I only watch films about writers
Totally untrue statement, but they're the ones I'm always looking for
Oooo, I wish I still had those high-waisted jeans with her grandmother-in-law’s name on the arse, I thought when I saw an email come in with a new film by Lisa Immordino Vreeland. It’s about Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. I love Tennessee Williams, I remember rolling around a rehab reading A Streetcar Named Desire, aloud. “Society rapes the individual,” he told Frost. Having lost so much over the years, I fear losing my mind the most, and although there’s always been that fear of losing my wardrobe again too, I care less for having as many clothes as I used to, so I’ve let those jeans go, as I do believe one of the major most celebrations of the first anniversary of lockdown life is: it is the year my life got zen. Away away away from celebrations of loquacious imbibery. F’sure.
I began this Substack because the ad revenue had fallen out of journalism, the murderous assault of Brexit Britain was upon us - and my past business of making others look good seemed over. My literary grant could only go so far, and the reception to this Substack encouraged me to publish a book of my poetry to send as thanks to you paying subscribers, and that first edition collection sold out last week. Thank you. “We may now call it 'sought after' and 'rare' ” said author, Geoff Nicholson to my endless joy on Instagram.
On May 24 my debut novel will be published. I found a rejection letter from 2005 when doing image research for the cover a few weeks ago. I became a woman writing it, started it a girl, so writing of an ingenue who’s so messed up, that’s what you get for being obsessed by poets who puzzle over innocence and experience. I crave the realisation I know will come with the release of that novel. I do hope you enjoy it, almost a historical novel now - rising through post-hippie parents into acid-house through to the 90s heroin chic I loved watching in the new Davide Sorrenti documentary, See Know Evil.
I consumed this fashion tale on the streets I roamed in 90s New York, on Friday, my birthday, care of Doc n Roll. Jaime King, the face of smack chic shone from the cover of a magazine I used to edit on, Scene, and it was a film of rare honesty, after a glorious break from the increasing exoticism of my four walls, to the canal veins of Kings X, whose cobbles have been cleansed of Dickensian oils and Bagley’s nightclub spunk into an altogether less rape-y holiday vision of a marketplace with aspirational independent retailers and luxury apartments. My companion, Gil De Ray, and I headed to Primrose Hill, somewhere I have met my bubblicious friend in lockdown because it elevates us, away from her native Tottenham, and my Peckham, the lowlands of our bluebell woods being nothing but masks mashed into the pavements, and the madness of oppression, fear, poverty, and denial fencing us in the form of zombies without masks, or wearing them in slang. For a year I have been walking a mile in the opposite direction of my closest post office to go to the posh one in Dulwich Village, with the idea that Covid will be less prevalent in the area where I once went into an estate agent to enquire about flats, and they said, “We don’t really do flats around here, dear.” South London was new to me. As it seemed Primrose Hill was to this woman called Natalie who let her name be known to all of Regents Park Road, so posh and loud, as she reserved an outdoor space at Lemonia, the best Greek in London, before having to change it, because her boyfriend wouldn’t be able to make it. I used to hang out in Primrose Hill in the 90s, when working class musicians made it cool. It was always classy ‘round there, but it’s just rich now. I realised places I considered refuge, no longer are. I used to pride myself on being able to write anywhere, now I find myself a bit Hari Kunzru in his Red Pill novel, spitting out at interruptions in public places. It’s been a rising notion, and after a year in my own company, I have a far clearer idea of what I like and what I don’t. I am less diluted. I know myself better, and go as far as to accept that I will fail to set an alarm 2 days before I want to eat the last dried beans in Brixton that I was scrabbling for a year to the day. They make better maracas anyway. This toilet roll apocalypse has been a ride for all of us. For those of us still here, allowing our conscience to be malcontented, shifting into self-punishment more frequently than we may prefer. That’s year 2’s work planned.
I was musing what to write in this newsletter, tipping towards (another) essay on digital existentialism and the primitive anthropocene period we’re in, co-opted as data slaves, having to do the work of the digital imperialists to name everything, for their AI Futures, thus becoming tiresomely embedded in sabotaging our lives in identity politics, then I watched a mayoral campaign by Brian Who Can’t Count, But Will Still Beat Me. Really, how can he put Health First, Science First, Education First, Green First, Digital First, Family First, Transport First, Housing First and Community First? I used to say we all need hate objects. I didn’t know I still did, as there’s so much to hate. Like with Sarah Everard (murdered by a cop, walking home, last image talking on a phone, reminding all of us of those faked conversations to no-one in the many less salubrious areas of London), I wondered whether to share my guts on social, or shut up, and avoid adding to the racket that goes nowhere but internal negative resonance. Capitulating on the innocuous war outside has seemed pretty redundant most of my life. Much as I’ve tried, believing the truth needs to be known, I feel apathy. I’ve been aware since the Criminal Justice Bill becoming an Act (1994) that Tho Doth Protest Too Much rarely changes much. I was working at BBC News when the Iraq War was on. Sucked up what I was told. And now being an “annoyance” “protesting” leading to a 10 year stretch at Her Majesty’s service in this country, with Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2021. It’s a horrorshow. That’s not a government, working for the people, that’s a call to arms. Me Too has changed attitudes, BLM has impacted publishing to realise that London is 40% diverse, with the rest of the UK at 14%. But I really got with Bloomsbury’s book by Ashley “Dotty” Charles about Outrage on Twitter not being the same as joining a militant group. Negotiating all of this has been the art of lockdown for me, to be more Zen. Because the walls of our homes are all we have to protect us from those bastards, and they are too easily allowed inside through mass media, let alone what they’ll inflict as more people lose out in the future. So despite feeling I have flourished in the past year, and now I’m half-jacked up with chimpanzee Astra-Zen, the fear of death and germs is distancing, despite what strains will come, and all the travel and money and past ideas of freedom that have been stolen from reach: the skies are calm. I am calm. I have no money, but if I can just ignore the nonsense around me with inaffordable traffic plans being a clear indication that London is returning to being a walled city, only available for the superrich, a mirror of Brexit isle’s naff nazism, through visiting Little Venice, a glimpse into a world I can’t afford but can taste its luxury by drinking a rare coffee made by someone else. The little access portals of pleasure are not always learning new cultures, I’ve noticed myself being less rebellious, taking rarified pleasure in the traditional, tipping my toes into the grandiose Tiffany blue heavens of Fortnum’s Food Hall, and cruising the closed red carpets of Mayfair. Because they are empty. It’s like we’re locked in safety deposit boxes, away from the unnecessary consumerism of jet trash. And the new subculture is a rare equality, unplanned, like in Berlin with people meeting outside, without the props of pubs and private members bars which killed so much creativity as it became gauged on financial success metrics. Unsure whether we will come out of this amped up at MRNA-warp speed in a Maoist 3-generation change cycle, programmable to a whole new tech-dawn, I don’t know, however much I care, and for the first time in my life, I don’t know the answers. It isn’t clear. I am unsure. And I accept that. I have to. Or my hope will be strangled.
So I get in the bath, hydrotherapy a daily part of my Zen management system, and watch a preview of this Vreeland film, An Intimate Conversation that I’m not allowed to talk about in digital form until the end of April when it’s released, so I shan’t tell you anymore other than I have also listened to it three times now.
I look on a Calais drop, at what’s needed. I buy my local beggar some food. I say thank you to all those happy birthdays on Facebook, and now my Sunday is almost up, and I realise my intention, to share my fave films about writers with you, because whenever Gil asks me what we’re going to watch, I always say “a film about a writer” and we laugh, and we have watched a lot of films about writers in lockdown, and that’s the only listicle I wanna read, or write for you.
But I am out of Sunday, and I have some editing to do for Ambit, running up to the new site, and Ambit Pop edited by Lias Saoudi of the Fat White Family, which will be out at the end of next month, where he’s selected some of the finest working writers, poets and artists. And it’s designed by Stephen Barrett, who’s also working with me on my book cover. Which we must finish, so I can tell you about pre-orders.
And I will write that listicle. Will set an alarm. Will shake my mystery bean maracas. When I can, because all of us can only do so much.
To celebrate the year of lockdown in London on March 23, I will be sharing a poem by Sarah Lowe on Cold Lips.
I have also had enquiries to stock the Marianne Faithfull zine written by Kris Needs, so have done a re-edition, with new foreword by me, and added another stack of pages so it’s far more legible. Order that now for £7 on Cold Lips. Kris is the best rock n roll biographer in the business, and first interviewed Faithfull in the 70s. This includes numerous interviews since, and exclusive interviews with many Nick Cave collaborators, as that new album she’s got coming out with poetry by the Byron, Keats, Shelley et al is with Warren Ellis, and comes before long.