The Wall

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I seem to have built a mental block around all this. A wall. Waiting it seems either too long or not long enough between posts. I am told it should be something more regular, but then absence, fonder, etc.

In the gaps between posts I have wound up a Dostoyevsky phase of interest, which coincided with a return to The Culture Trip, after a long self-imposed exile. The first of three articles, The Grand Inquisitor explored more closely my interest with all things Dostoyevsky.

http://theculturetrip.com/europe/russia/articles/the-grand-inquisitor-on-dostoyevsky-s-radical-fiction-and-its-contemporary-relevance/

This article lead to further commissioned pieces, somewhat out of my comfort zone, but nevertheless enjoyable. The first of these was written to coincide with London Book Fair, and celebrated this years cultural link up between Mexico and the UK, by looking at Mexico’s most revered contemporary writers.

http://theculturetrip.com/north-america/mexico/articles/mexico-s-finest-contemporary-writers-tracing-a-cultural-renaissance/

The second commissioned piece was supposed to be London’s Top Ten Writer’s of the 20th Century. This instead became the top eleven writers, ranging from Virginia Woolf to JG Ballard.

http://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/articles/london-s-10-most-important-writers-of-the-20th-century/

Since then its been university work, university work, and more university work. Reading has been slow, seemingly without narrative, one minute a biography of Iggy Pop, the next minute a biography of Gabriele d’ Annunzio, one of Italy’s greatest poet’s, but also a founding father of Fascism, and a preacher of war. I know between that I read Hess, Narcissus & Goldmund, a book I love, a book I know well. Then the words of Jon Savage spring to mind, on Joy Division, on post-punk.

Now I am going to stop writing and listen to a good album, Unknown Pleasures, “Heroes”, I just don’t know.

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Meeting In An Aisle

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I have never felt the need to ask for an autograph. Out of some misguided sense of self-aggrandisement I have always thought if I bumped into Thom Yorke or Don Delillo it would be on some sort of level playing field. Perhaps I might have just been interviewed on The Culture Show, and then walking down a long white walled corridor our paths cross. Hi. Hello. Mutual appreciation follows.

Of course it is very rare for me to be walking by any one who has a certain amount of fame, let alone someone admired. I did walk past Damon Albarn once, but the urge did not rear its ugly head. I just walked on. No. We can congratulate each other later. This is not to say that I don’t imagine how these conversations might play out, on lonely days, when the clouds move slowly and all hopes and dreams seem distant. It is through this premise my latest column piece Q And A With Dostoyevsky is written. You can read it via the following link

http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/03/more-writing-about-writing-qa-with-Dostoevsky/

Before this piece was published I had love on my mind, it was hard not to, what with the Valentines Day parade. Although my thoughts were more fixed on a lack of love as opposed to a great outpouring of, more specifically the lack of love in today’s popular music, which my piece for new on-line magazine Le Merde explores.

http://www.lamerde.co.uk/features/thedeathoflove-seeking-future-love-songs/

And so as with any month that passes by, the rest of my time was spent reading. Now the life of a reader is like any other, you have good weeks and bad weeks. You can get into a groove, where everything falls into place, seemingly out of nowhere. For me it started when I re-read Simone De Beauvoir’s The Blood Of Others.

I first read The Blood Of Others about three years ago. I keep the books I like on a loop, continually going back to old favourites in between explorations into new works, new writers. I have to admit though I had forgotten just how insightful De Beauvoir’s masterpiece actually is. Intelligent. Passionate. Rare is the book that has you nodding along consistently to the insights made. Rarer still is the book that combines this with an emotional and political intensity that has you almost in tears by the end of it.

Following this was Ernesto Sabato’s The Tunnel. Dark. Morbidly comic. This book explores the doomed, poisonous love affair of obsessed artist Juan Castel and Maria Iribane, the source of his unhealthy fascination. Of course I am aware this book will not be to everyone’s taste, but like the European novels of the early 20th century The Tunnel is indebted to, this South American classic is deeply rewarding, despite its difficult subject matter.

From here I read more, and from here I could go on, but I won’t, I will simply say, read The Blood Of Others. Then read it again. Then give it to a friend.

The Conformist

Three months is a long silence if anyone notices. I have not been completely silent, but from this arena I have been absent. Distractions in the form of essays, the weather, grey, cold, classical music, ambient music, and spontaneous prose. I have been contemplating the influence of music on writers, reading Kerouac and Bukowski for evidence to prove my point, and then translate it.

Of course while doing all this others spoke for me, Litro to be precise, and my More Writing About Writing column. Firstly the piece Performance was published in November. Exploring the flaws and benefits of Creative Writing Masters, of which I am currently undertaking, it simply asks why, for who, and what should we expect. Read it via the following link,

http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/11/more-writing-about-writing-performance/

Then after more reading, James Salter’s All That Is, Antrim’s The Hundred Brothers, Henry Miller’s The Books In My Life, my short story Seen And Not Seen was published in Litro Magazines No Such Luck Issue No:139. The piece itself delves into the secluded life of man trying to deal with the pain of loss and isolation. You can read it here,

http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/12/seen-and-not-seen/

It was time to knuckle down after this, time to theorize, to be academic, to conform. Essays critical and reflective followed. I see my writing as… My influences were… Yes I wrote this piece and this was why. Still waiting for the marks back, still waiting to be told, yes we liked it and here is why.

Most recently More Writing About Writing returned with the piece, Some Names Are Bigger Than Others, of course a play on The Smiths Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others. Put simply this explores how we mark and measure success through a series of conversations I had with writers over coffee. You can read it here,

http://www.litro.co.uk/2015/01/more-writing-about-writing-some-names-are-bigger-than-others/

From then, as is now, I continue with the work at hand, the Masters, my reading, which is perhaps more important than all else.

Karl Ove  Knaussgard’s Boyhood Island, a hypnotic work of fleeting beauty, of God like parents, of childhood, and the gradual, painstaking formation of the self.

Graham Greene’s The End Of The Affair, of which I gave a presentation on, which was just Dostoyevsky lite via The Third Man. Not really my thing, especially when I can read The Man himself. Notes From Underground (again) and in-between writing this and walking through the cold, reading The Adolescent, by no means Dostoyevsky’s best, but always interesting, with an idea to cling to and explore. I will always recommend his work, always go back to it, measure all else against it.

I am done now. Finished. I need to rest. I need to eat.

After The Event

October has been and gone, much happened, much didn’t, and like a BBC News update hours after the event, what I am about to report is already out of date, over, moving on. For example I read at the Listen Softly London Live, which took place at The Crown Pub Southwark on the 27th October. Nice little place, lots of wood, lots of leather. The story I read Auto-Suggestion had something of a Halloween theme, in the sense that it had a ghost, not very me usually, but the air of cynicism and hopeless longing gave it my usual feel, while allowing me to get into the spirit of things. There were some great readings also from Dan Coxon, Iain Robinson, Ceri May, and the awesome Yeti poet GaryFromLeeds. The audience was beautiful, naturally, and everyone made me feel very welcome. Of course perhaps I should have reported this before hand, but being a little unsure, and fearful of shame, I decided not to say anything in case the evening was cancelled or I was unceremoniously pulled from the bill, sounds laughable but it could happen.

Reece reading 2

Before this event the latest in my monthly column, More Writing About Writing, was posted on-line.

http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/10/more-writing-about-writing-the-words-the-new/

I could tell you what it is about of course, but I’d prefer you to read it. I will say it explores my feelings on Literary Awards and such things, but I hope it says a little more.

Also following an earlier announcement Litro Magazines anthology Transatlantic was finally released. It is available at the following link,

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OAA0MTA

Naturally I am going to recommend it to anyone who has a Kindle, as that is what it is available on.

Apart from this, which is much or little depending on how you look at it, I have been writing, mostly free writing for hours on end, practicing, little experiments, with language and rhythm. Been reading as ever, continuing that journey, taking in Kate Chopin’s evocative and sensual The Awakening, Anais Nin’s raw and unflinching, Henry and June, Henry Miller’s insightful The Books In My Life, a strange, surreal, piece on Nikola Tesla called The Lost Journals Of Nikola Tesla, and the stunning A Precocious Autobiography by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Exploring the undiminished revolutionary spirit of a Russia coming to terms with the horrors and failures of Stalinism, while fighting for and trying to assert an influence in it’s future, Yevtushenko’s work charts his life from the early years learning to fight, to hard labour and the blossoming of a young poet. It explores Yevtushenko’s changing environment, his feelings on the dogmatic and reactionary elements within the Communist world he knew and the influence it had on his journey from a youthful love lorn writer to the prominent socio-political poet who sought to fire up the youth of the post-Stalin Soviet Union. And that was that.

 

 

Rip It Up And Start Again

Usually I would not do this. My intention is to put things on here that have been published via the tastes of someone else, but in good faith I believe this piece was published, just not in a format that is favourable to the web, i.e. on paper. The piece itself Rip It Up And Start Again was written for a magazine a friend of mine was running in his local area. Said friend moved to Korea, so I’m not really sure what happened next, hence my desire to share.

 

Rip It Up and Start Again

 

The papers are writing about Brit Pop and Cool Britannia. Nirvana have performed to a sell out crowd. Football pundits are talking hot weather, the world’s best players, the World Cup. Everyone’s fed up with the government. Everyone’s obsessed with the economy. Is it 1994 again? No. It’s nostalgia town.

So much has been written recently about how 1994 was the year it all came to end; the year music began to regurgitate a repeat of a repeat of a repeat. Isn’t this a little too simplistic though? Isn’t this lazy revisionism? Each generation likes to position itself in opposition, but maybe the Brit Pop era really isn’t so different from those of Punk or Glam?

Ever since Elvis Presley inspired Cliff Richard and The Shadows there’s been a trans-Atlantic call and response that has fuelled and shaped both the American and British rock scenes. For decades it’s rolled on in cycles inspiring everyone from The Beatles to The Libertines. The Brit Pop era, however, is seen as the first time British Music didn’t look to move forward and create something new, but instead chose to insulate itself in the sounds and styles of the past. Whether it was Suede channelling Bowie’s glam via the orchestral theatricality of Scott Walker, or Damon Albarn unleashing his inner Ray Davies, Brit Pop, it’s said, was the beginning of the end. Today we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s never been so bad. The synth drenched soundscapes and tinny beats of the 80s used by The XX and London Grammar, the throbbing bass and heavy drops of early 90s dance incorporated by Coldplay and Rita Ora, are all supposedly a result of Brit Pop. This however is merely a half-truth, and one, which has some obvious flaws.

 

If one considers the musical landscape of 1994 it is not hard to see the then appeal of Brit Pop. Madchester had been and gone. The Stone Roses were on an enforced hiatus. Grunge dominated the charts, and the Spice Girls were just a few all-singing all-dancing boy bands away from world domination. A noticeable vacuum existed. Something had to fill it. Something had to remind Rock and Roll of what it had been and what it could still be. Enter Brit Pop. Just as Punk had been a reaction to the tired sounds of Prog-Rock, so Brit Pop, wrapped in irony and a Union Jack, was a reaction to the sound of feedback and synchronized dance moves. Bands like Blur, Oasis, and Pulp, dominated the charts and rode the waves of success all the way to Downing Street, while spawning several bands in their wake. (It’s perhaps this obvious embracement by the establishment that causes many people to have a problem with Brit Pop. Sadly though, this embracement is true of any era, and almost vital to any longevity. Members of The Beatles and The Stones are now Sirs, Bowie’s endorsed his own credit card, even the punks, at one time so staunchly anti-establishment, now dust off the leathers and re-unite for seemingly routine reunions.)

When one also considers the small time frame of the Brit Pop era it is hard to imagine why it still remains so relevant for so many. By the time Oasis released Be Here Now (1997), just three years after debut album Definitely Maybe (1994), the curtains were already coming down. Blur were shifting towards a sound inspired by the very bands they had rebelled against, Suede were becoming caricatures of themselves, while others were simply imploding. The critics were shifting their attention to bands like Radiohead, and by the turn of the century bands such as The Strokes and The White Stripes, themselves no strangers to raiding the musical attic, would become music press darlings.

It seems the main problem for today’s artists is the perception that they are not doing anything new, though this does them a great disservice. Take The Horrors and the Arctic Monkeys for example. Here are two bands who have harnessed an array of different styles, whether it is the hypnotic drone of shoegaze, the throb of desert rock, or the rolling metamorphic beats of dance and hip-hop, and have managed to fashion something uniquely their own. Like the best of those before them, such as Joy Division who channelled the rawness of punk with the sci-fi groove of Bowie, or The Velvet Underground, whose dark, kaleidoscopic cabaret of drug-fuelled songs, was an antidote for those weary of the good vibrations of the mid-60s, these bands demonstrate music’s unique ability to re-make and re-model itself.

Looking back from 2014, it’s tempting to say 1994 was the year everything became a bland repeat of a repeat of a repeat, but this is folly, and it lets us off the hook. If the trailblazers of today really are nowhere to be found, then it’s down to failures of our own generation not a previous one. If the music you want to hear, the books you want to read, and the films you want to see are nowhere to be found, make you own. Use the past as your guide, your inspiration, the benchmark you must surpass. Nostalgia will never go away, it’s in our nature to look back. Sometimes though, you just have to rip it up and start again.

I’m Still Here

After what seems like an age of a break, most of it spent working on my novel, or reading, Knausgard, Delillo, Sirees, I have what some would call news, as well as some work. The latest piece in my More Writing About Writing column, I’m Still Here is up on line

http://www.litro.co.uk/2014/09/im-still-here/

I have also signed my first ever royalties contract for a Transatlantic Litro anthology, which is available via the link below

https://www.oysterbooks.com/book/gZdfE483VXgBSyZk9J8xDi/transatlantic

Coincidentally I am listed as Reece Chou. Mr Chou has made an appearance in my life before. On the day of my graduation, robed, complete with ridiculous hat, I was announced to a room full of people, many friends, as Reece Chou, not Choules, which sounds remarkably different, but Chou.  So goodbye from Choules and goodbye from Chou.

Reading. Writing.

The weather has been lovely. Sun drenched. Hot. Been reading Hamsun, The Ring Is Closed, can’t recommend more. Thoughtful, sombre, with a lightness of touch only the greats possess. Been writing too, about Malaparte. Fascist. Communist. Eccentric. A soldier in the First World War, a diplomat, journalist, and liaison officer in the second, he was also a writer, filmmaker and sometime architect.

To read more  about the dark underbelly of Europe’s avant-garde click here…

http://theculturetrip.com/europe/italy/articles/italy-s-curzio-malaparte-eccentric-ideologue-or-dangerous-fascist-pen-/