Friday, 3 July 2015

BOOK REVIEW: NOTHING IS HEAVY BY VICKI JARRETT



A seemingly run of the mill Saturday night in Auld Reekie turns into a mind melting twelve hour roller coaster ride for three strangers. Beth, Amber and George are brought together by a string of coincidences that will change the course of their lives forever in this debut novel from esteemed short story writer Vicki Jarrett.

Beth is a shy chip shop worker with little to no ambition for her life, but when Amber, an outgoing stripper from the club across the road walks into her shop, it sets off a chain of events that force Beth to re-evaluate her life choices. A whirlwind adventure involving gangsters, guns, a briefcase full of money, a creaky old chip van and a man in a monkey suit ensues.     

I have had a penchant for stories that take place in the space twenty four hours or less ever since I first saw Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise when I was seventeen. Constructing well rounded characters and a story arc that doesn't feel forced or farcical within such a limited time frame takes a great deal of skill to pull off. Having devoured all the films I could find that fit the bill I swiftly moved on to novels and it was this search that led me to Nothing is Heavy. Reading the synopsis alone I knew it was just my cup of tea but it sat on my Amazon wish list for over a year before I finally bought a copy. Having now read it, I implore you to learn from the error of my ways and waste not one more second before purchasing a copy for yourself. 

It manages to find the perfect balance between comedy and drama. It would have been easy for it to tip too far either side of the scale and a lesser writer could have made a real hash of it, but it is spot on. When a novel can make you laugh on one page and want to cry on the next, you know you've found a winner. The characters are dynamic and interesting and although the collection of coincidences that tie them together are the kind that only occur in films and novels, you still buy into them. A lot of novels are dubbed 'page turners' but that phrase couldn't be more accurate for this one. I am generally a short burst reader, usually two chapters at a time, but I ploughed through this one in record time. 

A good novel will lift you out of your day to day life and offer a brief respite from the monotony. A great novel will make you appreciate that monotony and show you the beauty of it. It may even make you feel like you have wings.

Grab a copy from Amazon (UK), Amazon (US) or direct from the publisher Linen Press. Seriously. Do it.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

I READ ZINES [#8]

Concrete and Deadbeats #3 - Decameron Part I

This is a zine of street photography, essays and quotes all about the City of London and the daunting prospect of another four years under David Cameron. The first thing you notice about this zine is the exceptional print quality, it looks and feels absolutely beautiful. Both the writing and the photographs are hard hitting and show a side of London you won't see in any glossy tourist brochures. A must read for anyone with an interest in the Big Smoke.




Forza #1

Oh, I do love a lit zine! This one comes by way of Glasgow, Scotland and much like the second issue of my very own lit zine, PAPER AND INK, focuses on the theme of home. This is quite a remarkable debut effort and features some fantastic poetry and short stories, as well as a variety of illustrations. My personal favourite pieces were a majestic poem by Jane Potthast and an enchanting short story by Brighton-based writer Matthew Hamblion. They are currently accepting subs for their second issue on the theme of absent friends, find the details on their Facebook page.

Don't Panic We Are From Poland

This beautifully risograph printed zine is a comprehensive documentation of the history Polish punk and Polish punk zines. Written by Pawel (of Black Eye Press) for his university dissertation, it is an extensive guide to the scene and a really interesting read. I had little knowledge of Polish punk before reading it and certainly learnt a thing or two. Black Eye Press have a whole selection of interesting zines that are all worth checking out.





Super Hero Kim #1

This is the inaugral issue of a feminist comic zine from LA. The titular hero Kim is hell bent on gaining brutal and bloody revenge on any male rapists/sexual predators/pimps that she crosses paths with. Unfortunately I like the idea and message behind this zine much more than the execution. It all feels very rushed, the artwork is rudimentary, the design is slapdash and the print quality is very poor. My copy was not even bound together and if not for my nimble fingers would surely have fallen apart in my hands. A good idea poorly realised.

Monday, 15 June 2015

WRITE LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER


I have been coveting this mug for a few years now. Every time I think "Fuck it, I'll treat myself", I look at the UK shipping price and it immediately changes my mind. I just can't justify spending £26 on a mug. As awesome as that mug may be. The dilemma I find myself in, the Catch 22 of it all, is how the fuck can one call one's self a writer without it?! It is a question that torments me during my waking hours and haunts my nightmares. So, if any of you lovely lot fancy heading over to The Rumpus and buying it for me I won't say no.

Speaking of writing, I recently started work on a novel. It probably wasn't the ideal time to start such a mammoth undertaking as the submission deadline for my zine just closed and I have over 150 subs to go through. As you can imagine that is taking up most of my free time this month. The novel was itching to get out of my head though. The idea had been bubbling away for months and the first few thousand words exploded out with fervent velocity. A writer friend told me that the key to writing a novel is to just get it down. Work on it as often as possible. Don't leave it for weeks on end without touching it. I've kind of failed at that already, but I'll get there. Write like a motherfucker.

In other writing related news I have some poems being published in the coming months; 'Resolute' by David Roskos' Iniquity Press, 'Ten Years' in Hand Job #8 and 'Austerity' was recently published online by Pankhearst 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

MY SHITTY TOWN

I went to a gig last night and it was the strangest, most awesome gig that I have ever been to. I finished work at 8pm and after a brief pit-stop at home, headed straight to the venue. I had to be back at work at 8am today and part of me wanted to just crash out on the sofa but I went along regardless (Saturday shifts are a doss anyway, hence why I am writing a blog post right now as opposed to actually working). The gig was headlined by Louise Distras, a folk punk singer-songwriter from Wakefield. This was the first stop on her first UK tour with a full band. She is touring with American singer-songwriter Bryan McPherson and this show was supported by local Hastings punk band PUNKA.

I have been a fan of Louise for a long time. I discovered her music sometime in 2012 but last night was the first time I'd had the chance to see her live. She'd toured the UK a couple of times before since I'd been following her but she'd never played anywhere close to where I live. Suffice to say I was pretty fucking excited.


PUNKA played to a room of about five people. They trudged through their set and cracked a few jokes about the place being empty. I'd seen them before but this was the first time I'd seen them sober - they were decent enough, if a little uninspired. Next up was Bryan's set. Unfortunately only a few more people had arrived to see him. At this point PUNKA really pissed me off. They were dismantling and packing up their gear right in front of the stage as Bryan was playing. No fucking urgency whatsoever, just casually packing up and chatting amongst themselves. He took a couple of sarcastic digs at them which seemed to go over their heads. I really enjoyed his set, the highlight of which was the last song he played, 'Worker's Song'. Below is a video of him performing the song in Milan, Italy earlier this year when he supported The Dropkick Murphys.



Before Louise's set she came up to me and introduced herself. She'd seen that I had a backpatch on my hoodie of one of her old t-shirts and thanked me for coming. Unfortunately I was the only person who was actually there to see her, the other people that turned up would likely have been there no matter who was playing. She decided that due to there being fuck all people in attendance she would just do an acoustic set. As soon as she started playing PUNKA were once again being total dicks. They were stood at their merch stand at the back of the room, talking and laughing loudly. Louise was already pretty upset at basically playing to one dude and this really pissed her off. I could not believe the total lack of respect they showed to both Bryan and Louise. It was fucking embarrassing. And PUNKA are not teenagers, they're middle aged men. They're either really arrogant or completely ignorant, I couldn't tell. They even had the nerve to leave half way through Louise's set and brazenly take one of the gig posters from the wall right next to the stage as they did so. I will be in no rush to see them play again. Ever.

As for Louise's set, it was fucking awesome. She dedicated the whole thing to me and I got to request the songs I wanted her to play. I was ashamed of my shitty town for not turning out in force and completely embarrassed by PUNKA, but basically getting my own private gig from a musician that I admire greatly was pretty much the coolest thing ever. For Louise the gig was a right off and one that she will undoubtedly want to forget about in a hurry, but for me it was a gig that I will never forget. If Louise ever plays in your town, I implore you to go along and check her out. She's fucking rad!