Friday, June 08, 2007

June is busting out

Angry young men and a bitter old one

Ooh. Ooh. It makes you wince, even to observe from a distance.

Once upon a time, back in the 1950s, there was a media construct in the UK known as the Angry Young Men. This was a label stuck on to a group of writers by some newspaper columnist or critic, or both, and the AYMs became, briefly, the talk of the town. (The US equivalent was, I suppose, the Beat Generation.)

These young Englishmen (they were all young, and men) had virtually nothing in common, beyond the fact that they wrote stuff, and disliked -- nay, hated and despised -- many aspects of England as it then was. And with good reason. Their number included John Osborne, John Wain, John Braine, and Colin Wilson. (And, apparently, a good few more -- I had forgotten. Time is merciful in many respects, and growing old does have hidden benefits.)

The angries hardly knew each other, much less formed a deliberate movement to achieve something or other. And they were all, I suspect, deeply jealous of each other's success.

Now the first three of the ones I named are dead. So are most of the others. And Colin Wilson, at the end of a career for which the word chequered might have been invented, has written a book about them. Roger Lewis reviews it in the Telegraph, and the review makes painful reading.

The various angries all came to unpleasant ends, cheered on their way, it seems, by Wilson. And Roger Lewis seems to feel a deep-seated contempt for the author of this summary of a long-dead age (which was barely alive at the time, if truth be told).

As I say, it makes you wince just to read about both the age and the book, not to mention Wilson's feelings as he discovers what the Telegraph really thinks of him. Wilson, by the way, says of himself that 'I had taken it for granted that I was a man of genius since I was about 13.' And he made no secret of that in the '50s. My, how we all laughed. But it's painful to contemplate such silliness and delusion.

I found all this, by the way, courtesy of Savannah, who left a comment on one of last week's posts, and led me to Dick Headley, where there's a staggering piece of video about beautiful women. Stunners, Mr Swinburne used to call them. And they are. Every one.

Smart cookie

On 19 December 2005 I wrote quite a long piece extolling the virtues of Michael Hyatt, CEO of publisher Thomas Nelson. Hyatt, it seemed, was spending a lot of his time just sitting there, staring at the wall, and thinking.

Smart move, I suggested.

Now here's further evidence of how smart he is (link from Hyatt has dumped Thomas Nelson's 20 imprints and rolled them all under the Thomas Nelson heading. Customers don't care about imprints, he says. And he's right. I said so on 8 February 2005.

Brief notes

I first mentioned Marina Lewycka's novel A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian when it had won a respectable prize but was still relatively unknown. Since then it has gone on to be a huge seller, mainly powered by word of mouth. Now Marina tells the Guardian how she went about writing it. (Link from

If you are young enough to take life seriously, and are prepared to take on the Disneys and McDonalds of this world, then equip yourself with a book recommended by the Creative Commons blog: Ourspace by Christine Harold.

While you're at CC, you might want to note what they say about a new documentary on copyright and culture. You can, if you wish, download the whole movie from

And also, of course, CC are interested in what publisher Tim O'Reilly has to say about the influence of free downloads on book sales. In a non-fiction context, you should note.

If you really care, and I have to say that I don't, you can go to M.J. Rose's blog and read all about where MFA students go wrong. With more to come, probably available by the time you go there.

Bowker says that, in the US last year, there were 291,920 new titles published.

Errol Lincoln Uys tells me that, at the age of 63, James Michener had written only two of his blockbuster novels, with nine more yet to come. So there is hope for late starters. Meanwhile, Alex Beam, in the Boston Globe, has things to say about the Uys/Michener collaboration.

The Tartarus Press has moved servers, and old links may not work. This one will. Tartarus is a really interesting UK-based publisher, with quaint old-fashioned ideas about book-production quality. They print stuff in sewn sections, with acid-free paper, and embossed boards! Good grief, whatever next? You could spend a long time, with considerable advantage to yourself, exploring these pages.

Open Letters has a new edition out. It includes a startling review of Christopher Hitchens's latest. You know, the god is not Great thingy.

Fish Publishing is running various competitions for writers.

Tao Lin has posted two stories from his recent BED collection.

The Small Press Review, a UK-based journal for small publishers everywhere, will launch on 19 July 2007. Thereafter bi-monthly. Fiona Wallace is i/c. And there's a Christmas writing competition.

Ed Gorman has hosted a debate about the need for authors to promote themselves. (Link from the Wild West man, Chap O'Keefe.)

William Powell Frith (see Tuesday) had quite a lot of trouble with his models. He used to get them from the local workhouse, but after being paid they would go off and get drunk. Linda Bulloch has written a book about her own experiences as an academic studio model. But she was, I hasten to add, entirely sober. Her book deals with art education, a typical models' roster, syllabi, art materials and techniques, as well as some of the problems of posing nude. But it was, of course, the nudity thing that the media focused on.

Jerry D. Simmons has a lot of experience in publishing, and offers advice and other resources for writers.

Myrmidon Books is a newish UK-based indie publisher, prepared to consider submissions direct from writers.

Publishing News reports that Rosalind Kerven, author of 50 children's books, is setting up her own imprint for a new project.

Jane Austen isn't funny. Official.

Best story I've read this week appeared in an aside in the Guardian. It seems that veteran war photographer Don McCullin, whose camera stopped a bullet in 1969, was once thrown into a lorry with a pile of dead, dying, and wounded. But he kept on taking pictures. When asked why, he said, 'There was still some light left.'


ricoeurian said...

Extraordinary hypocrisy from Roger Lewis - if you've ever read his hatchet job of Anthony Burgess, you'll know what I mean.

As he accuses Wilson of doing, Lewis 'puts the boot in' and settles his own scores over the corpse of Burgess, and it make for ugly reading.

savannah said...

thank you for the tip of the hat, sugar! and for reminding me to read the telegraph.
be well

Anonymous said...

Austin not funny? Next, someone will be questioning the hilarity of James Joyce.