Monthly Archives: February 2010
“If you say so. Peppermint cream?”
“You heard about her at number eleven, then?”
“Yeah, the one with the red gravel on the drive.”
“Well, my Eileen was was on her mobility last week and she’s going down the pavement…”
“As it happens, yes. She was going to Sainsbury’s…”
“Don’t like their apples.”
“No. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Eileen gets to number eleven just as she’s reversing out of her drive and they get chatting, like.”
“Eileen says, you know, ‘how are you doing’ and that. Just neighbourly, like and she says to her she’s going off to Australia.”
“Yeah, nice. But then she turns round and says she’s going for six months!”
“Yeah. So Eileen says ‘that’s a long time to be away’ and she says that her sister lives out there and that she’s going to stay with her.”
“Near Cairns. Well, once you’re out there, might as well stay for bit, mightn’t you?”
“And get this. She says to Eileen that she’s going to have a couple staying in the bungalow while they’re away. To house-sit for them, like.”
“Ah! New neighbours.”
“That’s what Eileen says. She says ‘Are they nice?’, ‘Do we know them?’ and guess what she comes back with?”
“She says, right –no word of a lie, she says ‘you don’t know ’em, they’re old friends of my Steve’s. Lovely couple names of Tiw and Ipona.’”
“That’s what I said!”
“So where are these from, then?”
“Well, you know me, Albert. I’m an easy-going sort of chap, I can take or leave most folk –but Gods? I just don’t believe in ’em.”
(Written by D. Ribot. Not to be confused with American Gods by Neil Gaiman, especially in case of legal action)
If there was ever one comic book writer who should be a shoe-in for a Nobel Prize for Literature, it is Argentina’s Carlos Trillo. Not that I want to have a go at the Nobel’s (OK, so they never gave Jorge Luis Borges the main gong, but they can make up that insult to Argentine letters by honouring Trillo –so there!).
Trillo was born in the 1940s, Juan Domingo Perón was running the show. Bad, do you think? It’s just about to get worse. When Trillo begins to write professionally in the 60s, the political system is swinging wildly from democracy to dictatorship and back again. Political turmoil was perhaps the result of a steady economic decline. For authors it was a troubling time. Even if you could escape censorship today, that is not to say that a coup next week might look on your writing and/or politics differently. One early lesson was learning to write in censorship-proof language; a code to be deciphered by reading between the lines.
Argentina has always had amazing cartoonists and the 1960s were no exception. Trillo began his collaboration with illustrator Horacio Altuna and between they produced some truly biting political satires. One of the best is their first: Charlie Moon.
The eponymous hero of Charlie Moon is an adolescent growing up in the 1930s depression-era America. Charlie is a hobo, living by hitching rides on trains, taking short-term jobs and trying to make his way in a hostile, uncaring world. Charlie observes (usually in silence) the middle class snobbery, racism and barbarity of a society that despised its poor. On the surface, it is a devastating critique of the US and its economic system (There is some justification for this kind of a reading, given the ignoble US role in Latin American affairs). There is, however, another way of reading the text: Charlie becomes Carlos and the critique is not ostensibly about the US, but how the poor live in Argentina. Where Chekhov told writers to write about their own village to aspire to universal themes, in a dictatorship you have to use universal themes to talk about your own village. Charlie Moon is high art. Art produced under dangerous conditions.
Just how difficult the conditions were to become, was typified by the fate endured by cartoonists Hector Oesterheld and Enrique Brescia, murdered by the bloodthirsty Videla dictatorship. Many of their relatives were murdered too. Trillo had collaborated with Brescia and others. As many cartoonists, he had to find refuge in fantasy and SF to escape the censors. With Altuna he invented the doors of Mr Lopez (a humorous fantasy). And the SF cosy catastrophe, The Last Playtime.
Mr Lopez is a fat, middle aged pen-pusher who is bullied by his wife and pushed around by his boss and work colleagues. He does, however, have an escape. Every time Lopez goes into a toilet cubicle, he goes into a parallel dimension. In that parallel dimension, he will go through adventures that relate to and comment on his own experience and society’s attitudes. The Last Playtime is set in a world where all the adults in the world have died as a result of biological warfare. The children are left to sort out their own lives and soon fall into the same patterns as their elders: The children of soldiers have access to guns and can control the food supply –everyone else works for them. Eventually the biological agent wears off and some of the children become sexually mature. This maturity, which leads to love, becomes a way to liberate the young from self-imposed dictatorship.
In his latter years Trillo has seen his work translated into English. His masterwork (and for this alone he should be ‘Nobelled’) is his writing on The Big Hoax (artist: Domingo Mandrafina). It is a work that is hard to describe. It is at once a magical-realist fable, a filmic noir thriller and an evocation of Bolero music. It is the tale of Donny, a PI who gets involved with the niece of the dictator of an imaginary Latin American island. Their story is told/manipulated by the Island’s writer of radio soap operas. Its Garcia Marquez meets The Maltese Falcon. (With Robert Mitchum in a starring role). A truly amazing piece of storytelling (its sequel, The Iguana is in the shops too!).
So that’s my nomination. Did he do more fun stuff? Yeah. With the Catalan Jordi Bernet he wrote Clara De Noche (a Belle du Jour spoof) and his most recent work, Spaghetti Bros. is a fun tale of New York Italian mafiosi It’s all good stuff. Maradona may have the ‘ Hand of God’, but not the one he uses to write comic-books. Another Argie has that one..
** A fab LOROS fundraising evening on January 30th! A Spooky Night At The Leicester Guildhall gathered a wealth of local writing talent to entertain the local cognoscenti. Here’s the Roll-call: authors Graham Joyce and Judith Allnatt, actress Genevieve Cleghorn, Scriptwriter Stephen Loveless, Speculators Damien G Walter, JW, Maria Smith and myself, up-and-coming writers Sheila Kondras, Krys Wysocki and (all the way from Shropshire) Nicola Vincent. Promising young talent Brian also shone. Great credit must go to the organizer of the event, Keith Large and LOROS’s Marisa Spitieri (incidentally you can challenge Marisa to do things for charity. If anyone has a tin bath, I’ve got half a packet of custard powder in the cupboard. We could make her sit in a bath of custard beside the Clock Tower).
I read out a short little story of my own called “Life In Film” I also unleashed my werewolf mask on the Leicester public. In an uncanny twist of fortune, I also won the raffle. A big thanks to all my fellow performers, to Keith and Marisa, the really helpful staff at the Guildhall who even cleared up for us after the event and to all of those who attended. You were all outstanding.
** A rumour is going round that Graham Joyce is to come and visit the Speculators. I am a late convert to his writing (I’ve just read the Tooth Fairy –which only came out in 1996 – and I’ll never go near a carp again…), but it is truly top notch stuff.
** My computer died this month. In Nomines Patris Et Filis Et Espiritus Sanctus, Amen. May my hard drive rest in peace.
** I am attending the Writers Industries Conference and an evening with Jane Wenham-Jones in March. Both are great events which allow ample schmoozing time with other writers. I’m down for the lamb and the chocolate cake at the JW-J evening. At last, a decent meal.
** I’m also attending some cool writing courses at the Leicester Writing School. Apart from the Saturday Manuscript Clinics, where I’m polishing my new Vampsov-1938 from a Toyota hatchback into a chrome-finned sexmobile, I am in the last week of Polly Tuckett’s course on writing prose for performance. The course Writing Out Loud is great and full of really awesome writers. Polly runs the Shortfuse evenings at the Y Theatre for prose performance. They are always a good night out.
** Off to the new Phoenix soon. Never been before, but the prospect of seeing “Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter” is about to tempt me from my lair. It’s on on the 19th at 11 pm, if anyone else fancies going.
** They are “restructuring” Leicester’s libraries. What this means is that the Central Library will close. The Records Library will now become the Central Library. Both collections will have to share one building and the music collection will be buried in a library nobody can get to without taking three buses and crossing into a parallel dimension where the City Council gives a shit. The vacated library building will now be used to train job-seekers in finding non-existent work (So at least there will still be plenty of fiction going on there).
** In contrast, Northampton’s main library is celebrating it’s centenary. Last year it was renovated and now looks amazing. Let’s see if Leicester’s changes result in anything half as good.
Just thought I would share some of the music that makes me tap my feet and rock my little heart out. OK, it’s weighted to the Psychedelic/garage side a bit, but that’s the stuff I keep going back to: the bands no-one has heard of. I guess rarity and obscurity add value to a lot of these songs. Before Youtube, they were really hard to find. Anyway, enjoy my top 100.
Always loved this plaintive, teenage, angst-filled rant about individuation. Yeah. Ray Davis knew the score…
Johhny Cash was always proud of his Native American heritage. Here he tells it like it is to all the white Usian invaders; “In our loosing we found proudness / in your victory, you found shame.”
Best song about drugs ever. Best band ever. I was lucky enough to see Arthur Lee performing in the UK in 2004 as he went through the whole Forever Changes album with his new band. His death was a sad blow.
Ah, those Usian teens and their electric guitars… You can forgive them anything (almost) when they deliver such killer tunes. Fifty years ahead, man!
Soul classic delivered by the psychedelic/garage masters of California. Aguilar’s vocals are, as usual, superb.
The kings of folk-rock delivering a wayward wistful wondertune. Good message too: don’t cheek your elders.
Love this. Sounds so laid-back. One of the mop-tops best ditties. And it was written and performed by Ringo as well.
What a song! What a baseline! Liverpool’s 2nd coolest band ever, let rip with err.. whatever the song’s about. Girls, probably.
The Who’s first single. Set a standard even then. Classic Townshend/Daltrey/Entwhistle/Moon.
Sultry Dutch masterpiece. Great vocal by Mariska Veres. Disco music’s dodgy old uncle who visited it’s mother when dad was out.
13) Joan Baez — We Shall Overcome
18) Van Morrison — Gloria
19) The Rolling Stones — Satisfaction
20) The Kingsmen — Louie Louie
21) Pink Floyd — Arnold Layne
22) Robert Parker — Twist In Space
24) Creedence Clearwater Revival — Bad Moon Rising
27) The Ronettes — Baby Love
28) The Human Beinz — Nobody Like Me
29) The Velvet Underground — Heroin
31) The Archies — Sugar Sugar
32) The Easybeats — Gonna Have A Good Time
36) Count Five — Psychotic Reaction
37) Stevie Wonder — Uptight
38) The Bohemian Vendetta — Enough
39) Fairport Convention — Matty Groves
40) Simon & Garfunkel — I Am A Rock
41) Desmond Dekker & The Aces — The Israelites
42) Gonn — The Blackout Of Greetly
43) The Small Faces — Itchycoo Park
45) Chuck Berry — No Particular Place To Go
46) The Pretty Things — Walking Through My Dreams
48) The Outsiders — I’m In Pittsburgh (and it’s raining)
50) The Honeycombs — Have I The Right
51) The Stoics — Hate
52) The Jimi Hendrix Experience — Voodo Chile
53) The Leaves — Hey Joe
54) The Incredible String Band — Witches’ Hat
55) Bob Dylan — The Times They Are A-Changin’
56) Steppenwolf — Born To Be Wild
60) Serge Gainsburg & Jane Birkin — Orangutan
61) The 13th Floor Elevators — You’re Gonna Miss Me
62) The Amboy Dukes — Journey To The Center Of The Mind
64) Marvin Gaye — Sittin’ At The Dock Of The Bay
65) Screaming Jay Hawkins — Yellow Coat
66) Peter & Gordon — World Without Love
67) The Dave Clark Five — Glad All Over
68) Sarita Montiel — ¡Que Viva España!
69) The Doors — Break On Through (to the other side)
71) Manfred Mann — The Mighty Quinn
72) The Electric Prunes — Try Me On For Size
73) We The People — In The Past
74) Elvis Presley — Return To Sender
75) Smokey Robinson & The Miracles– Tears Of A Clown
77) The Monkees — Last Train To Clarkesville
82) Larry & The Bluenotes — Night Of The Sadist
83) The Checkerlads — Shake Yourself Down
84) Sandie Shaw — (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me
85) Kim Foley — The Trip
87) Aretha Franklin — Respect
88) Englebert Humperdinck — Release Me
89) The Crazy World of Arthur Brown — Fire
90) The Rumors — Hold Me Now
92) The Seeds — Pushin’ Too Hard
93) Bubble Puppy — Hot Smoke And Sasafrass
94) Donovan — Sunshine Superman
95) Louis Armstrong — What A Wonderful World
96) Henry Mancini — The Baby Elephant Walk
100) Bobby Boris Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers — The Monstermash