‘Things don’t have to be the way they are’


Sometimes I get the feeling my bookshelves, when I have bookshelves, contain just litanies of the dead. One of the miraculous aspects of art is the ability to hear the dead speak, sometimes across vast reaches of time, inside your head. There comes a point though, perhaps just a passing mood, where such collections resemble mausoleums. Continue reading

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From despair to where


“The current fashion is to just pare everything down to its bare bones and I think that’s gone as far as it can go. It’s become a bit of a dead-end. I think writers of prose need to start making a bit more effort…”

I recently had the pleasure of talking to the novelist Eimear McBride about literature, Irish society and her stunning Goldsmiths prize-winning book A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. Continue reading

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‘Love / Exile / Humanism / Hashish / Courage’


Delighted to announce that we’ve resurrected the great (Northern) Irish literary journal The Honest Ulsterman online today. Continue reading

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The Blue Pavillion


The Independent have published a feature here on the exceptionally-talented artist, writer & publisher Christiana Spens, focusing on her design work for her 3:AM Press book & chapbook series. Continue reading

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“Speak nothing, know nothing, know nobody”


‘In his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, Walter Benjamin turned his attention to Paul Klee’s 1920 print Angelus Novus, which he interpreted as the angel of history. “His face is turned toward the past,” Benjamin wrote, “Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet [...] This storm is what we call progress.” Continue reading

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Homage to Michael Spens


The painting above is the late great John Bellany’s ‘Homage to Michael Spens’. An architect, writer, editor, soldier and Finnish Knight, Michael Spens was also one of the kindest gentlemen I have ever met. Continue reading

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The last poète maudit


I was asked to write this piece on ten of my favourite Gainsbourg lyrics for a music site but it fell off their radar and mine. Given Gainsbourg was born 86 years ago today, it seems an opportune time to post it. Enjoy…

PS I’ll be reading and doing a Q & A on Gainsbourg & 33 1/3 books with Pete Astor (The Loft, The Weather Prophets and Ellis Island Sound) and Alex Niven (Folk Opposition) at Rough Trade East, Brick Lane, London on the 26th of June. Come along.

The last poète maudit

Over the past twenty years, there’s been a growing appreciation of the music of Serge Gainsbourg outside France, particularly his masterpiece Histoire de Melody Nelson. This has come about largely through tributes by musicians (Portishead, Beck, Air and so on), word of mouth amongst record collectors and the quality of his work. Despite nods from the likes of Momus, Mick Harvey and Jarvis Cocker, Gainsbourg’s genius as a lyricist however has largely been lost in translation and goes relatively unacknowledged in Anglocentric music circles. Whilst the melodies and orchestration of Histoire de Melody Nelson are central to its magic, one of my aims in writing the 33 1/3 book on the album was to explore this overlooked lyrical side and place the album in its literary context; for, as well as being an exceptional songwriter and provocateur, Serge Gainsbourg was a poet. Continue reading

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