Here Comes Success: How I Came to Terms with Being a Minor Cult Author

Success is all relative, but it’s the intangible pretty much everyone seems to aspire to. Hardly surprisingly, given that, at least in Western culture, we’re taught from a very early age that failure is the worst thing that can happen to a person, and really, it shouldn’t be considered an option.

The danger of this type of polarised thinking, of course, is that it fosters a fear of failure so great that many would rather not bother trying than face the consequences of failure. And what are those consequences, precisely? In some instances, where the venture requires capital, then there’s the risk of losing everything. Again, that’s based on a very capitalist definition of ‘everything’: even those who lose their homes and wind up with their careers in tatters and barely a penny to their name in the UK, US and many parts of mainland Europe still have more than those in many so-called Third World countries.

More often than not, the primary consequence of failure is disappointment and a loss of face. Is that such a big deal? Arguably, winding up somewhere safe and uninspiring, having taken no risks whatsoever, would be more disappointing than winding up in a similar place while reflecting ‘at least I tried’.

Writing is all about risks and potential rewards, and while it’s likely the popular consensus would be that you need to be Stephen King or JK Rowling, George RR Martin or EL James, or perhaps Karin Slaughter, Lee Child or Stieg Larsson to be considered successful, it generally helps for anyone involved in writing or any arts-based field, to have rather lower ambitions. You’re less likely to have your dreams crushed and therefore be faced with agonising disappointment and the word ‘failure’ echoing through your mind at all hours. Or at least, so I’d like to think.

In my capacity of music critic, I’m more than pained by the way bands regurgitate the mantra ‘we make music for ourselves, and if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus’, but at the same time, I’m conscious that when I write, I close out the notion of audience or readership, because those spectres hanging over my shoulder make me feel self-conscious and ultimately lead to self-censorship. And ultimately, my work is more about artistic success than commercial success. And given the sales figures for my books to date, this is perhaps as well.

Nevertheless, I’ve built, over time, a small but seemingly devoted and appreciative readership. Expanding it isn’t easy, though: whereas with music, the immediacy of hearing a song played live is enough to influence a CD sale at the merch stall, convincing someone to commit to buying and reading a book is much harder.

Bands always sing about success as defined by big tour busses, big riders, cruising in limos, playing stadiums and being mobbed by groupies. Truth is, I know I would hate that. Not that it’s really an issue: none of it’s going to happen.

I started out on the spoken word circuit because I thought it may help sell books, but keeping an audience’s attention while slogging through a story at an open mic poetry night isn’t easy, and nor is finding a story that sits comfortably in a five-to-ten-minute time slot.

Hence, in some part, the evolution of the Rage Monologues. My prose fiction has often detoured into rant sections, and those pieces had proven to be fairly successful in a live setting, although the fact my fiction isn’t really plot or character based does make it difficult to perform in an accessible way.

So I ditched the narrative and cut to the rants. Initially I incorporated these early pieces into my set, and while divisive – to the extent that people would leave the room – people seemed to find them, oddly compelling. So I wrote more, until I had enough to fill a set. And then enough to pick a set from a fairly substantial catalogue. I decided that using spoken word performances to sell books was rather obvious and smacked of struggling commercialism. So I decided to pursue the idea of making art for the moment, visceral performance art with no product.

Weirdly, while there are still people who find my performances uncomfortable, overall, the reception has been extremely positive. And people have actually been asking for print books, hence a limited, numbered ‘tour edition’ of the Rage Monologues, available only at performances. I’ve sold more of these in three or four performances than I’ve sold works in print in total through the twenty or more performances I’ve done in the preceding year and a half.

So what have I learned? First and foremost, it seems people who attend spoken word nights like poetry, aren’t too fussed about prose or narrative, but many of them find a man screaming his lungs out with expletive-laden tirades most compelling. Clearly, people appreciate the sentiments, and I’m tapping into some undercurrent of anger. And perhaps, like the rush of seeing a band play a great live show enthuses people to buy CDs, so my performances – which border on public breakdowns – are infectious enough to achieve the same kind of response.

Weirdly, whereas people used to avoid me after reading excerpts from my novels, seemingly thinking me a bit strange, I’m often rushed by people wanting to talk to me after completely spilling my guts on stage. By coming across as more of a psychopath, it seems I’m actually more approachable.

Does this mean I’m suddenly successful? Hardly. But it does mean that by ditching the established model of touring to sell product and instead focusing on the immediate experience, I’m achieving success of a different kind. It’s no longer about shifting units, it’s about having an impact and reaching and audience.

 

 

Meanwhile, I might have expected more footage of my performances to have started cropping up on-line, but no. However, rather than be disappointed, I like the fact that my readings remain a largely unknown quantity, clandestine – you actually have to turn up to experience it. For me, this is much more rewarding than the knowledge my work is drifting around in the mainstream and received passively, without response. A small but enthusiastic crowd who actually appreciate the work for what it is – at least from an artistic, creative perspective – infinitely preferable to being big-bucks wallpaper and mental chewing gum. It may not be everyone’s idea of success, but I’ll take it.

A Night off with Viewer, Muttley Crew, The Wharf Street Galaxy Band, and Sherbert Flies at The Fleeting Arms, York, 15th May 2015

I spend a significant amount of time writing about music. So much so that recently, my literary work has taken very much a back-seat position on account of my reviewing work. What can I say? I’m drowning in CDs, downloads and streams, and I hate turning things down, especially free gigs.

Tonight was about taking a night off. I could use one. Recently, I’ve been working beyond fatigue. But sleep’s for wimps and eating’s cheating and who needs drugs when you’ve got sleep deprivation? Anyway. Not only am I a huge fan of Viewer, but I’ve also known front man AB Johnson, who I was proud to feature in the last Clinical, Brutal anthology I edited, for some 21 years now. The fact they were set to play alongside a cracking collection of artists I also know and admire in varying capacities, at a pay-what-you like event at a venue I’ve been meaning to check out for a while made it a night I knew I really ought not to miss.

And yes, about the venue: The Fleeting Arms, as the name suggests, is a pop-up pub, a venture whereby a collective have taken on a former venue on a short-term lease with a view to making it available for all things arts and more. It epitomises boho chic, not out of some hipster fetish for retro and artisan, but out of necessity, and the assorted freecycle furniture, coupled with the various old-school consoles situated in the bar (MarioKart on the N64, anyone?) is integral to the easy-going, community spirit of the place. It feels welcoming on arrival, and the fact it isn’t Wetherspoons or in any way designer and more resembles someone’s living room is perhaps the reason why. It’s also pretty busy by the time I arrive shortly after 8pm, just as Sherbert Flies launch into their lively set.

If writing about their ‘slacker’ style and suggesting they’re heavily influenced by Pavement smacks of lazy journalism, so be it. I was supposed to be taking a night off after all. But their casual demeanour (at one point singer Elliot Barker announced that they’d probably be releasing a track as a single tomorrow, adding, “If anyone wants to hear it, I’ve got it on my iPhone”) and wonky riffage has a definite charm, and made for a thoroughly enjoyable set.

The Wharf Street Galaxy Band are something of a supergroup, comprising members of Neuschlafen / Orlando Ferguson and Legion of Swine / Inhuman Resources. Donning some bad shirts and wielding an array of shakers, wooden blocks and a cowbell they crank out some repetitive grooves and shards of dissonant guitar noise by way of a backdrop to Dave Proctor’s off-kilter ramblings about puffins and selfie sticks. I could write at length about their semi-improvised avant-garde performance style or highlight the all-to-obvious similarities to The Fall circa 1979, but instead, the 7-song setlist that found its way into my hands after the set is likely to be just as illuminating and more amusing. It also reads like a piece of abstract poetry in itself: ‘Shoreditch / Puffins / We Can Help / Sergio / Walking / Selfie / Bellends’.

While I’ve seen Muttley solo a few times, this is only the first or second time I’ve seen the full Muttley Crew lineup, and it’s immediately clear that they’re a band who understand that less is more. The songs are built around simple, repetitive three-chord repetitions, at which they bludgeon away for six, seven, eight minutes, building layers of sound into hypnotic swirls overlayed with squalling noise. But it’s all about the rhythm section: bass and drums are impressively tight and forge an instinctive groove, and their drummer is my new hero. You want motoric, mechanised and metronomic? You got it. There’s nothing flamboyant or fancy about his style, no big fills or flourishes. Instead, he plays like a machine, plugging away at a relentless rhythm and holding the maelstrom of guitars together perfectly.

Viewer are all about a different kind of groove: thumping techno provides the backdrop to Johnson’s sneering monotone in which he couches acerbic socio-political comment. With the visuals playing up, Tim Wright is rather more active on stage than usual, although you couldn’t go so far as to describe him as twitchy. On this outing, the songs seem to have been tweaked, giving a more stripped back and direct sound that inches toward Factory Floor territory at times. The last track of their set, which I didn’t catch the name of, was dark and pounding, and accompanied by grainy images of riots and Anonymous masks, hinting more toward the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Test Department. Like the other acts on the bill, they sounded great, and Johnson’s reversible bodywarmer is something special.

 

Viewer

Viewer: a groove sensation

 

There’s a lot to be said for simple rectangular spaces when it comes to sound, and in keeping with the Fleeting Arms ethos, this event was very much about people coming together and doing stuff, no budget, no agenda other than being creative and getting it out there.

The fact there were so many people present I knew only made it all the better on a personal level, but there’s a broader resonance to emerge from this microcosmic experience. It shows that we don’t need to smash capitalism, and while Cameron’s post-Thatcher is capitalism seems intent on crushing the country’s collective spirit (not to mention its pub trade and heritage), after the music industry as we knew it already succeeded in facilitating its own demise, there are people doing what they do for the right reasons, and there are people who appreciate it and will happily support it. It’s not about money. It’s about art, and community. This is exactly what we need right now.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Rage Monologue #9–Neighbours

So the plan had been that The Rage Monologues would be a purely live project during 2015, that I would build a set over the course of the year with material that was intended primarily for performance, before ultimately – perhaps – producing a pamphlet or chapbook collecting the pieces I had done in 2016.

The cancelation of a number of events, coupled with a simple lack of openings for a writer whose pitch is to stand in front of people and bawl obscenities in a way that will make them feel shit about their sad pathetic little lives (not an easy sell, believe me) compelled me to reconsider my strategy.

The number of monologues ready to go is expanding weekly. the number of places to perform them seems to be reducing at a similar rate. So as a taster, here’s a monologue I am yet to perform, due equally to a lack of opportunity and a lack of guts.

Enjoy. And of you’ve got a spoken word night in need of some live rage, get in touch.

 

 

Neighbours

Hey, you! Yeah, you! Can you hear me? Yeah, me, banging on your wall? I guess not, since you didn’t hear me banging on your front door or window earlier. It’s me! The guy next door! The quiet, friendly guy you sometimes nod to in the street, usually if we’re arriving or departing at the same time. Yeah, howdy, neighbour, nice to meet you. Only, I wish I never had. Because right now, your racket’s causing me considerable stress. Could you please just keep it down a bit? Please? Just a bit? I’m not even expecting you to stop, although that would be nice. But c’mon, have some consideration, would you?

Do I keep you awake? I doubt it? Does my racket mean you can’t hear your TV, your music, that you can’t hold a conversation over dinner? Are your walls and floors vibrating on account of anything I’m doing?

Listen, we all make noise. I play music, watch TV, do DIY. All the normal stuff. But I watch my volume and I watch the clock. I never vaccum clean after 9pm. You know why? Because I don’t want to disturb the old lady on the other side, and in truth, I don’t wan to disturb anyone. I keep myself to myself, you know? I’m not saying I’m a model neighbour, but all I’m asking is that you have some consideration, you know?

Do you hear me? Are you listening? Hey! Yeah, you! Motherfucker! Can you hear me? Will you please just shut the fuck up? I’m sane and I’m sober, but you’re driving me to a place I don’t wanna go! You hear? You hear? I’m telling you, you’d better listen up! Motherucker!

If I ever get round there you’ll regret you ever moved in with that fucking stereo and that fucking awful dance music. You’ll regret you were ever fucking born. I wanna smash that fucking stereo to smithereens. I’m guessing you don’t have any vinyl and probably don’t even have CDs, so I’m gonna have to smash your iPod or whatever the fuck else you’ve got, and your laptop, but not until I’ve deleted all of your fucking Spotify lists and ripped your fucking cable and phone lines out and stamped your router to bits.

But it’s not the equipment’s fault, is it? Venting my rage on inanimate objects is pointless isn’t it? A temporary solution. And complaining to your landlord or making your life hell to the point you’re evicted or move of your own accord, it doesn’t solve the problem. The problem that is you. That’s why I wanna cave your skull in with your fucking speakers and kick your broken body down the fucking stairs. Kick it out back and boot it around the yard for a bit, like that night when you and your fucking idiotic mates got pissed up and played football with various random objects like tin cans and milk cartons from your recycling box – after you’d lost your ball over another neighbours’ wall at 2am. Yeah, you’re such big tough guys, no fear of scrambling over to fetch it till the dog came after you. It’s jut a shame it didn’t get you and chew your fucking balls off, ‘cause as much as I’m sick of your shite music, I’m sick of your loud shagging at all hours too. No, I’m not envious: your half-witted girlfriend’s a fucking skank and what’s more, you disgust me and don’t deserve to get laid. And regardless, who doesn’t hate the sounds of someone else’s sex?

And so, I want you to be silenced. I want to do you damage. I want to break you. Demolish, annihilate you. And when I’m done I wanna fucking skin you. Sit your throat and fucking skin you.

I need to be clear. I don’t hate you. I just hate your behaviour. The way you stand at the front, and the the back of your house, smoking cigarettes with the smoke blowing in through my windows as you talk loudly with your housemates and your friends. I don’t actually mind your existence, and actually expect occasionally to hear sound, sneezing, coughing. I’m a reasonable kind of guy. But you don’t need to be slamming every door in the house every time you move between rooms. The fact you insist on cranking up your console gaming to such a volume I feel as if I’m in the room, yes, I hate that. I hate your coming home drunk and bawling all the way down the street at 4, 5, 6 am, then spending an hour yelling up and down the house, tramping up and down the stairs, banging and crashing against the walls.

I hate your mid-week parties that start at four in the afternoon and run for 12 hours straight. I hate your fucking shitty club music. That despicable, shitty club music. That endless, repetitive, dum-dum-dum-dum, the same fucking tempo for what feels like an eternity and more. Those endless fucking beats, that monotonous rhythm that drives into my brain at all hours, relentlessly, relentlessly, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum…. die you bastard, die!

The Jinx

You often read that projects are or were ‘ill-fated’ and I’m starting to get that feeling about my latest project, ‘The Rage Monologues’.

I’d written a couple of pieces that seemed well-suited to spoken word nights, not because they were exactly accessible, but because they weren’t stories, but fiery rants that straddled poetry, prose and performance art. I read them at a few spoken word nights, and they were successful (at least by my standards), and so the concept of ‘The Rage Monologues’ was born.

In short, I devised to write a collection of pieces that were designed with performance in mind. I’d take them on the road, do as many spoken word and open mic nights as I could get to, and maybe when I had enough, end it all with a one-man show where I did maybe 40 minutes of ranting and publish the pieces as a pamphlet / chapbook.

Things started well enough, with a well-received slot at Speakers’ Corner at The Golden Ball in York, and an even better received turn at Platform Thirsk a week later. I decided it was time to build momentum and hit every night going, and with a slot secured at ThreeVerse at Nevermind in York, I delivered another successful performance with some new material at Speakers’ Corner.

Alas, the ThreeVerse slot was cancelled due to several of the other performers cancelling. I got my slot rescheduled, but the week before I was due to perform, ThreeVerse got pulled by the venue.

Then I got news that Spokes, a night I had performed a number of times, and probably the best spoken word night in York due to its curated nature, announced it would be calling it a day in June.

The Leeds events I had previously attended seems to have stalled, but keen to maintain some kind of momentum, I decided to try my luck at the open mic might at City’ Screen’s Basement. I was revved, but anxious – open mic nights are a major gamble, especially for a fringe performer like me.

I arrived ten minutes before doors – just as the poster stating that the night was cancelled due to the venue flooding went up (seemingly a problem with the drains).

After three successive attempts to perform have been foiled and two regular nights have called time, I can;t help but feel that I’m something of a spoken-word night jinx, destined not to bring The Rage Monologues project to fruition.

But I’m not done yet. And if I have to resort to bellowing on a street corner before I get beaten up or moved on by the police, so be it. But if you’ve got any spoken word slots going and want to give a platform to an angry man spouting stuff in a fashion that may captivate or clear the room, give me a shout.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk

THE PLAGIARIST Strikes Back: Losing the Plot (Again)

When I signed up to participate in the segment of the Leeds Bookend Festival curated by Pastiche Magazine, which has been good enough to publish my work in the past, I figured it would be a good lineup and moreover, the availability of a multimedia lot meant I would have the opportunity to try something I’d been wanting to do for years, namely the full PLAGIARIST multisensory live experience.

It was a gamble: one of those pieces that if I pulled it off, it would be spectacular and annihilative all at once. But if it didn’t quite happen, it wouldn’t so much be a disaster as a pathetic disappointment, akin to Spinal Tap’s ‘Stonehenge’ debacle. Conceivably one of the funniest moments in film, you wouldn’t want to be in the band it actually happened to. But artistic achievement is all about risk-taking.

The idea was to take one of the versions of film I’d posted on YouTube (I’d made three different edits), remove the bulk of the audio track of me reading, add significantly more white noise and feedback audio (a ‘sample’ of course) and then perform the bulk of the reading live. What could be simpler?

Aware that I only had a couple of weeks I set to work straight away. By which I mean I set to scouring my hard-drive for the files, but to no avail. The final AVI files were there, but not the editable projects, which I’d (foolishly) assembled in Windows Movie Maker. They weren’t on my backup hard-drive either. I should by now have realised I was asking for trouble in having offered to take the slot, which was still unconfirmed. Nevertheless, I figured they were probably on the hard-drive of the PC I’d used to produce thee original film, which was still in storage in the loft. So,at the weekend, after an hour and a half trying to locate the old HP base unit and monitor, and another half an hour almost breaking my neck trying to lug it down the loft ladder perched on top of my head, I discovered that the project files were missing. This left me with a week to recreate something that had taken me almost two months to create the first time around,some three years previous. But at least I had made an important decision: to flog the old desktop, because it’s needlessly cumbersome and completely redundant (although I do yearn for a more solid keyboard than the one on my new Toshiba Satellite Pro, which is nice enough laptop overall but doesn’t type as well as my old Asus. Yeah, yeah, workman, tools, etc.).

As I slogged away for a succession of late nights, I became increasingly square-eyed and more concerningly, debilitated and frantic in equal measure. Progress was reasonably swift, and infinitely less fraught than thee first time around, partly because I knew what as doing and partly thanks to a significantly more powerful computer. Even so, as the deadline loomed I had to break off to complete my research for, compile questions and then conduct an interview with Joe Cardamone of The Icarus Line for Paraphilia Magazine. He’s in LA, I’m in York and I had to sync times and dick about with software as I’d lost the programme I used to record Skype hook-ups when the Asus had croaked a couple of weeks before.

Having the interview in the bag and an email confirming times for Saturday’s show didn’t resolve my reservations about performing what was perhaps my most brutally confrontational conception in a shopping centre in a large city in the late afternoon / early evening. The lineup, however, was excellent, and included a number of writers I’ve been impressed by in the past, notably Rab Ferguson, Laurence Reilly and ‘punk poet’ Henry Raby.

Anyway, Saturday rolled around and I had my reworked audiovisual tracks ready and while I knew there’d be a projector and screen, wasn’t sure about a PA so bunged my speakers – a pair of Labtec Spin 85s I’ve had for about eight years – into my rucksack before heading for a train. I’d road-tested them in the living room after they’d been in storage for a couple of years in the loft and was pleased by how much poke they had given their dimensions and wattage. I was reasonably well-rehearsed, but had elected to pick some passages at random in keeping with the spirit of both the book and the performance. The only real downer was that I’d developed conjunctivitis in my left eye, which was by now swollen and streaming. I also managed to get confused about train departures and arrivals in relation to the slot, so arrived more than an hour early to find the place dead.

At least I’d located the venue and this uncommon error on my part afforded me an hour in which to sip a leisurely pint of the Magic Rock Brewing Company’s superbly hopped High Wire West Coast Pale Ale (5.5%ABV) in the Brewery Tap and read some of Jim Thompson’s Savage Night while I reflected and mopped my eye, which was growing increasingly itchy and painful.

On my way back to the Customer Service Lounge, where the readings were taking place, I took the time to truly soak in The Trinity shopping centre. I ambled casually past the shops – standard fare and then some: H&M, Boots, Next, a new Primark to be opened later in the year – and made a lap of the watering holes I’d bypassed in my eagerness to hit the Tap. It was in passing these sleek, anonymous façades that I began to feel particularly uncomfortable, and peering in past my reflection in the plate-glass frontages and through blurred eyes into the interiors the the full horror of the air-conditioned nightmare that is The Trinity really hit me. The Trinity is a faceless, shiny architectural vacuum of personality that is in so many ways the physical manifestation of the multi-layered geometrical hells Ballard depicted in High Rise and The Atrocity Exhibition.

It wasn’t simply the construction and layout and the lack of soul, but the vapid, superficial nonentities it seemed to be packed with, all shouting at one another to be heard over the reverberated sounds of music and other people’s interlocutions and telephone conversations. This was all amplified through my own filters, and as such my response to the situation was more pronounced and more acute, but even had I not been feeling particularly edgy, I would have still felt an intense paranoia as I paced by traversal to make a suitably timely arrival at my destination.

Before the event got under way, I had the opportunity to chat with Henry Raby, and to speak briefly with Laurence Reilly, who informed me that reading The Gimp had left him somewhat traumatised. I deferred thinking what kind of effect the piece I as about to do might have. Frustratingly, I would have to leave before Henry’s session-ending multimedia piece, but Rab Ferguson would subsequently deliver a reading that was confident and solid and Laurence’s performance – and performance is the word – was immensely powerful: he guy really got out of his skin and into character.

As the first few of speakers took their turns following a brief introduction from curator and Pastiche editor Clare DeTamble, I found myself struggling, again with the space and the context, namely of a large bright-lit area resembling an airport lounge, with an pen front and situated off a large brightly-lit concourse. The customer service desk, compute terminals and large-screen TV with BBC News 24 playing silently but with subtitles all contributed to the disconnected sensation and the strangeness of the whole thing. Most of those present were either reading or had come along with a reader for moral support. The Trinity staff would occasionally answer the phone, but mostly milled about distractedly, but very few casuals crossed the threshold, and even fewer took seats.

It wasn’t entirely surprising: I found myself struggling as I watched the other readers. It was no discredit to their texts or performances that I was finding it difficult to focus on their words, as they were half-buried in passing noise and conversations. Even amplified, I suspect it would have been a challenge. And it was at this point that I realised THE PLAGIARIST REWIRED was the perfect piece for the setting.

Having endured torture of shopping mall, it was only right I should be afforded my revenge and wreak psychic havoc on the very location that caused me such existential alienation and distress. By the time it was my turn, I was adrenalized and raring to go. The lack of volume, the less than perfect angling of the screen, the small audience, the TV in the background, the weird, bright performance space that no-one could possibly describe as an auditorium… none of it mattered.

I paced the area in front of the audience like a man possessed, stamping one way and then the other, and then standing close to the front and presenting a confrontation stance. Behind dark glasses (handy at the best of times, essential for creating mystique and hiding the sick eye) I was wired and observed an array of expressions ranging from nonplussed to horrified. I was in the zone. The words flowed from me at increasing volume and pace as the images flickered and the shards of noise shot from the speakers – not nearly as loudly as Id have liked, but still, the effect was there. As the piece reached its climax, the words looped and fragmented, while the images strobed behind me and electronic white noise completed the sensory assault.

My other prior engagement back in York meant I had to slip out during the next speaker’s set, so I wasn’t able to stick around for feedback and to gauge the reaction. I suspect most of those who witnessed the performance thought I’d lost the plot. And that’s fine, because as I always say, plot’s overrated anyway.

 

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Who Are You Calling Stupid?

It’s probably fair to say I’m better known as a music reviewer than anything else. That isn’t to say I’m at all ‘well known’, but everything’s relative. The fact is that my ‘bread and butter’ writing emerges in the form of music reviews. This is primarily on account of the fact that I always wanted to be a music journalist and my first published pieces were reviews which appeared in local and regional inkies in the early 90s when I was in my late teens and early twenties and now I’m living the dream of getting more free music than I can listen to. I might not actually be getting paid, but that’s rather beside the point. I’m doing something I enjoy, which is something very few people can say with absolute sincerity, and consequently it seems daft to stop. Nevertheless, I’m also a writer of fiction, and have had stories published here, there and, well, perhaps not everywhere, but I’ve also written a handful of books, to varying degrees of success. Again, success is a most subjective word, and again, everything’s relative.

My current project, which should emerge into the public sphere in the Summer, is entitled This Book is Fucking Stupid. It’s a surefire hit: of that I’m convinced. Of course, I’ve been equally convinced with previous works, but am at the same time aware that none of my work has even the remotest mainstream appeal.

My most successful book to date – by which I mean the one that’s sold the most copies – is THE PLAGIARIST, a book inspired by William S. Burroughs and Kenji Siratori. Sitting somewhere between Nova Express and Blood Electric, the book was billed as ‘a riot of experimentation’ and reflected my preoccupations with time, space, the limitations of conventional linear narrative and issues of ownership, copyright and ‘originality’. These same preoccupations provided the foundations for From Destinations Set, which explored the possibilities of presenting simultaneously occurring events and pushed the formal style of some of John Giorno’s poems to an extreme within a more overtly narrative context.

This left me with the question ‘what next?’ It isn’t that I won’t or don’t ‘do’ linear narrative, because I do, but it’s impossible to shake the feeling that I need to be pushing in new directions and to challenge myself and the conventions of ‘the novel’.

Inspiration hit around Christmas. Stewart Home had just posted a blog on the reader reviews of his books on the Goodreads website. One of the reviews of his novel 69 Things to Do With a Dead Princess proclaimed ‘this book is fucking stupid’. Now, sidestepping the samples of the atrocious fiction this ‘reviewer’ had available, I found myself further considering the difficult space that exists between author and reviewer that not only this review, penned by an ‘author’ highlighted, but which provides a core element of the novel in question. However, before these thoughts had begun to evolve in any tangible sense, I posted a comment that ‘this book is fucking stupid’ would make a great title for a book. Stewart posted a reply in agreement, saying ‘let’s see who can write it first!’

It doesn’t take much to get me going when the planets are correctly aligned, and while this may not have been a genuine challenge, I elected to set the writing of this very book as a challenge to myself, and the idea very soon fell together. I’d already written a novella that was languishing on my hard-drive. Destroying the Balance had been kicked out during an intensive spell immediately after I’d completed THE PLAGIARIST. Having completed it, I had felt it lacked something, being all too conventional, and so shortly after began chopping it up and rewriting the text to produce From Destinations Set, which rendered the positions of the two characters more explicitly separate and distinct. Although I was pleased with the result, if not the reception, which was the review equivalent of tumbleweeds blowing through the last one-horse town before the eternal Nowheresville desert, I felt that there was still something to be done with Destroying the Balance.

Like a number of works written around 2008-2009 – including ‘Corrupted from Memory’ which began life as a novella before being trimmed down to 17,000 words for publication in the Paraphilia Books Dream of Stone anthology late on in 2011 – Destroying the Balance took its title from a Joy Division song, namely ‘Passover’ from the second album Closer. It seemed fitting for a story that was centred around the uptight and carefully managed life of a suburban thirty something on the brink of a premature midlife crisis, given that the full lyric is ‘This is the crisis I knew had to come /Destroying the balance I’d kept’.

So, despite having used the text as the basis of From Destinations Set, I could still see scope for another radical overhaul within the context of what I had in mind, namely a book that was the absolute extreme of postmodern information overload and experimental, but in a different way from the books I had produced previously. After all, it’s very easy to write oneself into a cul-de-sac, and also to become stuck in a rut – not to mention becoming typecast as an author of inaccessible or difficult works of limited appeal. I was therefore conscious of a strong need to reign in the wild experimentalism of THE PLAGIARIST in order to repackage the dilemmas of the Postmodern Condition in a more broadly accessible format.

As with all of my works to date, the result is, in many respects, an abject failure. Yet this failure is equally a measure of success. While segments continue to circulate amongst reviewers and to be touted to periodicals to largely negative responses, the final version of the book continues to expand, and the project’s incorporation of all of the pre-release responses – the more negative the better – means that the book is creating its own anti-cult. This is precisely the inversion of all things – from literary tropes to the commodification of literature – that I had aspired to. Put simply, the whole purpose of This Book was (and I intentionally speak of it in the past tense despite the fact it remains to be completed) one of self-negation.

The premise of the avant-garde was to destroy all that preceded in order to create anew, and subsequently, postmodernism has devoted considerable time and energy proclaiming the death of practically everything. My objective was to create a work that killed postmodernism by beating it at its own game and producing a text that was entirely self-collapsing, and, more importantly, self-contained. Postmodern criticism has (arguably, contentiously) written itself into a self-negating web of endlessly cyclical (self-)analysis, while postmodern novels have taken self-reflexivity to a point that seemingly cannot be exceeded. And that was precisely my plan: This Book needed to not only contain everything that had and could be said about it, but to preemptively comment on it.

This book will eat itself. There really is no success like failure.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk