Saturday, 28 July 2007

Zane Kesey Interview

71 pages...
I finished the Zane Kesey interview ages ago, but I've just gotten round to editing it tonight. He said he didn't want to be interviewed because he hated typing, and I can see why. His writing is abysmal, but he's got some great stories. So I spent a good hour editing this mess of e-mail correspondance into a presentable interview, and it looks good. I've just got to write a decent intro to it, and bang, another section done.
I've been working all day every day for a long time now, broken foot and all, and now a pulled stomach muscle, so magazine productivity has dropped substantially, but tonight has been good.
Plus, I've also written that last post, the Harry Potter and the Death of Literature thing, which will be severely edited later on, and stuck in there. I posted that on every forum and group in MySpace, and my god are people stupid! No one could offer me a decent response: it was all 'you're a tool' and 'i like harry potter' and 'so what if she can't write?' Well, I presented an argument, and defended my position in the forums, and the masses didn't. Or couldn't. Ok, so I embarrassed myself with a stupid spelling error, but that doesn't invalidate an argument, fools. Get over your little selves. And what are you doing on MySpace, shouldn't you be reader the latest installment of your precious little series of wizardingly wonderful books?

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Death of Literature

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have sold in excess of 325 million copies, with the first run of the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, having a first print run of 12 million copies in the United States, making Rowling the highest paid writer in literary history. Her novels have turned an illiterate generation into avid readers.
Yet she, and other writers such as Dan Brown, seem to have begun the end of literature. Their poorly written novels appeal to a DVD generation that wants easy, fast reads with little substance. Bookshop windows are full of copies of the most popular novels, alongside guides to said novels, and spin-off books. You get biographies of J.K. Rowling and other celebrities, a few cookbooks, and some travel guides. My local Waterstones has ‘Literature’ section smaller than my own little bookcase, with one copy of each of a small selection of well-known authors’ works, and twice as many of each edition of each Harry Potter book than the whole ‘Literature’ section put together.
But hell, Waterstones and co. are big businesses that need to make profits. They are just doing what they have to do to stay a float. Sadly, if they were to stock a thousand copies of ‘Howl’ I doubted they sell them in a year. You can’t force the population to get good taste, all you can to do is give them what they want.
And if the people like Harry Potter, then so be it. Rowling can’t be held accountable for the damage her books appear to be doing to real literature. She’s created a monster that is unstoppable and subject to the whim of the readers.
Thanks to the widespread love of Harry Potter, every shop wants to be able to sell the latest book in the series. But of course, competition comes into the picture. Shops must sell the book at profit, or else there is no point in selling it, and so they all compete for the buyers. And because of this, the companies with the greatest spending power will usually prevail, at massive cost to those smaller companies who just can’t keep up. It’s sad, but that’s the way the world goes round.
And when it’s not just bookshops that sell books, then there are even bigger problems for smaller shops to face. With Tesco and Asda and the rest selling Potter, customers are more likely to buy there, with better prices and convenience. In fact, the big supermarkets can afford to sell the books at lower prices than they buy them, and absorb the cost through the spending of the customers in other departments.
And so we have Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code in supermarkets and in the windows of Waterstones, and the little bookshops scrape by with the help of readers of real literature, who are dwindling in numbers are getting little in the way of decent new literature, because every publisher wants the new hit book about wizards and guns. Why should Bloomsbury want a revolutionary new literary style on their books when they could otherwise have to dig through a pile of cash to find ‘the books’?
The champions of mad new literary forms have often been the small time publishers, and the small time bookshops. But these are closing and folding under the pressures of a saturated marketplace.
Who can imagine Six Gallery and City Lights being as influential today as they were so many years ago? It is impossible to see similar organisations having the same beautiful influence in a world where everyone is home watching Big Brother, and who know only of Rowling and Brown in the world of books. There would be little interest in a prophetic poetry reading or cheap little chapbooks that change the readers’ lives.
But no one wants change. They don’t want to read a new style of writing or hear revolutionary ideas. The people want to be cheaply amused with silly little tales and not have to think too much. Generations of big ideas and social change have contented and exhausted people into a mass of lazy rabble with no hopes or aspirations or mad notions.
It’s hard to see a generation of idealist radicals ready to make the world a better place stemming from the cult of Potter. I can’t imagine millions of fans becoming wizards and witches and learning about spells and potions and the dark arts, like Kerouac sent millions ‘on the road’. I can hardly see brilliant writers of the future (if they come to be) remarking upon Rowling’s influence upon their work. And it’s doubtful English PhD students will be writing magnificent glowing studies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

But Harry Potter has turned kids onto reading… True, and this is great, if the kids understand that there is more to books than the merchandise and movies that accompany them. If the kids go back and read Dahl and Carroll and Kipling and develop wide varieties of interest that spawns new and creative writers, then that’s fine. If the kids themselves continue a wider spectrum of interest that turns them into a generation of experimental and thoughtful writers, then that’s fine.
But it’s all about the cult of celebrity and the cheap pacification and the aisles of lunchboxes and t-shirts and action figures. Harry Potter has become an obsession and created narrow-minded readers with little care for anything beyond ‘does he die at the end?’
Critic Harold Bloom argues against the tide of praise, saying ‘Rowling’s mind is so governed by clichés and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.’ However, the series has mostly gathered critical acclaim, except for the usual circle of religious and feminist ‘critics’ who apply the same rhetoric to Harry Potter as to any non-conventional text. Mostly, the criticism from even pro-Potter critics seems to centre on the rigid structures and plot devices Rowling uses: having Harry start ever novel in the same place, have clichéd and poorly drawn characters, and similar situations and character responses throughout each book.
But back to Bloom. His 2003 article for the Boston Globe, ‘Dumbing down American readers’, attacks J.K. Rowling and Stephen King for their awful books, and the literary community of today for rewarding Rowling and King, due only to their commercial success. In savaging her work, Bloom remarks upon Rowling’s use of phrases such as ‘stretch their legs’ being used dozens of times within a few pages.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Hunter S Thompson Festival

My hero, Doctor Hunter S Thompson, will be celebrated next year, around this time (his birthday). His fans are trying to put together a HST Fest to celebrate the late author's work, although a date and location are as yet undecided.
I'll keep you informed as more information comes along, but for now, please check out the following websites for more info/debate:

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Beatdom Update

51 pages and counting...
We now have an interview with Ken Babbs, the legendary Merry Prankster, friend of Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady and The Grateful Dead. He seems enthusiastic about the project.
Zane Kesey, Ken Kesey's son, has also agreed to do an interview, and that will hopefully go ahead during the week.
Diane di Prima, Beat poet, has declined to be interviewed, but has sent the magazine a signed copy of her newest book, and wishes us all the best.
Beat biographer and author of Beat, Chris Falver, has given us his blessings and sent a host of photographs for the magazine.
We now have four poets, two photographers, one artist, two graphic designers, and several writers.
Ms. B. is about to start redesigning the front cover with Photoshop. Our old one, designed be me, is decent enough, but doesn't reflect the fantastic quality of the inner depths of Beatdom.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Beatdom Update

It's going well...

The original vision of the editors was a collection of historical and literary studies, and essays drawing links between their world and ours.
But here we are, only weeks on, with artists, photographers, interviews, random stuff... But it's all good. There's nothing going to be in the magazine that doesn't deserve to be there.

Right now I have edited together 41 pages, using Adobe Pagemaker. It's basic, and there will be a LOT of improvement in the coming month and a half, but it's not bad. Everything is very simple, and some of the features and articles ain't finished yet... But it's something to work from, and it's pretty promising.
We have a 5,000 word MySpace interview conducted with Steve McAllister, author of The Rucksack Letters, articles on Beat Books, Beat Tales, Bob Kaufman, a feature on Buddhism and the Beats, a guide to Beat figures, photography of Buddhist direction, poetry, a short story, collages, fake advertisement for William S Burroughs' crack...
Oh, I'm pleased about this. I plan on putting together a one hundred page rough draft and whoring it out to investors, then spending a month putting a proper version together for sale.
The reason there is an end of August deadline for going to the presses is because I'm off to California to work on a farm as part of the WWOOF program. For three months I'll toil my heart out, before returning to the UK in December, in time for Christmas, New Year, and the second edition of Beatdom. Hopefully my travels will provide me with some On the Road experience to infuse the next issue with.
Of course, I'll keep you informed of when each issue is available to buy...

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Rodney Munch Is Alive!

Rodney Munch first made his appearance in Duncan of Jordanstone on the 19th May, at the premier of the Dundee Degree Show, and he is still there today!
I visited the art school to use their printers and scanners and Photoshop for Beatdom, but I saw the two paintings and the Rodney Munch name tag proudly hanging outside Fine Art.
:) Oh I'm happy, friends!
Who knows how long Rodney Munch will be on display? We succeeded so royal in our endeavour that nothing can take our legacy away!

Monday, 9 July 2007


I wrote a little book back in the summer of 2005. When I finished it, I printed it and tucked it away in a box so I could forget about it and edit it later with a more objective point of view.
So a little while ago I found the manuscript and began the editing process. It's a strange feeling to read something and not knw what will happen next, only to find out and remember you already knew. It's also weird to see your writing, and know it's your writing, but it's so different to what you write like now... My style was so different back then, but still good. Parts of the book, I feel, are better than what I could write now, but parts are far worse. I decided not to edit the style, because it is different but good enough.
It's not easy getting a book of short stories published, even if the book is more like a novel, so linked are the stories to one another. No first time author really stands a chance with such a manuscript. So I decided I'd try and take the first step myself and publish the book on my own.
Lulu seems to be the way to go these days. I guess there's a lot of crap out there, and it can't be easy to market a self-published book, but all I really want is a few hardback copies for people I care about to read.
So last night I finished editing Godless: Fragments of Contemporary Society and formatted it for Lulu. Within fifteen minutes the damn thing was for sale to the whole world! I tried to order a single copy for myself, but some unknown error stopped this from happening.
Oh well, I'll get one eventually. And in the meantime I'll edit and format and publish Who Is Rodney Munch?

I'm not bothered about marketing, because I don't much care about making money or selling thousands of copies. I want the respect of my peers, not the masses.
But if I do decide to market the book, I know how I'll do it... I bought a copy of The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson a while ago, and inside the cover was a business card advertising a book published through Lulu, that the author believed to be of interest to HST fans. It's guerrilla advertising, friends! Clever and subtle stuff. It won't make you rich, but it'll gain you a few loving fans.

I think I'll indulge in a little guerrilla advertising of my own: leaving poems lying around the city with the address of this website at the bottom of the page and I'll link this page to the Lulu page ( I'll outright copy that clever author and leave my business cards in books like The Rum Diary.

Friday, 6 July 2007


Guerrilla art is done for now. The process of creating art and illegally showcasing it in the University of Dundee Degree Show 2007 is done and dusted. Whether it was a success or not is something you will have to read, if you care to do so, in the book, Who Is Rodney Munch?

And so what is next?

Well, I've just graduated from university after four years, and at the end of August I'm off to be a farmer in California for a few months. The Rodney Munch book is finished, and I'm awaiting the editing committee's comments, judgements and corrections.
Next up, I have to change all the names in the book to avoid prosecution. Then I reckon I'll self-publish it and whore it out to all the participants in the Rodney Munch saga. If that goes well, then maybe I'll let a big name published come near it, but I doubt that right now.
Also, I'm in the process of editing an untitled book I wrote three years ago It's a collection of short stories that explore life lived in the knowledge that there is no god. Reading it again, I realise some of it is amazing, and some of it is downright awful.
But the main literary concern of my life right now is the magazine I co-own and co-edit. It's called Beatdom, and explores the life and works of the Beat Generation. We've managed to sign up some talented writers, have a bundle of good ideas, and a promising investor lined up.
If you want to help out in any way, then get in touch.

Guerrilla Art

Guerrilla art is a concept explored in my forthcoming book, Who Is Rodney Munch? It follows the adventures and misadventures of a group of students with no artistic backgrounds, who challenge Scotland's leading artistic institution by inviting themselves to put their own 'art' in the annual Degree Show.
The Degree Show is the highlight Duncan of Jordanstone's calander, drawing thousands of visitors every year, and showcasing the work of Scotland's best young artists... and Rodney Munch.

The book explores covert operations and guerrilla activities, and the very nature of rebellion. It also holds a mirror to the art world, while opening a range of possibilities to the daring rebels that would shock the world with their ideas - guerrilla poetry, guerrilla gardening, guerrilla music.
Yeah, so maybe they've all been done before, but Rodney Munch draws on Dundee's finest minds to create a unified purpose and philosophy, and pushes guerrilla creativity to its very limits.