First published in fashion quarterly, Phoenix magazine, April 2014
The London Book Fair, just past us, is the publishing industry’s spring event, taking place in Earl’s Court Convention Centre where agents, publishers and scouts duke it out for the titles du jour. Darling Days by iO Tillett Wright was purportedly the biggest book to sell at the fair this year, with North American publishing rights going for a reported $700,000 after a nine-way auction.
Along with Book Expo America and the Frankfurt Book Fair, LBF is one of three must-go-to international rights conventions. If this sounds dull, it isn’t. It is a perfect mash-up of book geekery, sexy big business and late night cocktails, with deals done and figures written on serviettes in chic hotels after midnight.
I watched this year’s fair with interest, helped largely by the reportage of Rachel Deahl in Publishers Weekly. Make sure, avid readers, to pre-order Wadjda by Haifaa al Mansour for your friends’ kids’ birthdays. Also, tipped to be the next Gone Girl (if the next Gone Girl has not already been published by the time this comes out, in which case it will be the next next Gone Girl), pick up The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.
If I may break a little news here, the next Hunger Games (perhaps after Divergent and Legend that should be the next next next Hunger Games?) may very well be the Endgame series by A Million Little Pieces author James Frey.
With little reference to plot, characters or theme, the publicity plan details the epic lengths Frey is taking to ensure he creates a phenomenon. The strategy includes active social media outlets for the twelve characters in the series; also an in-book puzzle designed by MIT visionaries, linking to an out-book geo-location game played on an app made by the Google Maps designer, with a million dollar prize for the winner. All schemes are already in motion, with film rights sold too, for $2 million.
It’s a blatant stab at cashing in on the Young Adult market; still, the publishers are lapping it up. Cynical though this might be, I have to admire the sheer ballsiness of it. Frey has flounced luck and stared coldly into the eyes of those mover shakers within the publishing industry relentlessly seeking the next next, the carbon copy of what blockbuster went before.
Frey’s achievements thus far demonstrate that luck is readiness coupled with impeccable timing and a dash of audacity. All that remains to be seen is if the books will actually be… good.
FLICK author Abigail Tarttelin shares a hot-off-the-press novel and vintage read to delve back into.
NEW: Witness The Night – Kishwar Desai, Winner of the 2010 Costa New Book Award (Simon & Schuster, £7.99)
A townhouse in central India is covered with the blood of its dead inhabitants. One of them, 14 year old Durga, daughter of the deceased, is found raped, but alive. A corrupt legal system arrests her and charges her with thirteen murders. Social worker Simran, a warm and whisky swilling 45 year old, has a matter of days to clear Durga’s name. But is Durga innocent? Or could she really have murdered her entire family?
I read this book in about three hours. It isn’t that it’s short – it is a taught, gripping and complex thriller with two enigmatic heroines at its core. The hold this book had on me saw me walking through the security gate in JFK still reading it.
This is a novel that talks frankly about equality, demands women be seen as equal to men, and will not accept an India that denies the dangerous and fatal perception of women as worthless, or better off dead. This theme clearly runs throughout the story, but Desai does not shy away from making this clear in her literary choices as well. It’s refreshing to read a book that portrays a teenage girl and an “older” woman with such complexity and understanding, with light and shade – toying with the concepts of guilt and innocence through the conduit of Durga’s criminal case.
Despite its dark subject, this is a pleasing read, boasting a complex plot made accessible by Desai’s direct voice and sumptuous prose. Desai has created rich characters and a thriller about women that speaks to all the sexes. If you liked Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series this is the book for you. I dare you not to love Witness The Night.
Psst: My pick to star as Simran for the movie version is hot Brit actress Archie Panjabi.
OLD: The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson (Bloomsbury Classic Reads, £7.99)
This precursor to Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas is a must-read for any fan of the godfather of non-sequiturs, although in part this is for the incomprehensible oddity of Hunter forming a comprehensible sentence. As astute as Fear And Loathing but with the careful pace and complete lucidity that belies a literary master – and someone who had yet to slip into his LSD phase – this is an evocative and swift read.
The Rum Diary [the clue is in the title] follows Paul Kemp, a self-proclaimed “vagrant journalist” from New York starting work at a paper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, amid brewing violence spurred on by the Communist revolution in Cuba and the island’s independence movement. We follow his time working for the paper as chaotic brawls break out in the streets, the motley crew of drunken reporters near the precipice of alcoholism throw themselves happily off, and Kemp wanders into a dangerous love triangle.
That HST [Thompson] was 22 when he began this book is a marvel, and I speak as a 23 year old published author. I wrote about teens in my book, but HST writes about the poignancy of growing older, the bittersweet taste of temporary pleasure, 29-year-old Kemp’s fear of dying alone but for unfulfilled dreams, and the twisted, complex relationships between adult men and women.
I’ll go against the grain and say I didn’t see any Gonzo in this book. This spoke to me like a sensitive and beautifully-wrought novel by a fresh, young voice, meeting the first notions of weariness and adulthood with fear, wonder… and a rabid inquisitiveness, a refusal to look away as it all falls apart. Maybe curiosity killed the sensitive cat inside Hunter S. Thompson – and if so, I’m glad that this book lives on. It’s one of my favourites.
Psst: The American cover is way better than the English one – order it from Amazon.com.
GIRLBOY, a new collaboration between award-winning feminist author Abigail Tarttelin and British singer-songwriter Michael Reeve, presents first single, “Jennifer Lawrence”, at once an indie rock floor-filler and a tongue-in-cheek satire of society’s view of women, with the Hunger Games actress held up as a role model for how women should be, and be seen.
“Jennifer Lawrence” is a powerful, layered, catchy track with a sound reminiscent of The National and a deep, soulful, female vocal influenced by the band’s love of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Debbie Harry of Blondie.
The song’s lyrics present a feminist take on what society asks of women, with regards to their own bodies. Tarttelin says,
‘Society, the media and many individuals ask women to be skinny, to shut up, and to accept the sexualisation of their bodies by the media. This song is about celebrating women for their make-up-less beauty and power, for their strength when they choose not to give a fuck about what other people think, and for the times when they stand up to those who insult and abuse them.’
Reeve and Tarttelin are both huge fans of actress Jennifer Lawrence, for her talented performances in films including Winter’s Bone and American Hustle, and for her refusal to conform to Hollywood’s exacting standards of what women should be. GIRLBOY says,
‘Like many Jennifer fans, who know she is someone who takes pains to stand up to misogyny and sexism. Particularly in regards to the recent hacking of her icloud, she has shown extraordinary bravery and dignity in calling the incident out in Vanity Fair as a sex crime, and refusing to apologise or be shamed. We think she’s a phenomenally strong human being and we want her to know how grateful we are that she’s around to be a role model for young women (and men, and trans, and non-binary folk). We hope this song will make her smile.’
Singing from the point of view of a fan in love with Jennifer Lawrence, Tarttelin encourages the star to be free to forgo the rules society sets for women, singing ‘eat that donut’, ‘you can fart, whatever’, and ‘don’t shave for me’.
Abigail Tarttelin’s seminal 2013 novel Golden Boy, ‘a dramatic, thoroughgoing investigation of the complexities of sexuality and gender’ (Booklist, starred review) with a ‘radically non-binary, pro-intersex message’ (Autostraddle), was published by Orion in the UK, Simon & Schuster in the USA, and in a further 8 languages and over 75 countries, resulting in a 25 date book tour across the USA and Canada and tours in the UK and Spain. Winner of the 2014 American Library Association’s Alex Award, shortlisted for best LGBT debut fiction by the LAMBDA Literary Awards, and featured on numerous industry “best of” lists in 2013 and 2014, Golden Boy’s initial six figure sale in the UK prompted the London Evening Standard to devote a two page spread to Tarttelin and name her one of their ’26 under 26’ and top 1000 most powerful in London in 2013.
Michael Reeve is a singer-songwriter and was a staple of the 2014 summer festival scene, with packed appearances at The Great Escape, Beacons and Tramlines and supporting gigs with Young Rebel Set, Nadine Shah and James Walsh of Starsailor fame. His 2014 EP ‘Unfold’ saw pundits compare Reeve to Ryan Adams and Bon Iver, citing ‘a great voice’ (Dermot O’Leary, BBC Radio 2), and ‘highly impressive artist’ (Right Chord Music), combining ‘passionate vocals and swelling guitar melodies’ to ‘spine tingling effect’ (Tom Robinson, BBC6 Music). Reeve’s music has its roots in folk, and combines stripped back, intimate acoustic tracks with larger soundscapes, and an almost pop-like aesthetic, with memorable, emotional lyrics and catchy, simple hooks.
Reeve and Tarttelin met at high school in Northern England, and have been friends for ten years. They wrote the track together spontaneously one night in Reeve’s studio in 2013, after Tarttelin brought some of the lyrics by. Reeve says,
‘Writing for GIRLBOY gives me the freedom to explore other sounds and genres I’m interested in that don’t necessarily fit with my personal music project. I’m always intrigued by musicians like Britt Daniel, who fronts The Divine Fits as well as his more established band Spoon, or Ben Gibbard, whose Death Cab For Cutie has such an archetypal, but completely different sound from The Postal Service. For me, GIRLBOY is both an experimental collaboration and the natural culmination of a great friendship.’
The video was directed by Tarttelin and shot in East London by Leigh Keily, photographer and editor of queer magazine Jon. The concept was ‘set in a future dreamworld where we all accept each other as we are, at a chilled, fun party where everyone can be themselves, whether they’re an astronaut, transvestite, cyborg or alien’, and features LGBT actors and allies, including a recently married gay couple.
The track was produced by Leeds-based Lewis Foster, and mastered at the Salt Studios in Melbourne, Australia, by Charlie Daly from Studio A. Charlie has recently collaborated with Swedish producer WOODZSTHLM, worked with Madeleine Hunt on her debut album, and mixed Allday’s debut album which charted at Urban ARIA #1 and ARIA #3, the official Australian Record Industry charts.
Last year I had a crazy year. My then partner was in a car accident (I wrote about this in Phoenix Magazine, September issue), and was in dire straits (he’s fine now). I took care of him for two months, and then we broke up. Total shellshock, particularly about the fact that accidents DO happen to people you know. Who knew?! So I pondered on mortality for a while and realised
a) whatever length of life you have you have to live it being you to the best of your ability, even if that means you take a little longer to hand in a third novel and
b) there’s no time to wait for other people to fund you, or get with the programme, or even support you, when you know you are ready to do a piece of creative work.
Particularly financially, rather than look for funding, I just want to go out and shoot/write/record things with my own money (paying everyone of course). I’ve always loved the idea of having a band that were kind of Rebel With A Cause-y, where I sung tongue in cheek lyrics about gender, but it was still a legitimate musical project, and not just a comic thing or a political thing. I showed these lyrics to my friend Mike, who is a successful Brit musician who I also went to school with in the wilds of North England (we are not posh), he had a riff that went perfectly with them, and we decided to just record the song and make a video (I’ve also been working on producing/directing little videos, so this was the biggest thing I’ve ever done). It might sound weird, but all my time is taken up thinking about the way we construct gender, so I love to listen to music, like The National, that confronts and undermines it (he’s a six foot + man that sings eg about being a girl in a group of girls in the park), but is still just great music.
So this song is about what I would like us all to say to women about their bodies. There are lyrics like ‘eat that donut’, ‘you can fart whatever’, ‘don’t shave for me’, and in it, I’m holding Jennifer L up as a role model for this way of thinking – for instance, I love how she called out the nude photo leak as a sex crime in Vanity Fair and said she had nothing to be ashamed of.
So, here is the official music video teaser. I’ll post the press release next, this is just a shout from me to you to say this:
Yes, I’ll be playing the big London date at 7pm, September 9th at the Battersea Literature Festival in their ‘Brilliant Under 30s’ section (I’m not sure how much brilliance is required, but perhaps I should wear something super metallic?)! I’m looking forward to talking writing with French author Oscar Coop-Phane whose Zenith Hotel won the Prix de Flores, and fellow Brit Rachel Chadwick, author of 60 Postcards.
It’s a ticketed event and along with the ticket price of £5 I can offer an exclusive deal: afterwards I’ll stick around talking and drinking in a writerly fashion Hemingway would have been proud of. Call 0207 223 2223 to book for ‘Brilliant Under 30s’ at Waterstones, 70 St John’s Road. Check out their display below – Golden Boy gets pride of place! Woop! <3
Ken is left slack-jawed in shock at the close of a quiet Sunday morning. But why?
I’m not going to explain this, other than that I wanted to make something for fun, feminism and to practice a girls-to-the-front aesthetic. These are all Barbies I have owned for years and I do everything including the editing (in FCP X). I’ll be posting these every Thursday until I just can’t take it anymore. ;) Enjoy!
Yes! I can’t wait to see you all at The Hayes Waterstones, Cardiff on 26th August! I’ll be signing books and chatting to peeps and who knows what else! Maybe a reading? Maybe tucking into some food? Probably both. Looking forward to returning to the country of my Nan’s birth for the first time since a feature film I was in screened at Cardiff’s film festival wayyy back in 2009! Yippee!