Fountain on Spine Magazine

Thank you to Spine Magazine for recently showcasing designer Luke Bird’s wonderful cover for Faber & Faber’s 2018 trade paperback of The Fountain in the Forest.

It reminded me of several things. Firstly, how privileged we are as authors to have such vision, insight, craft and experience brought to bear in the production of our books. Then, how much I love the detail of Luke Bird’s design, such as the way that Pantone 802c (the flourescent green used for the lettering of the title) interacts and interferes with the background image: Louis Lafitte’s engraving of an allegory for the revolutionary month of Thermidor. And how proud I was to have The Fountain in the Forest going out into the world with such a unique, striking and (perhaps?) influential design.

As well as posting favourite covers on their Instagram and Twitter profiles, Spine Magazine reports on creative and production aspects of the book publishing industry, with many in-depth and insightful articles by leading designers, illuminating the design and production process, plus university press roundups, monthly cover galleries, and more.

If you’re interested in these aspects of publishing, then there will be much of interest here!

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#KeepFestivalsHybrid

I support this campaign which launched back in December, to keep festivals and other literary and book events hybrid, i.e. with online and real life options.

During the COVID-19 Lockdowns, online events made it possible for all of us to continue meeting up and participating in bookshop events and Zoom gigs of all kinds, including critic David Collard’s A Leap in the Dark and Carthorse Orchestra events. These weekly, online salons, Zoom gatherings, were a lifeline. Online events dissolved geographical hurdles, and meant that it was just as simple for me to attend author and bookshop events at City Lights in San Francisco as it was the London Review Bookshop or Burley Fisher in London. Or Tariq Shah’s booklaunch (left), which I attended because I happened to be on Instagram when publisher Dead Ink (whom I follow) started the livestream. Anyone who works in books or is into books will have had similar experiences.

But crucially, online events also opened up events to disabled authors and readers, and to those who might not be able or afford to travel and buy tickets. These kinds of access have been real and unexpected benefits of the COVID-19 emergency, so it would be a great shame to lose them now.

Here’s more info from author Penny Batchelor and Red Door Books:

#KeepFestivalsHybrid is a campaign to encourage event organisers in the publishing world to prioritise accessibility by running events both in-person and online . . . In 2020, the pandemic saw the publishing world embrace online events. This had an immediate and profound effect on the way that disabled people and those with chronic illnesses could engage with literary festivals and other events for writers and readers. Suddenly it became possible for people in this group to participate in and enjoy literary activities in a way that they had been precluded from until now. This level playing field is now under threat as pandemic restrictions loosen and literary festivals begin to return to their pre-Covid business model.

#KeepFestivalsHybrid, at Red Door Press

Red Door have written an open letter to literary festival organisers, asking them to (where possible) offer both in-person and online tickets for literary events. Add your signature here: https://bit.ly/3bU4bso

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The Anomaly reviewed

Now online (£): my review for the Irish Times of the million-selling, Prix Goncourt-winning novel The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier, which is just published in Adriana Hunter’s English language translation by Michael Joseph.

Le Tellier is a mathematician and current president of celebrated experimental writers group Oulipo (the Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, or ‘Workshop of potential literature’). Its members, including Georges Perec (1936–1982), have been applying mathematical and scientific ideas to writing since 1960. In scientific terms, Le Tellier himself describes The Anomaly as a ‘thought experiment’, but if so it’s one that he pulls off with a rare lightness and aplomb.

Irish Times

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From the archive: A Porky Prime Cut

Just found this pic by Bournemouth photographer Diane Humphries, taken on a damp and misty morning in 2010 on Turbary Common, Bournemouth and Poole. I was spending time in the area to work on a commission from the (now sadly former) digital arts commissioning agency SCAN.

Alongside inspirational approaches by artists Kevin Carter and Simon Yuill, the main output of my research was a short story called ‘A Porky Prime Cut’. It’s a story set in and around Turbary, a story about art schools and Acid House, about mistaken identities and the musical and publishing subcultures of Bournemouth. It is also part of what I realised only relatively recently is an ongoing series of stories that I’ve been writing for a while about class and access to arts education; something that it turns out has been a recurring theme in both my fiction and my life. I’d love to talk more about this sometime.

I’ve  performed ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ live a few times. First with musical accompaniment from bass player Simon Edwards (ex Fairground Attraction, Talk Talk, Billy Bragg and the Blokes, etc.) for Electra’s Dirty Literature programme at the National Portrait Gallery, and then with Richard Norris (The Grid, Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve, ex-Jack the Tab era Psychic TV) at the Free University of Glastonbury. Both recordings are available on the Audio page on my website.

Richard and I reprised our performance at the October Gallery, London, for the events programme accompanying the exhibition William S Burroughs: Can you all hear me? That performance was broadcast on Swedish radio.

‘A Porky Prime Cut’ was commissioned as part of Digital Transformations, an arts project coordinated and curated by SCAN with Bournemouth Libraries and Arts, and Bournemouth Adult Learning, funded and supported by The Learning Revolution Transformation Fund, Bournemouth Borough Council, SCAN, Bournemouth University, and the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.

When SCAN’s initial publication plans fell through, and with their blessing, we put ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ out on Piece of Paper Press.

It was also published as part of a rapid-prototyped ebook platform set up by James Bridle, called Artists Ebooks, which I think is now offline. Although as a result the ebook edition of ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ is still listed on Apple Books here, together with three other of my short stories: ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, ‘Include Me Out’, and ‘How We Made “An American Legend” (part 1)’. (Although NB some of the other titles listed on Apple Books as ‘also by Tony White’ are false atttributions…)

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Pre-history

I think it’s safe to say that I was the first author to give a reading at the Sheffield branch of Waterstones bookshop in Orchard Square, or author-to-be at any rate. My first novel wouldn’t be published until nine years after this picture was taken, although 24-year-old me didn’t know it at the time.

I was a 3rd year student studying for a Fine Art BA at what is now Sheffield Hallam University, but was then the Psalter Lane site (a c.1945 purpose-built art school, now sadly demolished) of the former Sheffield City Polytechnic. But then again, in 1988(!) the Sheffield Waterstones wasn’t fully-fledged yet either. At the time it was undergoing final fit-out in a newly opened shopping centre. It’s still there, or was last time I looked. It’s been a great pleasure in recent years to return to Sheffield to talk about my fiction and more for the wonderful Off The Shelf Festival of Words. I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I do now if I hadn’t had the opportunity to go to art school, first in my home town of Farnham and then in Sheffield.

BTW I’m fairly certain that this photo (which I found among a mixed box of old papers, photographic prints and negatives, that also stretch forward in time to include sections of the original long-hand MS of my 1999 novel Charlieunclenorfolktango) was taken by old friend and then Psalter Lane contemporary Daniel Wootton, others by Brett Dee. Judging by the massive power switch and fuse box on the wall behind me, where I’m standing in this picture is now probably ‘out the back of the shop’ or in a cupboard somewhere.

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Animate Me – a short story from the archive

‘Animate Me’ is a short story that was commissioned and published by the art gallery PEER and Animate Projects alongside their 2014 Out of Site commissions: animation works by the artists Savinder Bual, Kota Ezawa, Karolina Glusiec, and Margaret Salmon. An unusual aspect of the project was that the resulting moving-image works were projected onto the inside of the gallery windows, to be viewed from the street. ‘Animate Me’ was given away free as a 2-sided A4 flyer by PEER during the show. The flyer was designed by Joe Ewart.

Luckily for me we had animation students for lodgers in those days, and one of them had shown me how to do eyes, sideways-on and with different expressions. Little things like that. It doesn’t take much to start you off. It was a small town with a big art school, and I could draw, so it wasn’t long before it was my turn to escape.

A bit of background. Over the years I’ve written many short stories that have been commissioned and published by arts organisations, or by galleries and museums as part of exhibitions, in this way. Sometimes these works are published in exhibition catalogues, sometimes in standalone publications, or online. Other artists whose work I’ve written about using the medium of fiction include: Chris Dorley-Brown, Jane and Louise Wilson, Alison Turnbull, Bob and Roberta Smith, Alan Phelan, Liliane Lijn, Stuart Brisley and Maya Balcioglu, Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen, and others. These works of fiction have been published by the Wellcome Collection, Forma Arts and Media, Bookworks, Russian Club Gallery, PEER, Transmission Gallery, Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Arts Catalyst, the Science Museum and others.

These kinds of commissions are an important part of my work as an author. Working in this way allows me to experiment, to learn from and to reflect critically upon the work or the practice of exceptional artists in an accessible way, and to take my fiction to new audiences.

I’ve also contributed stories to collaborative and interdisciplinary projects and group shows with London Fieldworks, Las Cienegas Projects (Los Angeles), the artist Steven Hull, Barbara Campbell’s 1001 nights cast, SCAN, Blast Theory, Situations, Resonance FM, and more. Including most recently the Inventive Podcast, which brings together authors and ‘superstar engineers’ to tell innovative stories about engineering.

My own story for InventiveThe Hotwells Cold Water Swimming Club – was inspired by a brilliant aeronautical engineer named Sophie Robinson. As I was talking to Sophie and then writing a short story inspired by her life and work, I realised that at the heart of the story I was wanting to tell was an issue that had come up in our conversations and was of great importance to both of us, in different ways. And it was a question to do with class and access to education in the UK. In my case being working class and getting access to an arts education.

In 2020 when I was teaching a group of postgraduate creative writing students at Brunel University, the question of class came up in a Q&A.

‘How,’ one student asked, ‘did being working class manifest itself in my fiction?’

That’s a really good question, I said. Because it was.

My first thought was to talk about the jobs I’ve done and how I’d written around full-time working, how almost all of the characters in my fiction are working class, and how I often gravitated towards – and learned from – other marginalised voices. (I’d been talking to the students about voice, and discussing the work of James Kelman, and of Linton Kwesi Johnson, among others.)

But then – put on the spot as I was – I realised something that I maybe hadn’t quite noticed before. (Students are good at making you do that.) This, for me, biographical fact, to do with the challenges of getting access to education and to a life in the arts, was not something that I’d left in my past. It was part of my motivation in teaching, after all, and in the work I’d done over many years at the Arts Council and for Resonance FM, but it had also been a recurring theme in my fiction, in many of my short stories. Questions of class and access to education are actually right at the heart of the narratives – the very thing that is at stake – in, say, my 2012 novella ‘Dicky Star and the Garden Rule’ (published alongside a touring exhibition by Jane and Louise Wilson), the 2011 short story ‘A Porky Prime Cut’ (commissioned by the former digital arts agency SCAN out of research undertaken with communities in Bournemouth and Poole), my story this year for the Inventive Podcast, as discussed. And also I think this story, ‘Animate Me’ written for PEER and Animate Projects in 2014.

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Vanishing History Dub

‘Vanishing History Dub’ 2021

‘Vanishing History Dub’ is the latest edition from Piece of Paper Press, the lo-fi sustainable artists’ book project I founded in 1994. Given away free, as usual. In that time I’ve published new works by Liliane Lijn, Joanna Walsh, Sheena Rose, Susana Medina, Michael Moorcock, Alison Turnbull, Elizabeth Magill, Courttia Newland, Suzanne Treister, James Pyman, Tim Etchells, and many more.

Find out more about Piece of Paper Press.

This new edition ‘Vanishing History Dub’ goes back to avant-garde roots and comes out of the recent PROVISIONAL live art event put together by Simon Poulter and Rony Fraser-Munro. Piece of Paper Press titles are distributed free to a gradually evolving mailing list, and/or sometimes given away at an event. ‘Vanishing History Dub’ was produced in a numbered edition of 100, plus 9x signed proofs, instead of the usual 150, so they’re pretty much all spoken for.

However, I do understand that thanks to a number of people giving their collections to larger institutions, some copies of past titles are available in public and/or accessible collections at UCL Small Press Collections, Chelsea School of Art Library, Arnolfini Archive, and the Live Art Development Agency Reading Room. I should say that until I am able to research this further, I can’t say exactly which titles are where, nor precisely how they have been catalogued.

Piece of Paper Press titles published pre-2000 also feature, with some illustrations, in the revised edition of Stephen Bury’s Artists’ Books: the book as a work of art 1963-2000, which is a definitive work and very highly recommended for anyone interested in the field of artists’ books generally!

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Press release:

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Irish Literary Society

I am really thrilled that my new short story ‘Plain Speaking’, which was written to mark the 110th anniversary on 5 October 2021 of the great Brian O’Nolan a.k.a. Myles na gCopaleen a.k.a. Flann O’Brien’s birth, has now also been published by the Irish Literary Society.

The story was first performed at David Collard’s online salon Carthorse Orchestra on 2 October, and first published by 3am Magazine.

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Read ‘Plain Speaking’ by Tony White on the Irish Literary Society website here

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New short story to mark 110th anniversary of Flann O’Brien’s birth

Today, Tuesday 5 October 2021, is the 110th anniversary of the birth in 1911 of Brian O’Nolan, a.k.a. Myles na Gopaleen, best known as novelist Flann O’Brien. My new short story ‘Plain Speaking’ was written to commemorate the fact, and is now published by 3am Magazine. You can read it online here…

‘Plain Speaking’ was premiered as a live reading at the final Carthorse Orchestra, David Collard’s wonderful online salon, on 2 October 2021.

I’d love to perform ‘Plain Speaking’ again now, so if anyone is planning Flann-based festivities, or has any other ideas let me know.

With thanks to Shirley MacWilliam, John Carson, Anna Aslanyan, and Andrew Gallix of 3am.

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Read ‘Plain Speaking’ by Tony White on 3am Magazine here

Buy The Fountain in the Forest via publisher Faber and Faber

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Welcome

Hi, and welcome to my website.

I’ve been posting regularly here about all aspects of the writing life, sharing information about live events, books and other publications, archival materials, etc. for a decade or more, so feel free to browse.

ICYMI, my latest novel The Fountain in the Forest is available in these two lovely paperback formats from publisher Faber & Faber, both featuring designer Luke Bird’s wonderful cover design:

The first edition Royale-format trade paperback with flourescent green typography (2018, ISBN 9780571336180, RRP £14.99)

The B-format mass-market paperback with neon blue typography (2019, ISBN 9780571336197, RRP £8.99)

You can use these links to buy direct from Faber, or order from your favourite local bookshop, or preferred ebook retailer!

I hope you enjoy The Fountain in the Forest, and would love to hear what you think, either here, on social media, or via reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. It may not seem it, but your reviews and posts really do make a difference, and help me spread the word about my books.

Thank you for dropping by.

Tony

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