Saturday 30 December 2023

The Butcher's Dozen: looking back at 2023

The Butcher's Dozen was a short series of 11 gatherings, both in real venues and online, spread over the past six months and featuring some porky prime cuts, as follows:

1.  Thursday 8th June

Live launch of Wes Brown’s Breaking Kayfabe (Bluemoose Books) at Waterstones, Gower Street. Here I am with the author deploying my trademark headlock. You could smell the fear.

2.  Wednesday 14th June

Power Game: a live performance at the London College of Communication. Among those taking part were Amy McCauley, Ping and David Henningham and Laura Hopkins. The performance involved a version of the card game Chemin de Fer, and I was the croupier. It was based on the original Power Game performance devised by the artist Liliane Lijn. First staged during the Festival for Chilean Liberation at the Royal College of Art, London in 1974, Power Game 'holds a mirror to our preconceptions and our fantasies of power.' There's no script, no actors, no rehearsals. 

3.  Friday 16th June:

An online Bloomsday gathering, with me banging on about different editions of the novel (and recommending the cheap Dover edition (below), a facsimile of the copy that Joyce would have known, complete with thousands of errors. This version is the real Ulysses - an urgent despatch from the frontline of modernism. I'm not much interested in later editorial interventions, which strike me as layers of varnish concealing the original. This is the one for me.

4.  Friday 23rd June

Online launch of Paul Griffiths’ let me go on hosted by Henningham Family Press.

I was in the Beckett Archive at Reading University that day so unable to attend this launch of Paul Griffiths' long-awaited sequel to let me tell you (also published by the Henninghams). By way of compensation I write about both books in the December 2023 issue of Literary Review. 

Read Lara Lara Pawson's review in The Guardian here.

5.  Thursday 27th July:

Online launch of The Hinge of Metaphor (a new and inspiring collection of essays about cinema) with publisher Richard Skinner and contributors Dan Dalton, Dan O'Brien, Susana Media, Tony White and myself (stepping in at the last minute) blathering on about Hitchcock's under-rated The Trouble with Harry.

6.  Friday 25th August

The online launch (in two parts, before and after the watershed) of BDSM superstar Ariel Anderssen’s memoir Playing to Lose (published by Unbound). One of my books of the year, and a real eye-opener. 

Ariel Andressen

7.  Saturday 9th September 

Celebrating the timeless genius of Laurel and Hardy with Todd McEwen. We chose this date because it marked seventy years since the boys arrived by liner in the small Irish port of Cobh on 9th September 1953. It was a moment recalled by Stan in his autobiography:

The love and affection we found that day at Cobh was simply unbelievable. There were hundreds of boats blowing whistles and mobs and mobs of people screaming on the docks. We just couldn't understand what it was all about. And then something happened that I can never forget. All the church bells in Cobh started to ring out our theme song and Babe [Oliver Hardy] looked at me and we cried. I'll never forget that day. Never.

I have a lump in my throat as I type this. 'All the church bells in Cobh'. They'd come by boat because they couldn't afford to fly. 

"Hard-boiled eggs and nuts" Stan and Ollie in County Hospital (1932)

8.  Friday 22nd September 

The online launch of My Weil, the third volume in the trilogy by Lars Iyer, published by Melville House. Hosted by publisher Tom Clayton with Lars Iyer, Vik Shirley and C. D. Rose.

                                                                               Lars Iyer

9. Sunday 8th October 

The online launch of Sports and Social by Kevin Boniface with the author himself and special guests Joanne Lee, Sam Skoog, Molly Boniface and Georgia Boniface. This followed a real-life launch in a wonderfully dilapidated Brixton chapel with a stand-up routine by comedian Johnny White Really-Really and readings by the author and (among others) the Will Eaves.

                           Young people gather on street corners in South London to read Sports and Social together.

10. Sunday 26th November 

Istros books publisher Susan Curtis introduced Faruk Šehić, Bosnian poet, short story writer and novelist, to mark the publication of his new poetry collection My Rivers. Suzi and Faruk were joined by the New Zealand poet David Howard for readings and conversation.

                                                                                                 Faruk Šehić

11. Tuesday 5th December 

One-to-one with American poet, playwright, essayist, librettist and memoirist Dan O'Brien, who read from Survivor's Notebook, From Scarsdale and his forthcoming play Newtown (published in 2024 by CB editions). 

                                                                                              Dan O'Brien

We also found time during the year to organise a special gathering to mark the coronation. This culminated in a royal art competition with some very strong entries (below). 

In the face of stiff competition the winner was Molly Boniface (see below). Well done Molly!

There was one other 2023 gathering, on Thursday 28th December, our annual fund-raising pantomime performed by The Carthorse Orchestra Players in aid of The Trussell Trust.This year it was a very approximate take on Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap. More about that elsewhere on this blog.

And that's it for 2023.

More online gatherings are planned for 2024. Details will follow.

These are dark times, so let's keep the lights on. 

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