I first visited the London Book Fair with Salena Godden in about 1997. I had press tickets, and we raided the complimentary wine at 11am, and rolled through shrieking like ill-informed head-cases. In 2010, I visited again, wearing neon-pink eyeliner, “Who let the writer in?” I overheard a publishing suit comment – this year, I dressed more like them, and trawled the hard, Earl’s Court floors for 2012’s dukes of publishing, the writers who’ll be paying for their suits and propping them all up at the bar IF authors don’t all decide to self-publish and leave them jobless. Obvz, I’m not including the trash-writers, or the genre-busters, nor cookbooks and self-help, nor pissy little gift-books…Here’s my pick of the super-shiny, major-leaguers for the rest of 2012…
- Woolgathering, Patti Smith. Re-issue from 1992, with new material. May. Bloomsbury. Kerching.
- Leaving The Atocha Station, Ben Lerner. July. This started on a small New York-based imprint, Coffee House Press, now being published in the UK by Granta/Portobello. If you loved Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask (which I did), this will apparently make us happy.
- Lionel Asbo. Martin Amis. June, Jonathan Cape. Bless this man’s soul. I live on Lionel Asbo Road.
- How Music Works, David Byrne. October. Canongate. This is the book which (hopefully for David) does what album sales can’t…The legend of Talking Heads brings us all that knowledge he had stuffed inside his shoulder-pads.
Embarrassingly, I get him confused with the world’s first artifical voice, Max Headroom (which was British technology, so y’know…):
- Landfall, Helen Gordon (fellow contributor to Ambit, I AM A NEPOTIST – sung Johnny Rotten-styleeee), paperback out in July, Penguin.
- Umbrella, Will Self. August, Bloomsbury. (The Willie’s use of dying words used to piss me off, I could imagine him sitting like Scrooge, hunched between his typewriter and dictionary, giggling to himself, but his masterstroke of snorting smack on a plane with Prime Minister Blair is what really made me hate him. I thought it was so square to be with the politicians…why not do your smack on planes with rockstars like normal people? I like his writing more now.)
- Winter Journal, Paul Auster. September, Faber. ANYTHING this man delivers I lap up. Like an idiot. Especially with a title brought out in Autumn, called Winter – what can it mean?
- A Prince Among Stones, Prince Rupert Loewenstein. September, Bloomsbury. (For those with a fondness for rock gossip, this is a memoir by the guy who Mick Jagger recruited to teach him about money, “Rupie the Groupie” as Bianca used to call him. An accountant’s biog, only in a recession folks…)
- Waging Heavy Peace – NEIL YOUNG!!! October, Penguin. Christmas? What would Neil do?
- Miss Eartha Kitt. Biog. Quercus, August. Sounds like a reasonable movie. I’d watch it.
- The Infinity of Lists, Umberto Eco. September, Quercus. A long book, probably. Smasheroonie.
- Decades, Cameron Silver. September. Unsure if I shall agree upon this man’s interpretation of style eras because my polemics on such trends are so severe – and the structure of time – oooo, we’ll have to see.
- Gulf Women, Prof Amira El-Azhary Sonbol (out already but I wanted to keep note of her name). I would like to do a popular version of this, Do Gulf Women Play Golf?
- Quant by Quant, reissued on V&A in paperback, September. It’s a book described by Luella Bartley as her inspiration. Inventor of the mini-skirt, she just made them shorter. Economical, ecological and fashionable. Let’s get naked and pretend this is the sixties.
- Muslin, Sonia Ashmore. V&A. November. If it’s good enough for Dame Westwood…
- Copendium, Julian Cope. Faber, November. I was hoping the Sean Penn movie, This Must Be The Place would have more Julian Cope-isms and Spinal Taps. This will be a truly alternative history of contemporary music, no doubt. I understand the methodology used in the Copendium is through Julian’s vibes with the music’s energy.
- And also on power: Merchant, Soldier, Sage – A New History of Power by David Priestland, August, Penguin – explores our Merchant era where politicians communicate as sub-fief-letting-agents to the land-owners, phone-pushers, fabric hustlers, mineral fairs and iron guns – I’m guessing… Rupert Murdoch described corporate war with such genuine lucidity at the Leveson Enquiry- good time for an intellectual artifact to open such debate. Although this book may not be populist enough to compete with zeitgeist-determining products such as Prozac Nation, never mind how painfully self-indulgent it was to read, it defined an awakening. No Logo. The Female Eunuch. Classic non-fiction. I’m currently lecturing a post-grad feature writing class – we’re exploring Joan Didion, Gay Talese, all the people that exist beyond the psychedelic glamour of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe – the pair of colourful word-warriors I grew-up aspiring to become. The loudest generally getting heard by most people. Particularly those who don’t know any better. (I must upload some of my old gonzo travel-writing. It’s hilarious. Published. In that state. Of course I wanted to be Kate Adie too. Always wanted to get behind the barbed wire) – but, back to opinion – the only power of the middle classes – The Sunday Times reads that the rich are richer. And of course the poor are poorer. I believe there should be a universal social responsibility tax. As consumers, can we please demand higher standards – a human being has to sew the clothes on our back. Kids have to mine the minerals we have in our phones. If we stopped Starbucks from not replacing trees, surely we can beg the world to stop screwing each other. Whatever. What I really want is an expensive coffee table made out of the rarest wood, inlaid with blood diamonds, sweat sapphires and enamel made from the beak of the last remaining specimen of some exotic bird privately couriered in a rocketship from St Helena, then I will have a plinth for some of these beautifully branded, coffee-table ads, courtesy of Rizzoli:
- MIA. October. Collages – cooooool. So great to see a woman make it to my list…WHY WHY WHY are there not more women who defy the gender trap? We are subjected to behavioural controls through every media channel and consumption habit. Keep kicking against the pricks, ladies, and gents. Read Vagenda. We are in the third-wave of feminism, anti-Grazia-mag readers of the world, unite and take over.
- Pharrell. October. A nice man.
- Kishin Shinoyama. September. He likes naked people.
- Also out on Rizzoli this year: Dior (bought forward to keep that Raf buzz going, perchance?). Vreeland. Rykiel. Frye Boots. Vogue. Kate Moss. Antonio Lopez and Disco. And: Lydia Lunch Hedonist’s Cookbook (I love her – interviewed her years ago – le Tigre and the Riot Grrrls would be nowhere without her).
Trendwise, this article about NarcoLiterature is interesting: [http://www.englishpen.org/against-narcoliterature/]. NarcoCinema is unique to Mexico’s drug culture, low-budget movies demonstrating the lack of power the government or anyone has against the cartels [http://www.vice.com/the-vice-guide-to-film/mexican-narco-cinema-part-1-of-3]. The paperback of Narcopolis also recently appeared on Faber, about Mumbai’s dope culture.
I also heard David Bowie is writing a biography – I hope it’s sordidly honest…
Currently, I’m reading about 5 books, Danielle De Picciotto’s memoir of Berlin, The Beauty of Transgression, published by Gestalt. Also, obviously, as a former-DJ partner with Irvine Welsh, I’m reading Skagboys...then some old Russian stuff, and some Neu Journalism…plus I was given that Jennifer Egan book…and all the free shit that publishers are desperately poking us with, and the magazines and the aaaaaargh – I’m suffering from infoenza…later maters n paters. x
Please comment if you have other suggestions for this decidedly BLLLLLLEEEEEAK LIST!!!! WHERE ARE THE NEW VOICES? MOVELLAS.COM? C’mon people, be brave in your reading matter. It makes your head matter – groan. Y’know, what was most depressing about the Book Fair – how hard it must be for all those marketing folk to break new writers. WHERE THE HELL ARE THE NEW GENERATION? Please comment generously…of course, my book will be out later this year, if we are lucky – please subscribe for updates. I can’t promise it to be life changing, it is only my first, but it does have heart and soul.
[and a disclaimer: I haven’t included the likes of Hachette, Harper Collins, PanMacMillan and Random House who didn’t have New Title catalogues for me to peruse at the Book Fair, not even Argos-style ‘catalogues of dreams’, they referred my journalistic enquiry to their websites – I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to do that right now – do I look like a staffer? Sorry staffers – but you won’t be reading this because you’re doing my job, and that of five others… Also, apols not to include anything from some of my fave indie publishers such as Old Street (read Sam Lipsyte), Cargo (Alan Bissett) , Black Spring (any classic) and Tindal Street Press (David Gaffney).]