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Archive for the ‘Journalism / News’ Category

William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer – Talk

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Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs

Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs is one of The Scribbler’s staple authors. To read his work is to understand our mission. Which is why we were so excited to hear about a discussion forum taking place this weekend on the famed beat author.

The Last Tuesday Society, of 11 Mare Street London, hosts Oliver Harris, Professor of American Literature at Keele University for a night entitled: William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer.

Burroughs once wrote: “…in this life we have to take things as we find them as the torso murderer said when he discovered his victim was a quadruple amputee.”

To coincide with the publication of a new, 25th-anniversary edition of Burroughs’ second novel Queer, Harris has finished reediting the early trilogy of novels preceding the notorious Naked Lunch.

The story behind Queer starts in the early 50s in Mexico City when the fledgling author and heroin addict, accidentally shot and killed his wife, Joan, in a drunken re-enactment of William Tell.  The experience served as a catalyst awakening a creativity which produced the masterpieces The Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine.

This week’s talk follows a trail of evidence from letters, manuscripts, photographs, Shakespearean references, Plato, pulp publishers, vaudeville acts, and a torso murderer (a reference to the infamous Cleveland Torso Murders of the 30s which were investigated by the same police officer who successfully convicted Al Capone).

Burroughs was hailed by Norman Mailer, novelist, journalist and innovator of the non-fiction narrative, as  “The only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.”

Over the years Burroughs’ work has been a major influence by musicians and artists like Lou Reed, Joy Division, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Kurt Cobain. Oliver Harris is the author of seven books and several articles on the Beatnik writer. He has also edited Burroughs’ early trilogy of novels for Penguin Books including Junkie and Queer.

Buy tickets for the William S. Burroughs and the Torso Murderer talk on November 19 at The Last Tuesday Society here >>

Watch a trailer for the new film William S. Burroughs: A Man Within below:

Discussion:
Will you be attending the Torso Murderer talk? Do you feel Burroughs is rightly labelled as one of the most influential writers of the 20th Century? Favourite book? Go on…tell us.

Words: Dean Samways

Afghan war book deal for Rolling Stone writer

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Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings

Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings

The journalist who broke the story of General Stanley McChrystal‘s ill judged words on the US’ involvement in Afghanistan has a book deal.

Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings is now working on a book about the conflict with publishers Little, Brown and Company, it was announced on Tuesday.

According to the publisher, the book will provide an “unfiltered look” at the war and those men and women fighting it.

As of yet a release date has not been set and the book is currently untitled.

Hastings’ Rolling Stone article featured the much publicised remarks made by McChrystal and his aides about President Barack Obama and his administration. McChrystal was replaced as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan by General David Petraeus following his highly criticised comments.

Read the original article, The Runaway General, here >>

Watch an interview with Michael Hastings on Democracy Now! below:

Discussion:
What do you make of the article? Is Hastings the contemporary journalist of modern times? Will you be reading his book?

Words: Dean Samways

Writer and creator of The Wire back on the beat

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David Simon, creator of The Wire

David Simon, creator of The Wire

Celebrated creator of the much loved hit US police drama The Wire (The Guardian’s live blog on all five series) has returned to his journalistic roots to investigate crime in Baltimore, the setting of the HBO series.

Writer and journalist David Simon was reportedly unhappy with the Baltimore Sun‘s coverage of a police shooting which reported that “one old police reporter [Simon] lost his mind and began making calls” following a handful of unsatisfactory stories.

You would have thought the Baltimore police would have learnt it’s lesson after five series of The Wire but Simon was denied the face sheet of the shooting report.

David Simon said: “I tried to explain the Maryland statutes to the shift commander, but so long had it been since a reporter had demanded a public document that he stared at me as if I were an emissary from some lost and utterly alien world. Which is, sadly enough, exactly true.”

Have a look see what Charlie Brooker thinks of The Wire below:

Discussion:
Has the Wire inspired anyone to try their hand at screenplay writing? Does anyone enjoy writing about crime, and why? Let us know what you think of The Wire.

Words: Dean Samways

Booker Prize and Costa Awards judging panels announced

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Aravind Adiga with his Man Booker Prize winning novel White Tiger

Aravind Adiga with his Man Booker Prize winning novel White Tiger

The organisers behind two of the biggest book awards have announced the judging panels for their 2009 awards. The Man Booker Prize and The Costa Book Awards are some of the most respected in the literary world and anyone asked to judge these awards must see it as a great honour.

The judging panel for The Man Booker prize has been announced with the powers that be opting for a more ‘serious’ line-up. Heading up the critics is Today Program (BBC Radio 4) presenter Jim Naughtie providing some serious journalist clout and is definitely a more suited judge than last year’s choice Michael Portillo.

The remaining seats on the judging panel will be filled by literary editor of The Sunday Telegraph Michael Prodger, the writer Lucasta Miller, who has written a critically acclaimed book on the Bronte’s. Every literature judging panel has to include the token celebrity personality and this year that great honour has fallen to Sue Perkins of Mel and Sue fame. Check out the full panel right here.

The Costa Book Award has announced its judging panel (already touched on by The Scribbler) leaning towards a more broadcasting friendly collective. The judges include world renowned reporter Michael Buerk and comedian/actor Alexander Armstrong. The panel is headed up by columnist and broadcaster Matthew Parris. To see the full line-up and biographies of the judges click here.

Watch last year’s Man Booker Prize winner Aravind Adiga talks about his award winning book White Tiger:

Discussion:
Are the personalities listed here qualified enough to decide which piece of writing should win over another? Who would you like to see on a book award judging panel?

Words: Seamus Swords

DBC Pierre to appear at Live Literature

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DBC Pirrer
‘Dirty But Clean’ Pierre

Modern literature’s L’Enfant terrible is set to make a rare live appearance at the Live Literature event in Manchester on 15 December. Infamous literary villain turned Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre will be discussing his life and career which has included stints as a film-maker, designer, photographer and cartoonist. He is most famous for his book Vernon God Little, which won the Booker prize and was included in GQ Magazine‘s 100 Best Things 2006.

DBC Pierre’s reputation has a tendency to overshadow his writing; after receiving The Booker Prize for Vernon God Little he is quoted as saying he’d be spending the money on repaying debts to his unfortunate victims. After a lavish upbringing in New Mexico he suffered a somewhat fall from grace involving drugs, debt and illegal money making.

Putting his past behind him DBC Pierre will be reading extracts from his new novel which isn’t due for release for another year.

The reading and Q&A session will be taking place at the Martin Harris Centre for Music & Arts on 15 December.

Have a look below at part one of ten of The Last Aztec, a documentary by DBC Pierre on his ancestoral roots. To see the other nine installments visit this YouTube channel.

Discussion:
Is anyone planning on attending the event? Are there any Vernon God Little fans out there? Is it one of the best novels in the last 10 years? Discuss debate and share your views in the comment box.

Words: Seamus Swords

…and the Guardian first book award goes to…

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Alex Ross, winner of this years Guardian first book award (Guardian)

Alex Ross, winner of this years Guardian first book award (Guardian)

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross was named this year’s Guardian first book at a ceremony in central London last night.

The overwhelmingly in-depth history of 20th century music, embracing classical through to contemporary, was the undisputed winner of the £10 000 first prize.

Chair of the judging panel, Guardian literary editor Claire Armitstead, said: “In some quarters this book has been seen as not having a popular appeal. Our prize – which, uniquely, relies on readers’ groups in the early stages of judging – proves that, on the contrary, there is a huge appetite among readers for clear, serious but accessible books.”

Another judge said: “Where Ross lifts his book above the ‘expert’ and impressive to the ‘good read’ category is in the way he wears his learning lightly, never clutches for false or contrived ways of explaining music, and never dumbs down in order to explain.”

Waterstone’s reading groups up and down the country also helped with the judging process. One member said: “Every time I felt overwhelmed by the technicalities, along came a sublime metaphor or simile that would light up the prose.”

The Guardian’s website describes Ross’ book as ‘a lifetime’s enthusiasm and learning distilled into a rich narrative of musical history, setting the works of Mahler, Schoenberg, John Cage and the rest into their cultural and political contexts – but also giving a vivid sense of what the music he describes actually sounds and feels like’.

It goes on to say: “Of all the artforms, modern and contemporary classical music is often seen as the most rebarbative. Ross brushes aside the mythology of 20th-century music’s “inaccessibility” as he charts its meandering histories. Along the way, fascinating connections are made: hip-hop has more in common with Janacek than you might think; Arnold Schoenberg and George Gershwin were tennis partners; Gershwin, in turn, was an ardent fan of Alban Berg and kept an autographed photo of the composer of Lulu in his apartment. If there is an overarching idea to the book, it is perhaps contained in Berg’s pronouncement to Gershwin: “Mr Gershwin, music is music”.”

The current music critic of The New Yorker Ross, 40, was born in Washington DC. He was an enthusiastic teenage musician but it wasn’t until studied English and history at Harvard when he became interested in journalism and became a student broadcaster. Ross began writing music criticism after university and was appointed to his current role at The New Yorker in 1996. He also has a blog which he uses to great effect in transmitting his work around the globe.

The media reception of for The Rest is Noise has been phenomenal. The New York Review of Books said: “by far the liveliest and smartest popular introduction yet written to a century of diverse music”. The Economist noted: “No other critic writing in English can so effectively explain why you like a piece, or beguile you to reconsider it, or prompt you to hurry online and buy a recording.”

Former Observer music writer Nicholas Kenyon said: “At a time when people are still talking about 20th-century music as if it were a problem, here is a lucid and entertaining book about what I regard as some of the greatest music ever written. It’s a wonderful way to advance the cause of 20th-century music to an ordinary, intelligent general reader. It’s the ideal mix of enthusiasm and information.”

The judging panel for this year’s Guardian first book award was made up of novelist Roddy Doyle; broadcaster and novelist Francine Stock; poet Daljit Nagra; the historian David Kynaston; novelist Kate Mosse and Guardian deputy editor, Katharine Viner. Stuart Broom of Waterstones‘ spoke as the representative of the retailer’s reading groups.

The other books shortlisted for the award were Mohammed Hanif‘s A Case of Exploding Mangoes; Ross Raisin‘s God’s Own Country; Steve Toltz‘s A Fraction of the Whole (also put forward for the Man Booker prize) and Owen Matthews’s Stalin’s Children.

Previous winners of the prize have most notably included Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters (2005) and Zadie Smith‘s White Teeth (2000).

See Ales Ross talk about The Rest is Noise in an interview below:

Words: Dean Samways

Gonzo is nearly upon us

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A poster for the Gonzo documentary on Hunter S. Thompson

A poster for the Gonzo documentary on Hunter S. Thompson

How did this almost slip under The Scribbler radar?

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the celebrated documentary by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, is finally hitting UK cinemas on 19 December.

Almost a year after the feature length documentary made its cinematic debut at the Sundance Film Festival British audiences will finally get to see Gibney’s uncanny account of gonzo journalism‘s forefather.

The film addresses the major events that made Thompson such an influencial figure not just in literary circles but also political ones too. For example, his intense and ill-fated relationship with the Hell’s Angels, his near-successful bid for the office of sheriff in Aspen in 1970, the notorious story behind the landmark Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his deep involvement in Senator George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, and much more.

As an extra treat the entire motion picture is narrated by Johnny Depp.

Naturally we will follow any developments on this, the most exciting film release of the year. Keep it The Scribbler for the first review of Gonzo.

Read Gonzo’s Sundance review right here.

Have a look at the trailer below:

Discussion:
Are you looking forward to Gonzo? How many of you admire HST? Is he primarily a storyteller or journalist? Can his infamous subjectivity be used objectively?

Words: Dean Samways