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The North


21st January 2014

about 7 meandering months after I started it I have finished Paul Morley’s The North (And Almost Everything In It) (2013).

In some evident ways the book does not live up to its title (Bobby Robson is not even in the index, though Roland Barthes and Lou Reed are), in others the book partly rehashes a brilliant book Morley has written before (which makes it feel moving and thrilling when near the end of this book he reaches that one and starts talking about this one as a prequel to it), in others it is a new thing he had never done before but by that token is in ways more dutifully solid and less interesting than one or I would expect him to be, and at the same time it is frankly disappointing that every brick of historical solidity appears, by his own profession, to have come from the internet.

Then again it still contains clauses, sentences, sometimes paragraphs or pages that no one else could have written (unless they were taking the trouble to write a very good Paul Morley pastiche), and as it reaches its end (the last pages, the last paragraph, the last drop of rain and a litany of last Lancastrian things) it becomes not so much exhilarating as desperately moving or nerverackingly intense.

In some ways it is probably somewhat better than for instance the first report 7 mazy months ago of Stevie T might have led me to think though I would never have read it or even thought about it in the first place if he hadn’t at some time much longer ago led me to the vicinity of where it was being constructed.

By the time I read the 4 pages of Acknowledgements I felt so long committed, so immersed in the journey of this book that it was as though I was reading the Acknowledgements to a book I’d written myself, which would be convenient, what with one thing and another.

I’m quite glad I finished this book. I read it pretty closely.



The light goes green


1. I have long had an idea of Bruce Springsteen as some kind of writer – a writer of prose, I mean, as well as songs. Years ago on a music messageboard I started a thread for people to imagine what he would write. I said he would be ‘Kerouacian –  romantic, restless, with an obtrusive authorial presence – and at some stage would actually write a sentence like: “Meanwhile, out there, my America sleeps, beyond the stop-lights that flicker as the great trucks fly back and forth, beyond the barbed wire that can’t stop Pablo and Angela for ever, because the land is for dreamers …”’. ‘but trucks don’t fly’, a friend commented: ‘you are surely thinking of spaceships’.

            I don’t think my brief pastiche looks that good now, but I think my basic intuition was proved correct when Springsteen published his 500-page memoir, and I was quite tickled to find that he often writes the way I’d imagined, but better.

2. The rock or pop memoir as a major contemporary genre: in part it’s a response to the loss of revenue from record sales, with bookselling now looking a comparatively more reliable way to get people to pay £15 for something – though the idea of publishing as commercially sound probably looks foolish itself to some people in publishing. Still, more big pop names seem to have produced a major recent work than not. I come across them unexpectedly: I cherish Bob Dylan’s Chronicles (2004) and appreciate Johnny Marr’s Set the Boy Free (2016), but I hardly knew that Pete Townshend had written a magnum opus, Who I Am (2012), till I happened on it in a local library. There is also a shelf’s worth of such memoirs by women artists who often consciously write with, or against, a sense of marginalization: Tracey Thorn, Viv Albertine, Kim Gordon. In truth, I’ve only read one or two of all these books – but I still imagine that Bruce Springsteen’s is one of the best; that he is more a born writer than most musicians; that more of the spark in his pages came from him than from someone else hired to tidy it up.

3. Born to Run might seem the ideal title for someone at a distance: a phrase you associate with the Boss, summing him up. But though I’m used to it now, from first hearing I thought it a very bad title, simply because it already belonged to one of the most major works by the same author as the book. It’s as though Morrissey’s autobiography were called Hatful of Hollow, Dylan’s Bringing it All Back Home. I want to exclaim: B-but you can’t just use the same title! … That title belongs to that other thing you already did! Does the crossing from one medium to another make all the difference?

4. I like the design of the book: its heft, its truly brick-like hardback character, its cover image of a quite youthful Bruce leaning on a car (either acknowledging, or failing to understand or be bothered by, the stereotype of ‘Gars & Girls’), the boards of the house across the road, the drifts of snow around him in the monochrome photograph that stretches across the back cover, the businesslike lean white lettering of his name on the spine cutting across the shades of grey while belonging with them.

5. The internal construction of the volume: three ‘books’: ‘Growin’ Up’, ‘Born To Run’, ‘Living Proof’. Each of them contains over 20 chapters, for a total of 79 plus Foreword and Epilogue. So there’s another ‘Born to Run’ inside Born to Run! Should I replay my previous complaint and say: you can’t use that title again for a ‘book’ inside the book, when the book is already called Born to Run? Maybe not: after all, the LP Born to Run has a track on it called ‘Born to Run’: this kind of molecular echo of part and whole seems to be OK. But guess what the first chapter of ‘Book Two: Born to Run’ is called? … ‘Born to Run’! He sure is determined to get all the mileage he can out of this title, over 40 years since coining it.

6. It makes sense to have a ‘Born to Run’ chapter, though, as the italics signify the LP title, and these titles also get chapters to themselves: The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle; Darkness on the Edge of Town; The River; Nebraska; Born in the USA; Tunnel of Love; The Ghost of Tom Joad; The Rising; Magic; Wrecking Ball; High Hopes. I like this: it lets the reader find the LPs; brings drama as the new chapter with its LP title begins (I was thrilled when I turned a page and saw Born in the USA!); and suggests that the Boss himself partially measures out his own life with them. Why wouldn’t he?

7. 3 books, 79 chapters – but also, within those, further subvisions! A 5-page chapter entitled ‘Clarence Clemons’ includes two further sections: ‘The Emperor of E Street’ and ‘Heat of the Night’. The 10-page chapter ‘Tunnel of Love’ includes four: ‘‘88’, ‘Around the World in Forty-Two Days’, ‘Home Again’ (a single paragraph!), and ‘Adjustment’. What to conclude of all this division? First that it represents a certain lack of discipline from the writer: he couldn’t stick to a very clear and agreed pattern of subvisions, but produced fragments along the way, digressed into brief asides which were given their own titles despite hardly meriting them. Second, far better this kind of explicit organization of material than a mere undifferentiated prose ramble. With no titles, the book would be much harder to get the measure of. Third, their proliferation bespeaks a kind of creative energy: to come up with so many! Creative energy is one thing with which Bruce Springsteen is conventionally associated, even if it just means playing longer concerts than everyone else.

8. His writing moves between tones. The bar-band leader bashes out block capital letters to convey the adventure of a risky gig, or a memory like this:

We played, they paid us. How sweet it is. We trucked back into Jersey as the conquering heroes and for proof we had … our … our … REVIEW! We had been recognized by a big-time newspaper music critic as Jersey badasses gone to teach those West Coast sissy boys something about THE ROCK! (139)

But he can also be more intense, dispensing a solemn monologue of life lessons:

You can move on, with a heart stronger in the places it’s been broken, create new love. You can hammer pain and trauma into a righteous sword and use it in defense of life, love, human grace and God’s blessings. But nobody gets a do-over. Nobody gets to go back and there’s only one road out. Ahead, into the dark. (297)

He does this very well – as well as any rock star could do, I think. He has retained an earnestness most don’t, which allows him to make these perorations with sincerity – while also maintaining a healthy sense of scepticism and self-mockery. The very first page is exemplary in that regard: ‘I come from a boardwalk town where almost everything is tinged with a bit of fraud. So am I’ (xi). It’s a terrifically sly, complicating way to start a memoir in which people will be looking for the truth behind the art, and a finely intelligent framing of a career often associated, for good or ill, with a notion of authenticity. For the author of ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Born to Run’ to talk of his ‘magic trick’ which ‘begins with a set up’ (xii) shows a refreshing, challenging self-awareness. Yet all this doesn’t dispel the earnestness: they coexist in a rich sensibility that can avoid both simple-minded naivety and corrosive cynicism. After 500 pages he has earned the right to his moving Afterword, like an encore upon encores, describing his motorcycle ride home with ambitious delicacy:

The light goes green and the road stirs and rumbles beneath me as I pop over small sections of highway that have expanded in the summer heat, then cooled, leaving irregular ridges, sequential speed bumps where sections of asphalt meet (507).

Again, how many musicians could pull this off? As he limns ‘a stream of headlights as commuter cars holding their day travelers flash by inches from my left handle grip’ (507), I realize that he’s blasted far through the roof of my old pastiche, on a last-chance power drive.




I’d seen most of Whit Stillman films multiple times, Director’s Commentaries and all. But I’d never been able to see his second feature Barcelona (1994) until in June 2017 a friend thoughtfully put it on a DVD for me. I just watched it along with a companion piece: The Cosmopolitans (2014), Stillman’s 25-minute pilot for a series that’s never been made. I observe:

1. It’s understandable not to have seen all an artist’s body of work – you might really like Hawks or Hitchcock, but not have seen the lot. But for most of his career, Stillman had only ever made three films, and he’s still only made five in nearly 30 years! So never to have seen one of them was a peculiarly large omission: for most of my adult life, these 100 unseen minutes were a third of the potential oeuvre!

2. One of the most obvious things about Stillman is how – at least until his second coming with Damsels in Distress (2011) – he reuses the same actors. Perhaps this is normal, what directors always do: from Hawks and Ford with Wayne, to Wes Anderson recycling Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. But perhaps it felt a little more exposed with Stillman, because of the slenderness of the body of work: there weren’t many other films amid which to hide the fact that Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigeman were the leads here having been so prominent in Metropolitan (1990). And because of the readiness to repeat: Nichols here stammers away with neurotic concern just as he did in the debut, or more so; Eigeman here plays the daringly obnoxious opportunist, only more obnoxious, and then reprises the same characteristics yet again in The Last Days of Disco (1998). It all implicitly presents itself as a game of permutation: the same actors, roughly the same roles, different names, slightly different relations.

3. I have always thought that films are disappointingly unlike real life, and have often appreciated those films where people do things they do in real life – like discuss issues and say funny things. In that sense Stillman is my idea of a ‘realistic’ director – but I’m aware that the view is perverse, and this film confirms how far the opposite is true, how very unreal is almost everything he films. It’s not so much that the dialogue is stilted – as I say, I think many people’s actual dialogue is more intelligent than what people say in films – but maybe more the staginess of so many of the set-ups, the actual mise en scene in which three characters will be abruptly foregrounded just to have a conversation, sometimes with a whole brief scene given over to it. People and things that could look and sound quite realistic are played and filmed to seem completely artificial.

4. I think that the interchangeability of characters in Stillman, from one preppie crowd to another, is something of a deliberate effect (but I may be wrongly inferring intention here as in the points above); but I fear that this goes too far with the female characters here, who have far less distinctness than those in Metropolitan or The Last Days of Disco. It may be a contributing factor that most of them are either speaking in, or pretending to speak in, their second language.

5. Artists quite often title their stories after a single place name, especially a city. It seems a quick way to earn gravitas: maybe too quick. It tends to suggest that the story will depict the place and tell us about it, as much as anything else in the film; it invites critics to say ‘[place name x] is itself one of this story’s most compelling characters’. All this can be overblown and too easy: Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn (2009) doesn’t tell you that much about Brooklyn, and I’m doubtful that David Mamet’s forthcoming Chicago offers a total portrait of that city either, or that very much of Canada is covered by Richard Ford’s Canada (2012). I don’t so much blame Stillman, though, for calling his picture Barcelona. For one thing he isn’t portentous enough to have such an aspiration. The film tries to give us a view of the city – which I’ve never seen and have almost no visual sense of whatever – through recurrent location long shots, but can’t be taken seriously as a portrait of local society. Maybe the best reason for the name was just that for Stillman, filming in Barcelona was a novelty, a one-off: as though it had the working title ‘Barcelona Film’, and he eventually cut ‘Film’.

6. I like the motif of business associated with Nichols’ character Ted: marketing, the mystique and honour of sales, self-help books for salesmen. It gives the characters more reason to be formal, and provides a foil to the lazy leisure-class milieu that might be Stillman’s default.

7. Repetition is so often central to Stillman’s humour. A mildly funny line or speech happens 20 minutes in; it’s funnier when a quite different character ingenuously says the same thing 40 minutes later. I feel that this structure could be traced, over and over, through most of the films. Just one example that sticks in my mind here: Eiegeman’s character Fred early on gives a long, pointless disquisition on the difficulty of shaving the right way; the best part of an hour later, a character turns to him and says he looks as though he shaves the wrong way – and this comes moments after the same character has tried to explain the USA as an ant farm, which unbeknown to him replicates an earlier controversy in which Ted uses a similar analogy. It’s about the repetition and recognition, but also the fact that it comes from an unexpected source, which brings a new element of innocence – the new speaker doesn’t know, as we do, that they’re repeating something – and of charming uncanniness: what are the odds on this character thinking the same thing someone else thought half an hour ago?

8. Fred is shot by a gunman, leading to a lengthy scene where Ted and others wait in the hospital for him to recover. This seems to prefigure the hospital stay that Charlotte Pingress (Kate Beckinsale) must make late in The Last Days of Disco: a more effective sequence, as much shorter, never mind its musical finale.

9. To what again seems a self-conscious degree, most of Stillman’s films seem to involve dancing. Fred’s failed attempt to instigate a limbo dance is joined by several other more successful scenes of dancing, and most remarkably by Ted’s solo routine stepping to Glenn Miller while reading the Bible – one of those detachable minutes with its own vitality. These all fit with the cha-cha youths of Metropolitan and the inevitable disco in the next film (prefigured here by Ted and Montserrat discovering a shared affection for the genre); but also with the invented dance craze, the Sambola, in Damsels in Distress, which is pointedly picked up again in The Cosmopolitans. (I can’t remember now whether people dance in Love & Friendship.) My two observations about this are: first, it may represent a desire to reach back to the Hollywood musical (while only very rarely, as in Beckinsale’s ‘Amazing Grace’, having characters break into song); second, it seems to mark a contrast, whether or not intended as a deliberate relief, with what otherwise seems the cerebral character of the films, dominated as they are by talk rather than physical action.

10. Stillman is not the most political director, though he does have a habit of introducing social and political themes as talking points: like Tom Townsend’s dedication to the socialism of Fourier in Metropolitan. But Barcelona seems to go much further than all this, introducing the political into its world even if that world can barely contain it. When the opening title stated ‘Barcelona, Spain. The last decade of the Cold War’, I didn’t think that would make for a film about the Cold War: rather I imagined it was an ingenious way of suggesting the multiple contexts in which things can be placed, and a way of comparing this story with, say, Hemingway’s treatment of the same place during other wars and political conjunctures. But no, Barcelona really is sometimes about the Cold War: hence the debates about ants (Russians as red ants, angrily crushed by Fred’s rock). Fred is an officer in the US Navy, who spends almost the whole film waiting for the Sixth Fleet to turn up: part of the joke, maybe, is that we don’t know much about such fleets or what an advance officer for them might do, but we know they exist and they’re fair game for story like anything. There’s a shot of an actual aircraft carrier deck once – did Stillman shoot this himself? on a Director’s Commentary he would tell us about it at length – but mostly the Navy here is a kind of fantasy, an impressive absent excuse. It lets Fred strut around town in a formal naval uniform and cap, which makes him a target for disdainful locals: people in this uniform, he indignantly protests, died saving Europe. There’s something about the sense that Stillman shouldn’t be dramatising such material, imagining such a silly figure as a naval officer, but he is and nobody can stop him. Accentuating the effect, apart from Fred, the Navy is primarily represented by one other man, short and respectful, who wears a classic sailor suit that could come from decades of cinema. They could start dancing at any moment.


And the present pouring down


Jim Jarmusch’s film Paterson (2016) depicts a week in the life of a bus driver, Paterson (Adam Driver), who lives in Paterson, New Jersey, which gave its name and theme to William Carlos Williams’ 5-volume poetic epic Paterson (1946-58). Paterson the bus driver admires Williams, and keeps a portrait of him on the wall of a basement study impressively stocked with books of poetry. He also writes regularly himself: taking a notebook on the bus, jotting a few lines each morning as he prepares to rev the vehicle out of the garage, thinking them over as he drives, redrafting and adding on his lunch break as he sits opposite the mighty falls of the Passaic River. We see Paterson’s hands writing the lines, hear his voice-over hesitantly reciting them as he writes them, and – a slightly more novel technique – also see the words unfold on screen, superimposed over whatever is happening. The film attempts to find a new way to put poetry on screen: not just literally but as the heart of a story.

Paterson has shared his poetry with his partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who stays at home each day while he drives. Five days running we see their day begin shortly after 6am, in a repeated shot from above their bed: then a sequence of other shots and scenes. Paterson walks past light industrial buildings to the bus depot; writes a few lines; talks to his morose foreman; drives down the town’s main street; stops for lunch; eventually comes back the way he came, reaching the house and readjusting the mailbox that has been left askew during the day. Later he takes the dog Marvin for a walk, chaining him outside a bar: inside, he gazes into a glass of lager and talks to the barman Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley). The level of repetition could suggest Groundhog Day, which is an interesting thought in itself. Film often likes repetition, but usually not this much repetition, with so little significant variation, and with so little drama paying off from it. To be in a film that repeats this much, you ought to be in a nightmarish fantasy of stasis – but that’s not what this repetition is: it’s just life, notably including work. So an average working life, by the standards of narrative film, is a desperate trap? Perhaps; but not for this film, which calmly shows the repetition without ever suggesting that anyone’s despairing of it. It’s then quite a thought that the people in the film have likely already repeated these scenes not five times, but a few hundred, and are looking at several hundred more to come.

Plainly this is a film about ‘the everyday’, more literally than usual. It disrupts the everyday less violently than most stories on that theme, with the exception of perhaps three events. At the end of the week the bus breaks down – without lasting ill-effect, a fact highlighted by contrast with the three people who separately tell Paterson it could have become a ‘fireball’. In the bar, a disappointed lover pulls a gun on the punters – which, once Paterson has disarmed him, turns out to be a toy weapon. The character’s distress is real, but the physical danger wasn’t. Lastly, on Saturday night Paterson uncharacteristically leaves his notebook out in the living room and it is torn to pieces by Marvin the dog. Here is the one true dramatic climax of the film, especially as Paterson has not executed Laura’s request to make photocopies of his work. The loss of the poems affects Paterson, though he reacts to this, as to most things, mildly and quietly. (In this respect Driver, who many viewers will associate with fits of rage in one role or another, plays agreeably against type.) It may be because he is newly bereft of poetry that when, on Sunday, a Japanese visitor approaches him at the Falls, Paterson does not acknowledge the label of poet. But the visitor, himself another enthusiast for Williams and Frank O’Hara, gives Paterson a notebook, and something about the encounter prepares him to begin writing again. The loss of the poems produces a narrative ripple, but does not prove fatal to Paterson’s path.

Refusing violent change, the film stays truer than most tales to its idea of the quotidian. A consistent element of its interest comes simply from the controlled variable of different passengers on the bus, offering a different conversation each day. The film also goes a long way to showing something comparatively rare in narrative: contentment. In one of his most poignant essays, the film writer David Thomson reflects on happiness as a reality for which film finds little sustained use. In real life we’re content with an absence of trouble, but in fiction we crave it: ‘desperate for story in the dark’, but going ‘in fear of “story” settling in under the sun – as if “story” were the worst rain’. So Thomson tries (Beneath Mulholland, pp.282-3) to imagine an alternative genre, ‘movies in which nothing happens’, which would have a chance of depicting happiness more honestly than most narrative film does. Perhaps Paterson would qualify, even with its paper-chomping bulldog. For it manages to show domestic life continuing without crisis, emotional explosion, plates hurled to the wall, affairs revealed, doors slammed. Paterson and Laura subsist together with a mixture of passionate devotion (in his final poem to her, before the dog destroys it all, he boldly confesses to being attracted to other women but affirms the profundity of his need for her), amiable companionship, and mere cautious, quiet coexistence.

All this is more intriguing and challenging than most filmic representations of such close relationships, which do not seriously wonder what it’s like for two people to spend so much time together, how many muted compromises and phatic murmurs keep the scenario going for another evening. The picture isn’t too simple: we’re not to doubt their commitment to being together, but we can discern that Paterson doesn’t really enjoy the cheese and sprout pie that Laura has invented for him; that he is willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the guitar she wants, but not exactly enthused about it. For that matter, if being with her were all he wanted, why would he return from work and head out every night to a bar without her? If he didn’t do that, maybe they wouldn’t still be together by now. The film doesn’t simplify these signs, or offer a false resolution of the kind of cross-currents that real life generates.

Maybe another reason that Paterson is content enough, that his life is sustainable, is his writing. Laura supports him fervently in this, considering him ‘a great poet’. But she also seems genuinely to believe that she could become a country star in Nashville a couple of years after taking up the guitar; her perspectives are apt to be less realistic than those of most characters in this film, though their enthusiasm may be a vital value in itself. Paterson doesn’t seem to consider himself a great poet – maybe a reason he doesn’t get round to photocopying his work – and indeed nor do I. The pieces we see him compose (written for the film by poet Ron Padgett) largely lack the memorable turns of phrase or semantic density that might compensate for their complete uninterest in traditional poetic criteria like metre and rhyme. He and a little girl he meets agree that they like poetry best when it doesn’t rhyme, which is fair enough – but you might then want it to work hard at doing something else instead. To my ear, the girl’s effort (written, it turns out, by Jarmusch himself) has more life in it. Paterson certainly appreciates it. You could say that the two poets most prominently cited in the film, Williams and O’Hara, were themselves free versifiers of the quotidian, even the random. True enough – but O’Hara made this formula work through unique reserves of charm, a remarkable social life and the additional disarming device of camp humour, while Williams in 1923 could also write ‘The pure products of America go crazy’ and the vivid, alarming lines that follow it. Jarmusch may justifiably have felt that enough films, including his own, had already shown America’s products going crazy, and wanted the more unusual challenge of sustained sanity. I’m not sure that his film shows someone writing good poetry, but its achievement is that this doesn’t much matter. The work of art that is Paterson is big and generous enough to sustain the lesser works essayed by Paterson.

The film commences with Paterson waking from a dream about twins; and all through it he encounters twins, siblings or people who look curiously alike. This practice of twinning seems to echo the poetic practice of echoing. The film is interested in repetition, not just that of the working and domestic day but the kind that suggests pattern, which we may associate with art. So the girl’s title ‘Water Falls’ echoes the Falls of the Passaic, and in this sense Paterson in Paterson (in Paterson) is a poetic device – as well as being, as ‘a bus driver who writes poetry in Paterson’, ‘very poetic’ in the imaginative view of the Japanese visitor. I don’t know whether, on top of these gentle doublings, it’s coincidence or artifice that makes Paterson, in Paterson, a driver played by Driver.


Chickfactor Top Tens 2012

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Top Ten Attractive Modernist Writers

(All to be pictured at their peak, c. eg mid-20s: no alluring oldsters here)

1 Mina Loy

2 Katherine Mansfield

3 Jean Rhys

4 W.B. Yeats

5 Ezra Pound

6 William Carlos Williams

7 James Joyce

8 Arthur Rimbaud

9 T.S. Eliot

10 Virginia Woolf

+ one Hollywood wild card: Anita Loos, ‘the Soubrette of Satire’ (Photoplay), more stunning than any of them.


One Line Each from Top Ten Go-Betweens Songs

1 his father’s watch – he left it in the shower

2 I wish you had a big house and that your work would start to sell

3 you’ll get hurt if you play with crooks

4 I can only say it when we’re apart

5 but then the lightning finds us

6 the mangroves go quiet

7 her father works, her mother works in exports

8 I took their top prize and paid them back with rain

9 and I ride your river under the bridge

10 please take out the garbage


One Line Each from Ten Stephin Merritt Songs: only one per LP

1 and we picnic in the winter on maple syrup and snow

2 we will dance in the autumn with the leaves in our hair

3 there’s no point pointing pistols at me

4 after all those trains and all those breakdown lanes

5 a crime, crime, crime, sin and illness is time

6 summer left its light green lipstick on our wet faces

7 in fact that’s where music comes from

8 it’s drunk – I’m three

9 the rain won’t change my heart at all

10 I can’t make it twang and beep


Top Ten Sentences from James Joyce’s Ulysses (only one per episode)

1 Woodshadows floated silently by through the morning peace from the stairhead seaward where he gazed.

2 On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung spangles, dancing coins.

3 Listen: a fourworded wavespeech: seesoo, hrss, rsseeiss, ooos.

4 Those homely recipes are often the best: strawberries for the teeth: nettles and rainwater: oatmeal they say steeped in buttermilk.

5 Pineapple rock, lemon platt, butter scotch.

6 Hot herringpies, green mugs of sack, honeysauces, sugar of roses, marchpane, gooseberried pigeons, ringocandies.

7 Miss Douce halfstood to see her skin askance in the barmirror gildedlettered where hock and claret glasses shimmered and in their midst a shell.

8 Lady Sylvester Elmshade, Mrs Barbara Lovebirch, Mrs Poll Ash, Mrs Holly Hazeleyes, Miss Daphne Bays, Miss Dorothy Canebrake, Mrs Clyde Twelvetrees, Mrs Rowan Greene, Mrs Helen Vinegadding, Miss Virginia Creeper, Miss Gladys Beech, Miss Olive Garth, Miss Blanche Maple, Mrs Maud Mahogany, Miss Myra Myrtle, Miss Priscilla Elderflower, Miss Bee Honeysuckle, Miss Grace Poplar, Miss O Mimosa San, Miss Rachel Cedarfrond, the Misses Lilian and Viola Lilac, Miss Timidity Aspenall, Mrs Kitty Dewey-Mosse, Miss May Hawthorne, Mrs Gloriana Palme, Mrs Liana Forrest, Mrs Arabella Blackwood and Mrs Norma Holyoake of Oakholme Regis graced the ceremony by their presence.

9 Nevertheless, without going into the minutiae of the business, the eloquent fact remained that the sea was there in all its glory and in the natural course of things somebody or other had to sail on it and fly in the face of providence though it merely went to show how people usually contrived to load that sort of onus on to the other fellow like the hell idea and the lottery and insurance which were run on identically the same lines so that for that very reason if no other lifeboat Sunday was a highly laudable institution to which the public at large, no matter where living inland or seaside, as the case might be, having it brought home to them like that should extend its gratitude also to the harbourmasters and coastguard service who had to man the rigging and push off and out amid the elements whatever the season when duty called Ireland expects that every man and so on and sometimes had a terrible time of it in the wintertime not forgetting the Irish lights, Kish and others, liable to capsize at any moment, rounding which he once with his daughter had experienced some remarkably choppy, not to say stormy, weather.

10 Furthermore, silly Milly, she dreamed of having had an unspoken unremembered conversation with a horse whose name had been Joseph to whom (which) she had offered a tumblerful of lemonade which it (he) had appeared to have accepted (cf. hearthdreaming cat).


Ten Moments from the Cantos of Ezra Pound

And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea

Close cover, unstillness,
bright welter of wave-cords,
Then quiet water,
quiet in the buff sands,
Sea-fowl stretching wing-joints,
splashing in rock-hollows and sand-hollows
In the wave-runs by the half-dune

And the old voice lifts itself
weaving an endless sentence.
We also made ghostly visits, and the stair
That knew us, found us again on the turn of it,
Knocking at empty rooms, seeking for buried beauty;
And the sun-tanned, gracious and well-formed fingers
Lift no latch of bent bronze

There was a man there talking,
To a thousand, just a short speech, and
Then move ‘em on. And he said:
Yes, these people, they are all right, they
Can do everything, everything except act;
And go an’ hear ‘em, but when they are through,
Come to the bolsheviki …

Signori, you go and enforce it.

In fact a small rain storm …
as it were a mouse, out of cloud’s mountain
recalling the arrival of Joyce et fils
at the haunt of Catullus
with Jim’s veneration of thunder and the
Gardasee in magnificence

O lynx, keep the edge on my cider
Keep it clear without cloud

Till the blue grass turn yellow
and the yellow leaves float in air

And was her daughter like that;
Black as Demeter’s gown,
eyes, hair?

Their asperities diverted me in my green time.
A blown husk that is finished
but the light sings eternal
a pale flare over marshes
where the salt hay whispers to tide’s change



Chickfactor Polls 2012



What was the best record / live show / artist in 1992?

the sundays, blind, and ensuing concert at norwich waterfront.

What is the best record / live show / artist of 2012?

I’m looking forward to bob dylan for american classicism #35, and the secret history for american romanticism #53. my favourite live shows were chickfactor: for the love of pop on the US east coast: above all the aislers set showing themselves one of history’s great groups.

In what ways do you wish things were still like they were in 1992?

I would like neoliberalism not yet to have extended so deeply into our societies; and for harriet wheeler still to be 29.

In what ways are you glad they are not?

I wouldn’t really want to go through getting a phd all over again. … then again, maybe I would.

How has music changed in the past 20 years?

the sundays stopped. belle & sebastian started. I got better at writing songs, and was lucky enough to record some of them with a few tremendous people. it arguably became easier to filter out what you didn’t like. which may, come to think of it, mean that contemporary culture is even worse than I think.

Has your record collection changed? How so?

I now have 3 copies of 69 love songs: one that gail o’hara instructed me to buy in greenwich; one that I bought so the band could sign it; and one that leonard honeymoon diary gave me because he’d realized he didn’t actually like it.

How does your 2012 hair-clothing-stagewear compare to your 1992 self?

I think the high point was right in the middle of this period when stephin merritt gave his approval to my knitwear. downhill since then.

Of course it’s nonsense, but if the Mayan’s End of World prediction came true, what would the theme song be?

I am not familiar with this prediction, but I agree with stephin merritt about skeeter davis.

Can you recall something memorable that you’ve witnessed at a chickfactor party?

it was nice to welcome my friend the lawyer and literary scholar joseph hassett, a friend of the clintons and fan of blossom dearie, as a guest to the show at artisphere. it was also terrific at bell house, ny, to meet queens aesthete michael grace jr and his queen laura for the first time.

How is chickfactor different from mainstream media?

it is a fanzine, and it sometimes prints words that I have written.

Who is on your crush list?

I am still available to write all scarlett johannson’s campaign speeches. or if this question is about 1992, then harriet wheeler’s.

Are there any bands you would pay top dollar to see reunite?

honeymoon diary. the world could use a little more jennifer robbins. I would also pay my favourite just to come over and play ‘homeless club kids’ with me.

What bands pulled off a successful reunion? Which ones did not?

the commotions 2004 and black tambourine 2012 both seemed to know when to leave people wanting more. I would like to note for posterity that archie moore introduced ‘dream baby dream’ by telling a brooklyn crowd: ‘hey, new jersey, here’s a bruce springsteen song for y’all!’

Do you believe musicians should be able to make a living from music? Are you? Do you have health insurance?

making a living from music is not something I could contemplate. in my country, despite endless neoliberal inroads, we still have a universal health system which I believe is the noblest creation in our history. it is the material testament to our solidarity as a society. going to a hospital is naturally burdensome and worrying, but I can also find it inspiring.

As a musician, do you make more money from digital or physical product?

I heard a gratifying rumour about royalties from matinee records, but otherwise the closest I have ever come to making any money out of music is because gail o’hara pays proper money to acts she has asked to perform. I have appreciated this.

Are you for or against file sharing? Discuss.

I am not really sure what this term means. if it means someone sending me an mp3, that’s nice of them but not a lot of use as my itunes computer hasn’t worked for a year.

Don’t you think that the artist should have to consent or approve of his-her material being uploaded to Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud etc? Why isn’t this the case? Does anyone make royalties from these?

I expect chickfactor’s views on this subject are correct. I would like to add that ‘digital culture’ is not the level playing field of universal access that is sometimes implied. people’s levels of technological capacity are variable and it is sadly possible to get left behind.

How have the proliferation of phone-cameras changed your approach to live performance?

I am glad that people have filmed one or two of the pines’ performances for posterity. the other half of the pines may not agree.

Do you use any music-related apps? If so, which…

I don’t really know what ‘apps’ are.

How has technology changed your recording process?

all our records have been recorded digitally. it has made a change from recording a guitar on to a tape, then recording along with the tape in a twin cassette player, with intriguingly pathetic results.

Do you suffer from stage fright?

it is usually very scary preparing to play, especially as I have no idea how amplifiers, tuners or microphone stands work.

Do you have any advice / rituals / pharmaceuticals to recommend for coping with it?

the night before you play, go on stage with ld beghtol and accompany him by playing one note on an electric stylophone for four minutes.

Best country & city to tour when it comes to eating?

arlington, virginia for ray’s the steaks, where I was taken by my friend stephen wood – a keen supporter of both pop and steak.

What venue has served you the best eats?

I don’t really think eating and playing go together, but it was exciting to go on an odyssey through brooklyn with the urbane and erudite carrick blair to bring back chinese food after hours for the prolific pop phenomenon that is rose melberg.

What’s in your rider?

microbrewery-quality lager and a copy of the london review of books signed by robert forster. if every other band soundchecking has 6 members or more, then better add a copy of the cantos of ezra pound.

What’s your favorite food related song or album?

siouxsie & the banshees: ‘hong kong garden’. the cat’s miaow: ‘ice cream’. lloyd cole: ‘ice cream girl’. the pinefox: ‘chocolate snow’.

What drink goes with what album?

red wine with loveless, early-evening white wine with bryter later, late-night whiskey with magnetic fields’ distortion, tea and panettone with u2’s war, tea and a biscuit with reading, writing & arithmetic, hot chocolate with deacon blue’s oooh las vegas.

What’s your signature dish?

baked salmon with lemon, leek, risotto, rocket salad + pinot grigio. or we could just go to the chinese, it’s only 5 minutes down the road.

What meal do you wish you could recreate at home?

a steak that stephen wood would consider worth eating.

Have any musicians influenced your eating habits?

my interest in the go-betweens is gradually leading me to consider eating kangaroo. I am told that it is both healthy and tasty.


Chickfactor Polls 2004


have you ever written a song based on something that happened in a dream or a tune that you heard in a dream?

my songs are my dream life. but they never come true.

have you had music related dreams?

there was the one about morrissey and gary mabbutt; but they told me not to tell you about it.

what music do you like to play for sleeping?

the trouble is, I can’t hear it, then.

have you had “romance” with a pop star in a dream?

I am still waiting for the one about doris day.

what is your dream gig?

roger mcguinn, johnny marr and neil clark: duelling 12-strings

do you have any recurring dreams (music related)?

I suppose I want the one about doris day to be recurring, if it ever happens.

what is the best song about a dead person?

mike and the mechanics’ ‘the living years’ brought tears to my eyes in london’s virgin megastore. but that was in the late 1980s. perhaps I was crying for my country.

if you could bring a dead musician back to life who would it be?

johnny marr. but no – robert quine, a ragged, stinging inspiration, who deserves the mourning of fellow musicians.

what drug should be legal?


is the music ‘scene’ any less druggy now than 10-20 years ago?

we don’t really have drugs in england, except alcohol.

would today’s teenypop kids benefit from a little drug use?

they should drink less and take fewer drugs, and also have less dangerous sex. whatever happened to a cup of coffee and holding hands?

what are your most/least favorite cover versions?

best: lloyd cole, ‘you’re a big girl now’; the sundays, ‘wild horses’; ride, ‘sight of you’

worst: pet shop boys, ‘where the streets have no name’

what covers would you put on your covers album?

‘let’s face the music and dance’; ‘always true to you in my fashion’; ‘ye banks and braes’; ‘lonesome town’; ‘you’re gonna make me lonesome when you go’; ‘trains & boats and planes’; ‘racing in the street’; ‘what he doesn’t know’; ‘when the open road is closing in’; ‘I poured my heart into a song’

do you have any album credit / liner note peeves?

1. I have a frank sinatra cd which says that from here to eternity was ‘based on the story by james joyce’ – huh? 2. my editor told me they didn’t release the liner notes paul morley wrote for the recent eno reissues. why not? 3. julie burchill. peeved? we should be.

what is your most embarrassing listening moment? actually not knowing what something is or thinking it’s one thing when it’s another.

I once went to see teenage fanclub because the publicity said they were going to be ‘jangly’. they were not. they didn’t play an arpeggio all night, it was all crash-bang powerchords. I wasn’t embarrassed, but they shoulda been.