April 8, 2009
Despite all his militant activities, he remained interested in poetry, and though he only managed to write nine poems while at Cambridge, he did write some polemical essays in which he encouraged the rise of “a revolutionary literature.” For him, the bourgeois ideal of the artist as an impartial observer was to be replaced by the revolutionary artist whose primary purpose was to support “the dynamic and vital forces of society against the reactionary inertial forces.” T.R. Healy on John Cornford.
March 20, 2009
The power of Faster Pussycat stemmed from the fact that Tura Satana was not wearing a studio-designed costume, but exactly what a real girl gangbanger would have put on to go out for a rumble. No self-respecting female from any era could have contemplated kicking ass while looking like a banana. Cathi Unsworth on Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
December 9, 2008
The well of transgressive literature is deep and, like the human psyche it reflects, bad things lurk there. Fiction that dares to broach the subjects others flinch at (whether to locate a greater truth, as an act of attention-seeking or just for the hell of it) has a rich if often concealed history. We live in an age where supposed sin is omnipotent, our senses have numbed to it and everything, no matter how debauched, is for sale. The fact is our liberal assumptions are not as solid as we would like to think and every now and then a work can come along that slips under our guarded sense of irony and seen-it-all-before complacency, books that question the consensus and test how genuine our devotion to free speech really is. Darran Anderson on the rise & fall of the literary nasty.
December 8, 2008
As Algren’s second novel, Never Come Morning is a seminal work, an incubator of sorts in which the writer introduces and tries out many of the themes and elements which he would hone to perfection in his next novel, the classic The Man With the Golden Arm: the struggling Polish lower class of Chicago’s Northwest Side, long, near-comic scenes set in police lineups and jail cells, a doomed protagonist blindly pursuing an unattainable dream, and characters who are overwhelmed by circumstance and fate. Peter Anderson on Nelson Algren.
December 2, 2008
Though his left-leaning beliefs were evident to even the most cursory readers of his fiction and journalism, Algren was no dyed-in-the-wool Bolshevik. His sympathies were instilled at an early age through experience. He grew up in a notoriously rough part of southside Chicago and came of age during the Great Depression. A heavy drinker, he struggled through a series of dead-end jobs and abject poverty. He wrote his first story in an abandoned petrol station in Texas where he was crashing and was jailed for four months for stealing a typewriter from a classroom. Writing wasn’t a career or even a calling, it was a life raft. Darran Anderson on Nelson Algren.
June 15, 2008
Easily one of the most violent books in mainstream literature, the most shocking aspect of the tale is its adherence to historical truth. It’s mind-blowing to consider that these things really happened, that there was an actual Glanton gang who terrorised northern Mexico and the south-west borderlands of the US, ruthlessly cutting swathes through the population. As it happened McCarthy took the framework for the book straight from the horse’s mouth, borrowing directly from gang member Samuel Chamberlain’s memoir My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue. In what can only be described as a prolonged bloodbath, McCarthy’s use of violence is visceral but authentic. Eye gouging, throat slicing, burning alive, it’s a reconstruction of a time when men kept the shrivelled hearts of the hanged as mementos, when churches lay in ruins, disabled people could be kept in cages and paraded for show and salvation was a form of cruel mockery. Darran Anderson revisits Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.
April 10, 2008
“I prefer to write for people untouched by poetry…I would like them to read poems in such a matter-of-fact manner as if they’re reading the newspaper or at a football match,” he once wrote, outlining his own personal creed. His was a simple but surprisingly rare quality in an artform whose practitioners are too often seen, and see themselves, as gatekeepers of some obscure bastion of knowledge. Sure he dealt in fairly esoteric subjects with a great deal of symbolism but he did so in the most free, reachable way possible. Holub was one who opened the backdoors and ushered the world in, one of the ones who might just have saved poetry from the poets. Darran Anderson in praise of Miroslav Holub.