NOTHING TO SAY by Dan Holloway

One of the things I've heard said most often is that modern literature has nothing to say. I guess that's the thing every generation hears most. And if you were to take a look at so-called cultural indicators like the Granta 20 under 40 list, you would be excused for concurring (no, I won't link to it because my use of the conditional "if you were" is not intended as an exhortation). When I asked Rebecca Wait, author of the really very good The View on the Way Down, just out from Picador, what she thought was the greatest 21st century novel not yet written, she gave the excellent answer "I think sometimes the greatest novels are the ones that seem incredibly weird and surprising when they’re first published." Obviously, having just written a novel comprising wholly of numbers
(click that pic there to download it for FREE) I was mightily encouraged to hear that.

But,to be honest, I think she has explained in a nutshell why every generation has critics telling them they are ideologically bankfrupt. And she has also explained in a nutshell why it is imperative for people to keep publishing the "incredibly weird and surprising". I think as self-publishers we so often forget that applies not just to a mainstream we so often dismiss for not doing it but also, in our endless quest for 5 star reviews and qualification for websites that allegedly sort out the best of self-published books by using star ratings as a mark of quality (if I can guarantee you one thing it is that in 40 years' time, when the game-changingly great self-published books of the early 21st century are discussed in cultural history classes, it is that not one of the books on those lists will be able to be found on websites that do readers' the favour [I can almost hear a Dickensian "doff me cap, thank 'e kindly sir, I'm only a humble reader" when I say that] of seeking out the best for them).

Anyway, that brings me to the pluggy bit (don't worry, I hope the controversy levels stay resaonably high but I am so excited about the next bit - and my own book - download it. It's FREE. It's WHOLLY WRITTEN IN NUMBERS - that I shall save my swingeing assault on self-publishing gatekeeper sites for next month). What I love even more than writingis the chance to show the world the amazing talents that *are* currently bubbling away under the literary surface, and one of the ways I like to do this best is by publishing and holding installations and events.

And I am delighted to say my new project, NOTHING TO SAY, is now being launched. My intention is to create a literary equivalentof the legendary Freeze exhibition, a snapshot of a literary moment in time, a moment that captures a wave that is about to crest as it prepares to rear up on the shore of our collective consciousness. There will be a series of very exciting events culminating in a week-long exhibition in the basement of The Albion Beatnik (now officially the internet's favourite bookshop - see this!!). Do check out the project's website for full details.

But what I really want to talk about are the books. I am publishing 6 startlingly fabulous limited edition collections and they are available for pre-order now. There are just 25 copies of each collection in the limited edition print run. Make sure you don't miss out on yours. To pre-order your copy of any (or indeed all) of these titles, simply Paypal £6 per title to and add £1 each title for UK postage or £3 for postage anywhere in the world outside the UK, and stating which collection(s) you would like and your address by 17 May. At today's exchange rate that's US$13.82 incluiding postage and shipping to the US, CA$14.02 to Canada, AU$13.86 to Australia and 10.66 Euros to Europe.

These books are proof that something marvellous  is happening in contemporary literature. They are as distinct as could be imagined - the fractured artwork of Andy Harrod, the filthy surrealism of Jared Joseph, the unsettlingly classic Kiran Millwood Hargrave - and yet all of them have a common sensibility. A disquiet with the status quo. A need to say more, to utter a sentiment not yet spoken, and a burning ambition to place themselves at the centre of a conversation that is about to happen. These are 6 of the most remarkable voices you will hear. As a generation we may have NOTHING TO SAY,  but I would urge you to listen hard, because like the universe-void in the moment before the Big Bang it is about to explode into something marvellous. Oh, and anyone looking for a cover - the image I have used is by the extraordinary Eleanor Leone Bennett. She has just been named Young Environmental Photographer of the Year, to add to an absurdly long roll-call of credits for someone not yet approaching the end of their teens. She has also done a lot of work for the superb Nine Arches Press, and many other cutting edge literary publications. I would urge anyone to speak to her.

animal magnetism cover 
Paul Askew's Animal Magnetism is a beautifully surreal journey through love and loneliness in the company of Wthnailesque narrators and a delicious assortment of poetic animals. His work has the fragility and lightness of a paper lantern but it also has a glorious sense of the absurd, and comes in equal parts T S Eliot, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and internet poetry.  

Orange Was the Colour of Her Dress, Then Silk Blue
I ordered a date
and was given the future.

I don’t know why, but I’m imagining you
listening to Charles Mingus and smoking a Gauloises.
Everything changes with the dusk;
your dress, your hair, your lipstick, the way you move.
In deeper light, you become the evening,
just as you had been the day.

The song’s still playing as you undress,
turning into night. You click your fingers
and I come.
And now it’s November.
We’re huddled in coats, drinking whisky;

the fireworks are done. We have a clear sky
and a fire that neither of us will let die.
kiran cover

wide-shining is a collection of retellings of classical myths constructed with filigree precision. Like a Dali painting, each poem is a thing of beauty and yet each leaves you with the disconcerting sense that something you can't quite pinpoint is ever so slightly wrong. What makes these poems so startlingly fresh is the precision of that ever so slight imbalance that lifts these poems from the classical to the absolutely contemporary. 


Most mornings I can barely stand to look at this
something-like-happiness misting our periphery,
an epiphany spat out like pips from our tongues,
all our half-sung songs stringing along behind us,
and you, dark god, perfect weight above me, telling me
you love me and me drop dropping droplets through your hand,
my stolid body turning liquid as sand and running our fierce current
fast as silver-quick fish, my flick-flecking lips biting like teeth
as I shoal beneath you, held so tight I can barely breathe.

The shift of the seasons sinks us,
and at my brink I tip through
summer autumn winter spring
– all the fast-spin of cold and heat –
fells me as I fall back replete,
my heart beating pomegranate red,
jawing my mouthful of seeds.

 emily cover 

Dirty White Everything is what happens when the poetic blank generation gets dressed up for a goth night out. The ultra-modern post-consumerist sweats of Brett Easton Ellis are delicately fused with the lace and velvet of fin de siecle Montmartre to deliver an unforgettable journey into a dark night of emptiness and exquisite pain. 

Catching Flies
Train drags itself back to Swindon,
back legs a burden, wounded animal.
Sitting backwards, wrenched
all fingernails and heels and
Fay Wray King Kong scream,
spitting lipstick saliva at authority.
I am dragged home back to
awkward adolescence,
the floor is sticky
with discarded lollipop stick.
Dragged towards
Job Centre Tuesdays,
orphaned shopping trolleys,
trees blooming Tesco plastic,
garish carpet and
knick-knacks that only ever remind you
of buying them.
I look out the window
see a dead seagull on the tracks,
look back and notice
a spelling mistake
on the safety card.
The man sat beside me
looks like my dad
sleeping with his mouth open.

 andy cover 

Andy Harrod fuses media more perfectly than any other writer in the UK today. Blending art, photography, conceptual typography, poetry and prose with a musical sensibility that earworms its way inside you as you read, spending time with this collection is like watching in horror and amazement a skilled surgeon take the top off your head and lay every part of your mind out in front of you. It is impossible to read this book without coming away with a profoundly changed sense of yourself

jared cover 

mammal is unlike anything else. Structurally it is, well, a mammal, a living creature constructed from limbs and a head and a torso of poems that are not quite separate but not quite parts of the same whole, bleeding into one another but separated by silk-thin membranes. Its content is surreal, transgressive, humorous, disturbing, rhythmic, complex, like watching the slow dissection of a living creature unfold before your eyes. 

Now i am a jaybird.

i live among the copies
behind my life is violets
the violets copy in the brushgrass behind
the violents copulate & scrub behind the brush
we fuck & fall away like brushstroke
Cheryl & i

brushgrass like an oil painting
brushfire we fly away the waitress
the waitress with child
the waitress scatters us away with glasses
vermouth glasses & ghosts.
pink lady stains from a pure clear mouth
a strain mouth pretty pure
Our beaks are black.
dark our beaks at our backs
are our black tails hedged & angled
we wrestle with the angles
math across the door & lambsblood
we spill the oil & the bread
we get us wet
we fill us with what
with what

fill us with what we want.
lord give us strength to copy
fill us with what we want
we want
to copulate in love
to violate to blank
to violet.
to violet
to copy in loveto xerox the deity
xerox the deity
Where’s Cheryl.
she blisses at the slightest provocation
she’s blissing on the ground with others like us
like us, i am on the bough with others
others like me
brothers mothers
nothing the others
as we utter with pleasure & ruse
repetitive herds of blackbirds rue
as we utter with dainty want
it’s us we want
we want us.
we want our daily want
us we utter with deity want
give us our daily bread
give us our olive oil
pus the violets
boil the violets

softcore cloudstep cover 

 Imagine an earthquake destroyed Manchester and buried everyone and everything in it. And imagine in 700 years' time an archaeologist uncovers a box and in it are unanswered love letters from someone no one knows to someone no one knows. That's the closest I can get to describing the sense of voyeuristic heartbreak experienced as you read this beautifully, painfully intimate and needle-sharp collection. 

Designs Charged Wearable

You don’t know it yet but one day I’ll seem very important to you.
One day I will mean nothing to you at all.

When you forget about me, your mind will
Congeal in cool, wax clumps
Like a switched-off lava lamp

You don’t know it yet but one day I will seem very familiar to you.
One day you won’t recognise me at all.

You’ll be like a man-trap in the un-walked woods
I’ll be the leaves that disguise your entrance
Nobody will ever fall in
And together we’ll be the world’s worst kept secret

One day I’ll make a lot more sense to you.
One day you’ll wonder how you ever understood me, but
You don’t know that yet.

If I ever get scared of the dark again
I’ll ask you to walk me upstairs
Shadow puppet plays at midnight
Might make me feel better.
I’d make a great stay-at-home-widow.
“The dark is so dumb” you will tell me
“And the dead are so ignorant”

You don’t know it yet but one day I’ll be your phone wallpaper background
One day you’ll delete my phone number.

You may one day find yourself taking my
Poetry books to the cancer shop
Along with two of my dresses
After tiring of explaining the logistics of
Any given Pixar film to me

One day I’ll get around to subscribing to your feel.
Would it be wrong or would it be hilarious
To make a snow-cock today?
I tried to work an allusion to GK Chesterton into this poem

But I soon lost interest,
You don’t know that yet.


Jan Needle said…
That's a bit mean, Dan, after my whinge yesterday about spending too much time on t'internet. Not only long, but complex - and I read it all. And enjoyed it. Thanks.

A confession, though. I still don't dare attempt the numbers book, being innumerate. Don't feel insulted - I don't attempt Bleak House because it's too long. Maybe something happened to me in the woodshed...
Dan Holloway said…
the other books are both better (because they're by other people with pukka talent) and much shorter :)
glitter noir said…
Fascinating and boat-rocking, Dan. And, Jan, I'm delighted to learn a new word: innumerate. But I think the issue at stake is a bit more complex than has been suggested here. I agree with the jab at websites that only cover five-star reviews. And I agree that huge numbers of current best-sellers and faves won't be remembered as classics. Yes. But let's not forget that the same point applies to legacy 'classics' and bestsellers as well. Who would remember three a half-dozen of the bestsellers from 1930...1960...1980? And I'm not talking only of pop fiction? Who remembers the name Frederick Faust, one of the most prolific writers ever? Who remembers more than one or two of the most avant guarde poets from the 1920's? And yet some of the world's greatest 'hacks' are still read with gusto: Dickens, Dumas, etc.

You've made some important points. And I don't dispute them. But we'd also do well to remember that the one book Gore Vidal praised as the best, bar none, book about WWII has been almost completely forgotten. You of all people would love it, I'm sure: The Gallery by John Horne Burns.

Trust the Rebster on this one. Read The Gallery and weep for the cruel vississeytoods of Fame.
CallyPhillips said…
Dan - Plenty to say. All of it worth reading!! Thanks.

Reb - all are forgotten. All are victims of fashion and marketing. Well worth reminding us of that time and again though. I am working on bringing the forgotten back to light again RIGHT NOW which is my 'legacy'such as it is. (I'm not sure I fully got the 'legacy' debate earlier this month, too busy to read things very carefully right now so hope worms stay in cans.
Dan Holloway said…
thanks for the suggestion - will definitely take a look :)

Cally - yes, bringing back the forgotten is a wonderful legacy
Andy said…
Another fine article with a quiet scream to look outside the window and see the diversity that is out there.

It is a pleasure to be involved with NOTHING TO SAY.
Dan Holloway said…
It's a privilege to have your book on the list
Dennis Hamley said…
Dan, I've downloaded Evie and Guy and spent a bit of time trying to unpick the code, unsuccessfully so far. But I'll keep at it. Reb, thanks for the tip about The Gallery. And as for bringing back lost authors, I'll remind you of Jan's plea the other day for Gerald Kersh. Marvellous writer. Darkly atmospheric and spot-on about a particular society.
glitter noir said…
You're welcome, Dennis. It's an astonishing mixture of memories and short stories (as pictures in the Gallery). Variations on a theme, somehow adding up to a novel. I've just remembered: Vidal's essay was called "The Revelation of John Horne Burns."
gah, Dennis, more stuff I have to read!!
Lydia Bennet said…
Dan, your passion and commitment and courage in pushing the boundaries, in fact smashing them, is as always clear and admirable. The way you write about the poets you admire is poetry in itself. Re Gatekeeper sites, not really sure which these are - I only found out about Awesome Indies when you posted about Evie & Guy being accepted by them, and you're one of their respected reviewers - because of your post, my novel Lydia Bennet's Blog has now been submitted and approved by Awesome Indies. Sites which seek to reassure readers as to quality of self-pub books are an encouragement to read indies, though of course some could become too narrow - but though there may be keepers of the gates, perhaps there is no real 'wall' between the gates, as we all have access to indie and ebooks and downloads.
Dan Holloway said…
gosh, on a Friday afternoon that feels like an architectural metaphor constructed by Escher but I think I get what you are saying. I suppose my concern is whether or not the readers can see the floor plans or just the facades - I would hate for sites to steer people away from rather than towards the books they would most enjoy - and worse still steer them towards books they won't enjoy, because that is when readers will give up on self-publishing. I'll come back to that next month I think, but in the meanwhile, as a poet of reknown, I think you will adore some of these - I think "mammal" is the one that will appeal to you most because it has a scientific structure that would appeal to your way of working

Popular posts

What's the Big Idea? - Nick Green

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

Meet Author Virginia Watts, a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, and Find Out How She Does What She Does

Last Chapter?

Misogyny and Bengali Children’s Poetry by Dipika Mukherjee