Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Floorboards of Canada

Next week sees publication of the first overseas edition of Care of Wooden Floors, in the great nation of Canada! It's being published by the fine folks at Anchor Canada, part of Random House, and will officially go on sale on 3 April in paperback and ebook. The cover is almost identical to the British one, as you can see below. So, Canadian friends, buy, buy, buy! Please.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Floors on Tour, April: Oxford and Crystal Palace

I'm participating in two public events next month, so please come along if you can.

On Sunday 1 April at 10am I'll be at the Oxford Literary Festival, participating in a Writer's Round Table with Francesca Kay, author of the Orange-winning An Equal Stillness, and Romance Novel of the Year shortlistee Rachel Hore. We'll be discussing our own and each others' work, and "the joys and sorrows of writing fiction", so it promises a discussion of technique, coffee-making and how to avoid being distracted by the internet. I'm looking forward to getting some tips myself, especially on the last point. Or it could go another way entirely. Tickets are £10.

On Friday 13 April at 7.30pm I'll be at Bookseller Crow on the Hill in Crystal Palace, South London, in a reading with fellow debut novelists Lloyd Shepherd and Sophia Blackwell. There'll be readings from our respective books - Lloyd is the author of the gripping The English Monster, which I keep meaning to blog about, and Sophia first novel is called After My Own Heart - and some discussion, presumably on the subject of early adventures in publishing as that's where we're all at. This event is free.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Review: Ma Ligne

This is a review from Icon 100, October 2011. It wasn't put online as part of Icon's routine archiving so I'm posting it here.

“Mindless violence” is a concept that has been much aired in the media in the weeks after August’s riots in London and other UK cities. No doubt some violence really is mindless: spontaneous, purposeless, from nothing, to nowhere. The term was, however, mostly used as a declaration of lack of interest in the workings of the minds that engaged in a four-day carnival of theft and destruction on British streets. Thus the discussion can be sped along to retribution without any tiresome consideration of motive or causation. But violence and casual destruction deserve more attention than that. We can hardly do much about minimising them if we don’t examine them.

So we come to Ma Ligne. This is a curious little book, slim and highly seductive between grey suede covers neatly printed with the mysterious legend FUZI UV TPK. It is part art monograph, part police dossier: a catalogue of destruction. “Fuzi” is a French artist and, there’s really no point in being delicate about this, a vandal. Ma Ligne brings us five years of his work: his tag sprayed and scrawled over train carriages or cut into the fabric of the seats. Fuzi is not Banksy – he will not boost anyone’s house price and the council will not be listing his work. This is a loving tribute to routine vandalism. And seeing this kind of material degradation in a posh hardback edition of photographs gives us a crucial fraction of distance, which we can use to think about it without endorsing or condemning.

Fuzi’s medium and gallery was the St Lazare/Mantes la Jolie train line, which serves the western suburbs of Paris. The snapshots are mostly depopulated, giving them a melancholy, after-hours feeling. The only people who appear are members of Fuzi’s group, UV, Ultra Violent. The lack of audience is a necessity. This work takes place in moments of non-looking, inattention, when passengers, rail authorities and police are elsewhere. Once the act is complete, it is all about looking: catching attention, putting one’s name in front of people, claiming a space.

The accompanying texts (in French) give some background to this dedicated daubing, smashing and slashing. They’re a liberating read, even when you have to limp your way through with a dictionary, simply because Fuzi never really tries to justify his work. We don’t have to engage with an argument over why he’s right and our bourgeois notions are wrong. Instead what we get is a kind of love letter to the line, “My Line” (as the title says). “Elle √©tait tout pour moi,” she was all for me, he writes tenderly. He enjoyed her every day, listening to the wheels, moving through her and around her in a state of perfect freedom, with rules or laws, “all-powerful”, writing his name on her skin. A career of vandalism becomes a passionate (and, clearly, abusive) love affair, with the police in the role of jealous husband. The poem Ode √† la Destruction, one of two, layers a strong sexual vibe through the violence, “strong sensations, primitive”, with seats as “consenting victims”. Arrival at St Lazare seems cathartic. It’s troubling, haunting stuff, consciously provocative; certainly not mindless. Tags are more luminous after reading it, if no more attractive, justifiable or desirable.

Ma Ligne, FUZI UV TPK, Edition Patrick Frey, €46