Today I am trying to shake off the peculiar airlessness suffered during days without writing. During the move there was no enough space to do any, between the boxes and the piles of clothes and the seemingly endless phone calls to utility companies and working out  how the stove works, the heating (it doesn’t)(neither will the internet for a while).


I’m going to throw myself back into writing as soon as I can, but right now, I’m in a Starbucks on the Royal Mile, cold with cold, awful tea to hand, pondering a disappointment – I had applied for the chance to read at the Edinburgh Literary Festival, and was not accepted. It’s quite a blow, in a year (more than a year) of knocks and tumbles and crests and crashes, both in my personal and writing life. In the midst of this, I feel the need to look for firm ground. More specifically, to sources that feel comforting, or challenging (to be challenged by some interesting work, while it may throw us up in the air, while we may feel unsteady and temporarily set off balance and even fearful of where we will land, is not the same as being hit by normal, mundane waves, is it?)


I’m thinking of other writers to whom I look for sustaining ideas. For a sense of kinship. For the thrill of reading works that are beyond difficult, inimitable. And most of these writers are North American, oddly enough. There seems a wider market for experimentation, honesty, rawness, discomforting prose over there rather than here.


I touched on this a little in my review of Jackie Kay over at PANK, with the idea of ‘the deep narrow sea-loch of Scottish literary scene’. There are amazing writers here, but not so much of the avant garde. Not that I count myself as trying to be avant garde – I doubt I could be a true boundary breaker, working in colour, rather than ideas. But there are people who work language with a tremendous, vivacious skill, and I would like to read them, in order to be electrified. Hopeful that some of the sparks will fire me in ways I could not manage on my own.


Of course, I need to read more writers from the UK to see if it’s true all over, to see if the most challenging texts are or are not to be found on these shores. Recommendations would be great – particularly for female writers. I’m looking for a Scottish or British (or Australian, or Kiwi) Vanessa Veselka, Kate Zambreno, (I’d say Bhanu Kapil, but she is (or was) English, and is now in America).


If you can think of anyone working the glittering, sharp angles, tell me. I would like to be swept away by a brilliance close to home, not by my own lack of grip.


Meanwhile, writing, gulps of air. And waiting for something, as ever, some shore beyond anxiety and the limits of my work.



Filed under 2012, art, Bhanu Kapil, book review, consolations of writing, Edinburgh

6 responses to “Affinities

  1. Multifaceted and circuitous narratives can be found at Book Works a conceptual art publisher. In difficult times such as these we must in my opinion polish our ears and hunt for the brave of heart. Good hunting.

  2. Helen, You might contact Jenny Hodgson, who’s studying experimental British fiction at Durham University under Patricia Waugh. She’s doing a dissertation on Ann Quin, for instance, and knows a great deal about that 1960s scene (B.S. Johnson, Eva Figes, etc.). I met her when she came to work/study at Dalkey Archive Press for a spell, and would be happy to introduce the two of you.

    I can also introduce you to Michael Kelly, the author of the brilliant Ulrich Haarbürste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm, which I reviewed here:
    …and which has a site here:
    He’s in London.

    And, finally, there seems to be something of a scene centered around the London-based reading & performance series “The Special Relationship”:

    One of the co-hosts and founders is Jarred McGinnis:

    … Hope this helps! I’ll take the liberty of directing all of the folks I just mentioned toward this post.


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