Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Jason Williamson - Slabs from Paradise
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-5-0
Simon Morris - Creepshots
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-0-0
Phillip Best - Captagon
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-3-6
Gabi Losoncy - Second Person
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-2-9
Samantha Davies & Matthew Bower - Talisman Angelical
ISBN - 978-0-9991825-1-2
There can’t have been much of a gap between Phillip Best extolling the virtues of a reprint of Pierre Guyotat’s ‘Eden Eden Eden’ and the announcement of his own publishing imprint Amphetamine Sulphate. Here was a Guyotat fan [they do exist] somebody who actually takes pleasure in reading Guyotat’s onslaught of grubby, gruesome sex and violence [imagine de Sade writing The 120 Days of Sodom in the style of Finnegan’s Wake and you have some idea of where we are here] and was urging us to buy the handsome German hardbacked reprint. I declined. I bought a paperback copy of Eden Eden Eden when Creation republished it in the early 90’s and gave up after an hour feeling like I’d received the literary equivalent of a bloody nose. So I sat down with Best's first five and put my bravest, hardest face on. It felt necessary.
Here is a man whose doctoral thesis ‘Apocalypticisim in the fiction of William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Thomas Pynchon’ actually made sense of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow before the internet was awash with all those helpful GR guides. The man who I saw screaming over a WASP synth in Bradford in 1995, the man who I’ve seen snarling his way through crazed, amped up Consumer Electronics sets. I knew these five weren’t going to be Penny Vincenzi primers. I knew this was going to be tough. After reading the first few pages of the Davies/Bower collaboration I also knew that I may have to resort to tearing a 36 page book in half using my bare hands but more of that later.
Of the six authors I’d read Simon Morris before. As far as I know this is Jason Williamson’s first foray into short story writing so barring his work with Sleaford Mods this is another new one. The Best thesis apart I’d not ready any of his work either. Gaby Losoncy was also new to me as was the writings of Davies and Bower.
So where to start? Perhaps with the physical and the fact that these are nearer to book-lets than perfect bound books. Its no criticism. Its what they are. The covers are cloth bound and the pages clean. Then there’s the fact that if you live in England and buy them straight from Best in Austin Texas the US Mail will anally rape you whilst emptying your wallet in front of your eyes. If I was Best I would be looking at some kind of European/Australian/Far East distro so as to ease the pain of those not within Trump's grasp.
Of the five I enjoyed Simon Morris’s Creepshots the most. Having read his Consumer Guide last year I know the man can write and although the biggest chunk of CG was cut from his numerous Facebook posts [containing quick guides and critiques of various bands and authors oeuvres], the first section ‘Mergers’ dealt with the deaths of various members of the Ceramic Hobs and Morris’s continuing struggle to cope. Creepshots carries on in that vein, the whole work an epistle, a 32 page letter that begins ‘Dear Ecka’ and is a candid self assessment of his current state of mind that collates his thoughts on joyless sex, crap pubs, drink and Lana Del Ray with whom Morris seems to have some kind of fixation. Trips to Skye, Halifax and Brighton [amongst others] bookend a section that cuts up corporate promo material for hotels and art galleries with news stories regarding the social cleansing of homeless people in Manchester. An affecting and direct way of highlighting a disturbing political trend.
Morris knows his shit as they say and can wax knowledgeable on most subjects, especially Dworkin, Acker, Lana Del Ray, Austin Osman Spare, Crowley and The Fall. That he can rustle up a threesome from nowhere and can exchange tittle tattle with Una Baines and write about it with casual insouciance is a regular delight. The sex scenes are the best I’ve read since Brett Easton Ellis and that's the highest compliment I can give him.
Jason Williamson has also been published [a book of Sleaford Mods lyrics from the same house as Morris’s Consumer Guide] but these are [as far as I know] his first forays in to short story writing. It seems a natural extension for Williamson who since establishing Sleaford Mods as this country’s saving grace has also tried his hand at acting. His five short stories are, as you would expect, full of the kind of language designed to give Daily Mail readers a serious attacks of the vapors. Five short stories peopled with those for whom causal sex and sniff are the the ultimate driving forces in their lives. ‘Tony’ is a Facebook warrior lacking social nous, ‘Wrong John Silver’ is one half of a gay couple addicted to the sniff, drink and sex in public parks, ‘Southcrampton’ finds Mark the builder in some kind of bizarre relationship with a pole dance, ‘Fuckin Nora’ isn’t an exclamation but an admission and easily the best of the lot, ‘Mad Carol’ is the girl at the cracker factory with no nickers on getting her skirt lifted above her head and shrink-wrapped to a pallet. Surprisingly I found the dialogue Williamson attaches to his creations to be as one dimensional as the characters themselves. Most of them appearing as blank faced ciphers, cunting and fucking their way through another miserable day. Maybe too nihilistic. Maybe that's the point? But when he chucks in the odd description he can instantly bring them to life, Boner has ‘a skull dented like a potato’. Its all you need. The blurb on the back cover captures Williamson at his best;
‘It’s a wanker’s hell, a nothing, with everything wrong in it. Civvy life is a fucking boredom cruise across the dead med. Fuck that. Responsibility isn’t for animals on drugs and when the sharpened core emerges, the green twisted wart, the wicked witch; then you go for it big time, open your legs, fuck them, let them fuck your face, become the god and don’t feel bad about it either.’
Words taken straight from a Sleaford Mods rant. Williamson may yet give us something more substantial but for now these five short stories feel more like works in progress.
Best’s book is the longest of the five here. An almost weighty 60 pages. It contains 73 entries, each one written in a different location, a list of which can be found at the back of the book.
An authors note explains;
‘Captagon is a composite text of my own imaginings interspersed with appropriations, rewritings and in some occasional instances outright thievery from the printed sources listed below. Other borrowings from film, television, magazines or whatever music I happened to be listening to when writing have not been listed’.
There then follows a six page bibliography of which about 90% is alien to me. Familiar names such as Samuel Beckett, James Herbert, Peter Blatty and Mick Wall find themselves listed among writers published only by universities none of whom are Stephen Hawkins. From this we ascertain that Best has a healthy appetite for philosophy, horror and a fascination with the ability of human beings to inflict upon themselves the kind of psychological and physical damage that makes you wonder if we’ll ever fully evolve.
Some pieces read like reports pulled from war zones. Prescription drugs with exotic sounding names are scattered like the pills themselves. ’55’ written in La Honda CA, has this; ‘Don’t examine your feelings. Never examine your feelings. They’re no help at all’. The end result of being fed all this seriously depressing material is that you yourself become depressed. I read this in one sitting and at its end blew my cheeks out and muttered something like ‘and you think you’ve got problems’. Almost every entry has been stripped of punctuation, barring full stops, which somehow manages to make things even bleaker. Work that one out.
Where Best’s writing takes over from that of the aforementioned authors I cant tell. I detected no Mick Wall and his Black Sabbath biography or the writings of James Herbert. It matters not.
Of course I was expecting death, doom and misery and I got it by the page. Captigon [aka 'chemical courage', the brand of speed made by ISIS] does at times feel like a drug trip. A bad drug trip of course. A drug with an exotic plastic sounding name made by Rhone-Poulenc.
Gaby Losoncy’s Second Person is ‘a sort of guide, a replicable guide for other people to direct their thoughts and feelings that are or feel worthless into a manifestable material substance’ and is [I think] a deep and personal outpouring of her existential philosophy. And is a work I found very difficult to connect with. Or ultimately gain anything from.
Losoncy writes; ‘I speak a lot in abstract because there is no proper language to describe what is attained by proceeding like I have’ which may have been my problem. Some pages contain just the one line,
‘The more of you there are, the better off we are’
Some pages are left blank, whether this was intended or a printers error I’m not sure. Towards the end of the book she gathers a head of steam and gets deeper into her subject but completely loses me along the way. At the back of the book is a short chapter entitled ‘Show Piece for Neutral. March 2017’ and reads like a speech Losoncy gave. She is obviously a very deep thinker. But far too deep for me.
Which leaves us with Samantha Davies & Matthew Bower which I’m guessing has been written in a dual narrative style a la Mark Manning and Bill Drummond but with far less spectacular results. To be honest I couldn’t tell them apart although one narrator mentioned cats and dreams a lot. Having read all the books written by Crowley, Spare and Lovecraft our heroes write alternating chapters with titles like ‘Innards Fasten’d for Light’ and ‘Rais’d Aloft With Scorpion Heart’ mostly written in a ‘magick’ spelling style no doubt adopted so as to channel the dark lords words. For the biggest part its all tosh of course but I did read it all the way through and found at its end that I somehow, in some strange way, had rather enjoyed myself and thus decided on the spot not to rip it in half.
My mind was changed by the mention of Arvo Pärt;
‘Pärt is infected by the black butterfly wing of Britten. Shivering strings brush his face. Britten was depraved like me. Pärt constructs a Black Noise Ornament [cantus for B.B.] out of the sickness: Bell, x2 speed violin, x1 speed violin, half speed cello: Revolve slowly in space.’
So they’ve listened to ‘Cantus, In Memoriam of Benjamin Britten’, one of Pärt’s most profound and deeply moving compositions and written that. I forgive them everything.
Where Best takes Amphetamine Sulphate next remains to be seen but I doubt it'll be anywhere sunny.