Gloom has descended on Glasgow’s CCA for a season of art events about despair. alienation and suicidal tendencies. Ann Donald lurks in the literary shadows to read the last rites.
‘lt‘s the end of the world as we know it‘ sang REM‘s Michael Stipe. in a line that neatly sums up the CCA‘s Bad Times programme.
Over the next couple of months — a prime time for Seasonally Affective Disorder — writers. artists and performers are addressing key questions as'we hurtle towards the end of the millennium. Arc outside forces taking our personal lives fora spin‘.’ Will our future be any better than our past? Alienation. confusion. desperation and hopelessness — the gamut of darker emotions on the Richter scale of human experience are about to be drafted in from exile in Doomsville and addressed by the likes of Janice Galloway. AL. Kennedy. Alan Warner and Martin Millar in a series of readings and discussions.
The invited authors‘ reactions to the series vary from author Maggie Graham‘s enthusiasm: ‘I see it as a brilliant opportunity to voice issues that are too easin ignored‘ to the less vociferous response from Martin Millar: ‘l'm slightly dubious about the whole thing. . . I‘ll be supplying some light rcliefl think‘.
The decision to stage such a potentially grim season is not one that the general public would have expected either. says (.‘CA events programmer Margaret Ritchie. ‘People don‘t expect institutions like us to ask questions such as. “Have you ever felt
depressed?" or “Are you worried about this‘."‘.' she says. ‘Yet. there are a lot of people doing work that mirrors these worries about Bosnia or homelessness or despair and darkness.’
Yet. in a world hell-bent on fun. fun. fun there seems to be no room for the ‘depressed and doubting Thomases' who may question the validity of the MTV/MeDonalds/Coke philosophy of life where everyone is a Shiny Happy Person. Those who do experience a feeling of alienation or hopelessness are often marginalised. left to deal with their ‘unsociability‘ or ‘problem‘ alone. As Janice Galloway. the author of The Dick Is To Keep [frail/1mg ~- a brilliant first person account of a mind crackng tip — points out. there are dangers in this refusal to acknowledge the full range of human experience.
Entertainment is allowed. we can be jolly and upbeat. we‘re allowed to pretend certain things don‘t exist.‘ she says. ‘but that is a sure recipe for making something dangerous. It makes some subjects so loaded that nobody‘s allowed to tamper with them . . . yet it‘s art‘s job to get to the bone and address them. The more potentially difficult it is to look at something the more potentially fruitful it is.‘
Certainly the C(TA‘s line-up of writers indicates a
She's a Misery to me: Das Jan Ader at the CCA
willingness in contemporary Scots literature to tackle these so-called taboo themes. lt ranges from Al. Kennedy‘s work. which coyers the terrain of despair to elation and back again. to Gordon Legge‘s punchy desperation of dole queue urban subculture and Angela McSeveney‘s poetry that works as a moving record of self-administered psychotherapy.
But as Maggie Graham observes. burning underneath this literature is the integral current of black humour. tempering and shaping the literature into a more palatable form. ‘lf you look at people like Duncan McLean. lrvine Welsh. or even A.L. Kennedy. you‘re getting a lot of dark humour along the litres of people falling dead at parties and someone going “()h the cunt‘s deidf". she says. Though this is a more extreme example. it demonstrates the fact that emotions like humour. depression. joy or hopelessness cannot be isolated from the whole of human behaviour. which in turn is reflected in literature.
As Galloway adds optimistically: ‘Wc‘re looking at the shadows — and ifyou start there. you‘re aware that there‘s a surface up above. Through the dark you get to the light.‘
Details o/‘(tll (.‘Cxl Burl Timer readings are m the Banks liven/s see/inn.
; Shook tactics
‘The crucifixion of modern literature and the resurrection of the imagination’, was one of the stated aims of Creation Books, and certainly its small but quirky output has attracted a lot of attention. Kathy Acker, Henry Rollins, the Marquis De Sade and H.P. lovecraft are among the writers on the backlist, with plans to publish work by Alan Moore, Aleister
Crowley and Candice Black over the next two years.
With the publication of Dust: A Creation Reader, the publisher is blowing its own trumpet, perhaps I quite rightly. Creation have rightly been accused of publishing writing that has more shock value than literary merit, from sexual deviants to ' occult trainspotters, with
shortcomings obscured by a layer of
fashionable nihilism. But it has also frequently championed the vastly ‘ under-represented subversives of . literature; those writers estranged from traditional literary values who
deal with subject matter that is
genuinely on the edge. Certainly,
; Creation has found a modestly
successful niche in the book trade.
One Creation author who has received underground acclaim, but
3 also shifts a fair few books, is Stewart
Home who is participating in the Bad
Times season at the CCA. Home is
renowned for his novels Pure Mania and Defiant Pose which are filled with rampaging skinheads and peppered with violence, sex and survival instinct. His story Orgasm Addict, is typical Home - tabloid plot, thrilling narrative and writing as tight as a pair
No doubt Home could write a hog- standard thriller with endless atmospherics and plenty dot-to-dots when it comes to scenes of sex and violence, but he chooses not to employ such literary veils. The point is that Home and other Dust writers don’t want to adhere to ore-prescribed literary values - they want to create their own. Splatter literature is here, alive and kicking, and whether it is natural born or contrived the effect can be startling. (Toni Davidson)
Dust: A Creation Reader is published by Creation Books at £6.99.
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