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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

Tom McCarthy favourite to win Booker Prize

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Tom McCarthy, the writer of this year's Booker favourite, C.

Tom McCarthy, the writer of this year's Booker favourite, C.

It has transpired that C, by Tom McCarthy, is the forerunner to win the Man Booker Prize when the accolade is awarded on Tuesday 12 October.

Bookies have reported heavy betting on the British writer’s novel in final hours before the ceremony.

C, one of six books nominated for the annual prize, which comes with a cheque for £50 000, follows the life of Serge Carrefax through the upheavals of early 20th century Europe.

Also shortlisted are Parrot and Olivier in America by Australia’s Peter Carey (bidding to become the first author to win the prize three times) and Room by Irish-born Emma Donoghue.

Carey is one of just two authors who have won the Booker twice. His last was in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang and prior to that in 1988 with Oscar and Lucinda. South African J.M. Coetzee has also claimed the prize twice.

Damon Galgut (In a Strange Room), Howard Jacobson (The Finkler Question) and Andrea Levy (The Long Song) complete nominees for 2010’s Booker.

In 1981, Salman Rushdie‘s Midnight’s Children earned him the title of Booker winner. In a recent interview Rushdie underlined the significance of being associated with literature’s biggest prize.

Talking to Reuters last week, Rushdie said: “It made a big difference, no question. In England the paperback of Midnight’s Children has sold well over a million copies, and it wouldn’t have done that (without the Booker). It’s very beneficial.”

Midnight’s Children also won the Best of the Booker title in 2008 which was chosen by a popular vote.

Hilary Mantel won the prize in 2009 for her historical novel Wolf Hall, which portrayed Henry VIII’s reign through Thomas Cromwell’s eyes.

The competition aims to reward the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or Ireland. Past winners include V.S. Naipaul and William Golding.

Like music’s Mercury Prize, the Booker can launch the winning author to literary fame and bolster books sales by hundreds of thousands of copies internationally.

Watch Tom McCarthy discuss C below:

Discussion:
Have you read any of the Man Booker shortlisted offerings? Which is your favourite? Do you think Tom McCarthy would be a worthy winner of 2010’s prize?

Words: Dean Samways

Website says money difficulties behind quick sale of Bret Easton Ellis movie rights

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Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Entertainment press website Purple Revolver this week claimed that American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis is ‘cash-strapped’.

Reporting on the sale of the movie rights to his new novel Imperial Bedrooms, the website alleges that the reason behind the quick sale is because Ellis has found himself in financial difficulty.

We at The Scribbler were especially surprised by the news of the sale when Ellis himself expressed such disappointed at the last film adaptation of one of his novel, The Informers.

However, if you believe Purple Revolver, Ellis has hinted that the quick sale of the rights was money motivated and is not a challenge he is setting himself to transfer the text to film, as The Informers was (for which he wrote the screenplay and co-produced).

Imperial Bedrooms is considered a sequel to his first novel and film Less Than Zero which starred Robert Downey Jr.

According to Purple Revolver Ellis was speaking at a GQ party when he said: “In an ideal world, I would love to have the same cast as before as it is the same characters.

“But I don’t think Robert will do this one – he is in a different place now.

“Actually scratch that, in an ideal world the film would not get made, but I would still get the money.”

We are waiting for comment from Ellis and his publishers to reassure us that he cares about how his works are translated into celluloid.

Watch the trailer for Less Than Zero below:

Discussion:
What’s the best and worst Bret Easton Ellis film? Why do you think his novels are so resistant to the successful treatment?

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

Bret Easton Ellis talks American Psycho

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Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis

We at The Scribbler are very excited to learn that one of inspirations behind this project is going to be making an appearance in London this summer.

Celebrated contemporary writer Bret Easton Ellis is going to be talking about his acclaimed 1991 novel American Psycho as part of the Guardian Review book club.

The discussion with John Mullan is taking place on 14 July at King’s Place, London.

American Psycho is one of the best-loved modern classics of recent times. In 2000 it was made into a major motion picture starring Batman actor Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman.

A 27 year-old Wall Street employee, Bateman is the epitome of 90s decadence. Living in an upscale, chic Manhattan apartment, dining at the most exclusive restaurants and an expert in fashion and expensive consumer products. He is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath.

American Psycho is a brilliant, jet-black comedy wherein Bret Easton Ellis satirises the excesses of yuppy materialism and examines the dark side of the American Dream.

Tickets are £9.50 online and £11.50 from the box office. The event starts at 7.00pm. For more information visit the King’s Place website or call 020 7520 1490 to reserve your seat.

Watch the intro to American Psycho, the motion picture:

Discussion:
Who’s going to be going to the talk? Do you even rate Bret Easton Ellis? If so, why? If not, why not?

Words: Dean Samways

Welsh’s Porno banned in Malta

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Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting and Porno author Irvine Welsh

Scribbler favourite Irvine Welsh has fallen foul of overbearing censorship regulations in Malta, it’s been revealed.

The Scottish author’s second book and sequel to his groundbreaking debut, Trainspotting, Porno, has been banned in Malta.

The University of Malta has taken the decision to remove the novel from its library shelves as the Mediterranean island’s censorship laws state that “obscene or pornographic” should not be available to the public. These statutes also declare that the country’s classification board must give their approval to any and all literature before it is made available to the citizens.

Porno follows the antics of Trainspotting characters Renton, Spud, Sickboy and Begbie ten years after their first drug-fuelled outing only this time the backdrop has shifted from heroin use to the sleaze of the pornography industry. However, this has proved far too racy for the Maltese authorities.

Ingram Bondin of the island’s Front Against Censorship defended the novel last week during a debate in which she branded the situation “a classic case of censorship”.

On the back of this discussion the Front has put forward several proposals to update the country’s censorship laws. For example, they would like to abolish the prison sentence that faces an individual who vilifies the Roman Catholic Church. They would also like the practice of checking material for obscene and pornographic contents by a centrally appointed Classification Board to be stopped.

The 21-year-old editor of the student newspaper Realtà was recently threatened with jail time for publishing a short story deemed inappropriate by the authorities. Mark Camilleri, leader of the Front Against Censorship, said: “Censorship has increased and is being used to suppress arts. But the government is not budging.”

No stranger to controversy Welsh’s themes and scenes of rape, dog killing and drug use have attracted criticism and bans in the past. His play, You’ll Have Had Your Hole, allegedly faced a Belgian ban and the great censors, the Chinese, have refused to allow several of his titles to be sold in the country.

Watch an interview with Irvine Welsh post-Trainspotting:

Discussion:
Is Malta right to censor Irvine Welsh’s work? Is there any place for censorship in this modern age? What are your feelings on the subject

Words: Dean Samways

Hollywood writer Tweeting from jail

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John Avary

John Avary

Roger Avary, the Pulp Fiction story writer, is tweeting observations from behind bars.

Sentenced last month and currently serving a year’s prison sentence for driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, Avary’s musings could be seen as inspirational to most fledgling writers. In fact, The Scribbler would like to think Avary has already bagged half a dozen ideas for new writing projects.

There are many theories about how Avary is managing to Tweet from Ventura County Jail. One suggests that while serving a year’s custodial sentence and five probation, the Californian justice system saw fit to grant Avary a work furlough allowing him to work on Return to Castle Wolfenstein, his current film project based on the hit computer game, before returning to prison at night. If this was the case we’re sure it would be more widely publicised.

Other reports suggest he’s using his telephone call to phone his 140 character Twitter update to a friend who then updates his profile for him. Or a third idea is that he is microblogging using a mobile phone application. Regardless of how he is doing it, one thing’s for sure, Avary’s Tweets are gradually building a very vivid picture of what life is like inside a correctional institution.

Roger Avary’s other writing credits include; Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Killing Zoe, Rules of Attraction, Glitterati and Beowulf.

Follow Roger Avary’s Twitter account here: @AVARY Let us know if you find it good reading in the comment box below. His website can be found here: www.avary.com

Also follow The Scribbler on Twitter here: @ScribblerBlog

Feast your eyes on a famous example of Roger Avary’s talent below. A drug induced scene from his film Killing Zoe:

Discussion:
What do you think of Roger Avary’s Twitter? Has it inspired you in any way? Is it a good resource for research in life from behind bars? Are you now bitten by the Twitter bug? How can social networking benefit the writing process? Please do discuss below

Words: Dean Samways

Pullman rewrites the story of Christ

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Philip Pullman

The greatest story ever told (as debated here) has been given a new leash of life by His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman.

In a new project, Pullman has written an alternative Bible passage re-imagining the fate of Jesus Christ, who, it is written, was killed by the Romans (or not).

Talking to The Daily Telegraph, a friend of the author said: “He has written what would have happened if Jesus had had a fair trial. He knows it will be controversial, but he has some serious points to make.”

Pullman will read his reworking or Christ’s fate at the Globe Theatre on Thursday 19 November as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of Reprieve, an organisation which campaigns for prisoner rights.

The author is not new to controversy with the church. An honorary associate of the National Secular Society, several of Pullman’s books have been criticised by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His Dark Materials, Pullman’s collection of fantasy novels which contain much discussed religious allegories, have been seen as a direct negation of Christian author, C S Lewis’, The Chronicles of Narnia, which have been criticised by Pullman.

He is also often lambasted for an interview in which he reportedly said: “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”

Despite all this confrontation the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has suggested His Dark Materials be taught as part of the religious education curriculum in schools.

The Reprieve event will be hosted by Jon Snow and will also feature John le Carré and Martha Lane Fox.

Watch a documentary on Philip Pullman below:

Discussion:
Do you think Pullman has gone too far in his atheist quest with this latest project? Do you feel we should question religion more in literature? What was the last faith themed piece of writing you read?

Words: Dean Samways

Waterstone’s New Voices 2009 – Interview Three – Amanda Smyth

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Amanda Smyths debute novel Black Rock

Amanda Smyth's debute novel Black Rock

Amanda Smyth has been included on the Waterstone’s ones to watch list 2009, after her debut novel Black Rock was well received by critics. The Independent book reviewer Lesly McDowell labelled Smyth’s story as “a powerful, authentic one” describing the protaginest Celia as “an appealing, earthy, yet spiritual heroine who grows, wounded and embattled, through the course of the book.”

Amanda’s has sited her own Trinidadian roots as being a big influence on her, and after completing an MA in creative writing at UEA in 2000, her short stories were published in New Writing and London magazine as well as being broadcast on radio 4 as part of a series called Love and Loss. After having a number of short stories published Amanda Smyth received an Arts Council Grant for her first novel Black Rock.

Taking time to talk to The Scribbler Amanda discuses becoming published, where she gets her ideas from and what struggles she faced with her debut Novel Black Rock.

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The Scribbler: What is different about your writing that helps it stand out from other new writers at the moment?

Amanda Smyth: Gosh, that’s not a question for me to answer, I think. There’s a great deal of wonderful international writing out there. Perhaps the only thing I might have to offer that’s a little different is the location. My novel is set in Trinidad.

TS: As a ‘New Voice of 2009’ you must be inspired by some very contemporary authors. Which writers do you enjoy reading and draw inspiration from?

AS: I really enjoy reading Jhumpa Lahiri, Jamaica Kincaid, Richard Ford

TS: Our readers will be very interested in how you approach a writing project. Where do you lift your ideas from?

AS: Black Rock was originally inspired by a true story that came from my childhood. My great grandfather was murdered in Trinidad in 1950s, and I began Black Rock with the idea of writing about this event. I strayed very faraway (!) but that was the first seed of thought.

TS: When you first began writing how easy was it to find and sign to publisher? Can you talk us through that process?

AS: Initially I wrote short stories, and after graduating from Creative Writing MA at UEA, I was lucky enough to quickly find an agent, and there was some interest in a collection. Twice I came close to getting the stories published as a whole, but then the possibilities fell through. It was tough. I was advised to get on and write a novel. At the time, I was very in to Jean Rhys, and I remember reading a quote about novel writing from her letters: “All you have to do is start it, get on with it, and finish it.” So this is kind of what I did! And yes, it wasn’t easy finding the right publisher, but it did all come together in the end.

TS: What obstacles have you come across in your writing and how did you overcome them?

AS: I think we all have blind spots, in one way or another. Learning to take criticism from people who know more than me was a big thing. There were moments when I’d feel defensive around feedback. But I think I really learned how to *hear* it, and learn from it and move on. That was so important – in order to get better.

TS: We often hear that artists have trouble dealing with their own pieces (i.e. musicians not able to listen to their albums etc.) How do you feel about your own work? Are you comfortable with it?

AS: Yes, I think so. I know when I’ve tried to take a short cut, and there’s just no point in it. Why kid yourself.

TS: Have you already started work on your next book? Is it difficult to leave one piece behind and start new one?

AS: I have something stewing… And yes, I think it can be difficult, especially if you’re still involved in the current book with readings etc.

Amanda Smyth

Amanda Smyth

TS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given and advice would you give to our budding readers today?

AS: Always assume your reader is much brighter than you are.

TS: In your opinion what is Black Rock about?

AS: It’s a coming of age story.

TS: What books inspired you to pick up the pen and start writing?

AS: In my early days of writing, I think I wrote things down as a way of trying to understand them.

TS: What is your learning background?, and do you feel it helped you in writing your novel?

AS: I wanted to act when I was young, and did bits of TV, commercials, theatre work, so I didn’t bother going to university. As long as I had an equity card I could get work. But then I met a writing teacher/poet/journalist in Trinidad while I was living there. I went to his workshops every week and learned as much as I could. He changed my life. Then I came back to UK and applied to UEA to do the MA in Creative Writing. I found some of the academic work challenging, but the creative writing workshops were terrific.

TS :What does it mean to you to be named as one of the New Voices of 2009 by Waterstones?

AS: This was just wonderful, especially when I saw the other selected novels. And last year’s list was terrific, too. It’s a great honour.

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Discussion:
Promote or rant about Amanda Smyth or any of your favourite new writers for 2009 and expect more Q&As with the novelists on the Waterstones ones to watch list 2009.

Words: Seamus Swords

The Informers trailer released

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The Informers movie poster

The Informers movie poster

The movie adaptation of The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis has finally had it’s first trailer released.

Published in 1995, the collection of loosely connected short stories captures a week in L.A. in 1983, featuring movie executives, rock stars, a vampire and other morally challenged characters in adventures laced with sex, drugs and violence.

Unfortunately the word on the grapevine is that the filmmakers have decided to omit the supernatural elements of the book from the film version.

The Informers is directed by Gregor Jordan (Buffalo Soldiers) and stars Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, Winona Ryder, Rhys Ifans and Brad Renfro.

Already premiered at film festivals around the globe, The Informers will be released later this summer.

For all the latest information on the movie including reviews, footage, further trailers and hopefully the odd interview stay with The Scribbler.

To see the trailer click below:

Discussion:
What do you think of the trailer? It looks like the movie will do the book justice. What is your opinion? What are the best and worst movie adaptations in your view?

Words: Dean Samways