Monday, December 24, 2012

2012, yeah?

2012 has been a bit of a year, don’t want to brag, like, but compared the very little I’ve done since 1977, it deserves a bit of a hurrah.
We had a really cute baby (well, I just sat and napped and watched while my wife had the baby, but still...), and we named her Josie, a cool punk-rock-kitten sister to Jacob who is nearly four now.
I got a degree, and started a Masters.
I ran and completed a 10k race, having ‘taken up’ running a couple of months before.
I’ve read some stories out in public, and had one published by the EvergreenReview.
The wife and I DJ’d for a music festival which took place in a West Bromwich art gallery.


This is Life is the reason that Rhodes’ best novel to date was called Gold: because this is as good as Gold. Laced with Rhodes’ comedy and economy – not one sentence is unnecessary – this novel manages to host complex arguments of art and science, and the meaning of life, and the pain of loss, while being a genuine lovely and exciting Parisian romp. I recommend someone reads Dan Rhodes at least once a week: this week is no different.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
I wrote my final dissertationy-thing on Eugenides’ debut The Virgin Suicides: it’s fair to say I was already a fan when I bought this book the moment the paperback came out. And while the David Foster Wallace connotations are wasted on me (I made it halfway through Infinite Jest and gave up) the pragmatic love story at its heart is wonderfully realised, and the novel is splattered with a degree of intertextuality that in the wrong hands would be cloying and convoluted, but in Eugenides’ delicate and un-rushed typing, adds colour and texture that really makes it something special indeed.

Everything by Andrew Kaufman     

I’ve read All My Friends are Superheroes, The Waterproof Bible and The Tiny Wife by the Canadian author Andrew Kaufman this year, and fell in love with his work in the same way I did with Dan Rhodes. Clever, surreal, witty and funny and utterly heartbreaking, Kaufman has the same concise style of writing as Rhodes, and every word is as rich as can be. His latest novel Born Weird is out more-or-less now – I’ve pre-ordered the Kindle version which is out on Jan 2nd, but the hardback is already in shops.

Sunstroke and other stories by Tessa Hadley
The stories in this collection are each seemingly domesticated and commonplace and straight-forward slices of life. But each has an under-current of subversion, of taboo-breaking, and of realism – each narrator is so real and alive and known – and ever-so-slightly magical. Her work reminds me of one of my favourite writers, Katherine Mansfield, and that is always a good thing.

by Richard King
A history of indie music, and independent record labels, written with real heart and awe. An indie little brother to England’s Dreaming, it is naturally selective and narrow in it’s scope – otherwise King would still be writing it today, and it loses nothing by leaving out band x or band y for the sake of narrative or space.


The New Yorker Fiction Podcast
Introduced by the lasciviously-intellectually voiced Deborah Treisman, this podcast gets New Yorker short story writers – Dave Eggers, Tessa Hadley,
Daniel Alarcón – to choose and read their favourite story from The New Yorker’s vast archives. Well worth subscribing to on the iTunes programme thing.

Diseases of England by The Indelicates
Parts I and II are out and are as bitter and vital and sneering and desperate as any other band releasing records ever.

American Sitcoms
I love American sitcoms at the moment. 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Office, Community, Up All Night, Whitney... they’re just in such a rich vein of form. Worth moving to the US for alone, I’m sure.

So yeah, here’s to 2012, thanks for all the fun, and roll on 2013, and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Short Story: Discussion

Your fingernails are too long, I say. Your hair needs cutting, I say. Your jeans are ingrained with dirt, and are disintegrating at the knee, I say. And your face is, your face is, your face just is... aaagh, I say, when what I really want to say is that:

You disgust me. I look at you, and you disgust me.
Your apathy disgusts me.
Your apathy and lethargy, antipathy and atheism, and apologetic shrugs of non-commitment and indecision and passivity disgust me.

We could discuss you. We could discuss all the stupid things that after four tough years have been picking at our filaments and are pulling us down and holding us under. We could discuss all the ways in which you could do this better, or I could say that better, or we could cook or store or sleep or snore or exercise or organise or prioritise or fuck better.
We could discuss the things you do that disgust me. Things that colour me apoplectic. That twist my mouth shut, jaws locked with contempt. That break pieces from my hibernating heart. We have to discuss you leaving, us splitting, it all ending, before I’ve no heart left to wake.

Post-Graduate Post #1

So, then, University, eh? Cardiff is a wonderful place to do anything, especially to learn. I've had to re-learn how to cross busy roads, and how long it takes to walk somewhere as opposed to how long I think it takes to walk somewhere, for example. And lots about writing and creativity, too.

My fellow students are all very lovely, although they make me feel a bit old: the majority of them are around the 22-25 mark, and I was born in '77 as my digital identity will forever remind me. One of my classmates blogs here: on the whole, some very tight and concise and enjoyable short stories.

My Course Director / main Tutor here is the awesome Richard Gwyn who also blogs under the alter-ego Ricardo Blanco. After embarrassing myself with a tale of Dionysian excess in the first workshop, I shall endeavor to Google all of my tutors and read their whole oeuvre in advance, rather than accidentally trip onto their territory with a clumsy stumble... luckily next week's guest tutor is a poet, and I don't do serious poetry, nor do I do poetry seriously, so shouldn't have any problems there. Given who s/he is, it certainly won't/ will help that I've watched The Wire, but couldn't get into Treme.

One important part of our course is the regular open-mic style events that we take part in. Our guest tutor, a writer of some repute, will do a reading of some description, then myself and the rest of the class read some of our work. At our first session, I read my piece 'Points of Articulation' that was in Evergreen Review, and a new story called 'Discussion', which I'm just about to post here. In fact, you may just have read it. It's kinda weird reading your work out like that, but I'm actually really excited about next weeks session. And only maybe a little bit 'cos it's held in a pub bedecked with Manic Street Preachers memorabilia.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On 'Class'

The musical Chicago is quite rather good. I have seen the film and watched the musical theatre production, and I (first) begrudgingly and (then) rather over-excitedly liked it. My favourite songs are the one where Billy Flynn the hotshot lawyer does the puppeteering, and the one where it goes ‘Nobody got no class’. Google (our mutual friend) tells me these songs are called ‘We Both Reached For The Gun’ and ‘Class’.

The eponymous class of the latter song is about decency, manners, respect: classiness. That side of class is easy to define, easy to implement, and without doubt is an aspiration.

The band The Indelicates have released a song today, also entitled ‘Class’.

But their class is the one that divides rich and poor, the entitled few and the disenfranchised many. I have a massive problem with definitions of class particularly my own – I work in a non-skilled fairly poorly-paid job, I rely on Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits and qualify for free NHS dental care and wigs and all that, but then my parents are professionals and I own my own house – and as such it is equally as relevant a concept in day-to-day Britain as it is entirely irrelevant.

My class – Working / Middle / whatever – doesn’t affect my ability to go shopping or wear jeans or consume or just to live a normal life. But it does present obstacles, the kind that Simon and Julia Indelicate espouse: I don’t know the right people to truly succeed in politics or journalism or in the city. I don’t necessarily want to.

But say the best person in Britain, the most naturally able person to be Prime Minister or Governor of the Bank of England or Editor of The Times wasn’t able to get the opportunity to succeed in the meritocracy we pretend to live in. What if they couldn’t intern for no pay at The Telegraph, or do work experience at their own expense at Citibank, or their aunt can’t get them a job at Carlton communications? Well these are the important career, life, country-changing first rungs on the ladder that are only available to the upper class, to the few, to the rich.

We need to create a fairer pathway from education into the workplace. We need to create a fairer education system. We need... fuck, I don’t know. Something. Hope. Cos without hope we’re just treading water in a pool of wasted sweat and bitter regretful tears.

And why not buy the Indelicates new album when it comes out, too. Titled Diseases of England, it's the scathingly-despairing indie-rock-vaudeville soundtrack to the winter of our dissent, dischord and disharmony.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Brixton Academy
I check my pocket for the second time, the third time and I have the tickets. I’ve already spent the time from Beckenham Junction to Gypsy Hill unable to find them. Losing things is kinda my thing. But I’ve got them. It’s OK.

We get off the train at Brixton. We turn right, and right again. It’s dark, cold. Some men pogo out of the door of a pub as we walk past. We follow them. One has an Iron Maiden jacket on. We know we’re going in the right direction. We think. Matthew taps him on the elbow, that’s as far as he can reach. Hey you going to the gig? He is, yeah. We know where we’re going now. Matthew says I like your jacket and the guy says cheers, it fucken rocks, dun’it? And Matthew says something about Blaze Bayley or something and I zone out, I’m not metal, I’m indie, and I really don’t know what they’re talking about.

We walk down the road in Brixton, the main one, the high street or whatever, on our left we see the lights and the entrance of the Academy, skulking on a side road, and we cross and see Natalie and Jenny and Marie, who are in the year above us a school, and their already in the queue and we say hello, but then we realise that we’re not really being encouraged to jump the queue with them, so we skulk along the side of the building to the end and we wait for the queue to start moving.

Inside we get served, and get served again, and a grunge band play and we get served again, and we’re kinda tipsy, and we go and stand with Natalie and Jenny and Marie, and we stop being so shy, and Jenny starts getting off with some older guy near her, and we’re kinda jealous but we don’t say anything about it, and then another band come on, and they are PUNK and me and Matthew run down the front and jump up and down and up and down then they’re finished and it’s all too quick and sudden, and fuzzy, and we buy some more pints, and then we wait and wait and wait and the anticipation is turning into anxiety and impatience and someone says something about fucking Welsh wankers and too busy shagging sheep backstage and Matthew, who has been to some gigs before, he reckons they won’t be long ‘cos the roadies have sorted out the stage and it’s all ready and then, finally, 50 minutes, an hour, three pints of lager and lots of nervous jumping later they deign to walk onto the stage and we forgive them. We love them.

We push, spin, jump and shove: praise, incant, respond. We recite lyrics learnt by rote, by devotion. I hit the floor during Motorcycle Emptiness. I don’t think I care anymore.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Short Story: Hearlumination

It’s the same song, the Ohrwurm of a hundred bored days and every sleepless night. Danced to it at discos, set it as your ringtone, he played it at his wedding and she put it on every compilation tape and mix CD she made for the best part of five years. Fell in and out of love to it, with it.

Every strained lyric, every compressed handclap, every plosive breath and derivative lead guitar riff, they’re all so familiar, too familiar. I contend: familiarity breeds nostalgia and apathy. Viscerality and vitality is replaced by comfort and conditioning, it’s all learned reactions and automatic programmed emotions.

But: on different speakers, different headphones, in someone’s car, you hear, she hears a backing vocal, a bass-line, a phased melody, pushed to the forefront by bad wiring, poor equalisation, and suspect speaker placement.

It is a new calling sound amongst time-wearied notes of remembrance and recognition. It is a long-lost half-sibling, an accidental chance body of happenstance that inspects and dissects everything that was once so beloved.  It's hearlumination. It's hearluminating. And it sings and it shines and it makes you so very happy and in love all over again.

Neologism and story inspired by the following tweet:
Thanks Mic.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A First at the Second Time of Asking

I first went to university in 1996. It didn’t go well. Many games of pooh sticks have been played, yeah?
So anyway, I started again 10 years later in the most low falutin’ of ways. Yep, I traded in some supermarket loyalty vouchers for an online academic course. 
And after six years, five courses, last minute credit transfers, some desperate grant requests and essay extensions, I come to say farewell, it's been a blast, thank you and goodnight Open University.
Now I emerge, older, more cleverer, and relatively unscathed, with a First Class Honours BA degree in Literature. Cor blimey! eh reader?
I owe an awful lot to the OU. The lovely (and I really, genuinely, mean lovely) tutors I was fortunate to have, coupled with the accessibility and anonymity of the online courses have rebuilt my confidence as a student, as a learner.
The courses I have studied have given me a terrific new opportunity, I wouldn’t be blogging on this website if I hadn’t realised, hadn't learned, that actually, you know, I really can write.
As such, come September, I'm off to Cardiff University to take a Taught MA in Creative Writing.
I had an interview at Cardiff back in May, and was offered a conditional place shortly after. I was so shocked to be accepted (it’s a very small course in terms of student numbers), and then spent so long post-offer waiting to confirm my place it all seems a little surreal at the moment.
I’m trying to acclimatise myself by flicking around the Cardiff website, but it feels like I'm cheating on the OU. So I pop back to my alma mater from time-to-time, mainly to argue on the student forums about how and when to use commas.
New adventures afoot – not only this, but I have a slightly new job, and my wife is expecting baby #2 this winter – and in the meantime I’ve taken up running. I know, right? Me, running? Hah!
So thank you, The OU. You changed my life. Ta. I’ll see you for gowns and mortarboards and a cheeky snifter next year sometime.
And bore da Caerdydd ;)
Finally, massive thanks to my wife, the OU widow as she was, and to all the awesome people I met and befriended along the way.
Jamie Woods BA (Hons) Lit (Open) :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Brief Interlude

I've so much to say, but I can't right now. It's all very exciting.

I wrote some short-short stories on some Post-It notes the other day. Definitely a work-in-progress kinda project in the making there.

I started a positive blog. It's rather cheerful.

I've written an essay for a forthcoming anthology of essays, all about Courtney Love and Hole. My friend Claire says it's factually accurate.

Erm... and yes, this is still the greatest album in the world. Even if it is 18 years old this year.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Evergreen Review

I have a story called 'Points of Articulation' included in the latest issue of Evergreen Review.

Wikipedia will tell you:
Evergreen Review debuted pivotal works by Samuel BeckettJorge Luis BorgesCharles BukowskiWilliam S. BurroughsMarguerite Duras,Jean GenetAllen GinsbergGünter GrassJack KerouacNorman MailerHenry MillerPablo NerudaVladimir NabokovFrank O’Hara,Kenzaburo OeOctavio PazHarold PinterSusan SontagTom StoppardDerek Walcott and Malcolm X. United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote a controversial piece for the magazine in 1969. Kerouac and Ginsberg regularly had their writing published in the magazine.
Considering my course at university covers Waiting for Godot and Ginsberg's Howl, I cannot explain how much of a honour it is to be part of this magazine.

Especially with a story that I have been so unsure about, for a while now. A story I love, but worry about being misinterpreted. Well, it's out there now. I guess that's the amazing thing about having the opportunity to be read, the fact that other people have a weird gateway into my head....

Anywhichway, I hope you enjoy it. And if you don't, well, it's not that long, so you haven't missed more than two minutes of your life.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Beckenham Library Gave Me Power

I grew up in the London Borough of Bromley. As a teenager, I don’t think that there could be a more dull place to exist.  Hanging out outside HMV in Bromley High Street and buying clothes in Cromwell’s Madhouse in The Glades shopping centre was as good as it got. I lived in Beckenham, where we had a swimming pool and a library. Lots of parks though, lots of parks. A townie nightclub in Beckenham which was raided for underage clientele with humorous coverage in the News Shopper, and an over-25’s night club (called ‘Jazz’) in Bromley. Slammin! I ended up escaping, at weekends and school holidays, to the exotic climes of New Cross and Camden, before moving away at n-n-n-n-nineteen.

Living there, I discovered politics. It was clear that we lived in a two-tier area, where social injustice rarely mattered to the Conservative MPs and Borough Council (I wrote to them from time to time), and there seemed to be an attempt to glorify in the ‘Victorian Family Values’ much-loved by the Tories at the time (Our local MP, Piers Merchant, he did his bit, and took a mistress, like all good Victorian gentlemen). Single-sex education was very popular there: I went to a ‘School for Boys’, a maroon-blazered comprehensive with delusions of grandeur. We played rugby and hockey. We wore suits to sixth-form.

And nothing ever happened. At all.

It just made me so angry. Like The Adverts’ Bored Teenagers we needed excitement and danger, and a reason to exist. I could’ve gone so many ways, I reckon. Ideally, I would have studied hard and all that stuff, but that was never for me. I discovered music, like The Clash and The Pistols and The Manics and The Levellers and Public Enemy and Credit To The Nation and Asian Dub Foundation and Blaggers ITA , and the NME and the Maker were full of politics and against the Criminal Justice Bill (later, Act, 1994). It was a time to get involved. I joined the Anti-Nazi League. I subscribed to private Eye and read The Guardian and The Independent every day. I went to loads of socialist festivals and drank lots and formed a band and skived off school to read books in the library and wrote polemic lyrics and bad poetry. I thought, maybe that I could change the world.

I went to Swansea University, to study politics. I was quite firebrand, very vocal about my hatred for the Conservatives and the Telegraph and The Times and The Sun, and was probably very rude to anyone who suggested otherwise. And then, on that glorious day in May 1997, towards the end of my first year, we got them out. We got them out! My first vote in a general election, and we’d got rid of the Tories. And then we all got complacent, didn’t we...

So, some fifteen years later, here we are with a Conservative-led government again. And it’s all going badly wrong again. Cuts in all the wrong places. Sleaze. Big businesses with sweetheart deals to save them billions in tax, while people at the other end of the social-scale are arguing with the government over pounds and pence. Disability benefits and social housing and education and the NHS are being cut and yet the money could be there, if there was even a tiniest swing from have to have-not. That Vodafone cash would go a long, long way to safe-guarding more public services than closing a bunch of libraries ever will...

I went to a comedy thing the other day. Are they called gigs? Or is it show? Oh, anyway, it was brilliant. And proof things haven’t changed. The opening act was a singer / poet / crazy lady with glitter in her hair called Brigitte Aphrodite. She performed a song about how growing up in Bromley is the most boring thing ever. My life flashed before my eyes. I bought her single. It is good.

Brigitte is touring with Orpington’s finest, Josie Long. Josie has over the years made a transition from comedian to political comedian, involving herself with campaigns such as UK Uncut, a pro-tax protest group who have sadly been given an undeserved reputation as anarchists, and now her own Arts Emergency organisation, fighting against cuts in Arts Education.

Josie was brilliant, and inspirational, and I left the show feeling so utterly invigorated. I can make changes. I can do things. I can change opinions. I can no longer afford to be complacent. I’ve never known any public figure to share all my political viewpoints, from the militancy brought on by the Royal Wedding to the love of Nye Bevan.

Socialism, as a pure form, is essentially being nice to other people, and sharing what you have. I encourage my two-year-old kid to do these things all the time. I hope he never forgets.