incorporating writing

Issue 3 Vol 3 FESTIVALS

Festival season is upon us again:
Save us from WI groups and apathy

Debbie Taylor - Michael Ondaatje - Jeffrey Archer Exclusive

Incorporating Writing
(ISSN 1743-0380)

Editorial Festival Highs and Lows
Fiona Ferguson digs in for the Festival season.

Editorial Team
Managing Editor Bixby Monk Guest Editor Chaz Brenchley Articles Editor Fiona Ferguson Interviews Editor Andrew Oldham Reviews Editor G.P.Kennedy Columnists Andrew O’Donnell George Wallace Dave Wood Sharon Sadle Contributors Rebecca Moor, Felix Cheong, Sam Morris, Clare Reddaway, Mark Cantrell, Linda Benninghoff, Helen Shay, Caroline Drennan Design Marsh Thomas Contact Details
Incorporating Writing is an imprint of The Incwriters Society (UK). The magazine is managed by an editorial team independent of The Society’s Constitution. Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without permission of the publishers. We cannot accept responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, reproduction of articles, photographs or content. Incorporating Writing has endeavoured to ensure that all information inside the magazine is correct, however prices and details are subject to change. Individual contributors indemnify Incorporating Writing, The Incwriters Society (UK) against copyright claims, monetary claims, tax payments / NI contributions, or any other claims. This magazine is produced in the UK. © The Incwriters Society (UK) 2005



Interviews The Queen of Literature

Rebecca Moor talks with the novelist and founder of Mslexia, Debbie Taylor


Michael Ondaatje
‘The English Patient’

Felix Cheong talks to the author of


Jeffrey Archer

From disgraced peer to best selling novelist of 2006, we get behind the man and the author.


Articles Bigger than cheese, us!

G. P. Kennedy has a wry and somewhat sly squint at the fiction factory of UK literary


The Right Man

Sam Morris returns with an intriguing parallel between rap and and SF Novelist, A. E. Van Vogt


Columns Degrees Of Freedom
Nick Johnson reading.

George Wallace gate crashes a


Cubicle Escapee

Sharon Sadle reports from somewhere in the USA.


Reviews Competition News and Opportunities

35 45 49


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Festival Highs and Lows
Editorial by Fiona Ferguson

audience, to see and hear writing; catapulting us back in time to writing’s archaic oral origins. Like a rather confusing game of charades, the book finds itself centre stage. Originally hailing from Liverpool, where everyone is a performer, I have always taken it for granted that words are not just to be read, but to be heard, spoken, acted out, or sung. As demonstrated by Liverpool’s recent Writing on the Walls Festival, the performance element is still very strong here: the spoken word slam, featuring rap and interactive poetry from local artists was absolutely electric and the film extravaganza proved to be a massively successful event this year. Writers, even the most well-known, are perhaps the most hidden of the creatives, so propelling them into the public arena, as festivals do, can be a most intriguing circumstance. Anyone who has been to the glorious Hay will be familiar with this strange phenomenon as the place suddenly crawls with literary heavyweights, emerging from under the reassuring thick covers of their latest hardbacks and blinking in the limelight, like a gang of celebrity moles on the annual outing. It is particularly extraordinary and inspirational to witness literary giants reading their latest opus: Ian McEwan sending shivers down my

It was, of course, a deliberate, calculated decision on my part to join the Incorporating Writing editorial team in time for festival season. Hey- everybody likes a good party. And that is what festivals ultimately are: a collective, public celebration and mingling of all things literary: books, scripts, stories, poems, plays, people, ideas, debate, discussion and words, words, words. Festivals are exciting as they give us a chance to experience the many dimensions of writing; thrusting it from the silent page of the sole reader into wholly different arenas; readings, performance, poetry recitals, drama, music, slamming, jamming, story-telling, with the last few years increasingly showing an emphasis on film; writing for both the big and the small screen. Festivals allow us, as a collective

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spine reading from a then unpublished ‘Saturday’ at last year’s Hay, and witnessing a first reading of ‘On Beauty’ from Zadie Smith (whom I later splashed with Stella Artois in the beer tent, by way of expressing my appreciation. But then, it was a festival, after all. Rock and roll…) Although celebrity-spotting at the Hay is a most diverting pastime, festivals are not just the realm of the already famous, however, but also function as a brilliant platform for new styles, new ideas and new talent. In recent years, at Birmingham’s slick, modern Book Festival, I have been dazzled by writing talent old and new; particularly enjoying last year’s Poetry Slam event, featuring the breathtaking wordsmithery of Birmingham’s Poet Laureate Dreadlockalien. A personal highlight from 2004 was the performance of two radio dramas from two amateur writers, both being mentored through the West Midlands writing agency Script. This excites me as they are revealing new generations of writers. As GP Kennedy reveals in his article, the UK enjoys one of the world’s most prolific and colourful literary scenes; hosting more literary festivals and events from John o’Groat’s to Land’s End than you could shake a stick at (or I than can wax lyrical about in this editorial, or even begin to hope to attend). Literary festivals are taking place across the planet, from Sydney to Santiago, as perhaps the most engaging and collective way of experiencing writing. I am yet to make it to a literary gathering

beyond the shores of the UK, but perhaps if I play my cards right here, I’ll be able to blag a few Press passes to Bologna, or Montreal… All in the name of professional development and research, of course. Incorporating Writing is, in essence, a mini online festival in itself; a monthly textual exposition of writing in all its varieties, so it gives me great pleasure to join in with the celebration. I hope to bring to its large and disparate audience an equally absorbing and singular display of features as grace the stages, tents and workshops of our lit fests. There may be no spotlights, beer tents or thunderous applause but I hope that the quality of writing and the insights offered within may earn a kind of silent, internal acclamation. And there are, still, the literary luminaries; in this issue Felix Cheong gains an audience with both Jeffrey Archer and Michael Ondaatje. Sam Morris’ exploration of the competitive and pugnacious nature of slam poetry’s wordwarfare. As of this issue I will be taking over from Andrew Oldham as Articles Editor. Andrew will now be solely concentrating on editing the Interviews section, so please feel free to contact me for any article queries, ideas or pitches. The next issues are ‘Playwrights & Critics’ followed by ‘The American Beat Trail’. Looking forward to hearing from you!




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Bigger than cheese, us!
Article by G. P. Kennedy Bath in December, one can indulge in a panoply of festivals the year round. Geographically the scope is no less broad, covering Orkney to St. Austell with many familiar and downright odd stops along the way (my favourites conveniently staged both in March; Wakefield’s International Festival of Mountaineering Literature, and London’s nonexpectorating Spit-Lit).

“Other big beasts variously engaged in conversation, reading, answering questions, and generally oozing sagacity”
A quick Google search for ‘UK Literary Festivals’ will return an eye-straining 2,940,000 different results: a similar search for ‘UK Music Festivals’ garners the deafening roar of 35,700,000 different results; while a third search along similar lines, for ‘UK Cheese Festivals’ offers the delectation of 2,190,000 different results. So, while it would be folly to suggest that UK literary festivals are the new rock ‘n’ roll, they are certainly prevalent and well covered, and most definitely bigger than cheese. From January in Glasgow, (a chilly prospect to drive even the most logophobic to a book-laden fireside) to Visiting a lit fest gives one a rare opportunity to hear the great, the good and the blandly average of the literary firmament, ask questions of them, interact with like-minded individuals and perhaps even spot the ever-decorous Hanif Kureishi (starring at this year’s Guardian Hay Festival, 26 May – 4 June) spill sponsor’s coffee down the front of his crisp white shirt. Other big beasts variously engaged in conversation, reading, answering questions, and generally oozing sagacity, include Zadie Smith, Joan Bakewell, Clare Short MP, Joanna Trollope, Germaine Greer, Margaret Atwood (all appearing at the

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lady-laden Guardian Hay); intriguingly Chuck Palahniuk engages Irvine Welsh in tete-a-tete, while prototypical grumpy old man and self-labelled ‘contrarian’ Christopher Hitchens comes over all Thomas Paine (Brighton Festival, May 628); Joanne Harris willfully and possibly deservedly continues to milk Chocolat and Louis Theroux gets The Call of the Weird (Belfast Festival at Queen’s, October 19 – November 4); Matthew Parris is joined by political stable mate Ann Widdecombe, the never knowingly unirritating John Hegley, the pleonastically non-effervescent Will Self, and unless my eyes very much deceive me or the website is misdirective, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (all gone west for the Swindon Festival of Literature, May 2-13); Lynne Truss has eaten, shot and left the Bath Literature Festival (March), while Edinburgh (August 12-28) and Cheltenham (October 6-15) are still focusing the coruscating lights of their star turns at the time of going to press. What is it really like? That is the question that needs answer; the nub of the issue. No two festivals, of any form, are alike (I went to Glastonbury five years out of six in the Nineties and the only constant was the consistency of the toilet pits below the shoddily erected cubicles that owed much to the designers’ evident fixation with Blue Peter). So how does one go about typifying the lit fest experience? Well, I guess that depends which side of the festival one is on, punter or punted;

vauntor or vaunted. Let us assume, between you and I, that we are visiting a lit fest this summer, together if it so pleases you. Is it your first? Probably not. Let us abandon all memories of festivals gone by, years passed, and slip into the lit fest fold afresh. Literary festivals will conjure up images, for many, of confidently righteous Women’s Institute members attending a village fete: the well-heeled trying desperately to impress the vicar with their excellent home baked cakes and secret recipe pots of jam; barrages of men singularly bent on displaying their large vegetables. One is put in mind, also, of an especially poor episode of Midsomer Murders wherein one overly ambitious author does away with another, in a battle of book readings. I believe it is an unwritten law that John Nettles appear at every lit fest in the UK, mainland and islands (of course). A literary friend of mine takes a dyspeptic view, “I find the whole concept [of festivals] a little disturbing. All these people are gathered in the idyllic summer sunshine (no rain could ever dampen a literary festival) waiting for you to amaze them with the beauty of your prose and your sparkling delivery. No pressure then! You are rated as a person as much as for your fiction”. Then there are the critics, most often metro sharks sharpening their false teeth on the literary krill, removing their den-


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tures for the big fish – the phrase ‘sucking up’ has never been so aptly applied. Inevitably they are ill clothed for the event and its location. The brogues (shoes not accents, of course) are not wholly suitable, the corduroy jacket a little too heavy, the Cowell-esque trousers chafing a little bit in the heat; or maybe their well cut suit and high heels are offering similar problems. The school circles, PDAs at the ready, plastic pretend pen poised for panning.

“Literary festivals will conjure up images, for many, of confidently righteous Women’s Institute members attending a village fete”
Let us not forget our WI friends writhing at the romantic fiction readings; shortlisted authors soft-focus posing by trees, all wind-in-the-hair and lit-celeb bravura; the writing groups wannabes, destined for mediocrity or less: so much to avoid, so little time. For me there is much to be said for this middle England view of literary festivals. However I think there is also a broader context in which to see the lit fest. I am thinking Amsterdam red light district. The initial visual experience is somewhat shocking, and most certainly overwhelming, as people cast a voyeuristic swathe over narrow corridors of shop windows, judging every book by its cover,

as the occasional unseen desperado slips by a side door to transact. This is all show with intermittent punch. The implicit nuances of the spectacle are accepted by and on all sides; the sellers must prance and hawk, they must always be ‘on’, they must be ready to engage with their audience at all times; the potential purchasers hope the sellers know that most of them are there for a free look, to judge, size up, determine whether Shop Window A is what they expected, decide that Writer X has aged a lot lately, and on and ever on – veni, vidi, excessi…or some such. This is a view of the archetypical literary festival, a goggle into its often gaudily dressed and illuminated shop widow. …maybe…lit fest, bigger than edam cheese in little Britain.

G. P. Kennedy is Reviews Editor for Incorporating Writing and a freelance writer of ten years standing. Having slaved successfully in the corporate arena for seven years he turned his writing gifts and skills to the literary world finding time to review and write articles for a number of serious newspapers and lofty lit mags, and complete the MA Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. After living a transatlantic life for a couple of years, mainly between Manchester, England and the independent state of Texas, he has decided upon a relative settling down in Liverpool with the loves of his life.

The Sea

a poetry tour, with Pat Borthwick Milner Place
Dates Announced
17th May 2006 25th May 2006 28th May 2006 3rd July 2006 6th October 2006 Pat Borthwick, Ian Parks + Andrew Oldham Ian Parks & Milner Place Ian Parks + Special Competition Guests Pat Borthwick, Ian Parks & Milner Place Pat Borthwick, Ian Parks & Milner Place + Peter Lewin Everyman Bistro, Liverpool Manchester Central Library Mossley Music Festival Bradford Literature Festival Beehive Poets Lytham St Anns Library 8.30PM £1-£3 1:00PM Free 7:00PM Free 8:00PM TBA see brochure 12:30PM Free

Ian Parks

+ Special Guest Poets & Writers

Further dates to be announced later in 2006
For further information visit Image courtesy of Dan Lyons


incorporating writing

Degrees Of Freedom
Column by George Wallace ing up the pocket-size volume of poems published by Bright Hill.   ”Well it sure is little!” someone shouted from the audience. ”True,” retorted Johnson. “But as the Greek philosopher said, Big book, big nuisance!” It was a typical moment for Nick Johnson, self-targeting, luring his audience in with a pained smile, and then turning neatly en pointe to new vantage. Size aside, Johnson has nothing to be embarrassed by in what he reveals in his new book. Because for all the pained intimacy, we find plenty of big enough moments in the poems of Degrees of Freedom. Big as the death of a loved one. Big as the recognition that you may just have the same faults that your alcoholic father had. The author treats us to utterly compelling moments of nicely fractured logic and understated ribbing, both of the audience and himself. From the bartender who asks you a loaded question and then neatly slips away to the monkey pounding at his typewriter who has nothing kind to say about the humans who have put him in that position. It is telling that Johns prefaces the 38 page volume with this quote from Aldous Huxley: The sum of evil, Pascal remarked, would be much diminished if men would

Allow me to say that Nick Johnson is no stranger to repartee. At least that was my impression after attending a reading he conducted from his newly released book Degrees Of Freedom (Bright Hill Press, 2006) at Tribes Gallery in Manhattan on Easter Sunday 2006. Tough evening to draw a crowd. Nonetheless there was Nick, cruising happily through a series of self-revelatory poems of deep wistfulness and black and blue humor — serio-comic stuff of honest autobiographical origin — eliciting laughter and pained gasps by turns, when he abruptly stopped and held up the book. ”I can’t recall if they say size matters or size doesn’t matter,” he quipped, hold-

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only learn to sit in their rooms, if only because the work is at least part cautionary. Nick Johnson has had to swallow the horse of experience, it seems, and so far he’s lived to tell about it. How do you swallow a horse? One bite at a time. Thus, one bite at a time we are introduced to Nick Johnson’s world. We’re asked to tag along as he revisits the pain, horror, dada-bemusement and quest for self-knowledge of his journey. At times Johnson eases us into it with tongue-incheek aplomb, as in Facts of Life: “It takes 32 feet of rope to hang the average man. In Kansas that’s a fact. Do you believe marriages are/ happier and longer in Orlando?” In Poor Company, a bartender asks him why the long face? Because his wife has just died. “I don’t know why/ he asked. I don’t know why I told him./ Maybe I was glad. Maybe I didn’t have a wife.../ Maybe I didn’t tell him/ my wife died.” In his monologue-poem One Of The Monkeys, he teases us along. We find Johnson answering the often-stated truism ‘put enough monkeys in a room’ by taking the monkeys’ point of view (“...It’s a play/ Shakespeare wrote back in the old days/ they want us to write again. So we’re writing a play we never read. They keep inviting/ strangers to watch and the strangers say,/ ‘they wrote to be or nutti to be!’...”)

Degrees of Freedom is one of those rare books in which it is hard to find a page without a great line on it.

There’s a subtle complexity underlying much of Johnson’s poetry, but on the surface it frequently posses a terrible clarity as he shines his searing light on some tough issues: alcoholism, sexual betrayal, death by cancer, or more simply mornings that are not mornings at all, merely ‘the beginning of the same old day.’ With this book Nick Johnson has managed to amplify our understanding of the ‘shadow and bone’ of experience, the trauma and the pain in the deeds men do, inside and outside of their room. The poems are mordant as hell — but made palatable and frequently irresistible by virtue of the author’s twinkling wit. That’s the kind of compelling self-reportage most writers in the postconfessionalist age can only hope to approach.
George Wallace, author of eight chapbooks of poetry, editor of Poetrybay, co-host of his own weekly poetry radio show, and was the first poet laureate of Suffolk County, New York. A regular performer in New York City, he frequently tours America with his poetry. Internationally, his work has been read in Paris, Copenhagen, Vienna, and particularly in Italy and the UK. His work has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, Korean, Bengali, Russian and Macedonian. Latest collections include Burn My Heart in Wet Sand and Fifty Love Poems (La Finestra Editrice, IT).


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The Queen of Literature

Interview by Rebecca Moor

“We think it will be easier to re-invent ourselves in a new place – and we are probably right”

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Debbie Taylor trained in psychology and was employed as a Medical Research Fellow before going to found Mslexia. Whilst living in Botswana, she was initiated into the local Batlokwa tribe, which she wrote about in The Guardian. She has been the Editor at New Internationalist, she has written for UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, and wrote their major State of the World… report series. One of these – The State of the World’s Women – was published as book (Women: A World Report, Methuen), with additional contributions by Germaine Greer, Angela Davis, Nawal El Saadawi, Buchi Emecheta and others. She has written for the BBC and Channel Four. Her documentary, With These Hands, won the UNEP Prize at the Ecovision film festival. She has wriiten the novels The Children who Sleep by the River, The Fourth Queen (Penguin) and a book of short stories A Tale of Two Villages. My Children, My Gold (Virago) – was shortlisted for the Fawcett Prize for women’s writing. In March 1999, she launched Mslexia, which has a readership of 14,000. Her latest novel is Hungry Ghosts (Penguin).

Do you visualise your readers as predominately female, or do you feel that the male perspective of Martin (‘Hungry Ghosts’) and Microphilus (‘The Fourth Queen’)expands the appeal of your novels? I tend to assume my reader will be female, because women read twice as many novels as men. But I have been really pleased by how many men have sought me out to say how much they like Hungry Ghosts. Actually I find writing from a male point of view much easier than when I’m writing about my female characters. I think it’s because I don’t identify with them so much; I’m more detached from my own autobiography and obsessions when I’m thinking myself into a male character, which makes it easier to give my imagination free vein. Both your novels centre around an escape; why do you think this appeals to readers? It appeals to me! On several occasions in my life I’ve packed a suitcase and headed off to live in another country: Botswana, in my twenties; then the Greek island of Karpathos in my thirties. If it wasn’t for my family, I’d probably be living in Crete right now – and I certainly spent a lot of time there writing Hungry Ghosts. Barbara Trapido maintains that writers need a place where they can step outside their normal lives, rather as prophets used to go ‘into the wilderness’. Moving to Botswana, where I lived in a mud hut and was initiated into the local tribe, was my


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way of catapulting myself out of my career as a psychologist – and into another kind of life, where writing and the imagination would be much more central. My move to Karpathos was prompted by a similar urge to get away from my normal life in order to concentrate on my writing. I think this is a fantasy lots of people share, which is why there are so many programmes on television about ‘a place in the sun’. We think it will be easier to re-invent ourselves in a new place – and we are probably right. For Sylvia, in Hungry Ghosts, escaping to Crete allows her to rediscover her more creative and adventurous childhood self. Did you prefer creating the eighteenth century setting of ‘The Fourth Queen’ or the more recent backdrop of ‘Hungry Ghosts’? Once I had got over my tentativeness (it was so difficult to get good information about that period in Morocco), I had great fun imagining life in the harem in Marrakech. But I was continually dogged by the fear that some expect Moroccan historian would denounce me publicly for my portrayal of the intimate details of married life in that eighteenth century Islamic country – many of which I had to extrapolate from my travels in contemporary third world countries. In the end, though I did a huge amount of research, I concluded that writing

historical fiction is rather akin to writing science fiction. Both are based on educated guesses about what life might have been like, developed from incomplete assemblages of facts.

“Another piece of advice: don’t get hung up on the beginning of your novel”
But it was tremendously difficult book to write, because whenever I went back to it after setting it aside for a month or two – as most writers have to do in order to earn a living – I had to ‘upload’ all the historical information into my brain all over again. From that point of view, Hungry Ghosts was much easier to write. I had already researched infertility and miscarriage in the course of my own experiences. My psychology training taught me something about depression. I’ve spent time in various communes, so life in the Matala Caves was easy to imagine. And I’ve spent lots and lots of time living alone in run-down houses on various Greek islands… If you have future novels planned, will these also incorporate the dual perspective of your first two novels? What inspired you to use two perspectives? Actually I’ve written three novels. My

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first, The Children who Sleep By The River, was about witchcraft and childbirth in a Zimbabwean village and used four perspectives. But you’re right, several perspectives is a feature of my work – and novel I’m planning will also use several voices. I think this technique creates a kind of three-dimensional psychic world, because you see the characters from all sides, as it were. I write very intimately about my characters, even in third person, which limits the scope of the narration: the reader can only know what the character knows. With a more distant third person viewpoint, an author can comment on things none of the characters is aware of. Having several points of view is a good way of circumventing that restriction without compromising the closeness of the characterisation. You have written articles and run workshops on the mechanics of creative writing. What advice would you offer to aspiring novelists? I am a great believer in the RIRO philosophy. Rubbish In, Rubbish Out. I think this applies especially to writers. So my first piece of advice would be to read only wonderful exciting writing. If you steep yourself in good sentences it will become, in time, impossible for you to write a bad one. Another piece of advice: don’t get hung up on the beginning of your novel. Get to

the end of your story, then come back to the beginning and consider throwing away your first three chapters… In my experience most new writers start their novels far too early in the action and spend far too much time scene-setting.

“Yes, of course. It’s impossible to read widely and NOT be inspired”
What else? Plug yourself into the writing community in some way, by joining a class or a writing group, going to a festival, signing up for a writing course. It really helps to meet other people in the same boat, and to see what kind of thing other people are writing. If you possibly can, go on an Arvon course. These one-week residential courses, in wonderful surroundings, taught by experienced tutors, really can change lives… ( Subscribe to Mslexia, the writing magazine I edit. It’s full of advice and opportunities for writers. ( Both your novels were inspired by true events; eighteenth century kidnappings in ‘The Fourth Queen’, and a newspaper report about a boy discovered ‘living with dead animals’ who evolved into the character of Martin in ‘Hungry


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Ghosts’. Other inspiration evident in ‘Hungry Ghosts’ seems to be drawn from your own ‘escape’ to Africa and your fondness for the traditional life in Botswana. Do you ever draw inspiration from other writers i.e. from fiction not fact? Yes, of course. It’s impossible to read widely and NOT be inspired. The work of really good authors makes me itch to go and create something myself. I’m always on the lookout for writing techniques I can steal and apply in my own work. Sometimes – for my own amusement – I write pastiches of other authors’ work, to see for myself how it’s done. But this is all about the craft of writing, not the subject matter. I think the subject matter comes more from my own passions and obsessions, and my own experiences. I particularly enjoyed your use of simile and metaphor in ‘Hungry Ghosts’, for example the internet’s ‘trails of illuminated blue cotton’ and your description of applying lipstick which likens it to a mangle. Do you have to work at using similes and metaphors, or do the images present themselves spontaneously? Thank you! One of the real pleasures for me as a writer is finding a really apt metaphor or simile – and, yes, I do work at that. It’s a challenge I enjoy hugely and I can spend half an hour searching

for an image that satisfies me. At the same time I am often working in the opposite direction, to cut down my use of adverbs and adjectives by finding good verbs to use instead.

“I find writing endings embarrassing. They always seem so trite”
The colours blue and orange are principal features of your latest novel. Do they hold any particular significance for you personally and what would you like the colours to convey in the novel? I didn’t realise those two colours were so prominent – though it’s inevitable that the colour blue would feature in a place like Crete! Running all through the book is a contrast between black and white and full colour. This is expressed in lots of ways: in Sylvia’s clothes; her house in Newcastle; in her photography; in her black and white moral stance. It’s one way I try to portray her personality, her need to control her world. So colour is the antidote, as it were, a symbol of the journey she needs to take: hand-tinting the photographs; using primary colours in the house; embracing the complex moral issues of her own bereavements and Martin’s confession

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Many contemporary novelists choose to set their stories in the Greek islands. What do you think appeals to writers/readers about Greece? For me it’s to do with generosity, beauty and simplicity: the Greeks are so welcoming; they create beauty out of such simple things (flowers, red paint, whitewash) – and the food is both basic and delicious. It has also been, historically, a very inexpensive place to stay – and writers are always short of money! Sylvia’s character embarks on a journey of self-discovery when she moves to Crete. Do you think that creative writing should lead the author to explore aspects of themself? I think it’s inevitable. Writers tend to have a finite set of issues that they write about, repeatedly, in different guises and setting. These issues fuel the engine of creativity; they’re what keep us going. And they are always personal, on a very deep level. Obsessing about these things is how writers keep sane. I believe that’s the reason we feel such an urge to write – because we need to keep exploring those issues. How important do you consider research to be when writing a fictional work? My motto is: do the research, lock it away while you write the book, then check your facts when the book’s finished. If you

keep referring to your research while you’re writing, there is a danger that the facts will take precedence over the story you need to tell. You won’t be able to resist putting in that irrelevant detail that took you three weeks to uncover… How do you think the internet has affected the writing industry? The main effect has been access to the cornucopia that is Amazon. And instant access to information about publishers, agents, grants and prizes. I know the Society of Authors is worried that access to books on line will undermine authors’ income, but I can’t say that it has affected me yet. What would you say was the message you want to convey through writing ‘Hungry Ghosts’? Three messages, really. The first is about magic and the supernatural. I think not believing in the ‘paranormal’ is as much an act of faith as believing; and that our lives are so much richer if we allow for the possibility of things we cannot explain. The second, related to the first, is about the lack of ritual in our secular society. There are so many events in our lives these days that pass without being marked: the loss of an unborn child – by miscarriage, elective abortion, infertility – is one of the most obvious, but there are many more. I think we need to pay due respect to our losses (and our joys) and seek forgiveness from those we have wronged; that’s what the Hungry Ghosts


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ritual is about – the donation of food to unknown spirit entities – and that is emblematic of the whole book, really. The third, alluded to elsewhere in this questionnaire, is about moral relativism; what Martin refers to as ‘”and”, not “or”’. This is the critique of black/white thinking that runs throughout the novel, that argues for every case to be considered in its own context, and judged on its own merits. I think that Martin is to be forgiven – but many readers disagree with me! You are involved in editing, writing articles, haven written a non-fiction book and two novels. Which do you think has been your biggest challenge? (Three non-fiction books, actually – and three novels…) Oh, that’s a hard one. The Fourth Queen was incredibly difficult to write because I was trying to write, look after a baby and run a publishing company all at the same time. The challenge comes not so much from the writing itself, as from the things that get in the way of the writing: earning money; cooking supper; picking up my daughter from school. Now she’s older, things are a bit easier, but I still felt burnt out by the time I’d finished Hungry Ghosts – getting up at dawn; writing through every holiday for two years… And I’ve decided now to give up my day job and concentrate on writing full time – in penury! Did you decide how your novel would

end before you started writing it? I find writing endings embarrassing. They always seem so trite. So I tend to leave them open, regardless of how I think they ‘should’ end. In Hungry Ghosts, both Martin and Sylvia have to make peace with the people they’ve wronged before they can get on with their lives. In this sense, I knew that would happen and was working towards it as an ending. As for whether they end up making a life together, that seemed to me to be a question for a different book. So I left it deliberately vague. I want people to make up their own minds, and the readers groups I’ve been visiting have been full of argument about whether Sylvia should go back to Martin or stay with Bennett. It was the same in The Fourth Queen. I want people to ask themselves what Microphilus should do when he finds out that Helen is carrying his child. Both novels are about personal growth, about the emotional journeys the characters have to make. I want my readers to embark on those journeys with the characters and I hope, by the end, that they will know what happens next.

Rebecca Moor is a first year student of English Literature and French at the University of Chester. After completing her degree, Rebecca hopes to pursue a career in publishing. She is currently working as an intern for Incorporating Writing; the interview with Debbie Taylor is her first contribution to the magazine.

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“I’m not sure how stories are made yet”

Michael Ondaatje: Waiting For Guests
Article by Felix Cheong

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You gaze into his sky-blue eyes and watch him tousle his wiry white hair absent-mindedly. You notice his olive-coloured skin and listen intently as his voice rounds vowels in a distinctively British accent. And you’re immediately drawn to and paradoxically disoriented by Michael Ondaatje. For the celebrated Canadian writer, renowned for his 1992 Booker-Prize-winning novel The English Patient, is charming in a way that defies easy categorisation of country and race. Indeed, the 53year-old candidly describes himself as a “mongrel” of mixed blood that includes English, Dutch, Tamil and Sinhalese. His writing too crosses borders and genres seamlessly, at once all poetry and prose. Born and brought up in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje was the child of prominent members of Ceylonese colonial society. His father was a tea and rubber-plantation superintendent while his mother performed part-time as a dancer. In 1954, Ondaatje moved to England with his mother after his parents separated. After attending Dulwich College in London, he went on to attain his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Canada. Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen in 1962. With his 1970 publication, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Ondaatje came into critical prominence. Part memoir,

part poetry and part non-fiction, the book challenges traditional notions of the novel. He followed that up with equally complex works: In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through the Slaughter and of course, The English Patient. It was adapted by director Anthony Minghella into an acclaimed movie that swept nine Academy Awards in 1996 and grossed in excess of US$78 million. In spite of such fame and fortune, Ondaatje remains humble and very much down-to-earth, as The Edge Singapore discovered in a chat with him recently in Bali where he was the main draw at the Ubud Writers’ Festival: “I’m not sure how stories are made yet, but I begin with a kernel, a grain of sand, an image perhaps. With The English Patient, it was a man in a bed talking to a nurse. I’d write about why he was there. Was he alone in the plane crash? Who was he? I have no idea how it’d connect up but gradually, it builds up, like pieces of crystal, and you create a character. So what happens is that the book goes forward but you yourself are going backwards and researching. It’s like archaeology. You’re digging to find the bodies and why they’re there and how they had died. It’s probably an unhealthy way of writing; so don’t try this at home! Some writers know exactly what they’re


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going to do when they write a book. But if I knew what I was going to write, I’d be bored! I’m waiting for guests, in some way, to come in. It’s interesting to keep the doors open all the time so somebody else can enter the story. I don’t know what the characters are going to say but I just create a conversation and then see how it goes. Whatever you’re interested in, in your life, at that time, and the kind of world you’re in, comes into it. [For instance,] I didn’t know that the character Kip [in The English Patient] was going to be in the book until halfway through it. I didn’t even know that Hana was Hana until about 30 or 40 pages into it. This is why the process of rewriting and editing becomes twice as important. It’s like making a documentary. You don’t go in there with a preconceived idea to prove that x is bad and y is good. You discover what the story is. You discover the ideas in the art of writing. Things like the theme – you understand it only at the end. I actually began as a poet. What I like about poetry is that it’s an intimate whisper. So when I write prose, I take the best in a poem. You don’t say everything. You don’t need so many bridges. You make the book as tight as you can without using too many words. I used to be able to write prose and po-

etry simultaneously but now, it’s become difficult. It’s either one thing or the other. I also learned a lot about writing through film. Film affected me in how I edit my books, in the care and precise way you edit the frames. I was happy with The English Patient [the film] but at the same time, it was not my book. I like Minghella well enough as an artist and I knew it had to be different. I wouldn’t want to sit through two hours of a patient talking to a nurse! Winning the Booker Prize was important to me because it allowed me freedom to write full-time. Being celebrated [as a writer] has a lot of positive things about it. You can meet people you need to meet. Not socially but when you try to work on something or do some research. At the same time, you do lose your privacy. You try to keep a balance. So I usually don’t do many interviews!”

Felix Cheong was the recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist of the Year for Literature Award in 2000. His three books of poetry are Temptation and Other Poems (1998), I Watch the Stars Go Out (1999) and Broken by the Rain (2003). The latter was shortlisted for the 2004 Singapore Literature Prize. He has also published a motivational book, Different (2005), which was commissioned by the National Youth Council and includes interviews with more than 50 successful Singaporeans like singer Kit Chan and entrepreneur Charles Wong. Felix Cheong was a featured writer at the Ubud Writers’ Festival held in October. His trip was funded by the National Arts Council.

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incorporating writing

Cubicle Escapee
Column by Sharon Sadle remote cabins, taking side trips to slot canyons and whatever else i could cram into long weekends. though i’ve had the grandest time in colorado, in retrospect, i’ve lived it up a bit too much to leave not feeling torn, undone and broke (which, i’ve decided, should be considered part of the adventure). my friend tom, the one who has headed the mississippi trip effort so far, is now officially a skipper after completing a safe boating class and talks in short gasping breaths about all things river and boat. he also shared a few stories that made me keep, for now, the rest of my part of the boat money safely close to my breast, namely pulling a guy’s tooth in exchange for a gun. though i didn’t get any details that made sense over our always sub par phone connection, i’ve decided to throw my cautionary pauses aside and proceed along. with or without money, broken heart or a hundred percent enthusiasm, i’ll take my one way ticket and backpack and soon be heading to meet tom in chicago to begin the trip. we’ll trailer the boat to minnesota, and there i’ll meet up with more new friends (a constantly changing group of those who swear they’re coming along), load my load onto the little pontoon platform that’ll be home for the next two or so months and shove off at the headwaters of the mississippi river, lake itasca. from beneath the up-

As the june 1 launch date of my 2300 hundred mile trip down the mississippi river crowds in on the fun i’ve been having in colorado, i’m getting set to endure another series of goodbyes, another two week notice at one more job and another pack up everything i own scene. maybe some day i’ll be accustomed to the pick up and go routine. for now, it’s weighing heavily, giving me shadowy dreams and causing reconsideration at every turn. my advice to anyone trying to make a work/ travel/repeat cycle a success: work hard. work really hard at two jobs or as many as you can fit into a day and don’t make friends. then, when it’s time to move on, instead of feeling nostalgic and being broke, you can go without regret and be flush with cash to finance whatever might be down the road. i’ve worked minimally and blown my dough nearly as fast as it was made learning to ski, backpacking to

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turned john boat that serves as our escape pod/part of the roof, i’ll be keeping a sharp lookout for spring thaw dislodged floating logs, navigational buoys and the high adventure mark twain wrote of. my poor, hand wringing ma can blame my river float dream on him. for now, i’m basking in the last few weeks of lowly humid, comfortably liberal, tall mountains just to the west, denver. all the hiking has trimmed me down and i dread getting fat and grilled as i lounge for endless days on the scratchy astroturf deck, nothing to eat but high sodium soup and just add water this and that. nothing to do but slip in and out of restless sleep as we float into a hot southern summer. brooding in dreadful fear is one way of dealing with uncertainty and i’ve embraced it almost thoroughly. dread of the mental discomfort of being in constant close proximity with others, dread of no email, of no control over river currents. i fear i’ll be bored. i fear the great time i’ve had in colorado will never be matched. once i bore myself with enough fear and dread, i’ll release my cares and then be prepared for the free wheeling fun i’m counting on this trip to be. i will harmonica off tune to the banjo that won’t be strummed in time. if i tire of taking in the scenery, i can busy myself organizing and reorganizing my quarter of the 8x24 foot deck, pouring over navigational charts and plotting out island layovers. then, if we don’t sink the boat or drown before new orleans, this dream

will finally be put to rest. another experience under my belt. and when it’s time to temporarily go back to work, to fund whatever is next (the pacific northwest? the john muir trail? maybe some time overseas?), i’ll try to keep at least the first part of my own advice in mind: work hard, work really hard, because i know that with just the tiniest bit of money, anything i can cook up is possible.
Sharon Sadle escaped her cubicle on september 22, 2005. she’s been traveling away from her hometown in florida by car, north and west, ever since. from the road, sharon writes about coffee with strikers, darts with bartenders, forays into abandoned factories and contemplative discomposure along the byways of the united states. her stash of socks totals 44 pairs.

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“In writing a book, I probably have a better feeling for human nature that I had before”

Jeffrey Archer: From Disgrace to Deliverance
Interview by Felix Cheong

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Jeffrey Archer, whose novels and short stories include Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, Kane & Abel and Twist in the Tale, has topped the bestseller lists around the world, with sales of over 120 million copies. The author has served five years in the House of Commons, fourteen years in the House of Lords, and two in Her Majesty’s prisons, which spawned three highly acclaimed Prison Diaries. False Impression is his first novel since being released from prison, and he is currently working on a screenplay and a new volume of short stories, entitled Cat of Nine Tales. The author is married with two children, and lives in London and Cambridge. Your new book has a painting at the centre of the story. This sounds suspiciously like Dan Brown’s novel. What’s your take? (cynical laugh) That is sheer coincidence, because his is a code and mine is nothing like that. (Goes on to relate story) I needed a picture that was universally understood to be worth a hundred million American dollars. That really only meant Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh. I chose Van Gogh because there’re two self-portraits with bandaged ear. One is in a private collection and the other is in the Courtauld Museum in London. As long as there’s one in private collection, no one can see it. That was the reason. It had nothing to do with Mr Brown at all.

How difficult was it to weave 911 into the story? Very difficult. You didn’t want to make it look as though you were doing it purposely. You wanted to make it look casual; you wanted it to make it look as though it fitted the story. That takes a lot of work. Then there’s all the research. I read about 10 different people’s descriptions of escaping from the tower. I read three books: one by the firemen, one by the policemen and one, the official report by the government. I put it all into one and then I put myself on the 82nd floor and made my way down mentally, until I escaped. I know New York very well indeed. Of course I wasn’t there when the towers came down. I had a friend working – one of my researchers was there – she was able to give me very hands-on description. No plans to include the London bombing in the next book. It doesn’t interest me. I know what the next two books are. When you’ve done something like this, you don’t want to repeat yourself. I like to move on and do something totally different. In what way has age made you a better writer? I think you do get more matured. When you sit down to write a new book, you start with more knowledge of how you set the thing out, where you should be going. In the end, you still have to have


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a story, If you didn’t have a story, then you can’t write a book, however professional you are, however good you are technically. What have you learned in prison that has proven useful for your writing? More about human beings. Being a very middle-class person, and the tremendous advantages I’ve had in life which many other people have not had. I think certainly how lucky I’ve been. In writing a book, I probably have a better feeling for human nature that I had before. If you lived with people for two years who have nothing – some are drug addicts, some are just evil people – you do realise there’s a different world out there. What was it like running a creative writing workshop for these guys? Very interesting. Some of them were genuine, some of them were not. One of them is doing a degree now. He did a BA and an MA; and he’s going to do a PhD. One of the boys I taught. He’s got a good brain. And he will come out the other end with a PhD in media studies; that’s good. Some critics have accused you of cashing in on your time in prison. What’s your defence? I haven’t read anything like that. If someone said it, I wouldn’t bother to defend it. To have your books compared to Dostoevsky – anyone who said I was cashing in is either a fool or very envious.

What’s your motivation behind wanting to rejoin the Party? No motivation at all. I just want to apply for normal membership. No big deal. Amazing really [the storm generated by it] I did a charity auction last week for Michael Vaughan, captain of the England cricket team and I raised 287,000 pounds and it didn’t get a mention in one paper. I applied to join my local Conservative association and it was front page. I’m puzzled by what is news. What’s your assessment of the terrorist situation now? Just as bad and just as dangerous. You can never tell what’s going to happened next or where it’s going to happen next. We’re in what I call a Third World War – that’s enough, thanks [to photographer]. It’s giving me a headache. You now have a new world which involves terrorists and they’re going to attack wherever they like. They can take the risks and kill indiscriminately. 911 wasn’t the beginning of it but the most audacious of the attacks. We also have London bombings and the Bali bombings. This isn’t going to stop.I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to stop them. For them, it’s a religious fervour and it’s going to go on and on, right or wrong. They just believe that killing people is the answer. Fanatics? Yes, good word.

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The Right Man
Article by Sam Morris time of the contests anyway). The rapbattle or open-mic (microphone) contests consists of two MCs or rappers taking turns to deliver their own style of lyrics over a looped synthesised percussion beat. Each MC’s lyrics are balanced between pre-practised verse and improvised response to the opponent MC’s lines. The crowds at these events, which are staged at such diverse locations as the top floor of Hackney Market car park to pirate radio stations housed in suburban housing estates, dictate the outcome of the battles by cheering for the MC they feel has ‘won’. As would be expected, there is much talk of how rich, strong, attractive, promiscuous, loved, hated, admired or despised the individual MC is. This is then delivered in varying, but nonetheless tentatively universal, colloquial slang. An example from one of these modern day urban poets may aid my explanation. Below is an excerpt from The Mercury Award winner Dizzee Rascal: delivering, on pirate radio, a ‘freestyle’ (improvised) flourish of vocabulary in an attempt to ‘put down’ the MC Crazy Titch: “I can hear you, I don’t need to be near you./I hear you talking out your backside squat squeeze,/But I don’t want to hear the bull so stop please./Cos you don’t clock G’s,/ And you ain’t doing no shows for no top fees,/Or travel over seas./On no adventures like Hercules./Full of beans but you

Across London, its surrounding counties and satellite towns that mimic their overflowing, older sibling, there are underground contests and rumblings that almost go unheard of outside their own immediate circles. These are not violent or cruel physical battles or viscous blood sports, although they do have a taste for the inherent testosterone fuelled competition that arises in those vile forums. The underground contests that I am interested in are clashes of wit, vocabulary and timing, coupled with delivery, unshakeable confidence, lightening response to your surroundings and intimate empathy with your fellow individual (at the


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ain’t mashing peas./So why you lying to the city geez…” Razor blade cutting insults coupled with self-assertion of status and wealth all delivered as sharp as can be. “G’s” are ‘grand’s’, one thousand pounds. I hope that the above will give you a flavour of the oral aggression and egoism that must be maintained to ‘win’ a rapbattle. Most would feel that this is an obviously male dominated arena. But it is an indefinable quirk of our modern western culture that women also rise to this role with true relish and viscous verbal acumen. There are many acclaimed female MCs. However, regardless of sex, the key to success is always wit, confidence verging on arrogance and the ability to orally assert yourself over other contender. Yet I do not want to dwell on the intimate details of the UK urban music scene. Rather use this specific facet - the rapbattle - and its intrinsic self-confidence and verification of the individual to shed some light on a little known pamphlet written by a quite well known author. Most regard as a science fiction writer working during the ascent of the genre’s Golden Age, through the 40’s and into the 50’s. Yet he did produce a handful of straight novels. One of which he obviously felt was of such importance as to write an accompanying pamphlet, a sort of explanation. The Violent Man was published in 1962, with its small explanatory text A Report on The Violent Male staying

unpublished1 until the saviours of obscure philosophical texts, Paupers’ Press, issued their copy in 1992. In the fourteen chapters of the pamphlet Van Vogt’s sets out his theory of ‘the violent male’ or as he later calls him ‘the right man’, a type of individual that under no circumstance can ever admit to being wrong. The type of person who will argue and rage if their opinions are ever questioned, or their self-esteem challenged. The type of person an MC would need to be if he or she are to ‘win’ a rap-battle. As Roberto Anton Wilson puts it in The New Inquisition…

“Whether this action be striking your wife or signing the execution of six million Jews”
“This is not a concept from clinical or experimental psychology. It is a mere empirical generalisation by the writer A. E. Van Vogt, in a pamphlet Report on the Violent Male… The Violent Male...seems to be a man who literally cannot, ever, admit he might be wrong, he knows he is right... Van Vogt found that an astonishing amount of violence is committed by these males, and he calls the type The Right Man, because this man always insists he is Right....” In the novel The Violent Man Van Vogt’s writes about Chinese attempts to brainwash American prisoners of war captured and detained in a prison camp. The camp

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commander is the ‘right man’ of the novel and displays the above characteristics. Yet what Van Vogt’s highlights as his motivation in the pamphlet is from a far more everyday or domestic setting in comparison to the hierarchy of a prison camp. The pamphlet is full of examples of husbands treating their wives in the most intolerable and outright hypocritical manner. One example cites a man who sets up his divorced wife in a home yet expects her to live as a sort of celibate nurse to their child. Devoting herself to their son’s welfare while remaining unmarried, while he was free to do as he wished and lived a life of promiscuity. Throughout the marriage he had been violent and craved the status of absolute master over her. Yet a peculiar aspect of ‘the violent male’ is the fact that the women, or the direction of his assertion, seem to be the foundation or cornerstone of his whole existence. In many of the examples Van Vogt’s highlights the men lose all purpose if the women in their lives leave; or, at times, even threaten to leave. They may become suicidal, or sink into depression, drugs or alcohol. Total moral collapse. As Van Vogt’s writes: “If she leaves him or starts divorce proceedings, he presently goes into a frantic emotional state. The death-thought begins to show: tears, wild appeals, desperate anxiety: ‘Don’t leave me, I love you more than life’

The further application of ‘the right man’ physiological state of mind can be seen in the horrific irrationality of many dictators. Van Vogt’s argues that Stalin, Hitler and Mao Tse-Tung were all ‘violent men’. With a dominant characteristic of the ‘right man’ being a refusal to recognise that he is ever wrong an eternal spiral of selfverification can be ridden to any ends that the mind can take; however twisted or perverse. Wild outbursts of rage can be justified later on the grounds that he had been pushed passed all reasonable limits and anyone would have done the same. The individual will rationalise anything and necessarily distort facts to whatever means needed, using this for ground for further action. Whether this action be striking your wife or signing the execution of six million Jews. Now these are extreme examples. What is of interest is that there are clearly degrees of ‘right man’ tendencies. When a dangerous drivers cuts you up in traffic and you flash or beep your horn complaining to your passenger of their inferior driving ability or lack of community care you are displaying a ‘right man’ aspect; asserting your view. Or you watch television and all knowingly chuckle at the misadventures of others or pontificate over the mismanagement of others children we are all displaying (in a diluted form) ‘right man’ tendencies. I suspect that many readers will feel that to a greater of lesser degree, the ‘cap fits’ so to speak. Every individual has his or her opinions tainted by their views and


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values, and crucially are liable to rise to the defence of them or impose their own interpretation of the ‘facts’. Yet what is of far greater importance is the fact that the ‘right man’ is ultimately obsessed with his view of the world around him, his perception. This is far reaching if we pass out of the realms of domestic strife or even politics and look at the bigger picture. When an artist paints a picture, or a poet captures his concerns in verse, both are essentially saying ‘this is how I see the world’. Or in other words ‘I am right’. Yet the assertions of the artistic realm sway from the glory of Blake or Turner, the optimism of Shaw or Whitman to the pessimism of Goya or the angst of Max Beckman or Beckett’s work. They can not all be right. Now I am not saying that they were all ‘right men’ in the extreme. Nor I am I passing value on the status of the ‘right man’. I simply aim to highlight that there is an essential characteristic of creativity that is intrinsic in all ‘right men’ activities. Even a scientist who approaches an issue with intense empirical objectivity, with a mind to be a passive observer, level headed, detached, logical; is, to an extent, saying ‘others are not like this, I am right in this frame of mind’. In the same way a down trodden individual who has been unlucky in employment and in love, and creates vast conspiracy theories about how society does not accommodate his ‘type’ and all are against him could be seen to be creating and validating his

own opinions in one stroke. In A Criminal History of Mankind Colin Wilson describes the ‘Right Man’s’ circular existence as follows… “He is a man driven by a manic need for self-esteem — to feel that he is a ‘somebody.’ He is obsessed by the question of ‘losing face,’ so he will never, under any circumstances, admit that he might be in the wrong…the Right Man is an ‘idealist’…he lives in his own mental world and does his best to ignore aspects of reality that conflict with it…reality can always be ‘adjusted’ later to fit his glorified picture of himself. The Right Man hates losing face; if he suspects that his threats are not being taken seriously, he is capable of carrying them out, purely for the sake of appearances…the central characteristic of the Right Man is the decision to be out of control, in some particular area. We all have to learn selfcontrol to deal with the real world and other people. But with some particular person — a mother, a wife, a child — we may decide that this effort is not necessary and allow ourselves to explode. But — and here we come to the very heart of the matter — this decision creates, so to speak, a permanent weak-point in the boiler, the point at which it always bursts…What is so interesting here is the way the Right Man’s violent emotion reinforces his sense of being justified, and his sense of justification increases his rage. He is locked into a kind of vicious spiral, and he cannot escape until he has spent

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his fury…The Right Man feels that his rage is a storm that has to be allowed to blow itself out, no matter what damage it causes. But this also means that he is the slave of an impulse he cannot control; his property, even the lives of those he loves, are at the mercy of his emotions.” Van Vogt’s tends to keep his analysis of the ‘violent male’ with a clear mind on the violent results of these individuals, specifically when it leads to death. He peppers chapter seven of the pamphlet with newspaper headlines such as… Husband Invades Christmas Party… Shooting Wife… Grief Stricken When She Would Not Reconcile. Wife Stabbed To Death… Unfaithful Says Husband. Amazed Friends Say He Was Unfaithful, Not She. Admittedly the text, itself, does, at times, feel like a slice of tabloid sensationalism. Endless case after case of megalomaniac husbands inflicting their will onto pitiful wives. Yet this does drive home the severity, in the domestic realm, of the extreme ‘right man’s’ world; as it was a privately published piece, and is intended to be read with the novel, this tabloid feel is all forgivable. It must be noted that there needs to be a certain degree of ‘right man’ characteristics in an individual if there is to be any real attainment of creative progression. Arguably if one is to reach any sort of creative peak, on a subjective plain, then

‘right man’ tendencies must play a part. The assertion of ones own vision, and the defence of your vision is the fundamental structure of belief. You do not have to be a liked individual if you are driven by your own vision. The value, moral or otherwise, is not at question here. The ‘right man’ could be a saint or a sadist. Isaac Newton was known to be a sour, suspicious and deeply religious man. Yet his moments of great inspiration came out of, what could be seen to be, a very wrongheaded but self-assertive frame of mind. Wagner treated his patrons, and many women, in an atrocious manner while also enveloping his whole being inside epic moments of creativity. Did these people need their ‘right man’ aspects to create? I think not, but to create what they created – high art, high thought – I think it must be clear that self confidence and the assertion of ones own will on your surroundings (key ‘right man’ attributes) are intrinsic in many moments of inspiration and creativity.

Van Vogt’s did privately publish a copy at the time of the novel that

Colin Wilson describes as being in ‘unreadable type’ in his introduction to the Paupers’ Press 2003 edition.

Sam Morris is a freelance writer, living in London, with a foundation and training in Art History. He has previously worked with contemporary artists on various exhibition reviews and artist statements of intent and influence. Yet his main areas of interest are concerned with Existential writings and works that express the Romantic impetus towards elevated consciousness and human emotional understanding. Sam Morris can be contacted by email at:


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Recommended Read Hungry Ghosts, Debbie Taylor
(Penguin, 368pp, ISBN 9780141012438, £7.99) narrative voice for the other, Taylor proves herself to be an inspired narrator. Her characterisation of Sylvia reflects her own experiences of loss and travel, but it is her depiction of Martin which is most impressive. Taylor has taken a true story of an eleven year-old boy and made it her own; his character is flawlessly drawn and Taylor’s ability to visualise the thoughts and feelings of a young boy, scarred by his seclusion and mother’s illness, is supreme and provides strong evidence for the depth of her research. Debbie Taylor’s second novel, Hungry Ghosts is an eclectic fusion of mass appeal and literariness. A career woman’s growing disillusionment with life directs her towards Crete and a new love; this is the standard holiday fiction of thirty-somethings. The rural landscape, unsullied by pollution and urbanisation, and the colourful Greek lifestyle provide a form of escapism which is so revered by twenty-first century readers. However, the darkness evoked by this novel sets it apart from its peers. Themes of obsession, forbidden desire, shame and loss permeate the novel to its core and enable Taylor to craft a work which is disappointment and obsession. Through the ease with which she exchanges one Taylor’s prolific use of imagery helps to bring an exotic setting and its vivid characters to life for the reader, whilst also managing to add depth to more familiar aspects of everyday life. Her metaphor for the internet, a blue trail, really strikes home in both its accuracy and its originality. It is therefore rather disappointing to encounter so clichéd an ending, a flavour of self-help books, a taste of the mundane in an otherwise rather spicy novel. It smacks of the holiday romance, a category which Hungry Ghosts repeatedly attempts to struggle out of. It seems to have succeeded in this endeavour, although perhaps at the cost of some, in Taylor’s own words, die-hard ‘Lit Lite’ readers. REBECCA MOOR

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Island, Jean Grenier
(Green Integer Books, No 131, 128pp, ISBN 1-892295-95-4, $12.95) ‘In the period in which I discovered Islands I believe I wanted to write. But I truly decided to do so only after reading the book.’ He goes on to say that sometimes he writes sentences as if they were his own that do, in fact, appear in this book. He talks of being transfigured by what he read. All of which, although very adulatory, did not lead me to think that I would enjoy the book that followed. However, although these essays are beautifully written, erudite musings on the nature of life and death, Grenier’s approach to these momentous subjects is to write about the more mundane - his childhood, or his cat; his friendship with a dying butcher, or his travels. These hold all the charm of a sun drenched French afternoon. His observations of his cat Mouloud are sensual and amusing: ‘A new slumber commences, lighter, more pleasant, like the one of women in large cities between nine and eleven in the morning. In such moments cats love to be caressed softly. You must pass a hand behind their ear so that they throw their head back. It is then possible to caress their chin and their chest between the forelegs.’ But Grenier moves on to observe himself observing Mouloud, realising how the cat is entirely one with his actions and comparing this with what it means to be human. He uses the cat to discuss society

I admit it: I’m an intellectual lightweight. I don’t keep a copy of Bertrand Russell by my bed and discuss Kant with my friends. So when I received a book in the post which was billed as lyrical essays by a French philosopher, and the first chapter was called ‘The Attraction of the Void’, my heart sank. How wrong I was. This is a gem of a book, a complete delight and I feel enriched to have read it. These essays were first published in 1933, and then republished with a preface by Albert Camus in 1948. Grenier, although a philosopher, essayist and author in his own right, also found fame as Camus’ teacher. His influence was profound. Camus writes in the introduction


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at large, love and, always, death. He asks the question in the essay The Blessed Islands ‘Why travel?’ His answer is that ‘travel can be the stimulant necessary for awakening those feelings that slumber in everyday life. You travel, then, in order to gather in a month or in a year a dozen rare sensations, those which can awaken in you an inward song without which all that you feel will remain without value.’ Quite. This might not be the most profound of his statements or conclusions but it epitomises the clarity of language and the precision with which he pinpoints aspects of human life. For Grenier, the void is never far from view. He feels time passing, he wants to create a void, to interrupt time. Certain spectacles of travel, the bay of Naples or the flowered terraces of Capri, do not bring ‘absolute fulfilment, but instead carves out in us an infinite void’. ‘Sunlight creates a void.’ However, quite what the nature of this void is for him is, to me, unclear. I wonder whether perhaps it is the stillness that he writes of elsewhere – ‘At the very moment in which a tumultuous passion attains paroxysm, at this very moment it fashions a great silence within the soul.’ My only quibble with the book is the chapter on ‘Imaginary India’. This essay compares Hindu religion, culture and history with Greco-Roman civilisation. His conclusions feel dated, rooted in an India dominated by an imperial power,

and romanticised and diminished by the west. He refers to ‘an inhuman people’, and to Hindus as taking an interest only in dreams. He states that India ‘has not known a coming of age. She appears in our eyes in perpetual childhood...’ This essay, perhaps alone, has not stood the test of time.

“For Grenier, the void is never far from view. He feels time passing, he wants to create a void, to interrupt time”
However, I do not think that this one should detract from the other essays. There are so many thoughts to savour. ‘How beautiful are those instants in which desire in on the verge of being satisfied.’ ‘A wound, well, you resign yourself to it; but pinpricks every day, that is intolerable. Seen in its vastness, existence is tragic; up close it is absurdly petty.’ And the funny, as in his description of a mortician and exhumer of graves: ‘A good situation, steady, albeit better in dry times than in times of rain.’ These essays reward being read again and again. The design of the book is perfect – it slips easily into the pocket to be taken out and dipped into at the bus stop or on the tube. I, for one, shall be doing just that. CLARE REDDAWAY


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Killing Neptune’s Daughter, Randall Peffer
(Speck Press, ISBN: 1 933108 05 3, £8.99) former whaler Neptune, growing up in the fishing town of Woods Hole, Cape Cod, where she was known to the local boys as ‘Tina the Tease’. It’s a world she left behind in her teens. When she fled to New York to make a new life for herself, far from the ghosts of her haunted and troubled past. A new life that ultimately ended in a lonely and frightful death at the hands of one of those ghosts she fled. So begins a sombre reunion back in Woods Hole for sports journalist Billy Bagwell. Like Tina, he fled his childhood home to make his life anew in the Big Apple. Like Tina, he brought something rotten with him. There’s much more than old friends and past mistakes waiting to greet him at the funeral. Some of them think he might be the killer. And of not, they suspect he knows who it might be. So begins the recollection of the life they knew as adolescents, growing up in a fishing port that was itself on the verge of change. Misdeeds and misadventures, sexual experimentation, self-loathing and mad exploits are resurrected, as Billy — once known as ‘Bagger, the crazy Bagman’ — is forced to re-examine his past and confront the sordid acts that

Talk about a slap in the face. Just as the book appears to reveal its twisting path to the centre of the maze, it sidesteps into another avenue and bang: the reader is left reeling, as they realise they were heading up a dead end. The end in question is that of Noelle Werlin, the celebrity wife of New York rock legend Butch Werlin. He’s the prime suspect when Noelle turns up dead in savage circumstance. Raped, sliced up and with a marlin spike skewering her heart. It’s a brutal end to what was described as a Cinderella life story. In a previous existence, she was Celestina de Oliveira. The daughter of

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have poisoned his life for the last 35 years. Underlying all their interweaved stories are two terrible, innocence-stealing events that forever bound Tina and Billy together. He does indeed known who the killer is, but like the reader, his memories have led him up a blind alley. He’s in for as much a slap in the face as those accompanying him along the pages. This is an excellent psychological thriller, touching upon the experiences of young people growing up in a time of profound change. Not just for their local home, or for themselves as adolescents stumbling into confused adulthood, but for the world as the Vietnam war rages and in time some of their number face the dreaded draft. Peffer has created an enthralling, if disturbing picture, of adolescent coming of age gone wrong, in a picturesque, if moody environment. The atmosphere is intense, and filled with a suitable foreboding as the characters and the readers try to find clues to the present in the murky, suppressed past. They all loved Tina, in their way, they all despised her too. She was the ‘easy lay’ and so the girl they all sought out. They were the ‘Tina Toys’ and she played with them, as if her sexual favours granted power. Ultimately, it was her downfall. As they uncover the hidden history of their lives, they reveal that Tina was the tragic

victim of a crime and a criminal that has continued to shape their lives — even to the present day. It’s not what you think, as Butch Werlin might say as he sweats on the sidelines, and the truth will strike like that fateful marlin spike. MARK CANTRELL

On spec
the Canadian magazine of the fantastic, Summer issue (Copper Pig Writers Society, ISSN 0843 476X, 112 pages, $5.95) ‘On spec, the Canadian magazine of the fantastic’ is a first-rate journal of horror,


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science fiction and the fantastic. It contains both poetry and fiction. Its first story, ‘Rat Patrol’ works because of the ordinariness of its setting. Arthur Low patrols an out of the way countryside for rats, presumably laying down rat poison.  He has taken on a young boy, Jake, as an apprentice. As the story unfolds, the fantastic enters in, and it turns out he is not really patrolling “this particularly nasty stretch of land along the Southeastern border of Alberta” for rats, but for the supernatural. A dead man, Hank, has been resurrected by a supernatural entity and it is taking over his soul. Hank wants to kill his widow. After Arthur kills the possessed husband, (body and soul), he has a vision of Jake, also possessed by the same supernatural being, drenched in blood.  The widow suggests Arthur keep Jake with him anyway: ”What if,” she said, “what if It wants you to send the boy away?  What if you’re stronger having him here? You can’t trust a vision that came from, you know.  That ‘having a kid around’ is like a second chance for you, Arthur.  Maybe It doesn’t want to see you happy - ou ever thought about that?”. The story works on two levels - the fantastic and the psychological.  Arthur’s loneliness at work is as critical to the story as his battle against evil. Some of the other stories present an ordinary setting where the supernatural subtly infiltrates. In ‘Boys Night Out’ a group of women get together for “cookies and

conversation”. They live in a new development of condominiums, and one of the woman at the party is new there and oblivious to the trickier undercurrents of conversation.  As they wander through the backyard, they discover human body parts, as the supernatural intrudes on the story’s realism. In ‘Monsters of the Deep’ - a science fiction story, the language is crisp and clear - not a spare word is used, in keeping with the action, which is fastpaced and decisive. Hernandez tries to rescue the crew of a ship taken over by aliens, and this involves him in contradictions. In ‘Testing Edon’ the mystery of this excellent fantasy piece gradually unravels, and the depths of study the apprentice must engage in before he has mastered his magic become clear. Although the poetry is not as outstanding as the stories, it makes for an interesting read. The content of the magazine was excellent. The magazine is nicely designed, the print a comfortable size. It is an easy read. The stories and poetry are accessible. I would read it again and subscribe. LINDA BENNINGHOFF

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The Sugar Mile, Glyn Maxwell
(Picador Poetry ISBN 0-330-43824-7, £8.99) The book is centred around its three principles, holed up in a New York bar on Broadway and 86th; Joey Stone, bar fly and veteran New Yorker of British-Italian descent; Maxwell, or his literary approximation known variously as Glen/Clint/ Glyn, who comes to the bar to write poetry; and Raul, the bartender, who has a motor mouth and a spelling problem. Narrative flits between east London, Black Saturday, September 7th 1940, and New York, the weekend of September 8th 2001, a clean and clear sunlit Saturday. What is striking is the huge cast of characters drawn by Maxwell, all speaking in the first person; Joey, Raul, and Granny May and the bombed out Pray’s, Robby, Julie, Harry, Sally, Betsy and even baby Lily, whose voices have lived with Joey for 60 years. Maxwell clearly employs his skills as a dramatist to voice and control his cast, himself stating: I tried to give my characters new forms to speak in. I do have sestinas, sonnets and quatrains in there, but they need to be fresh, responsive to real speech. I gave them strong forms to speak in because strong forms – rhyme, metre, rep-

I was presented with something of a conundrum when called upon to review a book of poetry by a writer who is already in receipt of the Somerset Maugham Award, E. M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Geoffrey Faber Prize for Poetry. It is all too easy for the reviewer, keen to fit into the lit-flock, to want desperately to like the work of such a writer. Conversely it all too easy for this reviewer to want to dislike the much lauded before I start. So it was with a determination to strike a balance between these conflicting predispositions that I tackled Glyn Maxwell’s narrative poem, The Sugar Mile.


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etition – are memorable. The principles voices are clear enough and their narrative missions cleanly drawn. Joey, in his drunken lyric sprawl unveils the secrets that explain why he left London; Raul takes care of bar business in hackneyed New York style, hinting occasionally at the disaster about to befall his city; and Glen/Glyn/Clint simply scares off women with poetry, and listens so he may record and recall. Herein lies the problem I have with this work. It is all a little too clean and clear, clever in a too-knowing way. Maxwell has descended into the convenience of cliché and stereotype. I certainly feel strongly that Raul is the amalgam of one thousand and one stage and screen New York bartenders, all worldly-wise, wise-ass and smart mouth with a lyric twist, Keep moving you can move the goddam world! Stand still, you wanna stand still, you do that – You lovely ladies gonna need ID – Nothing comes of nothing. Gotta try it, right? – Hey, I’m from Cleveland like you, Cheyenne, you married? What? It’s all my business! Equally it is all too convenient that the bar Glen/Glyn/Clint wanders into three days before 9/11 features habitué Joey Stone, Blitz boy become barfly gone bad,

or more pointedly, pickled. Of course the literary Maxwell is in a bar writing poetry on a glorious late summer Saturday – who wouldn’t be? Ultimately the development of character is basic and wooden. I have read a description of Maxwell’s virtuosity in which he is described as a ‘ventriloquist’ and it is very tempting to accept this given that his characters feel like dummies, animated only when he inserts his poetic hand into their inanimate backs. Be not under the illusion that The Sugar Mile is anything other than a very ambitious, lofty, erudite, and perhaps significant book. Unfortunately what it is not is entirely successful in realising its ambition, nor is it sufficiently engaging nor convincing. Maxwell alludes strongly to an intrinsic link, psychologically, memorially, intellectually, and physically (through Joey), between the London of the Blitz and post-9/11 New York. This link is never forged; the bridge between the two places and events is never fully constructed. What you are left with is the dual melancholia of displaced Englishmen, Joey and Maxwell. Bluntly, this is insufficient. While the book has a strong base in fact Maxwell somehow finds a means to deliver the tendentious. I feel this is redolent of distance from his subject, a notion that appears borne out in Maxwell’s own words from a conversation with Jennie Renton at the 2005 Edinburgh International Book Festival,

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I suppose one does feel a bit of an outsider. That’s the central contradiction about being a poet at all - on the one point, you’re supposed to be speaking representatively in some way, and saying things that are universal; on the other hand, because you’ve chosen to be that, you are doing something very unusual and you’ve carved out some sort of lonely space that most people don’t inhabit. As a reviewer I admire this work for all it seeks to do though I do not wholly believe in it: I respect Maxwell as an obviously hugely gifted writer with a breadth and depth of mastery of his art that is rare: a writer capable of attempting to improve upon Eliot’s Prufrock technique is clearly very gifted. As a reader I do not feel able to recommend this book. One reader thought adheres to the core of the reviewer cerebrum, refusing to be shaken free, This is the type of book that drives GCSE English students from poetry for life. G. P. KENNEDY

of an important Basque politician, giving rise to this page-turning read. Part of the pull of the story comes from the conflict within Milius himself. He is supposedly rebuilding a very different life for himself in Madrid, after being abandoned by MI6, following a very unfortunate operation against the CIA. He has effectively been on the run for six years, but has nevertheless found a new home, job and relationship – albeit that the latter, with a married woman, brings its own problems and limitations. However, he remains a victim of his own fatal fascination for secrets, and deception is still his true vocation. This leads him into collision with the intelligence authorities, whom he used to serve. He may no longer be answerable to them, but he is now even more expendable. The sense of menace mounts towards a climax where Milius is pitted against modern terror and faces a challenge, which can also turn his life around. Cummings handles the twists in this story with captivating dexterity. The complex political background is interwoven with the lives of the characters and feeds naturally into the dialogue, so as to avoid any feel of heavy exposition, which can often slow down this type of novel. The language is simple but never cliched. The level of detail evokes the setting perfectly and an atmosphere of constant danger, beneath the apparently ordinary, is present throughout. The reader empathises with Milius, despite his sang froid

The Spanish Game, Charles Cumming
(Michael Joseph, Hardback, 386pp, ISBN 0-718-14726-X, £12.99) This is an intriguing spy novel set in Spain, and featuring Cumming’s hero, Alec Milius, from his earlier highly successful A Spy by Nature. Milius remains true to that nature, and is drawn into the mystery surrounding the disappearance


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and ruthlessness as a means of self-preservation, because he is a flawed hero, haunted by his own past and the death of his former lover. The violence in the novel jolts the reader but is not gratuitous. Cummings draws on his own background, having been recruited for MI6 after leaving university. This gives authenticity to his writing, and he is a worthy successor to John le Carre. The Spanish Game is a tense and compelling spy thriller, which will appeal to lovers of the genre and readers in general. HELEN SHAY

The Ballroom on Magnolia Street, Sharon Owens
WIN THE HOW TO BOOK WITH A DIFFERENCE Mat Coward’s Success . . . And How To Avoid cobines humour with practical information, and is based firmly on hard-won personal knowledge, it’s a tonic, an antidote, a survival kit for every writer who is fed up with being told how easy it is to write yourself a fortune. Available at Win a copy of this book by sending anecdotes about your writing career experiences to us at The best will be published in the next issue and one lucky reader will receive a copy. Deadline 30th June 2006

(Penguin 2006, 375 pages. ISBN 0-14101873-9) If you are looking for an escapist, humorous and heart-warming read, then The Ballroom on Magnolia Street will do very well. Following her recent success with The Tea House on Mulberry Street, which delighted the critics with its ‘mouth-watering’ descriptions of food, Sharon Owens focuses creates a second engaging romantic comedy, set against a Belfast backdrop. In this novel, from a black satin posing pouch to a wedding gown

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‘dripping with frills and lace and glitter tipped rosebuds’, details of dress take centre stage. The story has two main strands. The first is the tale of Jonny Hogan, a blitz orphan brought up by his grandparents and known as ‘the miracle boy’. Out of the dust and ashes of the area where he was born, Jonny, ‘the first young person in Belfast to wear blue suede shoes’, creates in 1967 the ballroom on Magnolia Street. This becomes the nightspot for the local community, and a favourite disco haunt of the sisters who complete this story, Kate and Shirley Winters. To the ballroom’s success the young Jonny sacrifices the love of his life, and it is love that the Winters girls are seeking when they preen themselves for a Magnolia street night out. Here we have an array of eccentric characters. Kate and Shirley couldn’t be more different, the one whose mania for collecting handbags has her ‘looking for the perfect man-bag combination’, the other with a passion for quirky thrift store cast offs, who imagines romantic trysts in a garden ‘full of huge purple rhododendrons’. There’s the strait laced Miss Bingham who gets a thrill out of sacking Kate, whose past is more complex than it might seem, and who goes on a ‘three week sweet-sherry bender’, when she herself is finally pensioned off. There’s Eugene Lolly, otherwise known as Sly, ‘hapless leader of the Bonbon gang’, who fails twice to get the better of Jonny

Hogan, the first by blowing off his own fingers with an exploding gun, the second by falling asleep as his hostages escape. There’s Eileen Hogan, Jonny’s eighty-four year old granny; the brains behind the ballroom, feisty and garrulous, she makes a mean mark with a knife on Lolly’s throat. Yes, there are darker notes. Heists and kidnappings seem in tune with Belfast’s bleaker world. There are intermittent hints of this setting, and of the gritty reality of cities. Kate and Shirley work in an unemployment office, and Shirley dreams of a flawless first date, ‘there would be no one else on the streets; no drunks, hooligans, layabouts, wasters, troublemakers, clowns or losers of any description. And the streets would be clean of chips and cigarette butts and political slogans and hungry dogs.’ But the environment is very much in the background. The main interest lies in the personal challenges faced by the characters. Potentially catastrophic events and issues abound: unwanted pregnancy, paternity acknowledged too late, and an emergency Caesarean section to list but a few. However, there is no real sense that things will turn out in any way but right. For some this will seem just too cosy, but if the book you’ve opened has a glittery pink handbag on the cover, you’ve already had a fair indication of what is to come. The main tone of the novel is that of gentle humour with some bold comic set


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pieces, the failed heist, the disastrous dream date, the ‘battle of the bosoms’ at the disco, leading a barbed exchange of special requests, ‘And this request comes from a good friend of yours, and she says you will know who it is…Kate’s mouth fell open…as the plaintive sound of ‘Bigmouth Srikes Again’ filled the ballroom.’ In the creation of such scenes, the author provides a wealth of precise description. Some of this can be a little heavy handed, as in early lengthy inventories of the sisters’ clothing, but once Owens settles into the narrative, such character notes are more deftly woven in: ‘Shirley, she said, as her sister passed the bedroom door, wearing spider’s web tights, an ankle-length skirt and a purple mohair sweater’. There are also some brilliant, economical observations. Kate Winters upsets her rival by starting a rumour that she has an artificial eye.’ Not surprisingly, Louise plots revenge but as she leaves the sweetshop where she works, a jar of mint imperials seems to ‘mock her, filled to the top with its miniature minty eyes.’ Later, as Kate seeks attention by dusting her cleavage with glitter, Shirley observes that her ‘pale sparkling bust resembled solid ice. She hoped Alex was fond of icy things.’ The conclusion of The Ballroom on Magnolia Street subverts by stretching. A conventional tying up of loose ends extends past the main characters to those who hardly feature, such as Eugene Lolly’s wife. Inevitably, in a book of this length, some of the minor characters are

reduced to stereotypes and, if some of the events seem a little far-fetched, Owens has her answer. The novel closes with Jonny’s grandfather contemplating the end of a film. ‘He was thinking that real life was much more interesting and complex and tragic and wonderful than any film could be.’ The same of course is true for the novel, and at the core of hers, Owens conveys a strong sense of the intricate elements that combine in even quite ordinary lives. CAROLINE DRENNAN

Rebecca Moor is a first year student at the University of Chester. She is currently working as an intern for Incorporating Writing. Clare Reddaway writes scripts for theatre and radio, and stories for children. She has had a children’s animation series idea optioned by Lion Television, and two of her radio plays have been developed for Radio 4. She now lives in Bath with her daughter. Mark Cantrell lives and works in Bradford. He is a poet, writer and journalist and is working on his third novel. Linda Benninghoff has spent most of her life in Long Island, New York. She has a MA in English. G. P. Kennedy is Reviews Editor for Incorporating Writing. Helen Shay is a solicitor-turned-writer. She has reviewed for magazines, Reading Lights and Print Radio. She writes fiction (drama and performance poetry) and non-fiction. Caroline Drennan was born in Malaysia and brought up by Irish parents on the South Coast of England. She has always been passionate about literature, studied English at Oxford. She has produced both poetry and plays. She was shortlisted for the Harpers and Queen/Orange Short Story Competition 2005.



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Poetry Competition open_poetry.htm Annual Poetry Competition with a twist with prizes up to £1000! All submissions entered will be judged by Anna Robinson, and the best twenty poems will be displayed on our website. The public will then vote for their favourite and the three highest scoring poems wins. The entry fee is £5 per poem and the deadline is midnight on Thursday 1 June. All poems must be previously unpublished and must include the poet’s details on a seperate sheet. Submissions and payment are accepted online. On-line voting takes place from 1st to 15th July. The winner’s poems and biographies will be displayed on the website for six months. The Horsham-based Muse & Music Society is once again inviting entries for our popular ‘Between Ourselves’ writing or writing-and-acting competition. Launched successfully in the Millennium Year, this totally unique biennial competition has attracted interest from many areas of the UK and indeed from other countries too. We invite all aspiring or successful writers (and also actors) to submit either a monologue or a duologue AND just to write it, or to write AND perform it. There are prizes for both the writing and the performing. 1st - £150, 2nd - £75 and 3rd - £50. Closing date is August 31st 2006. Please email GwynRedgers, Chairman of Muse & Music Society, at , ring him on 020 8785 6910 or write to him at the Contest Office, 89 Bickersteth Road, London SW17 6SH. “THIS POEM IS SPONSORED BY...” - POEMS IN THE FACE OF CORPORATE POWER Deadline for submissions 1st July 2006 Reply to: Calling all writers and worriers, lyricists and layabouts, radicals and revolutionaries, thinkers and storytellers, performers and poets... Corporations are the dominant institution of our time. They are omnipresent in our lives, from the branding posted on every street corner and bus stop, to our clocking on and clocking off for the company that pays our bills, to the TV we turn to to numb our minds after the daily grind. But the impact of corporations on our lives, societies, ecosystems and economies is strangely absent from mainstream cultural debate. ’This poem is

Industry News and Opportunities
sponsored by...’ will be a world changing collection of poetry: a rich source of inspiration and insight to help us to take action.The collection will be launched in Autumn 2006 to celebrate 10 years of Corporate Watch, the leading anti-corporate research group. Submissions: we welcome writing from anyone in any creative form: poetry, prose, songs, lyrics. Please send your work to: Poetry submissions, Corporate Watch, 16b Cherwell Street, Oxford, OX4 1BG or You are warmly invited to come and participate in this discussion, the first of a series of AHRC/NAWE backed practice led research events in creative writing, which takes place in London on June 16th 2006. The convener is Prof. Graeme Harper BA MLitt DCA PhD FRGS FRSA Writer, Editor & Chair, New Writing, Head of School of Film, Arts and Media, University of Portsmouth. Please confirm attendance early, as places are limited. All welcome! Further details available from MARGARET REID POETRY CONTEST FOR TRADITIONAL VERSE Postmark deadline: June 30 $3,500 in prizes, including a top prize of $1,000. Winning entries will be published. Submit poems in traditional verse forms, such as sonnets and haiku. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the anthology and online publication rights. Entry fee is $6 for every 25 lines, payable to Winning Writers. Judges: J.H. Reid, D.C. Konrad. Submit online or mail to Winning Writers, Attn: Margaret Reid Poetry Contest, 351 Pleasant Street, PMB 222, Northampton, MA 01060. Winning Writers is one of the “101 Best Web Sites for Writers” (Writer’s Digest, 2005). More information: THE PLOUGH PRIZE 2006 Deadline: November 30th 2006

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50 The purpose of our competition is twofold: to raise funds for the Plough Arts Centre and to provide support and encouragement to poets. To the latter end, we provide a great deal more feedback than most competitions: critiques are available for a small extra fee, and if you send us a stamped, addressed envelope or subscribe to our email results service below, we will send you a complete breakdown of the competition’s results - including a list of all poems that are short or long listed. It’s not too early to enter for this year’s competition. The closing date, as usual, is November 30th. If you plan to ask for a critique with your entry, it would help us if you could get it to us in good time - ideally by by October 1st. Exciting New Yorkshire Poet Launches Debut Collection Comma Press is delighted to announce the launch of the debut collection by Halifax-based poet Gaia Holmes, titled Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed (0-9548280-8-9). Gaia, a graduate of Huddersfield University’s English with Creative Writing BA, is one of the most exciting new voices to emerge in British poetry recently and is winning acclaim from fellow poets all over. Praise for Gaia’s poetry: These poems are made from intense sensual experience, bursting with colours, flavours and textures. Gaia Homes has an eye for the strangeness of things, from fat lenses of jellyfish/packed in jigsaws of ice to the sounds and smell of the steelworks, where metal shrieks as it softens and throbs/under the core of heat. - Jean Sprackland To listen to a selection of her poems live online, click on ?section=authors&page=holmespage. PROSE AND POETRY PRIZES 2006 - SPONSORED BY THE NEW WRITER MAGAZINE Deadline for submissions: 30 November 2006 Reply to: One of the major annual competitions for short stories, novellas, single poems, poetry collections, essays and articles; offers cash prizes as well as publication for the prize-winning writers in The Collection - special edition of The New Writer magazine each July. Essays, Articles, Interviews covering any writing-related or literary theme in

its widest sense up to 2,000 words. 1st prize £150, 2nd £100, 3rd £50. Single entry £4 (TNW subscribers two entries at same fee). Short Stories, Serials/Novellas - stories up to 4,000 words, serials/novellas up to 20,000 words on any subject or theme, in any genre (not children’s). Previously published work is not eligible. Short Stories: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100. Novella: 1st prize £300. Entry fees £4 per short story (TNW subscribers two entries at same fee) or £10 per serial/novella. Single Poems and Collections - single poems up to 40 lines and collections of between 6 - 10 poems. Single poem entries must be previously unpublished; previously published poems can be included as part of a collection. Collection: 1st prize £300, 2nd £200, 3rd £100. Single: 1st prize £100, 2nd £75, 3rd £50. Entry fee £4 per single poem (TNW subscribers two entries at same fee, £10 per collection. All work should be clearly typed, double-spaced (except poetry), on one side of white A4 paper and paperclipped. Entrants may make as many submissions as they wish but please include your name, address, title of entry, word count and category on a separate cover sheet with every entry. Preliminary judging will be carried out by The New Writer editorial board with guest judges making the final selection so there should be no identifying marks on the entries. Judges in recent years include Mimi Thebo, Jane Draycott, Ros Barber, Margaret Graham, Phil Whitaker. Entries re nonreturnable. A full list of winners will be sent provided SAE is enclosed. Further information including guidelines and entry fees at - The first International Screenwriters’ Festival is taking place at the Cheltenham Film Studios between 27th and 30th June 2006. Details can be found at The Festival is dedicated to the art, craft and business of writing for the screen. It will provide a unique forum for debate and discussion about writing dramatic scripts for film, television and new media. It will be a hothouse of story-telling and script-writing, bringing together professional industry delegates, high profile guests and new talent from around the world. The Festival is being supported by Julian Fellowes ( Gosford Park ), Bill Nicholson (Gladiator) and Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, The Street) and amongst our sponsors are C4, BAFTA, and the UK Film Council.

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