Issue 35, Final Fringe

Tagged: sam

Chalcot Crescent, Fay Weldon

by Sam Peczek, Sam Peczek 12.02.2009

Chalcot Crescent coverThe blurb hooks us with a tantalizing premise: aged ex-copywriter Frances sits on her stairs waiting for the bailiffs to give up and leave her in peace.  By way of killing some time she pretends to reflect on the exciting array of world history she has beheld over the past five decades, including such delights as the rise and fall of Communism, Feminism, and Capitalism (which was promptly followed by the Shock, Crunch, Squeeze, Recovery, Fall, Crisis and finally, Bite).

Sadly, this dizzying array of economical, political and social upheaval is merely a backdrop for our narrator’s main gripe – namely, her ex husband, Karl (one of many) and her disparate handful of offspring and offsprung.  She also happens to be the What If sibling that Fay evidently never had and most likely didn’t want anyway (Frances nicks Fay’s would-be hubby, but pays for it later).  There is absolutely no real purpose to this, as Frances appears to be little more than a skinny version of Fay.  I don’t think this is necessarily the case of shoddy characterization (although let’s not rule that out) more than another symptom of the irksome line of wrongness that etches its way through the novel. ... more »

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Whore it up, churn it out: [vaguely] motivational musings

by Sam Peczek, Sam Peczek 10.20.2009

Greetings, fellow Fringers.  Three events have occurred in the past seven days which have made my world just that little bit tastier.  Being the charitable little soul I am, I feel it necessary to lay my learnings upon you.

The first event took the form of a teeny tiny snippet of a workshop, where in groups of three we were urged to fashion a collective tale and then spend three minutes apiece contributing to a third of three variations of our chosen theme (there’s a more straightforward way of explaining that, but I feel it necessary to emphasise the thrice nature of proceedings).  I was thrilled to discover that, when pressed, I can churn out some reasonably not-too-shabby words.  It was also marvellous fun.  And besides, it’s always nice to break out from the tedium of lone scribbler absorption and mingle with some writerly types and discover that, contrary to what others (ie, me) might suggest, they’re not all affected twats.

My second motivational titbit was less exciting, but useful nonetheless; having run out of things to read in my lunch break, I took to drafting a new but less zippy version of the shared story from the night before.  I’m hoping... more »

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Return & re-adventure

by Sam Peczek, Sam Peczek 09.14.2009

I have a friend who thinks it odd to read a book you’ve read before, but has no problem re-watching film fare.  I have no such qualms.  I’m greedy, and if something was thrilling the first time around, I’ll be back to get a second fix after a suitable amount of time has passed, like a criminal returning to a particularly tasty crime scene.  Or like someone who read a good book a few years ago and fancied dipping in again.

At the moment, I’m re-reading a book I’d bought whilst travelling, and it’s perhaps not strange that the book has absorbed some precious moments from it’s first outing.  I turn to the first page and instantly am drawn back to a park bench in Olsztyn, where I opened that same page almost a year ago. I guess it’s the same thing as imprinting some good times onto (or perhaps into) a song, but I like to think of anything book based as a more meandersome breed of nostalgia.  Not only does the experience last longer, but you also get to revisit a host of those long lost places you’d once seen and berlin

Not that it’s purely about the places.  On... more »

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Moon (2009)

by Sam Peczek, Sam Peczek 08.23.2009

dir. Duncan Jones (yes, yes, a film set in space spawned by the spawn of Bowie)


So you wouldn’t be weird if you didn’t think ‘yes, this film was definitely fashioned in 2009’ rather than wondering if it’s a long lost relic from the early 70’s, that time before Star Wars shook sci-fi and took it to, well, a different sort of place. Lots of people have declared that Moon is a squashy Silent Running/Solaris/2001/Dark Star hybrid, but having not seen that latter two I lack the education required to comment with any real insight along the history of thinking sci-fi line.

All I can say is this: the plot is interesting, if a little shaky in places, and the final third is perhaps not as riveting as the opening scenes might demand, or deserve. But there’s much in the way of good stuff here: isolation, claustrophobia, a touch of maybe-madness later tinged with probable-paranoia, a top notch performance by Sam Rockwell (who is pretty much the only character gracing the screen) and an artful score which enhances the atmosphere without snatching our attention away from the action.

Even during the more pressing moments, there is something oddly subdued about the film; everything is contained... more »

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Lick my dirty scheming boot: Oxfam crowned Tesco of the secondhand book world

by Sam Peczek, Sam Peczek 08.04.2009

Image courtesy of Pedro Figueiredo (some rights reserved)

Image courtesy of Pedro Figueiredo (some rights reserved)

Gosh, I knew charities were all about noble causes, but I didn’t realise they had a dark side reminiscent of those evil corporate empire style outfits you see villainised in film fare.  According to the British broadsheets at least, Oxfam is having its (possibly) devious moment.

Lots of people love books, and lots of people love bargains.  Secondhand bookshops have been onto this fact for some time now, and what glorious places they are.  I remember the first time I set foot into one of the infamous shops on Charing Cross road: super high bookcases (complete with ladders) ensures that you are immediately encased within all sorts of exciting book-based goodness.  Then you venture into the basement, where the shop seemingly doubles in size as you become blissfully submerged in a labyrinth of books – turn a corner and find yet another lovely alcove.  And the smell; we’re talking proper old books, oddities, wondrous topics and titles abound.

Oxfam have been peddling books for some time themselves, but of late they’ve expanded into shops that specialise in just the books.  Fair enough, we think, books are great, 50p books are fantastic, and it’s all for a... more »

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Submarine, Joe Dunthorne


“One of the things I have discovered is that, although my father’s beard looks ginger from a distance, when you get close up it is in fact a subtle blend of black, blond and strawberry.
I have also learnt that my parents have not had sex in two months. I monitor their intimacy via the dimmer switch in their bedroom. I know when they have been at it because the next morning the dial will still be set to half way.”

Oliver Tate is 15. He is abnormally preoccupied with his parents’ marital relations, determined to lose his virginity before he turns 16, and has a girlfriend who can do some very clever things with matches. Oliver is fond of new words, translucent skin, and will happily feed rat poison to your dog if he thinks it will ’safeguard’ your long-term emotional stability.

Joe Dunthorne has a real flair for language, splattering the pages with one-liners and odd observations, as gleaned from the delightfully skewed mind of a protagonist whose mixture of intelligence and immaturity is best served in the guise of a teenage boy. Oliver can pen witty diary entries to appease his girlfriend (crafting delicious parodies of Adrian Mole), yet remain stubbornly... more »

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Drink in a tasty cup of word coffee


Greetings fellow Fringe fans; I return from my brief but fun-filled travels (cut short by icky hot weather) and have thrown myself into the choppy waters of the publishing world once more – or, to be a tad more accurate, I am trying to dive back into them in what, admittedly, has become my rather badly timed job hunting adventure.

My frenzied rummaging around the interweb has thrown up all sorts of little treasures in regards to independent publishers and relevant news pieces in general, amongst which I discovered a slick little outfit dubbed Bookkake, a self proclaimed ‘new’ type of publisher of ‘transgressive literature’ which appears to have an erotic bent. They use a handy-looking outfit called Lightning Source to print on-demand, when (and only when) someone orders a title. Sounds like good idea in terms of minimising waste/saving some trees and not being burdened with a costly warehouse of books to push onto already chock-full market.

I later stumbled upon another piece of oldish news – a magical photocopier that squeezes out whole books in minutes. The Espresso Book Machine has been winging their way around the US/Canada/Australia for a while now, but only made their UK debut at the London Book... more »

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post-Soviet splendour


For an agonisingly long stretch of time I’ve been saving all my pennies in order to explore some of the former Eastern bloc. So, in light of my imminent departure I thought it might be fitting to drop a few photographical delights in place of my usual scribbling:

Richtung Berlin/A Soviet Legacy/41 Gymnasia, Angus Boulton

Russia, Andrew Moore

Motherland, Simon Roberts

Soviet Roadside Bus Stops, Christopher Herwig

And for those who can’t stand that sort of thing, I bring you… Absence of Water, courtesy of Gigi Cifali.

My apologies for not adding any fake commentary; I’m currently in the middle of pre-packing adventures (today it’s jotting down those essential phrases I’ll probably never use). So, just in case anyone out there gets their kicks from examining the linguistic nuances between Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian, here’s a phrase I’ll sadly never get to use, translated by Omniglot into all three tongues:

Мой паветраны човен поўны вуграмі

Моё судно на воздушной подушке полно угрей

Моє судно на повітряній подушці наповнене вуграми

Um, so yes… feel enlightened.

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Digital Delights (?)


Good news folks - Little White Lies (arguably the most lust-inducing film magazine currently in circulation) has unleashed their sexy new digital edition. Granted, nothing can beat curling up somewhere comfy and browsing through its art-filled pages at leisure, but for those who are too poor to fork out for the pages themselves (or a hefty overseas postage cost), the next best thing can be lapped up here. There’s also some nifty link action that hooks you up with selected clips and trailers. You won’t be able to wallpaper your living room with the digital pages, but perhaps that’s for the best… and er, good for the environment, innit.

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The Horror


I’m not a massive TV fan, yet I’ve seen enough to have noticed that the UK we’re used to being treated to a barrage of offensive advertising (apparently only women have digestive problems, all of which can be treated easily – and discreetly – by buying some tablets… rather than the glaringly obvious ploy of eating proper food. Except it’s not really discreet because these ads lead one to assume that any woman you see on the street is silently suffering from either constipation, diarrhoea, or that good old fashioned ‘bloated feeling’). We are also graced with some cheery awareness ads:

At present, there’s a man who forgot to THINK! and is consequently being haunted by a ghoul-kid in the latest instalment of the consistently chilling ‘kill your speed’ series. Fair enough, he’s earned it. Slick as these ads are, mostly you’re left thinking ‘ah, clever’ and brush it off; they have yet to seep into my unconscious and into my dreams.

But guess what did? A dated-looking and decidedly non-slick Stroke (act FAST!) ad. It makes you squirm not only because it’s nasty, but also because the NHS budget is clearly not as impressive as that of the DfT (or so... more »

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Spinning plates vs. eating ashes: the joy and the anguish


Ah, the rollercoaster world of The Writer; perilous, torturous, and (hopefully) gifted with the occasional smattering of giddy, sentence-spinning glee.

Being a hideously lazy waste of space, I’m not, nor ever will be, a ‘writer’. At best, I’m ’someone who sometimes writes things that I don’t have to’. Every now and then I’ll wonder how I managed to spend all of Saturday’s glorious daylight hours in front of my computer, churning out what only amounts to a couple of pages worth of shite, but most of the time I’m engaged in far less noble endeavours, like, I dunno, reading the paper, or the back of a cereal packet (good god, that’s a lotta sugar).

Today I stumbled across yet another fascinating Guardian piece (they should probably start paying me for all this unsolicited promo): ‘Writing for a living: a joy or a chore?’ and thought it might be nice to share it with you all, just in case anyone else out there might feel vaguely heartened that it’s okay not be overwhelmed with frantic ecstasy with every word they type.

Here’s someone else saying what I was trying to say, only with a lot more eloquence and authority:

I get great pleasure from writing, but... more »

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Guilty pleasures


So apparently recycling is a maddening waste of time, money and good intention (in the UK at least; we’re feeble novices at this sort of thing) but hop over to the East and behold the wonders of re-use – a Buddhist temple made from (empty) beer bottles? Genius (and wonderfully eye-catching).

It need not be said that some serious changes need to be implemented if we’re going to take the task of stretching the life of our lovely (if somewhat abused and exhausted) planet out a couple of decades longer. But what will become of one of life’s most precious simple pleasures – the humble novel? I’m hardly lusting over the thought of these daft pseudo-book gizmos; you can stuff in as many wonderworks as you want, but if it ain’t printed on sheets of paper stuck together I just can’t imagine it evoking the same degree of pleasure.

That said, I do feel a twinge of guilt at the unholy tree-carnage that precludes the creation all those exquisite books we so justly swoon over. And just think of all the godawful stuff shuffling around out there… ooh, the shame. Save the trees! Don’t print substandard nonsense! Better still – and here’s my half-assed solution to the decadence of... more »

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Even McEwan drops the occasional literary log


Since you Fringers seem to quite like your writing and your writers, I’d thought I’d share a piece of my Gurdian-centred perusing with you all:

‘The trusted friends who steer novelists away from cliche

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‘All that remains is time’: Béla Tarr’s simple truth


Yes, yes, it’s a film that’s (rather shockingly) a good nine years old now, but I treated myself to a second viewing of Werckmeister harmóniák (2000) last night and feel compelled to share the joy, as always.

Besides, there’s always a chance that there are people out there who, like me, have heard little of what I reckon must be Hungary’s – nay, Europe’s – best living filmmaker in our very midst. Part of the reason for this is because, quite simply, his work hasn’t been in a great hurry to get itself translated and exported over here and elsewhere; but now that is it available I urge anyone interested in ‘film’ (rather than ‘movies’) to put your life on hold until you are able to bask in Tarr’s style of filmic greatness.

Béla Tarr does not tell stories; he aims for something simpler, clearer. Ultimately, he wants to show humanity, to bring the audience closer to the people on screen. Verbal communication is secondary to the physical presence of his characters, which is why we are graced with long takes, slow, brooding camerawork, and bleak, beautiful landscapes in which these people can move and breathe. Tarr claims that this unhurried approach is an attempt to follow an underlying... more »

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Delegation or diplomacy?


Beat the slush pile! It’s every unpublished writer’s dream, no? The world is changing: get ready to wake up to your new reality…

We’ve all heard the horror stories of bored work-experience kids being handed your masterpiece – what if they overlook your skill? What if they’re so overwhelmed and overburdened that everything they read disintegrates into mediocrity, or, even worse, utter shite? Well, in this wonderful age the aloof and inaccessible world of publishing is opening its iron doors and letting everyone pitch in. Thomas Nelson started gifting books to bloggers willing to write a review, and now, Harper Collins have created their very own online slush pile, available to anyone willing to create an account whore out their wares.

The premise is simple: upload your novel and let the masses decide whether it’s worth printing. This is more than delegation, my friends; this is a community. Never feel alone and unloved again; build up a snazzy fan base; get people talking, bask in the buzz.

So will it work? If the public get to play an active role, I suppose it’s publishing gold; after all, the people get what they want, and the publishers get their money. I’m not sure why I’m not thrilled by Authonomy (in spite... more »

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Waltz with Bashir (Israel 2008)


Snarling, angry dogs; eyes ablaze, teeth bared and saliva glistening in the sickly yellow light of the dawn sky. They stampede through grey streets, knocking over everything in their way as they hurtle towards their quandary, who stands waiting at a window. This is the recurring dream that old friend Boaz tells director Ari Folman about one night in a bar, explaining that they are the 26 dogs he was ordered to shoot during the Lebanese war; he still remembers every face. Folman is surprised to realise that he remembers very little about his own experiences of the war, and sets about tracking down old friends and acquaintances from the past, in the hope of bringing into focus the elusive imagery he is able to dredge up.

What follows is a mesmerising investigation into Folman’s wartime experiences, detailing the subjective, slippery (and often hallucinatory) nature of memory and its ties to trauma, guilt, and confusion. Past and present, fantasy and reality, horror and beauty all blend into each other, further muddying the murky waters of the filmmaker’s hazy recollections. The result is undeniably stylised yet sufficiently substantial, ensuring that the viewer is instantly engaged with the subject matter and soon absorbed entirely into the collective recollection of... more »

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Yay for water, nay for whimsy


Behold AQUARIUM: Fuselit’s 13th issue of poetry, short fiction, artwork and musical trinkets from amongst the likes of Pomegranate’s Richard O’Brien, Steve Himmer, Chelsea Cargill and Brittle Star’s David Floyd.

So yes, it’s small and cute and oh so pretty, but do its lovingly bubble-painted pages caress innards of satisfying substance? It’s a worthy question, to which the heart warming answer is yes, yes, yes; this is a delightful collection of prose and poetry that also happens to fit neatly in the palm of one’s hand.

As you might hope to expect, the writers offer an impressive and diverse array of bite-sized slithers of word joy, varying from witty and absurd to slyly understated and sneakily sinister. You can but marvel at how this particular rabble of writers has taken the theme and run, rolled, skipped and swam with it. This really is a tiny chest of treasures just waiting to acquaint themselves with your trembling, greedy, grateful fingers.

This issue also comes with an equally dinky CD, as well as a super fun mix and match poetry booklet: the pages are cut into three, allowing the reader to mess up the various stanzas in order to create confections that the editors promise will vary... more »

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The Art of Concision


Or – ‘That agonisingly elusive skill I used to possess but somehow lost, leaving my powers of persuasion hopelessly, painfully, pathetic.’ I’d say ditto to being witsome as well, but that would imply I’ve ever being blessed with such a hallowed gift. Anyway, I’m reminded of my fall from grace by a recent challenge urging succinct scribblers to submit a six word memoir in the form of a suitably pithy postcard.

The shortlist is not as impressive as I’d hoped, but having morphed into a rather long-winded buffoon of late, it’s not as if I would have had anything better to offer myself. My personal favourite is, ‘Divorced, broke, spinal tumor. Otherwise fine.’ However, pollsters have been seduced by the rather more romantic, ‘I made everything up, except you.’

I can happily swallow such sentiment only if I feel it’s sincere – this particular slither leaves me torn; I want to like it, but it’s a muddled sort of like. Remember when PostSecret offered touching, funny revelations… and then got inundated with unashamedly contrived cheese? The superior stuff lives on; it’s just that now it’s mixed up amongst the slush. Such is the way of these things, I suppose.

But yes, back to my original point: fellow Fringers!... more »

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Cinematic Poetry (it can happen)


The other evening I had the distinct pleasure of encountering the delights of Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg. Since it’s been winging its way around the US festival circuit since April, I shall shunt my lyrical waxings elsewhere, and instead talk about something shiny and new, but nonetheless related.

Winnipeg does what film should aspire to: using the medium to create something personal, distinct and engaging – and, not being a literary expert in any shape or form, I can, in my relative naivety, squash the words ‘cinematic’ and ‘poetry’ together in celebration of what Maddin’s film achieves. Whether the words and phrases used in the film hold much poetic weight on their own matters not, since the overall experience comes from the layering of image, sound and narration.

I’m not the only one throwing around this particular label; the UK’s foremost pithy critic, Mark Kermode, has recently sung the praises of Terence Davies’ Of Time and the City (‘lyrical’ and ‘transcendent’ being the key words). Davies speaks of his love of the small things that reveal ‘the greater truth’ of loss, nostalgia and the city. This rendering of what critics have described as both a love song and a eulogy was achieved through initial mute edits, to ensure... more »

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Struggling would-be writer master class


Lesson one: define yourself

Compulsive - ‘If I don’t scribble down my insightful slices of wit/genius/woe right now my mind will literally implode in a sticky, angst-ridden mess.’

Dreamer – ‘I want to write, but I just don’t know what about…’

One-time wonder – Breaks through with a lifetime’s labour of love. They may only have one novel inside them, but they have the sense to make it a damn good one.

Memoir miserablist – Taints the literary world with details of their (possibly fabricated) abusive/difficult childhood and/or time in rehab. A self-righteous tone is essential. Ditto details of horrific depravity coupled with triumph of the human spirit.

Obsessive – Unlike the compulsive, the obsessive enjoys writing for its own sake. They have clocked up their 10,000 hours of genius-making time before puberty, whilst their peers were still lost in the follies of navel-gazing. Once their genius reaches its inevitable peak, they will be forced to publish under a myriad of jazzy pseudonyms so as not to flood the unsuspecting market.

Good poet – Expresses various elements of the human condition in an array of elegant and quietly affecting musings.

Bad poet – Believes that they are doing the above simply by omitting punctuation and capital letters.

Glory hound– Unavoidable.... more »

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