Thank you, whoever you are, for being here and reading this. I have no idea why you might be investigating my doings, but, sincerely, thanks for checking in on me, unless I owe you money, in which case I'm dead.
If this isn't your first visit, you'll have noticed it's been quiet for several years. No updates, no podcasts - nothing. As you are here, perhaps in expectation of some new content, it is to you to whom I am accountable, and so to you I apologise for my silence.
After the completion of my story The Death of the Poet I could not function, creatively.
This statement is true: I wrote a sad novel, and was overcome by sadness.
It is truer still to say that, by the intensive manner of the imaginative process I used to produce that book, I think I did my mind a mischief. Only now, after five years, does the subtlest warmth among the ashes seem to suggest that the fire is not, as presumed, fully dead.
This has been a self-inflicted wound. We are used to writers abusing their characters, and I abused mine. However, I did so having first assumed their identities, using a sort of Method approach to eliminate my former self. I desired to feel the damage of their traumas, so that I could wring from it the last drops of authenticity. Presumably I thought myself psychically strong enough to experience full immersion and then pop back out of character again unscathed. Maybe an unconscious masochistic urge was having its way. I locked myself away in a freezing, stone-walled house on the edge of the Massif Central for about a year, with the curtains drawn; just me. No TV, no radio. No visitors. Real life had no way to intrude; and so, by design, I was left to my violent imaginings, uninterrupted. I was not there. I was getting my face scalded with oil in California. I was trying to stay alive on the Western Front. The corpses of wine and beer bottles piled up, Often I'd wake up on the floor next to my writing desk, among the empties, unable to remember anything about the previous day, and when eventually I could stand I'd find that the last few pages on the laptop spoke to mania. A hot-eyed lunatic had taken over. Faulkner, O'Neill, Hemingway, Steinbeck. William Burroughs. I don't remember much of that time, but I remember acutely what it was to lose the love of my life, and grieve that person; I remember mourning some unseen person whom I was driving ever-closer to death; I remember every hair on my body standing on end when the officers' whistles blew, and it was time to go over the top. I came to terms with the end of my life. (Recently I watched Sam Mendes' 1917, and the fear it struck in me was personal. I did my best to feel like I was there, and now, on some base level, feel like I was there.
I competently created a simulacrum of successfully built those experiences into my
I drove myself mad using repetitive techniques and I knew to stay in character, and took the lashings
Indeed, I intended to deeply wound myself, in order to My methodology, quite deli
There's only so far I can flesh this out before it becomes ridiculous, so let me set out the position as follows:
I'm sorry about that. I'm afraid I had to take enough time, rather a long time, as it transpired, to recover from an injury, of sorts, brought about by an act of imagination.
My approach to writing has tended increasingly towards the immersive - getting into character and staying there, something like method acting. (I have no time for the Instagramming-yourself-sucking-a-pencil version of being a writer.) The objective is to eliminate any distancA
At this distance, I see how deranged that was. It was not meant to be sane. And the more I think on it, the more I realise that very few people will understand this, because how many have had any need, or desire, or opportunity, to engage this extensively with their own imaginations?
but I had committed myself to the most heightened form of imagining of which I was capable.
If by any chance you've read the resulting book - for which, thank you - you'll perhaps understand the darkness of the shadows the narrative cast on the writer's mind. The trauma of the events I had made so real to myself did not dissolve when the book was published, I found myself unstable in both my character and my sense of self (I no longer knew who my real self was); authentically traumatised (albeit that the wound was self-inflicted), and still suffering nightmares long afterwards; to say nothing of ashamed, as I could not own any of these facsimilies of experiences, not yet could I rid myself of their potent after-effects. Perhaps worst of all, the feeling of being released from the narrative, and able to re-establish myself in real life, was so sweet that I developed a visceral aversion to any kind of imaginative enterprise at all, and so I found I couldn't write any more. Fantasies can hurt you, I'd learnt. Best stay well away. Even when I really set set out to imagine, my self-preservation instinct shut that shit down.
Please understand, I'm not looking for pity. Like every writer, I know how feeble-spirited, pretentious or maladroit one's most considered sentences can appear, quoted out of context; pretty much anything written here would be enough to secure
In radio one has one eye on the clock at all times, so it came as no slight surprise, recently, to clock that a full ten years had slipped by since I started out muttering into anything that looked like a mic. A decade, give or take, of weekly talk-show broadcasting, whether radio or podcast, whether literary, arts-based or London-centric. It's been a peach of a ride, so far. But things change, and as you might know, Londonist Out Loud, (which first went to air just before the Pliocene era), came to an end several months ago after a terrific run. [Thank you to the many listeners who've been in touch, some of whom I connected with for the first time only after the decision had been taken to end the series. It's meant a lot to share your experiences of the show.] Consequently, this is the first time in ages I've had time on my hands. Time to look up, rather importantly, and time to get stuck in to projects I've been wanting to pursue, but couldn't. There's a novel to do with remembering, which I'd forgotten I'd started. I might re-introduce myself to my agent, and see if he remembers me. There is (say it quietly) a broadcast idea. I've also been getting quite into sound design, and some pretty interesting electronic squawks have been heard from my studio of late. And among these, my contributions to the greatly melodious affair that is Open Pen magazine, and for which I am honoured to write a column, to say nothing of a decade's worth of promises to keep and favours to return in the real world.
So 2017 is looking a lot like being a transition year; a chance to put some gas in the tank and half of last night's Chinese in the microwave, before lurching off into the unknown once more.
Open Pen Anthology
This magazine and its accompanying events have been part of the London literary scene for long enough that their first anthology isn't just welcome, but needed. I have the honour of providing an introduction.
North American Launch
The Death of the Poet, my novel about violence and redemption, made its first outing in Kingston, Ontario; a half-hour pre-launch interview with Bruce Kauffman was broadcast on CNBC 103.9fm.
With Ali Smith
Cambridge Literary Festival
I'm still savouring the taste of having been chosen as one of Ali Smith's favourite debut novels at the Cambridge Literary Festival. We shared a stage and took questions, and I ill-advisedly attempted a Californian accent.