“It is very interesting, often very exciting, mostly very confusing, always steadily increasing in meaning.” (Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans, p335)
Thanks to instigators Anna Barham and Irene Revell, and all fellow readers, for last night’s instalment in the continuing yearlong live reading of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans. This project started in January as a low-key gathering in Anna Barham’s London living room, for a live audience comprised only of the dozen or so fellow participants, and broadcast online at annabarham.net. Since March it has continued online as a strictly cameras off, audio-only group reading, broadcast for a few hours every two weeks to anyone and no-one.
They are all of them themselves and they repeat it and I hear it: a yearlong reading of Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans (1925). Organised by Irene Revell and Anna Barham. Next instalment: 8:00pm, Tuesday 19 May 2020.
Happy birthday to Resonance FM, which on 1 May 2020 celebrated 18 years of continuous broadcasting on 104.4fm. It is such an achievement after 18 years still to be both an indispensable community radio station and a unique experiment in sound art and arts broadcasting. Congratulations to everyone involved!
There was a day of special broadcasts to mark 18 years on 104.4FM, 1 May 2020, midnight-to-midnight, featuring loads of really great shows, special archive recordings and one-offs. Here’s the schedule.
I was really pleased to be part of this day of celebration, with two pieces neither of which had been broadcast on the radio before.
05:30 — a never-broadcast radio edit of my short story from A Puppet Show by Steven Hull for Glow: Santa Monica 2013. Steven Hull is a wonderful artist based in LA whose work often includes huge collaborative projects. My story ‘Apocryphal Fragment from the Lives of the Conquistadors’ was commissioned by Steven to be performed as a huge psychedelic puppet show on Santa Monica Beach for the Glow Festival, with accompanying music commissioned from the legendary Gibby Haynes. Gibby and I never spoke or corresponded in advance or compared notes in any way, and we didn’t share anything with Steven, there wasn’t time. Yet when our files crossed over, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing: somehow the words and music seemed to illustrate each other. Interviewed on the record sleeve, Gibby Haynes said that he ‘intentionally did not read the story then was shocked to find out how much the writing inspired the sounds.’ This radio edit brings the two tracks together.
20:00 — my short story ‘High-Lands’ performed live at the Mechanics’ Institute, Galway for TULCA Festival of Visual Arts 2016. ‘High-Lands’ is performed here with live musical accompaniment from New Pope, joined by Colm Bohan on percussion and Stephen Connolly on organ and guitar. Recorded live at the Galway Mechanics’ Institute, November 11 2016. Sound engineer: John Burke.
‘High-Lands’ was written for radio, and was originally commissioned by London Fieldworks and Resonance 104.4fm as part of Remote Performances, with an original version broadcast live from Outlandia, a unique artists’ field-station in Glen Nevis, Lochaber, Scotland with an improvised live soundscape accompaniment by Johny Brown. Find out more about ‘High-Lands’ here…
A couple of years ago the arts director and producer Claire Doherty invited me to contribute to a new British Council essay collection, Where Strangers Meet: An international collection of essays on arts in the public realm. Specifically, Doherty asked me to write about A Place Free Of Judgement, my 2016 libraries live-streaming collaboration with Blast Theory.
The resulting essay, ‘A Teenage Takeover of Libraries’, is available here:
Claire Doherty really has done a great job with this collection. Where Strangers Meet includes contributions from Tania Bruguera, Nina Edge, Lynn Frogget, Gabriella Gomez-Mont, Dave Haslam, Paul Heritage, Shriya Malhotra, Omar Nagati, David Olusoga, Papa Omotayo, Jay Pather, Diba Salam, Jennifer Stein, Karolin Tampere, Kate Tyndall, and me.
Subject matter across the collection includes the making of Jeremy Deller’s We’re Here Because We’re Here, how music venues enrich city life, and decolonising public monuments and statuary, as well as public art in Cairo, Lagos and Rio de Janeiro, and much more.
Where Strangers Meet has been soft-launched with events in Bristol and Liverpool, and copies of a (very) limited edition box set of all the essays are available to read in public libraries in Liverpool. (I wish they were available more widely.) I understand that there is a plan to make the essays available as an online anthology. As soon as I hear that this is available I’ll post a link and share on social media.
ICYMI, here’s the blurb about A Place Free Of Judgement:
During 2016 Blast Theory and acclaimed author Tony White worked with young people in libraries in Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire, and Staffordshire to reimagine libraries, storytelling and their place in the world. On 29 October 2016, over the course of nine hours from 3pm to midnight, the young people took control of their local libraries, and performed live to a worldwide audience via an interactive live stream.
Blast Theory and I also collaborated on a book about the project that includes my exclusive YA novella ‘Zombies Ate My Library’, which follows the lives of four young people in the West Midlands—Alice, Gareth, Tommy and Rukhsana—as they plot a sleepover in a haunted library. What could possibly go wrong?
A Place Free Of Judgement by Blast Theory and Tony White, was developed with ASCEL West Midlands and Arts Connect. It was made in collaboration with young people and librarians in Telford and Wrekin, Worcestershire, and Staffordshire and created in partnership with young people and librarians in Solihull, Shropshire, Dudley and the University of Worcester. The project was made with support from Arts Council England Lottery Funding, Arts Connect the Bridge organisation for the West Midlands and the University of Worcester.
Watch a video about the project here:
If you’re having trouble getting hold of print editions, or you just prefer reading on your chosen device, ebooks of my Faber and Faber novels The Fountain in the Forest (2018) and Foxy-T (2003) are available from all the usual outlets.
Here are the preview links for Kindle readers:
Praise for The Fountain in the Forest:
“It is absolutely terrific . . . it can be enjoyed at the level of a thriller, and yet it does all these other fascinating things, and best of all it’s the first in a trilogy . . . It’s such a good book.” Andy Miller, Backlisted Podcast
Praise for Foxy-T:
“Foxy-T is one of the best London novels you’ll ever get to read” Toby Litt, Herald on Sunday
NB Other ebook retailers are available – but I wanted to test out these new WordPress Block-edit links. If you try them, do please let me know how they work! I’d love to hear how you get on. Thank you ;)
I was sad to learn last week of the death of the writer Tim Robinson (1935–2020), who is best known as a critically acclaimed writer of the Irish landscape, in particular for his Connemara Trilogy: Listening to the Wind (2006), The Last Pool of Darkness (2008) and A Little Gaelic Kingdom (2011).
I’d been privileged to see Robinson reading in 1997, at the launch in Hanbury Street just off Brick Lane, London, of his book The View From the Horizon, published by Coracle.
The View From the Horizon was
a first attempt to link the work of the artist Timothy Drever with the writings of his alter ego Tim Robinson.
Background note: As Timothy Drever, Robinson had exhibited to some acclaim in the early 1970s at the Lisson Gallery among others. Before my (gallery-going) time, then, but I find it really interesting that even in 1997 – twenty-five years after ‘Drever’ had quit the London artworld for his ‘particular little crossroads of reality’ in Ireland – it was still ‘Tim Robinson’ that was seen as the alter ego, when by the time of his death last week, Robinson was by far the better-known figure.
Discussing this personal and professional rupture in the book’s introduction, Robinson writes
Whereas I used to be dismayed by the breakage and loss caused by that sudden change in habit and habitat, nowadays it is the unchipped good order in which my little store of imagery accompanied me on the jolting journey from city to island that makes me wonder if it is ever possible to step beyond oneself.
Since that event on Hanbury Street in 1997, The View From the Horizon has been an often-noted presence on my shelf. The spine stands out among other titles, because its dust-wrapper (comprising a single, wrap-around photograph of some Drever constructions from 1972) is so visually distinctive. It made it easy to locate the book again now, so that I could re-read it these 23 years later. And it’s wonderful stuff – look!
Strangely, or perhaps not, I’d already been thinking about Robinson earlier that week. While sorting through some old papers, I’d come across photocopies of a short article of mine for the then Artists’ Newsletter – now AN – from that same year, which mentions Robinson’s reading alongside a number of other books/works by artists including Ian Hamilton Finlay, Gordana Stanišić, and the historian or historical geographer John Field.
I did a quick scan of the article on my phone, and reproduce it here (with apologies for the blurriness of the photocopy).
Incidentally, it took me a while, but I finally found and bought a copy of John Field’s English Field Names: A Dictionary last year. I can’t quite believe that it took so long, but there you go. And it really is a exceptional piece of work. I’m not sure how I managed without it.
Here’s a little taster – see what I mean?
Friends may be interested to know that right now a small number of rare second-hand copies of my novel CHARLIEUNCLENORFOLKTANGO seem to be available via Abebooks. The novel has been out of print since the publisher Codex sadly ceased trading in the early noughties.
ICYMI at the time, here’s what John Williams said in Time Out:
These days, if you want innovation in crime fiction, you’re better off looking closer to home. Tony White’s Charlieunclenorfolktango sure as hell stands out from the norm. Imagine a cross between Clockwork Orange and Irvine Welsh’s Filth, and you’ll be somewhere close. Written in phonetic cockney geezer-speak and narrated by hell’s own copper . . . there’s a berserk comic energy present that bodes well for White’s future.
While Christopher Tayler reviewing CHARLIEUNCLE… in the London Review of Books alongside Canteen Culture by Ike Eze-anyika and Filth by Irvine Welsh, absolutely hated it, calling it
And that’s one of the nicer things he had to say. Well, you can’t win ’em all. (Although, incidentally, I learned a really important lesson from Tayler’s LRB review, which I will tell you now: it is never – but never – a good idea to reply to a bad review.)
There are more reviews of CHARLIEUNCLENORFOLKTANGO on my press page (you’ll need to scroll down a bit).
But while reviews are important – and sometimes life-changing – they aren’t everything. There are other kinds of critical feedback, too. Some of which have a very slow burn indeed. Because books do have a long life; even obscure experimental novels like CHARLIEUNCLENORFOLKTANGO, published on the margins in tiny print runs by long defunct small presses. Once a book is out there in the world it has a life of its own – independent of both author and critic – and is reanimated whenever someone picks it up, or remembers something they once-read.
Which reminds me that I meant to say, one of my favourite art exhibitions of recent months was PERIOD by Fiona Banner AKA the Vanity Press at Frith Street Gallery, London which ran from 21 November 2019 to 24 January 2020. Here’s a photo from the Frith Street Gallery site.
It was a fantastic show, and I felt especially drawn to the large hanging scroll of marine rubber on the right of this photograph. Entitled ‘Tongue’, this is a book-ish text work that remixes the genres and jargon of the colophon page and the gallery wall text.
I love Fiona Banner’s work, especially her ‘publications’ – in the loosest sense of the word – and the relationships and antagonisms with traditional publishing that they contain and inscribe.
‘Tongue’ even has its own ISBN number, which is written out in full like so:
India Sierra Bravo November Nine Seven Eight dash One dash Nine Zero Seven Six Three One dash Eight Zero dash One
Here’s a close-up that I took on the night of the exhibition’s opening.
Intrigued, I asked Fiona if ‘Tongue’ was a colophon for the whole show (as it were) or a self-contained, stand-alone publication.
It’s the latter, she confirmed: a one-off publication in its own right. ‘The legal deposit people hate me!’
But then, apropos of nothing, Fiona told me that her use of the phonetic alphabet to depict the ISBN was (in her words), ‘inspired by that old book of yours.’
‘Can I quote you on that?’ I asked.
With apologies for the recent interruption in service.
Right now you can read The Fountain in the Forest in synch with the French Republican Calendar, which features in the novel. Conversion between the Republican and Gregorian Calendars is imprecise, but by common reckoning today’s date Saturday 14 March 2020 converts to Quintidi 25 Ventôse CCXXVIII in the Revolutionary Calendar. Factoring in Fabre d’Eglantine’s system of everyday rural imagery, 25 Ventôse 228 and Chapter 13 of the novel are dedicated to tuna.