Sunday 25 September 2022

Newsletter 51

A terrible loss to literature. Hilary Mantel was a formidably gifted and original novelist and if you get this newsletter you've almost certainly read some of her books. If not, don't hesitate. 

From the LRB website:

Hilary Mantel was the author of nine novels and three collections of short stories in addition to her prize-winning trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. She began to write for the LRB in 1987 and contributed more than fifty pieces to the paper on subjects ranging from some of the Tudors who appear in her trilogy (Jane BoleynQueen MaryCharles Brandon and Margaret Pole) to some of the figures who appear in A Place of Greater Safety, her novel about the French Revolution: Danton, Robespierre (twice), Théroigne de Méricourt and Marie AntoinetteRoyal Bodies, her Winter Lecture for the LRB, considered the public perception of royal women from Anne Boleyn to Kate Middleton: ‘we don’t cut off the heads of royal ladies these days, but we do sacrifice them.’ She also published several pieces of memoir in the LRB, on her childhood, the misdiagnosis of her endometriosis as mental illness, and the childlessness that was its resultMantel Pieces: ‘Royal Bodies’ and Other Writing for the London Review of Books was published by Fourth Estate in 2020.

The LRB has removed the paywall so you can read her matchless essays here.

Newsletter contents

1.   Aid for Ukraine

2.   This week’s online gathering 

3.   Indie press news

        Fitzcarraldo Editions

        Galley Beggar Press

        Salt Publishing

4.   Barbellion Prize

5.   Rufo Quintavalle klaxon!

6.   Yuri Felsen's Deceit - a rescheduled launch in Bloomsbury

7.   Short Fiction/University of Essex Short Story Prize 

8.   John Smith on MUBI

9.   Small Publishers Fair 2022

10.  Horse attitudes

11.  Hobnobbing at Boogaloo    

12.  Next week's online gathering

13.  Nudge


1. Aid for Ukraine

The same message as last week. Please give what you can, when you can. The most far-reaching aid programme has been, and remains, the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal. You can donate quickly and easily here.


2. This week's online gathering

Part of this week's programme marks T. S. Eliot's birthday (tomorrow, in fact) with a staged reading of his bizarre and very rarely-performed short play Sweeney Agonistes: Fragments of an Aristophanic Melodrama, with a cast featuring Paige Niblet and Alex Kapila as Dusty and Doris, David Henningham as Sam Wauchope), Ray Davis (Klipstein/Swarts), Tony White (Krumpacker/Snow) and myself as Sweeney. 

Kevin Davey will introduce the play and afterwards talk about his novel Playing Possum, which took Sweeney Agonistes as a starting-point. We'll welcome back our roving reporter Melissa McCarthy, who will share some thoughts about 'wobbly photographs'. And I'll be looking at the promotion of British values overseas in 1933 (the year Eliot's play was first performed). What were those values? And what are they now?


3. Indie press news

Fitzcarraldo Editions

The mighty Fitzcarraldo this week released their Spring 2023 catalogue - and it's simply breathtaking!


    The Birthday Party by Laurent Mauvignier, tr. Daniel Levin Becker 


    The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra, tr. Megan McDowell 

    Affinities by Brian Dillon 

    Owlish by Dorothy Tse, tr. Natascha Bruce 


    Melancholy I-II by Jon Fosse, tr. Damion Searls with Grethe Kvernes 

    Porn: An Oral History by Polly Barton 

    While We Were Dreaming by Clemens Meyer, tr. Katy Derbyshire 


    The Long Form by Kate Briggs Fassbinder Thousands of Mirrors by Ian Penman 

    Macunaíma by Mário de Andrade, tr. Katrina Dodson 


    This is Not Miami by Fernanda Melchor, tr. Sophie Hughes Brian by Jeremy Cooper 


    The Plague by Jacqueline Rose 

    A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir, tr. tbc 

    Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai, tr. Polly Barton

Full details of all these and other Fitzcarraldo publications here.

Galley Beggar Press

Many of you will be following Glue Factory favourite Toby Litt's absorbing year-long project A Writer's Diary - daily entries of which he shares to online subscribers.

This diary will be published in book form by Galley Beggar Press on 1st January 2023 and you can now pre-order. All pre-orders will be signed first editions, and come with a limited edition set of three especially designed bookmarks.

Pre-order (and read an extract) here.

Salt Publishing

Best British Short Stories 2022

The nation’s favourite annual guide to the short story, now in its twelfth year.

This critically acclaimed series aims to reprint the best short stories published in the previous calendar year by British writers, whether based in the UK or elsewhere. The editor is the author Nicholas Royle (well known to Glue Factory audiences) and his brief is wide ranging, covering anthologies, collections, magazines, newspapers and web sites, looking for the best of the bunch to reprint all in one volume.

This year the authors include Glue Factory contributors Ben Pester and Tony White (whose brilliant and hilarious story 'Plain Speaking' was written for The Glue Factory and featured on the show in March). 

There is also a story by the late Uschi Gatward author of English Magic, who sadly died last year.

Published by Salt on 14th October. Pre-order here.


4. The Barbellion Prize

The Barbellion Prize is a book prize dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. The prize is awarded annually to an author whose work has best represented the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.

The Prix Goncourt offers a symbolic €10 prize, where its prestige is the greater reward. In some way this would be interesting to pursue, book prizes always come with complex talk and discourse, and it’d certainly be easier at least to maintain the prize if some sort…

We can maintain our existence in finding a regular benefactor, sponsor, or by better fundraising. With all of that we still need more support in the short term. You can donate to the prize via Paypal:


5. Rufo Quintavalle klaxon!

Paris-based poet and actor Rufo has sent advance warning about a couple of happenings coming up either side of the Channel in the first week in October.

On Monday October 3rd he will be the featured guest at Spoken Word Paris reading from his new book, Shelf, which is a line-by-line rewrite of Walt Whitman's Song of Myself. This featured on Carthorse Orchetsra last year, as I'm sure many of you will recall. Shelf  was published last year by awesome New Jersey publisher Sagging Meniscus Press but because of Covid Rufo never really had a launch party - so consider this a belated launch! You are all cordially invited to Au Chat Noir, 76 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 75011 Paris from 20h onwards. Details below:

And for readers in the UK The Passengers of the Night will be having three special screenings on the 5th and 6th October in London's West End as part of the BFI London Film Festival. Rufo acted in this film last year  - again during those strange days of Covid and confinement - and (he says) is very proud that it will be screening in his home town. 


6. Deceit in Bloomsbury

The rescheduled launch of Yuri Felsen's Deceit, featuring the book's translator Bryan Karetnyk Josephine von Zitzewitz and Toby Lichtig is at Pushkin House in Bloomsbury at 7pm on Wednesday 5th October



The winner of this year's prize is 'AOIFE' by Trahearne Falvey. Read it here, brilliantly illustrated by Rebecca Cottrell:


8. An Post Irish Book Award

The 2023 longlist was announced this week.

The judging panel of Bob Johnston of the Gutter Bookshop and literary agent Simon Trewin, was joined by Rachel Donohue whose short stories were shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award in 2013 and 2014 and who won New Irish Writer of the Year in 2017. Her critically acclaimed novels, The Temple House Vanishing and The Beauty of Impossible Things are published by Corvus. 

Our judges have the unenviable task of choosing a shortlist from the longlisted authors listed below. The shortlisted stories will then be published here at later in October so that you, the readers, can decide on the winner of the Short Story of the Year 2023.

The shortlist will be announced in October, when those stories will appear in print.

Congratulations to the following authors, listed in no particular order:


        Roisín O’Donnell    Eamon McGuinness      Wendy Erskine

        Nuala O’Connor      Tim MacGabhann        Sheila Armstrong

        David Butler        Neil Tully            Danielle McLaughlin

        Colin Barrett        Twist Phelan         Rebecca Miller

(Particular congratulations to Glue Factory favourites Wendy Erskine and Nuala O';Connor!)


8. John Smith on MUBI

Here's a thing - you can get MUBI free online for seven days and currently available are the films of John Smith. If you don't already know his work you have a treat in store.

In the 1970s, Smith was an active member of the London Filmmakers’ Cooperative, an artist-run organization dedicated to the moving image, and largely associated at this time with the formalist rigor of so-called structural or materialist film. Alongside these influences, the Walthamstow-born artist was also interested in the potential of narrative and the power of humor. Taking to the streets of London (as well as looking, often, to its skylines), he observes the world with unwavering wit. On top of this, Smith captures a certain kind of East End Englishness that takes pleasure in pubs, puns, and rhymes. Smith ends up finding poetry in all sorts of unexpected places: even in the label on a bottle of laundry liquid.

The Girl Chewing Gum (1976) rightly remains a classic of experimental film: like the later Shepherd’s Delight (1986) and The Black Tower (1987), it playfully and surprisingly undermines the assumed power of the director and the first-person voiceover. Smith’s irreverence toward authority extends to British bureaucracy, as seen in Blight (1996) and Citadel (2021), two takes on the city symphony genre that are heavy not with awe, but with protest. Both rally community spirit. If Smith meddles with our perception, then it is to sharpen our collective critical eye. When Om (1986) and Dad’s Stick (2012) ask us to look and then to look again, Smith is reminding us, ultimately, that what we’re being told might not always be the whole picture.


9.Small Publishers Fair 2022

A welcome return to this highlight of the publishing year following the pandemic. This year 69 small publishers will gather for two days at Conway Hall in Central London, including many that have featured on our weekly gathering: 

Friday 28th and Saturday 29th October 2022, from 11am to 7pm.

Admission is free to the Fair, to all readings and talks and to an exhibition curated by S J Fowler Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL

Nearest tube: Holborn (5 minutes away)

Full details here.

Take cash, cards and tote bags.


10. Horse attitudes

It's a happy coincidence that two of the very best novels published this year, by two of my favourite authors, both happen to share an interest in the White Horse of Uffington, an ancient chalk figure carved into chalk on an Oxfordshire hillside. Here it is. But can you name the novels (answer at the foot of the newsletter).


11.  Hobnobbing at Boogaloo

Your newlsetter editor (left) on his second pint of Guinness seen here with Undone publisher John Mitchinson (centre) and author Patrick McCabe at the London launch (in the Boogaloo pub, Highgate) of Patrick's astonishing novel-in-verse (sort of) Poguemahone.

                              Seen here not sharing a joke

It was a perfect venue - the Pogue's Shane McGowan lived for some years above the pub and many legendary nights have unravelled there. The launch was among the very best I've ever been to, because as well as exemplary hosting by John and his lovely team, and superb readings by the author (and I mean really superb, absolutely monumental) we had lovely music from Louis Beau  followed an open mic with a roster of singers, musicians and comedians.

Among these was a stand-up comic called Johnny White Really-Really. he was new to me, and a revelation. I've rarely heard such brilliantly crafted comic monologues so beautifully delivered. He has a podcast.


12. Next week's online gathering

Next Sunday marks the 150th anniversary of the day Phileas Fogg set out to win a wager by circumnavigating the globe in eighty days. So we'll celebrate that.

We'll explore contemporary Ethiopian fiction in the shape of The Lost Spell by Yismake Worku with its translator Bethlehem Attfield, and publishers Henningham Family Press. There's a feature on the brilliant British film-maker John Smith, and other guests to be confirmed.


13. Nudge

In the week that Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced reckless changes to the tax system that favour the super-rich and discriminate cruelly against the poor, a chap on Twitter called James Cook summed up the impact of his policies thus:

        I saw a homeless guy  and I felt bad for him.

        So I did what I think any of us would do - drove to a nearby affluent area, found the         biggest, nicest house and put a tenner through their letter box.

        You mark my words, before long that money will trickle down to the homeless guy.

If you enjoy this weekly newsletter and the live gatherings please donate (generously and regularly) to The Trussell Trust (or your local equivalent outside the UK). A tenner does good.


And thank you.


Horse attitudes (answer). It's The White Horse of Uffington and features prominently in two of this year's very best novels: Treacle Walker by Alan Garner (shortlisted for this year's Man Booker Prize) and My Mind To Me A Kingdom Is' by Paul Stanbridge. 

Sunday 18 September 2022

Newsletter 50


Hello All.

The fiftieth newsletter. Well I never did.

This week also sees the 38th live online gathering, and (in case you'd like to know) the reason the two are out of synch is simply because the newsletter started before the Zoom gatherings. There now!

The newsletter currently goes out to around a thousand subscribers. If you'd rather not get it each Sunday please let me know and I'll stop badgering you.

But if you do want to continue getting it (and the weekly invitations to the live online event) a donation to The Trussell Trust would be welcome. I've never sought to 'monetise' these events over the past three years, and won't do so as we enter the final straight (or strait). There are just twelve more live shows before I pull the plug for good (and the newsletter will end on the same day - Sunday 11th December. After which I have a new book to complete submit and other commitments both domestic and professional. As, I'm sure, do you.


Newsletter contents

1.   Aid for Ukraine

2.   This week’s online gathering 

3.   Indie press news        

4.   Helen Ottaway klaxon!

5.   London Consequences 2

6.   Simon Armitage acrostic????

7.   Patrick McCabe's Poguemahone

8.   Inside Story Grants for Writers

9.   Small Publishers Fair 2022

10.  M'website


12.  Next week's online gathering

13.  Nudge



1.  Aid for Ukraine

Please give what you can, when you can: the most far-reaching aid programme has been and remains the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal. 

You can donate quickly and easily here.


2. This week's online gathering  

At this week's online gathering the poet John Clegg will be reading from his dazzling new collection Aliquot (published by Carcanet), Linda Mannheim will make a close reading of Wendy Erskine's short story 'Nostalgie' (with Wendy joining in), Charles Boyle on his latest book 99 Interruptions and Caroline Clark on her new collection Own Sweet Time and Irish author Pascal O'Loughlin on his second novel The Goddess Lens (published by Henningham Family Press). We'll also be joined by Joanna Walsh (author of My Life as a Godard Movie) who will share some thoughts on the film director Jean-Luc Godard, who died earlier this week.

All this and more from 7:30pm. You'll get a Zoom link at 6:30pm UK time.



3. Indie press news

There isn't any. Show some respect.


4. Helen Otttaway klaxon!

News from our Composer-in-Reticence about her latest project at the National Trust property Fyne Court near Bridgewater in Somerset.

LACHRYMAE: 24th, 25th and 26th September 

Lachrymae is a tree-themed sound and visual Installation in the grounds created by Artmusic, inspired by Ted Hughes’ translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  

Helen has based her composition on the end of the story of Phaeton, at the point when his sisters are grieving by the river and the gods turn them into trees, weeping amber tears.   

Details here:


5. London Consequences 2

This collaborative fiction involving 18 contemporary writers each producing a chapter in a novel set on one day in London is now barrelling along, and four chapters are now complete. Each writer has six days to pick up the narrative from the previous chapters (all shared anonymously) and the work so far completed is absolutely amazing, but that's all we can tell you! Co-edited by Jonathan Gibbs and myself, it will be published by Bluemoose Books in 2023 and feature anonymised chapters by (big breath):

Kevin Boniface, Marie-Elsa Bragg, Ruby Cowling, Wendy Erskine, 

Tim Etchells, Shelley Hastings, David Hayden, Vlatka Horvat, 

Michael Hughes, Heidi James, Toby Litt, Linda Mannheim, Melissa McCarthy, 

Sam Mills, Simon Okotie, Ben Pester, Devika Ponnambalam and Eley Williams.


6. Patrick McCabe's Poguemahone

Friday 7th October 2022 7pm - 8:30pm at Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road

One of Ireland's greatest modern writers (Patrick McCabe) and one of the greatest ever publishers (John Mitchinson) discuss McCabe's masterpiece Poguemahone.

This groundbreaking new novel marks a radical departure for McCabe in both style and scope – it is his most ambitious work yet. A boundlessly creative epic from one of modern Ireland’s greatest writers, Poguemahone is a sprawling monologue told by Dan Fogarty, an Irishman caring for his ailing sister on the shore of England. Dan’s account of his family saga is besieged by disordered memories, wild bursts of music and folklore, and the unquiet spirits who have haunted both siblings for decades. Patrick McCabe orchestrates all into a grand cacophony of unbridled energy and pitch-black humour – a book whose comparisons to Ulysses are thoroughly substantiated.

Get involved: 

Details and tickets here

PS I reviewed Poguemahone for the Times Lit. Supp. here.


7. Hayden on Beveridge

David Hayden 'Packed Stars Dividing' is the text for an exhibition by the artist Gabriele Beveridge at the Seventeen Gallery in Haggerston, East London.

'There is a bubble in the eye, chromatic lightful eye, air held in place for the duration of existence, a nothing around which a form is shaped, glossy, hard and fragile, and made of thought.'

The exhibition opened earlier this week and runs until 29th October


270-276 Kingsland Road


E8 4DG

Opening hours: Wednesday – Saturday. 11am – 6pm


8. Inside Story Grants for Writers

There are 45 free places available on this new five-week online Inside Story courses, funded jointly by authors David Nicholls, Marian Keyes and Curtis Brown's Breakthrough Writers’ Programme .


9.Small Publishers Fair 2022

Expect a reminder every Sunday until the day it opens. The much-missed Small Publishers Fair returned to the Conway hall in Holborn at the end of October and is not to be missed. Take cash, a tote bag or two and (my advice) a thermos and/or hip flask. And get there early

11am to 7pm Friday 28th and Saturday 29th October 2022 Free admission to the Fair, readings and talks plus

Bibliopoe: an exhibition of books by Steven J Fowler Conway Hall Red Lion Square London WC1R 4RL


10. M'website

I've added a a few features to my website - updating an already overlong list of publications (for anyone who's interested) plus the first six months of The Glue Factory archives (programme content, not recordings). There are a couple of essays (on Lady Bracknell's Handbag for one thing) and details of events I organised in another lifetime, before the pandemic

I've added links to reviews and other literary hack work, including three recent pieces in the Times Lit. Supp.

Original Sins by Matt Rowland Hill

Ghost Signs by Stu Hennigan

Poguemahone by Patgrick McCabe


11. Next week's online gathering

On Sunday 25th September we'll mark the birthday of T. S. Eliot (on 26th September) by presenting a rare performance of Sweeney Agonistes: Fragments of an Aristophanic Melodrama. 

The novelist Kevin Davey (author of Playing Possum and Radio Joan) will share some thoughts on this strange fragment, and I'll be talking about a particular friendship in Eliot's life and my (surely newsworthy) discovery of photographs of the original 'Practical Cats' in an off-trail archive. Also something about Valerie Eliot as a literary widow and brilliant custodian of her husband's legacy. Plus recordings of Old Possum himself and illustrious others.


12. Nudge

Tomorrow there's a state inhumation that will excite the rapt attention of many, the ferocious derision of some and polite indifference from the rest of us.

There will follow a further period of mourning while this far-right government continues to dismantle what's left of the Social Contract, at the end of which process we will find ourselves in an even smaller, even nastier country.

On the day of the funeral food banks will be closed, cancer screening and other urgent health procedures suspended and long-awaited dental and medical appointments cancelled. Morrisons (the supermarket chain) have muted the check-out beeps, bicycle storage racks in Norwich have been decommissioned and a lone protestor has been arrested for holding up a sign saying 'Not my King'. 

Thank you for supporting The Trussell Trust