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

 

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It’s good to talk…

With a new book forthcoming, a little bit of promotion goes a long way. Stuart, who runs Clinicality Press, suggested we have a chat about From Destinations Set. With the prospect of a couple of free drinks and some free promotional coverage, I wasn’t going to turn the offer down.

The resulting piece, which covers the writing process and the aims of the book, as well as a whole heap of other literary topics and writers who have inspired and influenced Destinations, is an edited, expanded and manipulated historical record of the event. Don’t believe everything you read here.

 

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

Things That the Everyday Folk Leave Behind

So I’ve had a pretty busy time of late, what with a couple of interviews I’ve conducted and am conducting for various publications, not to mention interviews and promo bits and pieces for From Destinations Set which is out on the 28th, and a spate of gigs and a tidal wave of new releases to review (90 reviews this year to date), and as a consequence, the blog’s something I’ve let slide a bit (again).

With so much to do, places to go and people to see, I find I spend all of my waking hours rushing about, and my non-waking hours spent with my mind churning through all of the things I’ve done and have got to do and should have done but haven’t yet. To an extent, that’s pretty normal for me, but lately I’ve been so preoccupied and absorbed in all of this activity that I noticed that I’ve stopped noticing things. This concerns me. I’ve always maintained that being attuned to one’s surroundings is the key to being a writer of merit (and while my merits as a writer won’t ultimately be determined by me, it’s something I like to feel I at least aspire to). Besides, it’s not something that’s entirely optional: drawing on the details and minutia of the everyday is a compulsion, it’s something I can’t help, at least under normal circumstances. Observation, those details of life and snippets of overheard dialogue have long provided me with an abundance of material for my writing, be it fiction or blogs or whatever, Absorbing information from the world around me is integral not only to my work, but who I am. Small wonder I was beginning to feel that the workload was swallowing my life: I was beginning to lose myself.

As a consequence, I resolved to pull myself back to life, and I’ve begun to try to observe my surroundings again. I have no idea why I was remotely surprised by the sensory overload this retuning induced, given that I find the wealth of extraneous information dizzying the majority of the time, but having effectively shut down for a period of time, engaging once again with my environment proved to be an immediate culture shock.

So on leaving the house this morning, I was elated to note that day was breaking. It was the first time in months I had hit the pavement in daylight. The air was cold but still. Birds were singing – something quite uncommon given the density of the housing, the lack of gardens and trees and the large number of brutal cats in the neighbourhood. On arrival at the bus stop, I was amused – and also bemused – to see that on one of the seats moulded into the shelter was a handbag. Abandoned, forgotten. Beside the handbag, stretched and strewn across the next two seats, a pair of tights. I wondered if the tights and bag had the same (former) owner. Must’ve been one hell of a night.

It’s not just physical objects that are discarded at random. Conversations, sounds, ideas, all contribute to the flotsam and jetsam. Before long, I’m on the bus, surrounded by blank individuals. The journey is soundtracked by the album The Disaster of Imagination by Sense of Scenery. It doesn’t entirely drown the chatter of the other passengers. I’m reading $20,000 by Bill Drummond. The sensory overload I’m accustomed to is back. Snippets of dialogue filter into my consciousness, on the bus, at the office. Most of it mere babble, some of it so inane it’s beyond belief. ‘Is she still Spanish?’

I’m being flooded with material, more material in a day than I can use in a lifetime. I pick them all up, all of the bits and pieces, and stow them, ready for when I need them. I never know when I might need that discarded handbag, the left-behind tights, the fragments of dialogue, the half light and the birdsong. I’m living the experience that I was supposed to be creating to an amplified degree in THE PLAGIARIST. It’s not funny any more. This is the world.

I’m back and I’m firing on all cylinders….

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

Spin on this! When the Machines Take Over

So things are starting to happen where the publication of the paperback edition of my novel, From Destinations Set is concerned. The publisher have the first batch in hand – I’ve seen one, and they look great – and are starting to mail out review copies. They’re circulating press releases, too, and from what I can tell, these are beginning to generate traffic already.

Stuart at Clinicality Press has penned some very nice press releases and made use of the rather tidy synopsis / blurb he did for the book. I was amused, then, to find a version of the press release that didn’t remotely resemble those Clinicality have issued, not least of all because one of the threads of James Well’s book, Hack, that Clinicaliy will be putting out later in the year, is concerned with word-spinning.

Unsure of precisely what this entailed, I conducted a spot of research, to learn the following:

Article spinning is a search engine optimization technique by which blog or website owners attempt to manipulate their rank on Google and other search engines. It works by rewriting existing articles, or parts of articles, and replacing elements to avoid being penalized in the Search Engine Results pages (SERP) for using duplicate content. The original articles are often plagiarized from other websites and can often also be copyright infringements if the original article was used without the copyright owner’s permission.

Website owners may pay writers to perform spinning manually, rewriting all or parts of articles. Writers also spin their own articles, manually or automatically, allowing them to sell the same articles with slight variations to a number of clients or to use the article for multiple purposes, for example as content and also for article marketing. There are a number of software applications which will automatically replace words or phrases in articles. Automatic rewriting can change the meaning of a sentence through the use of words with similar but subtly different meaning to the original. For example, the word “picture” could be replaced by the word “image” or “photo”. Thousands of word-for-word combinations are stored in either a text file or database thesaurus to draw from. This ensures that a large percentage of words are different from the original article.

The spun version of Stuart’s press release is a brilliant example of automated article-spinning 9and why it doesn’t work). The words substituted so inappropriately that much of the initial meaning is lost. Nevertheless, it’s highly amusing, and while it’s great to see my work continually cropping up in unusual and unexpected places, I very much doubt that this piece will do much for the sales of From Destinations Set. Ah well….  http://42.cm/clinicality-press-push-the-boundaries-with-a-book-of-two-halves-coming-march-28th/

No Success Like Failure: How Things Never Go To Plan

As a rule, I avoid making New Year’s resolutions. They’re usually impossible o keep and I get sick of people going on endlessly about how they’re going to go the gym or whatever, only to moan six weeks later that their plans went out the window before they’d even started. Me, if I’m going to do something, I’ll do it when I’m read and when the time is right. New Year is a bad time to start anything, on a number of levels. Moreover, if I’m going to do something, rather than making a big song and dance about it, I just shut up and get on with it. Then, if I don’t achieve my objective, no-one’s any the wiser and I save myself shame and embarrassment.

Next month sees the publication of issue 2 of I’m Afraid of Everyone, a cool, no-budget old-school zine.  The brainchild of a collective who go under the banner of King Ink, Issue 1 was dark, yet also darkly comical, a proper photocopy and staple job that goes against the tide of the slick digital publications and all the better for it. Issue 2 will feature a new piece of mine, entitled ‘Blaming Bukowski.’ Alongside this, I was asked for a few words abut what I’m afraid of. After some thought, I realised that my biggest fear is of failure. And yet I have failed. I fail often, an this year has been one endless failure for me.

Back in January, I vowed to publish less, even to blog less, and concentrate on longer pieces. As it’s nigh on impossible to write something substantial and maintain a level of output in the public domain at the same time, the plan was to sacrifice the latter in favour of the former. After I’d done the Clinical, Brutal thing, that was.

So January saw the publication of Clinical, Brutal… An Anthology of Writing With Guts, which has been doing pretty well. To promote the book, I conducted interviews with a number of the contributing authors. It was time-consuming but immensely rewarding. It also meant that articles with my name on kept appearing for the next two months.

While I may have continued into the summer without much by way of new fiction, I was kicking out music reviews like it was my day-job, and have now written and published some 325 of the things, while also blogging on MySpace most weeks and throwing the occasional article out in various other directions on-line. Some of those pieces have been requoted elsewhere, and done my profile no harm whatsoever, other than further spoil my plan to disappear for a while

In the last couple of months, after I stepped down from working for them for the foreseeable future, Clinicality Press have seen fit to publish my novella, From Destinations Set and a new collection of short stories, The Gimp. Ok, so they’ve emerged and remained under the radar for most so far, but that’s fine. I’m just happy they’re out there.

However, in a final self-defeating twist, I have recently begun to assail open mic nights and other such events with my presence and brief performances. Turns out I’m not terrible at it, but given my objective to operate as an ‘invisible’ author, I’m painfully aware that I’m breaking all of my own rules by doing this. I’ll be doing it again on December 10th. I’m Afraid of Everyone will be holding a launch night event for issue 2 at the Python Gallery in Middlesborough, and reading a selection of my latest writing. It’s good for business, and perhaps the heaviest promotion I’ve ever done, but given my aims for 2010, the price of any perceived success this may equate to is without doubt absolute failure.

I’m Afraid of Everyone’s on-line base is here: http://imafraidofeveryonemh.blogspot.com/

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