Matt Thorne eds

All Hail The New Puritans (Fourth Estate E10)

All Hail the New Puritans gathers together the finest of today’s new writers. They have all signed and pledged to write In accordance with The New Puritan Manifesto:

1. Primarily storytellers, we are dedicated to the narrative form. 2. We are prose writers and recognise that prose Is the dominant form of expression.

For this reason we shun poetry and poetic licence In all its forms. 3. While

Clarity, purity and linearity are the holy trinity behind Nicholas Blincoe and Matt Thorne's contemporary fiction anthology. Indeed, so eager are these boys for us to ’get’ this collection that they’ve included a handy ten- point manifesto, solemnly laying out their ideas and voicing their intention to ’blow the literary dinosaurs out of the water'.

Inspired by the Dogme 95 filmmakers who abstained from frills in the quest for a ’pure' cinema, fifteen young British writers were challenged to reject narrative devices in favour of a stripped-down, plot-driven fiction. Complicated grammar and punctuation are banished along with such indulgences as flashbacks, timeshifts and poetic licence. Cromwell, Bunyan and the Pilgrim Fathers would undoubtedly have been proud. Literary innovators like Joyce and Woolf must be rotating alarmingly in their graves.

While editor Matt Thorne distances himself from the notion that New Puritanism is a religious movement, it‘s a little unnerving to see such a fixation with rules in one so young. 'When approaching writers for this project we tried to pinpoint certain similarities and trends,’ he says. 'The homogeneity in the collection is something we think justifies the project rather than counting against it.’

Ali Smith, author of Other Stories And Other Stories has read the New Puritan Pledge and is intrigued by the prospect of the anthology. 'What strikes me most strongly is the deliberate shunning of the poetic,’ she says. 'Dogme 95 was about purification, getting rid of obfuscation, nothing but the dynamic between a camera, strip of film or video. What came out of it was never denying the poetic, in fact in several instances produced exactly that.’

The problem with reading these stories in the light


On Writing: A Memoir ' (Hodder £16.99 h/b,‘ E10 p/b)

acknowledging the value of genre fiction, whether classical or modern, we will always move towards new openings, rupturing existing genre expectations. 4. We believe in textual simplicity and vow to avoid all devices of voice: rhetoric, authorlal asides. 5. In the name of clarity, we recognise the importance of temporal linearity and eschew flashbacks, dual temporal narratives and foreshadowing. 6. We believe in grammatical purity and avoid any elaborate punctuation. 7. We recognise that published works are also historical documents. As fragments of our time. all our texts are dated and set in the present day. All products, places, artists and obiecta named are real. 8. As faithful representations of the present. our texts will avoid all improbable or unknowabie speculation about the past or the future. 9. We are moralists. so all texts feature a recognisable ethical reality. 10. Nevertheless. our aim is integrity of expression, above and beyond any commitment to form.

A shopping list of unfulfilled expectations

of such a manifesto is that it becomes like a shopping list of expectations, which few of the stories completely live up to, a rulebook full 'of subjective statements like ‘prose is the dominant form of expression'. Also, the breathless claim that the collection shows how 'British fiction is currently among the most exciting in the world' seems naive when, on closer inspection, the New Puritan clique is revealed to contain precisely zero Scottish writers.

So, readers are advised to ignore The Pledge and proceed directly to the stories themselves, striking for their shared thematic concerns rather than any formal similarities. A dark pessimism runs through the collection with stories like Thorne’s Not As Bad As This and Toby Litt’s Puritans grimly, hilariously juxtaposing the banal and the sinister.

There are also strong contributions from Anna Davis and Scarlett Thomas, exploring petty suburban horror in Facing The Music and Mind Control. And, contrary to the 'clarity' demanded by the manifesto, it's the ambiguity of tales like Candida Clark’s Mr Miller and Bo Fowler's Three Love Stories that make the collection worth reading. (Allan Radcliffe)

All Hail The New Puritans is published on Thu 28 Sep.

'what if?', as in ’what if you were aboard an aeroplane and a steward opened an overhead flight locke.r and thousands of giant rats poured out7' King also describes writing as a means

‘~~lshrne.r,r,~.~ .,

" V’flwm“: a . .4 Memoir

King is still shining 99 THE lIST 21 Sep— 5 Oct 2000

We’ve heard the stories. Donald King's disappearance in 1950 and a legacy of horror books discovered by his yOung son, tWin JObS as teacher and laundryman that supported the writing of Carrie, the novel that kick-started a phenomenally successful career; the alcoholism, drug addiction and raging temper that inspired The Shining’s psychotic hotel janitor. Or the ones about Wife Tabitha's 'tOugh love’ and AA meetings; the incredible output, holed up in a Windowless attic, writing every day bar Thanksgivmg and Christmas, the near-fatal automobile aCCident last year and the purchase With intent to demolish the offending Dodge van. And there's my personal favourite, King's explanation of his writing method, which borls down to

to release presume, to exorcise fears. In an interView in the New Yorker he said: 'Muse is a ghost', meaning inspiration comes from somewhere, elsewhere, the ether. His language like his books

a is mysterious, eerie and supernatural And we’re fascinated what goes on in the mind of the world’s best-seiling author?

Though King has said his ’trick bag is pretty well empty’, the auto- biographical analysis of On Writing is no bookend to his career. There are his ongomg experiments with the internet (see the e-novel, Riding The Bullet), a shelved print novel, From A Buick Eight, and a .‘orthc:oming 900-page tome, Dreamcatcher. (Miles Fielder: at On WT/(llig. A Memoir is published on Tue 3 Oct

' First writes

Debut novelists under the microscope. This issue: Alan Watt Who he? Scottish-born but brought up in Canada and now an adopted Los Angelean, Alan Watt dropped out of high school to become a stand-up comedian. So far, so bad. But when not being uprightly funny he was writing, writing, writing. In fact he claims to have scribbled for thirteen years non-stop, which surely must be some kind of record. Even Marcel Proust stopped for the odd cup of tea.

His debut It’s called Diamond Dogs and tells the tale of Neil, an emotionally-challenged football jock whose involvement in a hit-and-run accident unravels both his own solipsistic little world and that of his Neil Diamond-fixated Sheriff father.

Basically . Basically, it’s ’a post- modern thriller" or in hybrid terms, Catcher ln The Rye meets Tales Of The Unexpected With a copy of The Jazz Singer thrown in for good measure.

Grand claims corner The US publishers reputedly paid a million dollars for this book, which has been described by the world-renowned Kirkus Reviews as ’exquiSite psychological fiction resonating With suspense, wit and perception’.

First line test 'l was angry'.

Most psychedelic paragraph ‘I felt the ball being ripped from my hands and I didn’t know if I had thrown it or if I had been tackled or even if I was alive anymore until nothing mattered anymore and I didn’t care who caught the ball because all I wanted to do was sleep for a million years and then it all went dark and l was alone inside this warm wet cloud grinning and floating iike one mad shimmering sandWIc'n'.

Post dedication gravitas-seeking literary quote 'There is no greater illusron than fear" Tao Te Ching. «Rodger Evansi

Diamond Dogs is published by Duck Editions on Thu 28 Sep priced [9. 99.

Diamond Dogs


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