Underground / Overground (Again): Taking the Rage Off the Road

I’ve spent most of the last three years purpsefully avoiding publication. It may seem perverse, but there you have it: the idea behind the Rage Monologues was to work on an open-ended project which was about immediacy.

The pieces were penned to be performed in public, and not really to be read in private. The nature of the material and the performance fed into one another synergetically: I wanted to create visceral, raw material to be performed in the most uncompromising, uncomfortable style: each performance was different, with edits being made before each show, meaning the monologues were not fixed, but in constant development, and performed in a fashion which would have an impact. I wasn’t concerned about that impact being positive, and over time, I’ve lost any anxiety about being poorly received: I would rather people walk out in disgust than be impartial or disinterested,  or simply find myself amongst the infinite spoken worders whom audiences would likely consider adequate but forgettable.

Not publishing and keeping the monologues as something which existed only in the moment and in the ether was a deliberate act of rebellion: going offline and making the work available to only a limited audience was  intended to be subversive, a middle finger to globalisation, and ‘the process’: write, publish, tour, or similar. The fact the pieces weren’t published meant the only means by which they were aailable was at performances. A sense of exclusivity so often builds anticipation and can the the key to a cult reputation, and I took the monologues to some substantial audiences at respected – and packed – spoken word nights, wth some major highlights being in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester.

The rock concert analogy is a fitting one: band shift more merchandise after a strong show: the punters have usually consumed booze and are ‘in the moment’. But ending a set and shuffling off with nothing to sell proved problematic, especially given that as an individual (and , as a writer, a relative unknown) with a full-time job and a young family, my touring actities were – and remain – limited to spoken word night slots in places I could reach, and return from, by train on an evening – and a sale or two afte a performance can go some way to mitigating travel costs, not being a writer who commands ‘guest speaker’ or ‘headline’ slots (and I like it that way, and find ‘guerilla’ appearancs to unsupectin crowds are generally more effective than spouting to a crowd already familiar with my work, which is no way for an author to grow a readership).

And so, while the primary objective of the project remains unchanged, I’m aware that making my work unvailable to practically the entire world is self-defeating. While I would love to perform at evety spkoen word night in every city around the globe, it’s not going to happen. And while going underground as an artistic statement is fine, and keeping things clandestine is cool, rendering one’s work inaccssible and unavilabe can be, to an extent, self-defeating. So this happened: a proper book and e-book, published by Clinicality Press – available at spoken word performances and globally for those who can’t attend live events in the north of England (click on the image to purchase).

Rage Book Cover copy

And if you’d like me to bring the rage to a spoken word night near you, then of course do get in touch…

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Rage on the Road

Having spent the last few months writing a succession of short splenetic pieces under the collective banner of The Rage Monologues, I’d been focusing primarily on producing a cache of material I could raw on for live sets of varying duration.

The premise was simple: spoken word shows are notoriously difficult, especially if your thing is prose narrative. Audiences seem to respond better to poetry, and to shorter pieces. Telling a story or reading an excerpt from a novel simply doesn’t hold the attention in the same way, and when slots are often between five and 10 minutes in length, there isn’t much storytelling you can do if you’re not a writer of flash fiction.

So after penning a couple of short rants that seemed well-suited to the spoken word format, I aired them, admittedly with varying success. But the more intense the performance, the more people took notice. By which I mean by ramping things up, it was hard for them to ignore me as I stood, shouting and raving and cursing. Adopting a more manic persona seemed the way to go, and so I figured perhaps I should make that my set. Hence more wants penned, with a view to having a body of material I could draw on for sets of all lengths that I could mix up according to location and crowd.

I discovered the other day I’ve produced more material than I had actually appreciated. a whole pamphlet’s worth, in fact. Consequently, with a number of live dates pencilled in for the coming months, I’ve decided a pamphlet to accompany the performances, for those who don’t feel the urge to rush from the room after the first thirty seconds. It’s going to be self financed and self-published, and will be an extremely limited print run.

The material is still being pieced together and proofed, but when it’s ready, it has a cover waiting for it. Simple, but effective….

 

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

Review: Playing Chicken With Thanatos by Díre McCain (Apophenia Books)

I had the great and rare privilege of reading a manuscript version of this book some time ahead of its final draft and subsequent publication. Then, it had a different working title and a number of changes would follow which made tracing some of the identities of the real-life characters who populate the book rather more difficult. But even in its not-quite complete stage, I was struck by a number of things, not least of all the vibrancy of the narrative, the immediacy of it all, how relatable and accessible the narrator was.

Now, I’ve known the author – virtually, at least, and over Skype – for a number of years: under the auspices of co-founders Díre McCain and D M Mitchell, Paraphilia Magazine generously published my work from the very first issue at a time when no-one else would (a situation that continues, if the truth be known) and have been immensely supportive through the years, long before I clambered aboard as a contributing editor. Díre also graced the Clinical, Brutal anthology I edited for Clinicality Press in 2010 with a piece that was stunning, not to mention truly brutal. So I had an inkling of her abilities as a writer, and indeed of her turbulent formative years. But none of this could have really prepared me for her autobiographical novel.

It’s everything you want from a novel: the narrator drags you along on the journey: at times you sympathise, at others, not so much, but that’s how it is with friends, you take the rough with the smooth. It’s the raw honesty of Díre’s narrative, delivered in a strong, individual voice, that’s so compelling and so human that means you forgive, and you worry about what will happen, you’re there in the moment.

It’s also the fact that however bad things get, however badly she’s treated and however low she sinks, she never plays ‘the victim’, and herein lies the book’s greatest strength: she just tells it straight, and never uses sensationalism to detail sensational events. In this way, Playing Chicken With Thanatos doesn’t sit with the contemporary vogue for memoir, but instead belongs to a strain of classic American autobiographical reportage: Bukowski’s Post Office springs to mind; Jack Black’s You Can’t Win; Burroughs’ Junky, and from over the pond, Colin Wilson’s Adrift in Soho and Terry Taylor’s Baron’s Court, All Change. What all these books share is an episodic approach to storytelling and a lack of pretence.

There are moments that are utterly terrifying, and the happy-go-lucky easy rollin’ of teen experimentation with whatever substances are on offer takes a turn into extremely dark territories, and the later sections of the book are indeed harrowing. But it’s by no means a depressing book: even through the bleakest sections, the way the words simply flow is a joy, and the author’s sharp intellect and extensive vocabulary set Playing Chicken With Thanatos leagues apart from any drug-addled confessional. And, despite placing a clear distance between her past and present, at no point does Playing Chicken With Thanatos become a vehicle for anti-drug rhetoric, high moralisation or preaching: the fact Díre doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence – or mar the narrative – with such interjections is another aspect of what makes this book such a great read.

It’s from a purely objective mindset that I say that this book is special, bursting with life and emotional resonance and that for these reasons I give it my strongest recommendations. So do as the preface bids: ‘fasten your fucking seatbelt and hold the fuck on….’

 

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Link: http://www.paraphiliamagazine.com/diremccain/playing-chicken-with-thanatos/

 

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

Reviewed: The Theosophical Teapot by John D. Chadwick

A little thematic unity can go a long way in bringing a thread of cohesion to a collection of short stories. The Theosophical Teapot, which features some of Chadwick’s earlier works of fiction, some of which have featured in various small publications and others which are previously unseen, present the reader with a disparate range of strange, desperate and ugly characters, from all walks of life and spanning a range of historical times.

Stylistically diverse and presenting a litany of different voices and scenarios, Chadwick returns – like a dog to its vomit – to the maladjusted, to the dark, to the mysterious, to magic, to Aleister Crowley, to Jack the Ripper, to William S. Burroughs.

There’s some strong writing to be found in here, but what really stands out is Chadwick’s knack for a killer twist. On many occasions, just as you find yourself wondering where he’s going, he’ll slam the most unexpected of turns, and often save it as late as thee last two or three lines.

By turns funny and bleak, The Theosophical Teapot shows Chadwick to be an innovative and imaginative writer, while the illustrations that separate these twisted tale prove he’s pretty adept on the visuals front too.

 

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The Theosophical Teapot on Amazon.

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

Reviewed: ‘Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane’ by Stewart Home (Penny Ante Editions, 2013)

The one thing it’s possible to predict with the publication of any new Stewart Home book is Home’s unpredictability, and his latest book to be published, Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane is a suitably unpredictable and audacious assault on cultural studies – and a broad range of targets, as it happens.

Although Home is by no means an author who adheres to the adage ‘write what you know’, he does freely admit to drawing on his immediate environment for source material, having presented journal-like reportage in Memphis Underground and based countless characters on thinly-veiled representations of figures in the art scene throughout his career.

It’s for this reason that Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane contains lengthy lists of films, and on-line DVD purchases that look suspiciously like the sort the author himself would buy, along with lengthy reviews of exhibitions written in the style of Home’s blogs, and screes of dialogue on trains and in lecture theatres that appear to have been transcribed from real-life scenarios almost ver batim, or otherwise exist solely to facilitate the expounding of some theory.

I’ve always been one to appropriate dialogue myself, because creating dialogue that reads like it might have actually been spoken is difficult. Ironically, in my experience, and as if to prove the adage that truth is stranger than fiction, my lifted dialogue has been criticised for not being credible. In Home’s hands, the absurdity is heightened by the incongruity of context.

There’s also the issue of the 7/7 bombings and the way Home ties this in with the narrator’s delusional quest for some vague domination. This particular event – as Home explained in one of his blog posts – features in the book primarily because it was happening at the time the book was being written and some of the observations on the event are from the author’s own experience of being in London on that day. Yet its inclusion is one of the reasons it’s taken so long for Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane to arrive in the public domain. Recent history, when absorbed within the context of a postmodern novel, is just too sensitive and problematic for most publishers. Of course, Home’s contentiousness is a part of his appeal, and his portrayal of academic life is as likely to cause a stir in certain quarters as the terror thread of the plot.

I’m not referring to the countless sexual antics with students – real or imagined – but the narrator’s criticisms the university system in the UK. Of course, highlighting the issues of the effects of tuition fees and the squeezing of academic resources in the name of profitability is all part of Home’s ongoing critique of capitalism. However, where Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane differs from his earlier ‘skinhead’ books which were overtly and explicitly political, is in the way the issues are addressed. Instead of using his third-person characters as parodic ciphers delivering blunt sloganeering polemic and slabs text by Marx et al, the first-person narrator of Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane offers more subtle yet even more scathing observations from the coal face, as it were.

Home slings in large chunks of review, criticism, critique and theory in trademark fashion (echoing previous works, notably 69 Things to Do With a Dead Princess). The narrator’s Marxist reading of Deep Throat is as amusing as it is audacious, and is, of course, classic Home. By establishing his narrator, John – or Charlie – Templeton as a cultural studies lecturer with a chronic drug habit, these skewed academic musings are fitting, and what’s more, in Templeton, Home is also able to play with and dismantle notions of fixed character – even the narrator doesn’t know who he is at times and frequently contradicts himself throughout the story. It may revisit the character shifts in his 1997 novel Come Before Christ and Murder Love, and draw the more absurd elements from Memphis Underground together with elements of Cunt, but then formula has always been an integral aspect of Home’s output, and it never worked to the detriment of the work of any genre author, or Ballard for that matter.

And so the resurfacing of phrases that have appeared variously and numerous times in his previous works is all part of the joke. It isn’t supposed to be subtle, and by now, the reader is supposed to be in on the gag which centres around the fact that Home’s built a career on declaring himself a rampant plagiarist (and notorious / celebrated self-promoter) and now we see him appropriating from himself quite liberally.

Noting in one of his blogs that Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane, like its predecessor Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie was written – at least in part – while installed as a university writer in residence, it’s therefore unsurprising to find Home use the campus as his novel’s primary setting. Equally unsurprising, Home’s choice of location, the City University of Newcastle upon Tyne facilitates the use of its acronym repeatedly throughout the text, adding the type of shock value Home is notorious for before immediately debasing it through endless repetition – which in Home’s eyes renders it all the funnier, in accordance with his recurrent citation of Bergson’s theory that suggests repetition is the basis of all humour. No doubt by the end of the book and the thousandth repetition of CUNT, Home had split his sides and jizzed himself to a husk at his own wit and genius. And rightly so: it was certainly my instinctive reaction. Because as one of the few authors to take postmodernism to a new level and turn its self-celebrating, self-collapsing theoretical existence back in on itself, Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane sees Home remain several steps ahead of the game (even taking into account the fact that this book was written five years ago).

It’s not just the narrator who loses the plot as the book progresses, and what begins in a relatively grounded realist setting (d)evolves into surreal flight of fancy. The ending is, of course, a complete joke, but also – even despite Home’s previous flights into the surreal – a surprise that’s likely to leave you shaking your head. I’d argue that you don’t really read Home’s novels for their plots, however, so much as the explosion of ideas, and on that level, Mandy, Charlie and Mary Jane certainly doesn’t disappoint, and, equally importantly, it’s perverse, it’s funny and, put simply, a cracking read.

 

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

Paul McKenna, Gnostic Bastard – The Power of Persuasion and the Great Hypnotic Con

Since the new year, there’s been a large poster on the bus shelter where I catch the bus to work each morning advertising Paul McKenna’s latest book, Hypnotic Gastric Band. The first time I saw this poster, bleary-eyed at 7:45 on January 7th, I misread the title looming out of the darkness at me as Gnostic Bastard. Having made this rather curious error, I’ve since had to force myself not to read it as such each subsequent morning. In order to do so, I’ve found myself staring long and hard at the hoarding, and each time with growing consternation.

The poster itself is fairly bland: a large image of McKenna’s book, with the title and subtitle (‘The New Surgery-Free Weight-Loss System’) at the top, and at the bottom, the deal-clinching information that there’s a ‘free CD and DVD’ with the book. This is the same text that appears on the book cover itself, meaning the same words appear twice on the poster. Since repetition is the most basic but often effective form of brainwashing, I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t some form of brainwash to make people go out and buy the book – beyond the overt premise of the poster being an advertisement and therefore designed for that explicit purpose, I mean.

The book’s cover itself is interesting. On the face of it, it looks like any other crappy mass-market self-help book. The typeface is plain and bold, clean white lines on a darker background. It says ‘empowerment’. McKenna’s face stares out of the cover. But whereas most self-help gurus wear an expression that shows tranquillity, assurance, confidence, trustworthiness, in a way that say ‘I understand your problems and your pain. I’ve been there. I’ve turned my life around and I can help you to do the same. Have faith. I’m not going to lie to you or fob you off. I’m happy with my life now, and with my help, you can be too’, McKenna’s gaze is focused on… you, of course. He’s looking into your eyes, into your very soul. It’s not a calm look of inner peace. He’s lasering straight into your brain.

You’re so engaged in eye contact with Paul that you don’t really notice that nebulous cloud of lights, a little like a cut-out-and keep magazine rendering of an astronomer’s chart, over his shoulder. It’s a little fainter than McKenna’s image and the strong text above and below.

Within this two-dimensional representation of a multi-faceted polygon, fainter still, is a pale blue sac with tubing above and below – a representation of a stomach, no less, with something resembling a belt pulled tight like a noose just above the top of the bulbous mid-section. This, of course, is a gastric band. Because you need to visualise that band, drawing tight around your intestine, restricting your capacity for food. You’re not hungry, you’re full, and if you eat any more that band will draw so tight and constrict your internal organ that you’ll die.

The image itself is curious and compelling in equal measure. On the one hand it’s quite obvious what its purpose is, there on the cover of the book. On the other, it’s rather weird. I mean, in short that it looks odd. Compositionally, representationally. A sanitised, pseudo-scientific representation of a bulging pouch of muscle in the lower reaches of the intestine in the middle of something not dissimilar from an architectural sketch of the done from The Crystal Maze. What is it saying, and precisely to whom is it speaking when it issues forth those enigmatic utterances?

The kind of people who don’t really consider what they’re consuming to the extent that they may require a gastric band are the kind of people who struggle to associate images of life-threatening obesity, enlarged organs and stupendous amounts of fat when they’re shown on television with their own ruined bodies. But this image on the cover… As I stand, waiting for my bus to arrive, music injected into my ears through my in-ear phones attached to my MP3 player, I find myself mesmerised and wondering as I’m drawn into the billboard, is the gastric band itself hypnotic?

Never mind how the ‘system’ works (note, it’s not a ‘diet’ – largely because any food intake is a diet and we’re looking specifically weight-loss diets here, but more to the point, ‘weight-loss system’ is a perfect example of pseudo-scientific meaninglessness), I find myself totally absorbed by the image. And then I remember it’s all utter bollocks. If it was as easy as all that for the people this book is aimed at to exercise mind over matter to lose weight or otherwise remain at a size that’s considered healthy by the medical profession, then there’d be no need for the book, with or without the ‘free’ CD and DVD. And while only an idiot would believe that the CD and DVD are actually ‘free’ rather than incorporated within the purchase price (CD and DVD cost pennies and the cost of producing a book that’s a mere 144 pages in length (at least in the quantity of print run this is indubitably produced in) is negligible against the RRP of £12.99 which is approximately 9p per page), equally, only a complete cretin would buy into this crap. Let’s face it, The Hypnotic Gastric Band is another way to shift responsibility from the lazy and the weak-willed: which plus-sizer wouldn’t want the results of a weight loss diet without actually dieting? When it comes to mind over matter and the power of persuasion, the only trick here is getting desperate and gullible chubbers to part with their cash. But it’s a massive market (in all senses), which probably explains why the book’s sitting comfortably in Amazon’s top 10 right now….

 

Hypnotic Gastric Band

Paul McKenna: Gnostic bastard or con artist?

 

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

The Worker pt 7: Sunday Bloody Sunday.

Sunday morning. Hangover. Took him a moment to realise where he was. Home. His own bed. A good sign. Fully dressed. He glanced around, the movement of his eyeballs in their sockets making him wince in pain. The pungent aroma of the previous night’s smoke which clung to his clothes, mingled with the sickly-sweet tartness of stale sweat made his stomach lurch, but he observed with relieve that his bed was free of puke and he’d not pissed or shat himself either. Ok, so it was rare for either of those things to happen, but they weren’t unheard of. How had he got home? And when? Where had he been, even? After arriving at the club, already hammered, some time after ten or thereabouts, everything was a blank. He felt like shit, felt like he was gonna die.

He moaned and gingerly winched himself out of bed. Went to the bathroom, pissed like a horse for a good couple of minutes. Bliss! Chugged half a pint of full-fat milk straight from the carton, threw down some painkillers and tossed some bread in the toaster. Checked the clock. Ok, so it wasn’t Sunday morning any more, it was closer to 1pm. A seriously heavy night. He buttered the hot toast on ejection from the machine and took a couple of bites before a wave of nausea broke from the pit of his stomach. He made haste back to the bathroom and spewed it all back up. mouth, nose, some serious velocity. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and crawled back to bed.

The next time he woke it was just after 3pm. He still felt rough, but nothing like the way he had felt before. What a waste of a day. Still in the clothes from the night before, he went back to the kitchen and prepared a mammoth fried breakfast and sat in front of the television while he troughed down the greasy collation. There was a match on. He didn’t really give a shit about Liverpool or Chelsea, being a Man U supporter but football’s football.

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A generic image of a bloke slobbing out on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon

 

Afternoon rolled into evening as he sat, vegetating, on the sofa. Fuck it, he couldn’t be arsed to wash up or so any washing, not today. It would keep. Around 8, he decided to take a shower, after which, still wrapped in his towel, he fired up the PC and checked his emails. Nothing much doing. He logged into his Facebook account. A few tagged pics from last night were up already, and a number of people had left him comments, too. But as far as he could ascertain, he’d only danced like a twat and tried cracking onto a couple of birds, both absolute munters, by all accounts. But he’d not screwed either of them – because they’d turned him down flat – and he’d not flashed his cock or arse, so on balance, no cause for concern. He idly flipped up some porn pages. Before long, his horn was throbbing as hard as his head had been earlier in the day, and he knocked out a mix over a couple of chicks lezzing it up. Job done, he wiped himself down, put the telly on and watched some second-rate eighties action movie till just gone midnight. Waste of a day, alright, but it sure as hell beat having to go to work.

 

 

The Kindle – and paperback – edition of Postmodern Fragments is available via Amazon in the UK …and in the US.

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