Sunday, 23 October 2022

Newsletter 55

    Exiled Thucydides knew
    All that a speech can say
    About Democracy,
    And what dictators do,
    The elderly rubbish they talk
    To an apathetic grave;
    Analysed all in his book,
    The enlightenment driven away,
    The habit-forming pain,
    Mismanagement and grief:
    We must suffer them all again.

                                            (from Auden's September 1, 1939)

The day before Liz Truss resigned as Prime Minister last week an American friend emailed me to say

    'Britain is learning that there is no good way to do a bad thing, no smart way to        do a stupid thing.'

Truss was the shortest-serving British Prime Minister in history (44 days), yet still managed in a few weeks to wipe out the Queen, the economy and the Conservative party, which is some legacy. She grinned inanely throughout her short resignation speech outside Number 10 - as I've often observed her face doesn't know what her voice is doing - and she now has a promising future behind her. Johnson has flown back from the Dominican Republic for a second go at leading his party and the country. History (to adapt Hegel's aphorism) repeats itself: first as farce then as tragedy. We are once again exposed to his trademark blustercockery.

The Tories have destroyed the UK's unique and economically essential place in the EU, membership of the Single Market, an until-recently strong and growing economy, a positive global reputation, a respected currency, AAA credit rating and a reputation for fair play and hospitality. And now we have to grind through another leadership campaign and - Auden again - the elderly rubbish they talk.

What next?

Newsletter contents

1.    Aid for Ukraine

2.    This week’s online gathering 

3.    Indie press news


4.    Any requests?

5.    At Home with the Boyle Family

6.    Irish Short Story of the Year Shortlist 2022 - Vote Now!

7.    The Booker Prize 2022

8.    Speaking of the Booker

9.    Small Publishers Fair 2022

10.   Next week's online gatherings

11.   Nudge

12.   PS



1. Aid for Ukraine

Every week I open with this. I wish I didn't have to.

Please give as much as you can, whenever 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.

Thank you.


2. This week’s online gathering 

You'll get a Zoom link at 6:30 pm London time for this 90-minute show, which startsat 7:30pm and features an online premiere of the Dublin-based composer David Bremner's new opera Slow Recognition. David will introduce two scenes and be in conversation with the director/dramaturg Hélène Montague and soprano Elizabeth Hilliard

The Irish theme continues with a clutch of five writers featured in the latest issue  of Tolka journal (below), namely Mae Graber, Kate Feld, Tim MacGabhann, 

Elizabeth Brennan and Darran Anderson. They'll be joined by Bernadette Lowry, author of Sounds of Manymirth on the Night’s Ear Ringing: Percy French (1854-1920) His Jarvey Years and Joyce’s Haunted Inkbottle, who will share some thoughts about Finnegans Wake.  

The feature on Alfred Hitchcock's undervalued and critically-neglected 1953 film The Trouble with Harry is being held over until later in the series. 


3. Indie press news

Spiracle Audiobooks

Listen up - this is something new, and different: an indie producer of talking books publishing works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and short stories, as well as books in translation.

Take a look at this short video introducing Spiracle. It's an imopressive list and they have clevere ways or organsiing their titles and supporting your choice.

To promote the launch of Spiracle you can set up a free month subscription You can subscribe for yourself or give a subscription as a gift, and this offer applies worldwide.

Select the monthly option and you will be prompted to set up a Spiracle account in the same way as others, including card details, but importantly no transaction will be made.  The 30 days will start from when you set up your account - we will keep this enabled until the end of this Sunday, 23 October.

When 30 days have passed you can consider renewing your subscription. Or not.  

The current monthly editions are Shalimar by Davina Quinlivan and His Bloody Project by Roderick Macrae.

As your 30 day subscription will overlap November you might choose one of next month's editions - The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing by Joseph Fasano and The Journey is Home by John Sam Jones, which will be available from 1 November.  Your subscription gives you two books which you can add to your library to enjoy.  Simply visit the book page and select the 'add to library' option.


4. Any requests?

The last Glue Factory online gathering, on Sunday 11th December, will consist mostly of highlights from the previous 49 shows in the series and I'm open to suggestions and requests... so hit me up, as they say. What would you like to see? Or see again?

To help you choose, I've uploaded a list of programme content for the past 12 months on my website: 


5. At Home with the Boyle Family

Thanks to Glue Factory stalwart Kevin Boniface (a huge admirer of the Boyle Family) for alerting me to this intriguing London event:

IKLECTIK presents

       AT HOME WITH THE BOYLE FAMILY – film launch

                   Sunday 13 November 2022 | Doors: 3:30pm

It's described as 'our painstakingly created new art-documentary film about the postwar British origins of the psychedelic liquid light show.' Full details here.

Tickets: Pay what you feel donation basis

Suggested donation: £10 Worker Supporter / £5 Budget Supporter / £1 Minimum
All proceeds go to the artists and the cost of making the event, which, like the film, is self-financed.

Boyle Family is a group of London-based collaborative artists, founded by Joan Hills and Mark Boyle. Embracing a multidisciplinary approach to artmaking before the term was coined, Mark and Joan’s experiments with assemblages and fascination with material processes led them to the chance innovation of the liquid lightshow, an aspect of their multifarious practice that also includes casts of landscape. Although deeply involved since childhood, participating in home studio experiments and more, Sebastian (b.1962) and Georgia Boyle (b.1963) officially adopted the Boyle Family moniker with their parents in 1985. Although Mark passed away in 2005, they continue to exhibit globally.

I'd love to go to this but would have to slope off almost immediately in order to beback home in time to set up the show. Unless... perhaps... an Outside Broadcast?


6. Irish Short Story of the Year Shortlist 2022 - Vote Now!

This year's judges –  author and short story award winner Rachel Donohue, bookseller Bob Johnston and literary agent Simon Trewin – have selected the six stories for the Irish Short Story of the Year shortlist. Now it’s up to readers (and this includes you), to vote for their favourite on the An Post Irish Book Awards website.

The six shortlisted stories, which have been published in both literary journals and collections, are:

Sleep Watchers by Roisín O’Donnell published in The Stinging Fly

Red Market by Sheila Armstrong from How to Gut a Fish (Bloomsbury)

Mathematics by Wendy Erskine from Dance Move (The Stingfly Press)

The Chekhovians by Rebecca Miller from Total (Cannongate Books)

This Small Giddy Life by Nuala O’Connor from A Little Unsteadily Into Light (New Island)

Miles of Bad Road by Neil Tully published in The Waxed Lemon Literary Journal

You can read all six stories by clicking on the links above, and you can vote here (but do read the stories first). And there are many other categories to vote in! Particular congratulations to Glue Factory favourites Wendy Erskine and Nuala O'Connor.


7. 2022 Booker Prize

Good to see the Booker won this year by an indie press - congratulations to Sortof Books and Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka for The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. I haven't (yet) met anyone who's read this 'comic noir mystery' and would like to hear from you if you have. (My fiver was on Alan Garner's Treacle Walker).

Here's Max Liu:

    The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is set in the 1990s, at the height of Sri Lanka’s bloody     civil war. It is narrated in the second person “you” voice by its eponymous protagonist        who, at the beginning, wakes up dead. Maali, a gay photographer who claims to have taken     shocking photographs that have the potential to bring down Sri Lanka’s corrupt government,     believes he has been murdered by a death squad.

    Maali exists in “the in-between” – dead but not yet in the afterlife – where he has seven     moons to find out what happened to him. Maali watches his family grieving, coming up        against corrupt police, as the novel roams widely to what Karunatilaka has called “the        dark heart of the world.”

The chair of judges, Neil McGregor, said that the novel 'takes the reader on a rollercoaster journey through life and death, and there the reader finds, to her surprise, joy, tenderness, love and loyalty.

When it comes to fiction (and fairgrounds) I'm really not a rollercoaster kinda guy, to be honest. And Liu said he 'found the first 50 pages overwritten and self-conscious.' If that's the case I'd have bailed long before that point (but then I wasn't one of the judges employed to read 170 novels in a year at the rate of one every day or two). Liu also says that after finishing the novel 'it haunted me for weeks' which seems to me rather faint praise, because the best novels don't fade after a few weeks, do they? I've now read Treacle Walker three times (it's very short) and come away more impressed each time. It's deep and rich and strange but certainly not overwrought, not self-conscious. It's as simple as breathing, though not as easy. 

But I could be quite wrong. Any Karunatilaka advocates out there?


8. Speaking of the Booker

Let's assume that the Booker prize winner, like all prize winners, knows in advance that they have won (and will therefore have a witty and felicitous speech prepared in advance). This means that all the mon-winners will also know for sure that they haven't won. But they are still expected, perhaps even obliged, to turn up for the awards ceremony. 

Now this may be great fun for all, with good nosh and gargle, convivial company, a chance to dress up and press the flesh and even - joy of joys - meet the Queen Consort. The cost of the ceremony must come close to the value of the prize (£50k). It's very grand, although it also looks to me like the type of gathering at which the honking dullard Johnson comes on as the after-dinner speaker.

Speaking for myself I can think of few more ghastly ways of spending a Tuesday night in central London, and few experiences more remote from the practice of writing, and the business of being a writer. Has any winner, by the way, ever failed to turn up? Come to that, has anyone ever turned down a Booker?


9.Small Publishers Fair 2022

A final reminder that Small Publishers Fair returns to Conway Hall on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October.

In addition to 69 publishers showing and selling their publications, and the exhibition (Bibliopoe: books by Steven J Fowler), there will be readings and talks both afternoons. This includes ther artoist Natalia Zagorska-Thomas talking about her forthcoming collaboration with Chalres Boyle (that's on Friday at 4:30pm) 

Click here for details.

The Programme

The free 20-page programme includes publishers' listings and featured books plus information on readings, talks and the exhibition. Download a PDF here to plan your visit or browse the Fair from afar.

On the day

When you arrive at Conway Hall please go to reception to pick up a free copy of the printed programme and this autumn's issue of the excellent Brixton Review of Books.

Conway Hall is in a lovely part of London just two minutes walk from Holborn tube. Admission to the Fair and all related events is free. Doors open at 11am and close at 7pm each day.

Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL

The Fair will feature some of the indies that have appeared in The Glue Factory (and in its earlier iterations). Bring cash, cards and totebags. If you see me, say hello!


10. Next week's online gatherings

Not a typo - there are two events next week!

Next Sunday (30th October) we have our annual Hallowe'en gathering and this year our guest curator is the Chicago-based artist and writer Riva Lehrer (author of the prize-winning memoir Golem Girl) with her guests Hayley Campbell (author of The Living and the Dead), Audrey Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveller's Wife), and the artist Landis Blair. They'll be joined by the Glasgow-based writer and artist Rose Ruane who will produce a unique artwork which will be offered for sale to the highest bidder at the end of the evening (with proceeds to The Trussell Trust).

And on Hallowe'en night (Monday 31st October) we'll have an out-of-series gathering to watch together a neglected classic of 1930s Universal Studios horror, from director James Whale (The Invisible ManFrankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein). It's The Old Dark House (1932), based on the novel by J. B. Priestley. A wonderful cast (including the immortal Wilfred Thesiger as the stratospherically camp Horace Femm and Karloff in his first role after playing the Creature in Frankenstein) and Charles Laughton making his screen debut. Murder, arson, transvestism, a sexual predator, power cuts and the worst dinner ever caught on film. 


11. Nudge

The reason behind nearly 150 live gatherings (more than 250 hours of online broadcasting) and the reason behind this free newsletter (issued weekly for the past year) is to raise funds for The Trussell Trust, the UK's main food bank charity. That's why I do it, and why so many fine creative practitioners - more than 500 to date - have donated their time and energy and talent to the programme in its current and earlier iterations A Leap in the Dark and carthorse orchestra.

I don't labour the fact, and you're welcome in the audience whether you donate or not. These gatherings are free and by invitation only (which gives me, as host, plenty of freedom when it comes to copyright material). But I hope all of you reading this, and all of you in the online audience past, present and future, will dig deep and support this very worthwhile charity. The Trust does a lot of good in these dark days and offers a lifeline to many of the most vulnerable in our society.

Thank you.



Are there any wildly successful children's authors out there who would like to get involved in the celebrity telly chef/restaurant chain scene? You could get @jamieoliver himself to work for you as a 'ghost chef', cobbling up some unoriginal meals that include offensively stereotypical ingredients, and for which you take all the credit. Then, once you're established as a top celebrity telly chef you can move back into children's publishing and earn ££££££!!!!! Everybody wins!

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