.

Thisisnotashop – The hub of the Mind The Gap
operation, the gallery will host an exhibition of
ideas for the city. Inspired by the urban myth
that Santiago Calatrava designed the James
Joyce bridge on the back of a napkin, we invite
you, the viewer, to present your ideas for the
city of an ever-expanding array of napkins.
The gallery will also host The Smithfield
Archive presenting the history of the area and
unrealised proposals for its regeneration.

Watch out for other surprise events on our blog!

Contact us at,

Fringe Box Office
Filmbase, Curved St., Dublin 2
call: 1850 FRINGE

26 Benburb St, Dublin 7.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

How to distract yourself from finishing a novel, Part 1

I have a lot of work to be doing, therefore distractions are on the increase. Tuesday isVernissage 001.3 in Dublin, then on Thursday I'm reading at the Boru Revue in Phibsborough, Dublin from The Bellows City.  I've also been invited to work on a text for a great project that's part of the Fringe Festival that will be 'delivered' on Saturday, Septemebr 5th...

So for distraction:

Broken Dimanche Press is interested in what is going on in today's Europe, who is challenging conventions and investigating our shared contemporary. We see ourselves working across borders and in the future wish to translate writers and thinkers into other European languages than those they write in.

The Kakofonie is currently seeking submissions for our next issues:

002 will be concerned with the political, we'll be looking at social democracy in the 21st century and the political capital of the imagination and the arts vis-à-vis the rise of rightwing populism and the crash of the free market. We are open to all art forms and genres, and are particularly interested in receiving fiction that deals with the contemporary in imaginative and challenging ways.

003, this issue will be comprised of video work. We interested in video art, literary videos (including viral promotion work for books etc), experimental documentary and any other work you'd care to send along.

We have finished sourcing material for our flagship book You Are Hereto be published in November. It will include poets, novelists, philosophers, political acitivists amongst other disciplines from across Euorope, including the award winning Ann Cotten (GER), novelist Agnieszka Drotkiewicz (POL), political scientist Francesca Musiani plus many more...

At the moment we are also interested in hearing from anyone who feels committed to experimental fiction and poetry, challenging political journalism, translation and philosophy in terms of book length ideas.

Submit to :

Multiple submissions are fine.

We will strive to reply to all correspondence.

We can't go on for ever without submissions so please send something!

Friday, 7 August 2009


Gratitude to: Sylvain Marchand & Lisbeth Løvbak Berg

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Vernissage 001.2 Oslo

As one of the themes of the issue is the transformative power of the walk along the City's streets, the second exhibition launch of The Kakofonie will occur outside on Grønlandsleiret, 0190, the site of the now closed Grønlandshagen. An Oslo favourite in its day, The Kakofonie will return to this shut up site and reinvest it with life for the evening. Come join us for a drink and perusal of the latest issue.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Public welfare stuffed full of cultural nourishment

Everything is moving forward. I've gotten Charlie Stadtlander's crossword in my inbox and I'm like a fucking kid at christmas. The Kakofonie is proving the highlight of the summer already. Then there's Ann Cotten's text Verschwörung und Verwechslung translated wonderfully by Joy Hawley,  and my head is spinning. I'm thinking, this is the shit, this is fucking wonderful. You Are Here has received three of its contributions in the last three days and I'm very excited about them, the whole thing is coming together and beginning to show that it's really going to say something. Roll on November 9!

THe Kakafonie is Coming Soon

Andrea Bedorin (IT) / Andrea DeAngelis (US) / John Lalor (IRE & FR) / Patrick O Beirne (GER) / Luke Sheehan (IRE) / Charlie Stadtlander (US) / Simon Stranger & Susanne Krövel (NOR) / Pia (NOR) / Christian Ward (UK) / Karl Whitney (IRE)

Monday, 8 June 2009

La Porte Russe Remix

Je vous jure que je fais pas 'un Beckett' - au contraire! PlutOt, quand Alan Cunningham m'a demandé pour une piéce sur la theme 'context is everything' pour la revue Issue, je me suis dis que la langue, aprés tout, n'est que une liste du signes dans une contexte. Mon nouvelle de 2006 The Russian Door a eu une section en anglias mais le narratrice etait francais. Ici, j'ai essayé de traduire cette section.  

je dois remercier Alan et aussi Perig LeOst pour son correction. Comme vous voyez - mon francais est terrible!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Short Story

Short story up over on greenbeardmagazine, featuring a return of William Day.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Bosco stealing prizes because he's a nice old man

I'm very happy that my friend Andrew Fox is continuing his onward march into the overgrown territory of Irish short storydom by infiltrating that nettly corner known as the Francis Mac Manus short story comp  (last year they gave it to Bosco giving rise to calls of nepotism and dodgy puppetry) Here's the list press release.

Am busy busy setting up Broken Dimanche Press. Send me words and images and I'd be happy to put them up at The Kakofonie.

So far Andrea Bedorin, an Italian poet has two storming modernist pieces up there. More forwardlooking shit soon.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Two poems are up at 3AM. You can read them here

In other news the whole Broken Dimanche thing is going well. We have web presence here.

Soon I'm going to stop using a blog warning: I'm going to stop this crap soon.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

New Ireland or Old Ireland

Easter Sunday in one newspaper in Ireland.

(Article by Luke Sheehan on cultism and madness)

....this Garden of Wandering

Just finished The Radicant by Nicolas Bourriaud last night, after it followed me around for over a month. I lost a lot of its threads during those weeks so am looking forward to going over it again and maybe writing up a review of it. Very interesting thoughts on translation and a new culture of travel and precariousness - but saying that any hope of writing up a grand narrative is suspect, as Bourriaud himself iterates throughout. It doesn't help that everything I read on his Tate Triennial show was negative. Something else to look into.

Very busy setting up a new venture out of Parking Meter Press - namely Broken Dimanche Press. Suddenly we have resources and lot of projects on the go, as well as a whole load of ideas and future plans. Will update on that as it comes along.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Julian Gough Reading

Went to Kaffee Burger last night for the first time ever. I got to hear  Berlin resident Julian Gough read. He was even kind enough to offer to get me in gratis, a good soul indeed. He's interesting because he is one of very few Irish novelists doing something interesting and decidedly non-John MacGahern. Cervantes and Ballard were both mentioned in the course of the reading, in positive ways, so that means it had to be good.

Afterwards I had to rush off and have drinks with friends. Realising just how far away Australia is and what a shame distance is sometimes.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Short Winner in Symmetry of Flaws

Just found out today that my short on William Day Tunnels of Profit (Bridges of Loss) has won The Symmetry of Flaws competition over on greenbeard. Nice surprise.

Work going well on daDa project too. Don't have enough money to travel to Serbia, Bosnia or Budapest which is a setback however. Need to win a lot more prizes I guess.


Friday, 20 March 2009

Old Essay on Small Press Publishing

Unremaindered Remainder: a Case Study in Successful Small Press Publishing


How to Publish a Good Novel in a Roundabout Way

Because, in spite of what he said, it’s not the reactionaries or the old fogey’s who pose the greatest threat to the novel. It’s the dilettantes. The gentlemen (and –women) amateurs. The resting actors and the bored journalists and the ubiquitous media people hungry for kudos and the talented but directionless Oxbridge graduates who’ve all got agents queuing up to take them out to lunch. And because it’s so easy for these people to get published, we end up with bookshops piled from floor to ceiling with novels that aren’t really novels at all, written by people who haven’t given the form and its possibilities a tenth of the thought that B.S. Johnson gave to it before he even set pen to paper.
(Coe, pg. 7)

This essay is about what one of the last English modernists, B.S Johnson, thought to be the threats facing the novel in the English language. It is concerned with writers, like Johnson, interested in the form and new aspects of the novel and their difficulty in getting published in an environment driven by the concerns of large businesses rather then the artistic concerns of individual novelists. It will look at these aspects of publishing by focusing on one contemporary publication history, that of the novel Remainder, by Tom McCarthy, a writer not far removed from the artistic rigour Johnson brought to his writings. In the process of outlining this case history, the importance of literary production outside the Anglophone world will be stressed; the importance and continued security of small, independent publishing will be argued for along with, in an age of ever increasing celebrity and bestseller-fixation, a realistic and focused outlook for new writers and their art.

Each country is a different publishing environment – even within the Anglophone world there exists a wide spectrum of markets and audiences. But this essay is arguing the difficulty of treating the novel as the art form it inherently is and the restrictive restraint put on it by nationality. The novelist is open to outside influence, to die Weltliteratur qua Goethe, and if their publishers are not, then the true aesthetic value of the work will be, in a large, important part, lost. Milan Kundera points out that it is the big context of the die Weltliteratur – not of global Anglophone literature it must be stressed – that alone is best capable of understanding any novel’s aesthetic value. It is a risky business, as far as maintaining an audience’s interest, but necessary he says: a novel’s aesthetic value is not just about the story or the message it conveys, but also how it conveys it. The novel is up against other, more mainstream media such as television and cinema that convey stories just as well, if not better, to the masses. This is to say, that an avant-garde novelist tries to light up the unknown aspects of the novel, find out the newness of form necessary for its continued good health. (La Rideau, p 51) And this spotlight on something new, this looking forward, is clad in that thing which this essay’s argument will hinge. Cervantes’ first publishers knew it, Sterne’s first publishers knew it, Sylvia Beach certainly knew it: risk. This, more than anything, is what we have to talk about when considering the avant-garde writer and the world of publishing. Risk is important for any artist in any media, especially, I am arguing, for what I term the avant-garde novelist; but risk is bad for business.

So the question arises today, as I see it: is the only way to originally respond to the novel’s big context of die Weltliteratur, to push it forward as a form and get published, to by-pass the no risk world of big business and conglomerate publishing houses and go to small presses? Those tiny, shaky businesses driven first by the desire to recognise the high aesthetic value of work they like and who worry about the mass commodity value of it second.

We need to go back to 2004 when Clementine Deliss and Thomas Boutoux, two contemporary art curators, started going about establishing such a small publishing house in that erstwhile centre of literary embarkment, Paris. They made the decision to take Clementine Deliss’ international Metronome series of art publications to a new level and to start looking for those writers who felt there was a ‘renewed need for stories, narratives, and forms of fiction that stimulate and nurture the imagination’ (Le Joker, unpaginated). Their paths were to cross with Tom McCarthy soon after and together, inside the next eighteen months, they would produce one of the most unusual success stories in contemporary publishing.

However, in terms of the larger, historical story of publishing, there wasn’t that much unusual about it, in fact. Indeed, if anything, this merger was to be couched in past avant-garde practices. Deliss and Boutoux’s new venture was to be called Metronome Press and it was to bring their series of artistic publications to the level previously set by people like Sylvia Beach, George Reavey, Jack Kahane and, more significantly, Maurice Girodias. The contribution these people made to 20th century English literature does not need to be stressed here: the first pair both published Joyce, Kahane in the 1930s going on with his Obelisk imprint to publish such luminaries as Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Frank Harris and Laurence Durrell. The later man, Girondias, who was to be of particular influence to Deliss and Boutoux, founded the Olympia Press in Paris in 1953. In the post-War years Girondias gathered together scores of displaced British and American writers, all living or passing through Paris and produced ‘DBs’ or ‘dirty books’ under his Traveller’s Companion series. Girondias, as a business man, knew what would sell, and in order to keep his fledging press alive he got some of the best writers of the time to write smut, place it alongside pornography, and sell it. This financed the serious stuff on the side. But it was more than just a cash source: beside the tits and ass he would ‘seduce’ people into buying the new collection of titles with an exposed ankle of script or seductive shoulder of a new novel.

In comparison with the Arts Council reliance and the increasing pressure of conglomerate-takeover of many small publishing houses, Girondias seems adventurous, risky, and perhaps, creative. It worked for him (for a while at least): he published the original English editions of some of the seminal works of that century: JP Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, Nabokov’s Lolita, Burrough’s Naked Lunch and Beckett’s Molloy, to name just a few. He worked against any idea of moral censorship for reasons that seemed to come down to aspects of his singular personality as much as his passion for literature.

How does this relate to the situation half a century later? It does so by giving the framework, and style, to Deliss and Boutoux for them to self-consciously copy and appropriate and in so doing start Tom McCarthy’s career as a novelist.

Tom McCarthy (b. 1969) has led, one could say, the usual sort of life for his sort: his route to publication took him to Europe, Prague in the early 1990s, then to Amsterdam where he was literary editor for the local Time Out and later worked in television and editor in various publications. The first novel he wrote did not make any head way and was not picked up. Around this time he became heavily involved in the London art world, tellingly heading his own fictive avant-garde network, the International Necronautical Society, which echoed Modernism’s big avant gardes, Dadaism, Futurism, Surrrealism, through its structure, organisation, manifestos et cetera. It seems that creatively McCarthy admired his contempories in the artworld for their engagement with his first passion, literature. It also seems to have been a difficult time for a highly literate, passionate author well read in high-end literary theory (McCarthy has taught in Central St. Martins and the London Consortium) and whose work seemed to have little chance of being published. As he put it three years later in an article for the London Times, the distance between the mainstream publishing world and the world of his audience and his work, was widening:
A few years ago I was invited to a dinner for young British novelists at the ICA. The other guests were for the most part successful published writers – unlike myself back then. The talk was of lucrative three-book deals with major publishers, review coverage, agents – anything, in fact, but literature.
When I steered the conversation with a couple of my neighbours that way, I discovered way: they were both indifferent to, and largely ignorant of, literary history. Sure they’d read a book or two by E.M. Forster or Jane Austin back at college – but Faulkner, Joyce, Kafka, Sterne, Cervantes? Forget it. I did end up having a great conversation about Bataille and Sade, but it was with one of the institute’s curators. (McCarthy, The Times, June 23, 2007)
Nothing in this excerpt should be very surprising, indeed one is tempted to say there is a time and a place for everything, including Joyce and Bataille, but what is surprising and worth pointing out is the insight it gives of a young, unpublished novelist’s disappointment with the mainstream and the honing in on, the identification of, his core target audience. In 2001/2002 McCarthy’s second effort, Remainder, got stonewalled by the conglomerate houses due to a lack of interest from editors or resistance from, as he has said ‘the marketing people who run these places nowadays’ (ReadySteadyBook, interview with Mark Twaite, 18 December, 2005). He turned his attention more and more to the visual art world (it should be pointed out that McCarthy had no background or training in visual art) and seems to have had there, as a literary enthusiast cum budding young novelist, a great time! In the same interview with Mark Twaite he said: ‘In the current climate art has become the place where literary ideas and themes are creatively discussed and transformed – not publishing.’

So this was to be his first audience, the art world – he had correctly identified where the audience and engagement he saw fit for his novel existed. And this is where Deliss and Boutoux with their Metronome Press step into the picture and make McCarthy a lucky novelist by being publishers who fully understood and respected his artistic ambitions as well as understanding, importantly, his audience very well.

Remainder is a novel in which the narrator has suffered an accident that leaves him with a case of post-traumatic syndrome, as well as 8.5 million pounds in compensation to idle away. After a severe bout of déjà vu he embarks on an elaborate series of re-enactments of varying scale, banality and increasingly violence. In a search for authenticity his re-enactments are exact, repetitive and increasingly, deranged. It's a clever narrative for a clever book, a decidedly ‘non-British’ kind of novel involving many echoes of Robbe-Grillet (a hero for McCarthy) and the nouveau roman. 3AM Magazine even called it the first French novel written in English! But saying all that, the style is limpid, clear and it is not at all a difficult read – if anything it is funny, accessible and oddly engaging, a very good read in short. McCarthy was pleased that some reviewers made the link with a lot of contemporary art practice in which artists rebuild and re-enact scenes, stories, environments in videos and within galleries , but he made his narrator an ordinary Joe Blogg without any literary or trendy art world knowledge. The book explores ideas, unusual high end literary concerns, but doesn’t have a word of philosophy in it, or any moralising at all. He very obviously wanted to write a straight up novel, that was not a piece of art or theory, but just a good novel.

When Deliss decided to move into fiction publishing she asked Tom McCarthy if she could read his novel because she ‘was curious to follow up the hunch that fiction within art practice might be the way forward.’ (3AM interview); she knew McCarthy from the art world, liked the novel a lot, and decided to take it on as one of Metronome’s flagship books. Along with Remainder the other novels to be published were Stunning Lofts by Tom Gidley (an artist and co-founder of the powerhouse Frieze art magazine); Fat Mountain Scenes by Phyllis Kiehl (a German artist and writer); and The Young and Evil, a reprint of the 1933 gay cult book by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler. Deliss said that Metronome Press was to be ‘inspired’ by Olympia Press (she didn’t want, understandably, the multiple bankruptcies that plagued Girondias!), it was to be based in Paris, publish books in English, but not to have any one particular nationalist identity, French or otherwise. As well as being romantic, with a strong wiff of nostalgia, Paris was convenient as a location in that it was considerably less expensive to print books in France than in say, the UK. The books themselves were elegant, compact and reminiscent of an Editions des Minuit or Gallimard paperback.

Judith Ickowicz, a French lawyer and friend of Deliss and Boutoux made out the unique ‘contrat d’agent de passe’ which made Metronome Press a crossroads between places of creation and assured that Metronome Press would act as both publisher and intermediary, a place that, as Boutoux said in a letter in 2005, ‘on (sic) the long term… could give Paris a kind of maison de passe, a place unlike a museum or gallery [or publishing house for that matter!] … where you meet other patients in the sense of people who don’t want to see things happen instantly, and who are not drugged by visibility.’ (Le Joker). In another clause Metronome Press promised the movement and dissemination of the books across geographical frontiers, building bridges outwards from Paris to the major cities across the world. The contract acknowledged the ‘caratère expérimental’ of the initiative and therefore the need for it to function at first on an ‘échelle réduite’, a reduced scale. I think this is very important point in the genesis of Tom McCarthy’s (and Metronome Press’) subsequent success.

The bridges built by this very modest publishing house where precise structures: Metronome Press was only going to supply their books to art institutions! This may have been a literary affair but it was for a very definite audience: the contemporary visual art world. Each novel had a print run of 2,000 copies, selling at €8.50 a unit (£6.50). In France the books were distributed personally to all of two bookshops in Paris, at the Jeu de Paume gallery in the Tuileries and the Palais de Tokyo gallery; in London they appeared in five bookshops such as those in the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Tate Modern among other art institutions.
And with these basic bridges in place, Remainder, quite simply, took off. The art world immediately appreciated its strong concern for matter and representation and saw in it a warm send-up of much of the art being produced at the time; the online literary blogging community reviewed it and interviewed Tom McCarthy himself. The importance of the online literary community cannot be underemphasised in mapping out McCarthy’s success. Only a note can be made about this emergent scene, resplendent with echoes of bygone days, of literary salons and writing circles, the literary e-zines of today are themselves avant-garde networks of which even the big UK daily newspapers must keep tags on to stay up to date. Reviews also appeared in the TLS, the Independent, the Independent on Sunday as well as a full page in the London Review of Books. Crucially, within the contract devised by Ickowicz there was a clause stating that ‘Metronome Press can publish previously unpublished manuscripts without excluding their authors from the possibility of such Metronome Press publications being acquired by a maison d’édition litéraire classique in France or abroad.’ (Le Joker, translation by the author). This perhaps being the key bridge and one that was crossed by McCarthy, and once over he looked around the literary landscape that he had found so inhospitable a year or two previously. There he discovered a new, internationally minded independent press, Alma Books and joined their bourgeoning list. And the terrain grew stranger still – McCarthy soon had an excited email from Marty Asher, US vice-president and editor-in-chief of Vintage, an email full of enthusiasm about Remainder. He is now represented in the US by Melanie Jackson and on Asher’s impressive list. Further into this new landscape, McCarthy sold the film rights of Remainder to FilmFour (the film is in pre-production). The foreign language rights were sold to Japanese, Korean, Greek, Spanish and Croatian houses and in 2007 a French version (entitled: Et ce sont les chats qui tombèrent) was published by Hachette Littérature.

I argue that a lot of this came about by McCarthy correctly understanding what his audience was and the ability of small presses to find them, starting as he did with the smallest of presses imaginable, and choosing Alma Books over the bigger houses that started to reconsider Remainder. Once the reviews came pouring in his response to the many conglomerates who did about-turns and offered to take his book up was full of pique, the kind of pique that had driven BS Johnson before him (‘Well, fuck off: it’s the same book as it was two years ago.’ Tonkin, The Independent) Asked in an interview about the reception of Remainder McCarthy answered that he was, without surprise, very happy with the response and the reviews. But his response is more precise than just a writer basking in the limelight after years in the dark. His response is a worthwhile apercu into the necessity that any intelligent writer needs to know what they want from the realities of the industry:
[Remainder] seems to have by-passed the commercial sector and gone straight into the critical one, which is exactly where I wanted it to play out. Distribution is a problem, though. A corporate publisher would get your book into all the bookshops - but then to be with a corporate publisher it seems to me that your book would have to execute the kind of brief dictated by their market research teams, which would make it not worth writing in the first place. You may as well go into advertising and become a copywriter instead. You'd make more money that way, that's for sure! (McCarthy, ReadySteadyBook)
Alma Books was the perfect house to take this unabashedly literary, Gallic flavoured text on from Metronome Press. Founded just around the time of Metronome Press’ launch, October, 2005 by Alessandro Gallenzi and Elisabetta Minervini (also the founders of Hesperus Press) Alma Books’ intention was to put out between twenty to thirty titles a year, forty per cent of which would be translations from European languages. Their partnership with the Oxford non-fiction publisher Oneworld resulted in them also handling the acquired Calder Publications, along with John Calder’s infamous bookshop near the Old Vic in London – a fitting continuation with past European literature in the same spirit as Metronome’s relationship with Girondias. Added to this open, decidedly literate family of ambitious publishing, McCarthy could further enjoy the dedication Gallenzi and Minervini were obviously disposed to deliver to their list:
The company's whole emphasis lies on quality over quantity, all the way from choosing projects for publication to creating the physical look and feel of the books. Alma works closely and intimately with authors to develop the best possible finished scripts, and displays a commitment to the kind of professional editing, copy-editing and proofreading that is dying out elsewhere. (Company Statement,
In short this is an environment in which a novelist could actively engage with the weltliterature of the form and develop challengingly and appealing new forms. Publishers of novels have to be open to outside influence and the reality of literature; without adopting a Marxist approach I argue that if the logic of commodity marketing is applied at editorial level the work that gets produced will be far removed from Kundera’s idea of the aesthetic value of the novel and its ability to advance in form. It is risky to produce and publish this sort of work, that is not being denied, and that is why it seems that small presses are so important. But more than that, the funding that they receive is equally more important. In the UK it seems that funding by the Arts Council has gotten so poor for presses that only in the last few months of 2007 it was announced that a huge impersonal conglomerate would have to bail out a small press such as the Dedalus Press by Informa, a subsidiary of Routledge, due to obligations of ‘corporate responsibility’. This is an exemplary case of the quandary of independent, international minded small presses: Dedalus Press’s £25,000 annual funding was withdrawn by the Arts Council, and as such the press was threatened with imminent closure. Informa moved in, with promises of exerting no editorial influence and three years of assistance. Dedalus’ Eric Lane is now planning to sue the Arts Council. (The Guardian March 7th, 2008) It can be noted here that in 2007 the Arts Council of he Republic offered considerable support to, among others, New Island books (€100,000), Lilliput press (€80,000), Carysfort Press (€100,000). And there is no doubt that this support helps these houses publish novels that may otherwise not be published in Ireland. Smaller presses such as the Stinging Fly Press also have published a small number of important books (most notably in the context of this essay, the formally exuberant Watermark, 2005, by Sean O Reilly). This support is vitally important, because just like in the visual art world were non-commercial art spaces are publically funded in order to guarantee the creation and circulation of non-commodity based art works, the Arts Council needs to fund independent literary publishers directly.  

Last year, during a conference to mark the centenary of small press avant-garde publisher George Reavey, a round table discussion that included the poet Billy Mills agreed with the idea of Professor J.C.C. Mays about there being two basic ‘types’ of writers. Those writers who have a lot invested in reaching the biggest possible audience (a writer whom is more and more up against strong competition from cinema, TV, the internet) and a more ‘writerly’ writer who is concerned more with the text, the form, and who sets out to find the unknown aspects and new forms that this essay is arguing are so important for the novel’s continued vigour as an art form. This essay has shown how such small presses render their services perfectly to serious writers passionate about their art form. I would posit that Tom McCarthy is a ‘writerly’ writer, who made the cross over from small press publication to global rights and mass readership. The response to Remainder alone shows that there remains a wide appeal to books that try and push the form forward in terms of both form and content.

It should be restated here that this essay is not some sort of lament for the neglect of the Modernist project in contemporary literature and publishing or indeed a lack of avant-gardism, it is a study in alternative paths to publication for, in want of a better word, ‘alternative’, unapologetic literary fiction. There are a whole plethora of books and writers that I am currently excited by and engaged with, the problem seems to rest in the dissemination, the reality of the market and assuring a wider audience for challenging, literary work. There are a multitude of diverse outlets for quality writing, as this essay has shown. Even as I write Penguin books have launched a new series of ‘digital short stories’ with writers such as Toby Litt, Naomi Alderman and Mohsin Hamid, attracting no doubt an audience more comfortable – sadly – with computer games than hardback books. For the novel too, there are constantly influences outside it that force welcome change and crossover of forms. As Tom McCarthy himself said of the current climate:
I think it’s a great time to be a writer; it’s just an awful time to publish. But…a result of the closing out of literature by corporate publishing here in the UK has been that literature runs underground and bubbles up elsewhere: art, film, philosophy and so on. The borders between these disciplines get blurred, there’s hybridization, new forms emerging. That’s a good thing.
Perhaps here is where a ‘readerly’ writer can find their mass audience – the danger being that what they wanted to do in the first place, write a book, will be lost and subsumed by the other discipline. One problem would seem to be that gifted ‘writerly’ writers now produce work with very little idea of for whom (or indeed how) their novels will be published. Eager to take any contract that comes their way, these writers are more likely to sign their books off to the first conglomerate that comes asking. To whom they plan to sell the book is not considered outside the marketing department; artistic success lies in a few good reviews, maybe a place on a shortlist or other, the people sat in front of their TV sets watching one book club or other (a real non sequitur, that one) that features their literary work. As Boyd Tonkin put it:
Literary fiction in Britain is in a quiet but deep state of crisis. While plenty of publishers and agents aspire to nothing higher than the mass-market heaven of a Richard & Judy pick, awareness-raising rituals such as the Man Booker shortlist make more modest waves then they once did. Beyond the odd blue-moon emergence of a David Mitchell or a Zadie Smith, the business no longer knows how to lead ambitious younger novelists out of a shrinking comfort-zone of coterie approval. (The Independent, 21 September, 2007)
Crucially, this last ‘comfort-zone of coterie approval’ is ambiguous – I am arguing that what Tonkin means is something close to ‘the actors and bored journalists and ubiquitous media people’ that BS Johnson had railed against. Because for a writer who cares deeply about their art and wishes to expand their talents as much as they can within its forms, mainstream approval should not equal artistic success, at least not immediately. Nor should sales figures, nor should a place on some shortlist or other. All artists need to survive (along with everyone else involved in their business) and I am not denying that fact. But to state, as the latest Booker prize winner has, that money helps as a means of measuring your success is, I feel, at a very far remove from the process of art, from the majority of writer’s lives and is, simply, economics not art. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that some novelists, out to cut their own idiosyncratic path, need to work toward much smaller sales figures and to focus on getting the right publisher – no matter how small, how local, how left of the field, and to concentrate on getting directly to their audience, the one they should hope will fully appreciate and engage with their work. This was, after all, the key to McCarthy with Remainder and the art world.
McCarthy went on to publish that first book that was turned down many years before, Men In Space, in autumn 2007. Personally I find this an odd decision for Alma Books and McCarthy to have made. This was an older book, pre-dating Remainder by several years; he reworked large parts of it and it was well covered in the media, releasing another wave of publicity and internet activity in the same vein as Remainder. While not as engaging as Remainder, the appearance of his book perhaps in a way aided McCarthy to finally shake off the restraints he felt from the mainstream publishing industry dating back to his very earliest efforts in publication. And then with Granta Books he published the very well acclaimed Tintin And the Secret of Literarture. All of which hopefully means he is now well ensconced in the literary landscape that Metronome Press delivered him into during the autumn in 2005, and will continue to push the novel in new directions by being able to follow his own unique course as an artist and novelist. A position that is very difficult for young writers to reach, but a position this essay has shown not to be completely out of bounds for those writers eager, intelligent and open-minded enough to get there.

[Essay submitted for academic requirements TCD, Dublin, 2008]

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Some of the Poems I read at midnight poetry

Enjoyed my first public reading of some of my poems. Nice crowd in the very nice Coffee Karma cafe.

Here are some of the poems I read.



The second largest river in Europe
flows for 1,770 miles,
that being 2,850 kilometers,

from southern Germany to eastern Europe,
this riverrun drains roughly 315,000 square miles
of land, that being 815,000 square kilometres,

it has the largest volume of flow of any European river and
beginning in the Black Forest it empties into the Black sea.
The Germans call it die Donau, I call it the Danube.

(and I thought it was nice place to start).


Poland, Paris,
Frankfurt am Oder,

The ice packed by
countless pedestrians
marching on the ascent
to the station or Kreuz-
berg further across the river.

Going home,
but where’s ‘home’
I do not know, and this makes
me think of all those
extent in the world, right
then under the falling sky
who wish they were on
that train, or that train,
or perhaps standing with me
viewing this O2 World,
this very particular advertisement,
not the one closer to their home,
and whether I want to be
in their place:

crowding at the doors
between carriages yes,
as the train glides into
the Ostbahnhof,
or maybe, with forgive-
ness needed from one,
on my way to others’:

Warsaw, Paris,
Frankfurt am Oder,

Nominal Shifts.

Chaos was the goal, an aim to smash one set of facts against another and to end up living nowhere, to spend the future killing the world, hobbling between the broken list of low-cost destinations as if the apocalypse had descended and différance had grown and finally taken over, leaving nothing identifiable, nothing recognisable or accountable, all footholds gone and obliterated.
Ciampino is not Roma, Torp is not Oslo.
Paris is not Beauvais, the Pryrenees are not the same as Pau; Skavsta is not Stockholm nor is Vasteras; Treviso is not Venice; Brescia is not Verona; Vitoria is not Bilbao; Altenburg is not Leipzig; Girona is not Barcelona; Charleroi is certainly not Brussels; Weeze is not Dusseldorf; Pisa is not Florence; and Stansted is not London.
Torp is not Oslo. Oslo is not Torp.
And while we’re at it: Dublin is not Dublin.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

New Bolaño Apparently Found

Great fucking news that there are even yet more unpublished books belonging to Bolano yet to be published. Recently the man's been weighing heavy on my writing, interfering almost, but I happy for him and his soul that he's got more to give.

Interesting blog listing the obvious about independent publishers in these joyously bleak times. 
Who said there was anything to be scared about?

Monday, 9 March 2009

Midnight Poetry

Friday 13 March
11:45 pm
Cafe Karma
Sonntagstrasse 30 (S-Bahn Ostkreuz)

I'm reading some poems this Friday in Berlin. More info here.

Lady Gaby did a good review of all the lit events going on in the city for 3AM. Midnight Poetry and Kaffee Karma get a mention.

Tom McCarthy is in town this weekend too, reading as part of the launch for the German edition of Remainder. Am looking forward to that.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

So Long Net Book Agreement

Very fine article over in LRB by an erstwhile editor. The sense of confusion and, at times, angry dismay, at what the recession etc is doing to publishing is given a good meaningful overview.

If anything it just highlights that commercial concerns are a dead end, both for writers and publishers. Indeed, nowadays it seems like a very good idea to forget commercial aims and concentrate only on the writing. Another good thing about Colin Robinson's article is that it reminds everyone the importance of reading: to read is as important - or even more important at times - than to being read.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

House of Leaves

So I finished reading House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. I was dissapointed in that it wasn't more scary, I never read scary books so thought this would scare me more or something. It was good though, typographically and in ambition. CLever, but also a piss take on being clever. 

Danielewski was, I think, the cameraman on the weird and somewhat interesting documentary Derrida. I remember watching it and after I got used to the annoying American voice over talking rubbish, found looking at the old man, who wrote so many words, and who had so many words written about him, almost disconcerting. Watching TV in his little Paris house in that city's interminable suburbs over breakfast. Talking nonsense about love...I wonder if he ever looked over Danielewski's MS.

Don't know what to read next. Have the BS Johnson Omnibus Picador, I think, put out. But I read must of that last year.

Got a new writing studio in NeuKoln for the whole of March so am going to start back into the  Dada story, work on poems and maybe some visual work as well. 

My last novel, Locus Domus I'm now calling it, has had its recent setdowns. My enthusiasm and belief remain low in it right now.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


I've recently stopped writing what it was I had planned as I suddenly realised I was writing boring realist work for others, publishers and prize judges. It was never supposed to be like this I felt, it was supposed to be always new and always exciting. By challenging myself I would challenge my readers and they would repay the effort with their interest and their time. Instead I was shortchanging them, and selling out on myself (without making any money). 

The industry of short story writing for instance is a prime example how contemporary English prose is mummifying itself into routine traditional formats that offer nothing new to the reader. Life has changed since Dubliners, everything has changed, and the idea that there should be a strong continuity in the form seems wrong. It is condensed, so there's not much room for maneuver sure. But to think that flast fiction - what a bastard term that is - and other such distortions make literature contemporary is poor avantgardism. 

Anyway, fuck all that - recently I've started to 'remix' old work, just like all my favourite DJs used to do when I was younger. All the published work I've had so far is up for change, a remix of form and even content, expansion, repetition, distortion...The only 'short story' I've had published that doesn't need to be remixed is Valhalla: Some Scenes in Foreign Places  - and that's because I didn't have to worry about who was publishing it.

I submitted a remix of The Russian Door (west47, 2006) called la porte russe remix Alan Cunningham's small art zine Issue 2.
Here's a preview:
C’est nul. Ridicule. Une putaine de connerie et ça m’ennerve.
Cet mec est un idiot, un vrai con.
Ça ne me ressemble pas d’ecouter des mecs si longtemps.
Le paradis? – c’est pas les autres. Pas les irlandais en tout cas.
Il y a trois ans une amie était en couple avec cet irlandais – deux ans plus tard j’étais lá bas, dans la capitale, pleine d’ennui, toute seule &tc, &tc et on s’est croisé dans la rue Nassau – juste comme ça. Tout simplement il m’a regardé avec un air plein de haine, plein de désir, mes seins comme un spectacle français – pas un spectacle slut-fuck.

UPDATE: Something strange - the selfgenerating guru Tao Lin posted the same day about remixing his work as I did. Strange. It is safe to say that I don't have affinity with Lin, artistic or otherwise.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Short Story Andrew Fox - New Irish Writing

My friend Andrew Fox has one of his fine stories in last week's Sunday Tribune.

Check it out here.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Three Novels

Have three reviews up on Laura Hird's latest site. 

On Julia Leigh's Disquiet

Chris Killen's deput, The Bird Room

And the singular Norwegian novel, A Time To Every Purpose Under Heaven 

I jump into the debate Zadie Smith highlighted with her NYRB's article on Tom McCarthy vs. Joseph O Neill. Interesting times...

Went to the American library in Kreuzberg yesterday, got out some CDS, DVDS - listening to Underworld for the first time in an age, rocking like it was the late '90s...

Saturday, 24 January 2009

New website/blog

I got bored with my old website. It can always be reviewed here, but depending on how successful this new blog-turn goes, it will not be updated there. All new material will appear here.

In a way I feel stupid as in a forthcoming review of Chris Killen's The Bird Room I prattle on about how I didn't have a blog but a website  - 'a different beast somehow', is what I said. And it's true. But after looking at statcounter results for two months I realised that the multipage website doesn't garner any real advantages and that few - if any - browsers bother clicking and reading.
And I don't blame them.