Auto-Destructive Art

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Jonathan Jones, “How Dada Spawned the Art of Anarchy,” Guardian Art and Design Blog 29 September 2009

“…Punk and dada, across the decades, share a savage hostility to the security and luxury of artistic respectability. The true anti-artist is never interested in compromise: for Lydon, to class the Pistols as high art was to tame them, contain them. This same anti-art rage is exemplified by Gustav Metzger, whom I interviewed recently, and whose concept of “auto-destructive art” is yet another variant of modern art’s impulse to smash reality.

This impulse to destruct, efface, obliterate cannot be confined to a single kind of modern art. There is as much negation, as icy a contemplation of the void, in the Rothko Chapel in Houston as in any dada collage.

This is why [Greil] Marcus writes so well about dada and its legacy, because he sees its bitter, liberated heart and does not take for granted what it was. It is also why to dismiss “anti-art” tendencies today is to be blind to the way they permeate the entire history of modernism — in short, to be a stuckist.”

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Jonathan Jones, “Gustav Metzger: The Liquid Crystal Revolutionary,” The Guardian 29 September 2009 (p. 19 of the Arts section)

“…In the 1960s, his argument that destruction is a form of last-chance creativity in a terminal world had a subterranean influence — not least on Pete Townshend, who was Metzger’s student at art college and credits him with inspiring the Who to destroy their instruments. …

In 1974, Metzger called an Art Strike: for three years, from 1977 to 1980, he refused to make, sell or exhibit art, or to promote himself as an artist in any way. …

Today, at the Serpentine, I ask him why he invented auto-destructive art, what he meant by it. ‘It was a summing up of my entire life until that period,’ he says, in the German accent he has never lost. ‘It was my childhood in Nazi Germany, coming to this country as a refugee, as a survivor. And then when we had peace, the entire planet being transformed by nuclear weapons. That is at the centre of my life.’ …

Of watching the [Nazi] parades, he says now: ‘Certainly the brutality of seeing 10,000 people marching like machines — as a child I must have rejected it.’ Did it make him the artist he is? ‘It could be that I saw so much power that I needed to get rid of it in myself. That’s one way to understand the origins of auto-destructive art. In Judaism there is a tradition of rejecting power: the Prophets rejected power. That was part of my childhood, giving up rather than acquiring.’ …

You could say that Metzger is the Kindertransport’s greatest failure: instead of building a constructive life for himself in postwar Britain, he invented a destructive life — or a destructive art. His art is a refusal to forget, to assimilate, to move on. His anger at the world is almost that of an alienated child: he tells me that, in a photograph he once showed me — of a child holding his hands up during the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto — he sees himself: ‘I identify with this child.’

Violent art is Metzger’s response to a violent world. In his exhibition, that same Warsaw photograph will be shown concealed behind a barrier, like the other images in his series Historic Photographs. These are his most enduring and remarkable works: you crawl on your hands and knees across the images as a way of remembering what happened. …”

Link to the Gustav Metzger exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery.

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Forever On the Verge of Orgasm

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On 25 September 2005, James Maker responded to my Guardian piece on artists without artworks. He makes some very interesting points:

“…Andrew Gallix, editor of 3:AM Magazine, founder of the boutique publishing imprint 3:AM Press and lecturer at the Sorbonne in Paris wrote an article for the Guardian, reproduced at his blog, titled ‘Can Artists Create Art By Doing Nothing?’

My thought is: Absolutely. Some artists should not create at all, thus leaving us with — and I can express this better in Spanish — una sabrosa de la herencia incumplida. To be an artist and yet to produce nothing is the exquisite state-of-being for the true aesthete. And the audacious. Life takes precedence over canvas and parchment. Live. To produce nothing requires endless resources of self-discipline. It is the practice of not creating a work that is anything less than exceptional. To position oneself at such a point is not, in my opinion, a form of supreme laziness — it is an act of love and of homage. You might compare it to being forever on the verge of orgasm without ever consummating it because the arc of release will not be magnificent enough. It is Rock’n’Roll.

…I would argue that, as awards are given out to people who have exemplified themselves in the field of creative arts, there should be a category for those who have not produced any works that year — as an acknowledgement of an humanitarian aesthetic towards their readership or supporters. Discretion….”

Disappear Here

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Here is Darran Anderson‘s recent article about writers’ disappearing acts:

Darran Anderson, “The Indian Rope Trick,” 3:AM Magazine 9 August 2009

October 1849. A dishevelled and incoherent bedlamite was found in some distress outside Ryan’s Tavern, a Baltimore drinking hole popular with corrupt canvassers and men of idle personage. He was wearing a variety of clothes seemingly assembled with scant regard to fitting or style; a palm leaf hat, a soiled silk coat and a battered pair of shoes. His hair was standing on end and his face smeared with dirt. Though presumed half-demented with drink, no traces of alcohol could be smelt or discerned on his person. This was no standard vagabond or panhandler. Instead, he was soon identified as no less than Edgar Allan Poe, poet, essayist and master of the macabre. His previous whereabouts were unknown. He’d simply vanished and reappeared, mysteriously afflicted and wearing the clothes of a stranger.

Whisked away to a sanatorium by friends, the writer’s condition deteriorated rapidly. Though he had been depressed and had taken to the drink following the death of his young wife (and cousin) Virginia Clemm, he had since cleaned himself up, joined an abstinence society and was working extensively on plans to launch his own periodical. The week previous, he had routinely left Virginia to travel back to New York City. What happened in those intervening days has never been revealed. In the hospital, the bedridden writer ranted and raved, slipping in and out of consciousness. He called out to his dead wife and an unknown “Reynolds” and begged those by his bedside to let him die. Finally in the early hours of the morning, without revealing what had happened to him, he gasped, “Lord, help my poor soul” and passed away. Faced with a vacuum that no rational explanation could fill, his close associates turned to fiction. His last panic-stricken words were altered to something more suitably lofty and erudite, in this case the following abomination; “He who arched the heavens and upholds the universe, has His decrees legibly written upon the frontlet of every human being and upon demons incarnate.” His death certificate was soon mislaid leading to speculation as to his cause of death, running the full spectrum of diseases and syndromes; epilepsy, diabetes, stroke, cholera, syphilis. When they ran out of genuine medical maladies, the gossip-mongers invented some of their own (“brain congestion” being chief among them). Soon speculation took a darker turn with tales of poisoning, laudanum overdose (Poe was a known opiate user) and the DTs vying with reports he’d been kidnapped, robbed and drugged (two shadowy figures had been spotted following him in the vicinity of a train station). Given the ghoulish nature of his writing, there’s the constant hint of something diabolical at work. Poe had stared into the abyss for too long perhaps and one day the abyss had noticed him.

Disappearing is an act with its own bewildering history (or anti-history considering it is a litany of what we do not know and perhaps never will). In 1587, the New World pilgrims of the Roanoke Colony (over 100 souls in all), in what would later be named North Carolina, vanished into thin air leaving only the word “Croatoan” carved onto a tree. In 1872, the Mary Celeste was discovered drifting in the Atlantic, a month after the brigantine had set off from New York for Genoa. Below decks, the ship’s cargo and cabins were relatively undisturbed but for the absence of her crew who were never seen again. In 1971, the bourbon-drinking hijacker D. B. Cooper leapt out of a Boeing 727 and into infamy with a parachute and a briefcase with $200,000 in ransom money. Entire regions of the planet have become feared for the prevalence of disappearances, as if some devilry were involved. Collectively known as the Vile Vortices, the Bermuda triangle in the Caribbean and the Devil’s Sea near Japan are the most notorious examples of the phenomenon. Some fates are more decipherable than others; the sailor Donald Crowhurst forging a circumnavigation around the planet descended into madness, writing hundreds of pages about time travel, God and the nature of being before stepping off his boat and into the sea whilst Amelia Earhart’s Electra vanished in the South Pacific with a final radio communication to their Howland Island destination, “We must be on you, but cannot see you — but gas is running low. Have been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.”

Whilst it’s an occupational hazard for explorers to go missing, it’s surprising how many writers have gone forth to the great unknown. These days we’re largely used to writers as bourgeois academics writing stories about English teachers having affairs with students or the existential crisis of marriages set in second homes in Tuscany with deceptively enigmatic titles (The Bible of Forgetting, The Ironsmith’s Daughter ad nauseum). But what of the fuck-ups, those who struck out and never returned or simply had enough? The destructive impulse is passé, the stuff of adolescent folly and voyeurism goes the supposed consensus. And yet the literary past is littered with them, these missing in action. It’s not to gloat over nor celebrate nor condemn such lives in freefall rather it’s crucial to haul back their works and lives from the void. And while the mythology of self-destruction may seem old hat, it still exerts its magnetism; there is still always a voice in your head that cannot resist wondering where they went and why and maybe there by the grace of god…

At the heart of every writer lies a paradox. Whereas the other art-forms (music, theatre and film in particular) have a natural communal element, writing necessitates a monkish solitude but also a desperate clawing desire for recognition. The turbulence between these two states is the stuff that can make or break a person. Added to this are life’s natural disasters and the neuroses/bohemianism of creative types which have blazed a trail of glory and destruction from John Clare through Sylvia Plath and d.a. levy to David Foster Wallace. Whereas every successful writer’s path is more or less the same, every doomed one has a unique tale to tell.

Take Hart Crane for example; an American poet still ludicrously underrated, who in hindsight stands as a kind of bridge between Walt Whitman’s world and that of the Beats, who rhapsodised about the fledgling New York cityscape the way the Romantics had about the Lake District, a man who for all his troubles (and there were few more troubled than Crane, wracked by drink and sexual guilt) was perhaps the very first to decipher the magic in the streets and skyscrapers and technology of the new age of modernity and describe it in a unique veiled even arcane language all of his own (elevators that “drop us from our day,” cinemas that were “panoramic sleights,” traffic lights “that skim thy swift / unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,” a city with its “fiery parcels all undone, Already snow submerges an iron year”). Yet none of these factors were to save him when, wearing his pyjamas, he clambered over the railings of the SS Orizaba, midway between Cuba and Florida, having been spurned in his amorous drink-sodden advances to the sailors below decks and then robbed for his troubles, and leapt into the ocean. He was last seen swimming for the horizon.

Whereas Crane’s end, for all its sadness, had an anger and near-defiance to it (after all he swam away rather than sank), the last act of Lew Welch was a more resigned even contemplative affair. A member of the Beat Generation, the Arizona-born poet was enraptured with nature, in contrast to Crane, viewing the city as a monstrous thing. Embracing rural life, he gave up his advertising career, after spells travelling with Jack Kerouac (appearing in Big Sur as the hard-drinking Dave Wain) and working as a taxi driver in San Francisco. He sought to make a living as a fisherman, spent time on communes and wrote elegiac Thoreau-influenced naturalist verse (Ring of Bone being the most definitive collection). On the 23rd of May 1971, struggling with alcoholism and despondent over a failed relationship (he had had several nervous breakdowns in the preceding decades), he took his rifle, walked into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and out of existence, leaving a note to his friend the poet Gary Snyder that reads in part, “I never could make anything work out right and now I’m betraying my friends. I can’t make anything out of it — never could. I had great visions but never could bring them together with reality. I used it all up. It’s all gone… I went Southwest. Goodbye. Lew Welch.” Today, when he is remembered it’s as the most mysterious of all the Beats, giving his works the vital resonance of a rare and cherished relic in contrast to the over-exposed works of his comrades.

Similarly neglected but just as gifted, the poet Weldon Kees parked his car by the mist-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge in the summer of 1955 and exited history. The dapper Nebraskan had wowed New York’s literary circles with his gentile poetry of the suburbs (his Robinson series of poems being his most acclaimed) in which devastating everyday encounters tap into the dark undercurrents of life; murder victims, decaying animals, moral corruption, all fuelled by the sense that no matter how respectable and refined a life, death still casts its inescapable shadow. A sense that the American Dream was but a delusion, the achievement of its goals a Pyrrhic victory. Gradually like some self-fulfilling prophecy, his life fell apart. He split up from his wife after she descended into drink-fuelled paranoid delusions and he struggled to find willing publishers. He disappeared with a sleeping bag, a watch and his wallet. Rumour has it, he resurfaced in Mexico. Given the Golden Gate Bridge’s notorious history as a suicide spot, reports of his reappearance seem like wishful thinking.

One character who did make it to Mexico was the writer Ambrose Bierce, creator of the glorious Devil’s Dictionary. A Civil War veteran, journalist and scourge of big business, Bierce chose at the sprightly age of 71 to enjoy his retirement not by gardening or playing bowls but by crossing the border, gun in hand, and joining the rebel army of Pancho Villa. He sent one final letter to his niece which read in part, “Goodbye. If you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a gringo in Mexico ah, that is euthanasia… I shall not be here long enough to hear from you, and don’t know where I shall be next. Guess it doesn’t matter much. Adios, Ambrose.” Bierce’s life and subsequent vanishing in the tumult of the Mexican revolution makes a fantastic story in the true sense of the word yet it also points out the danger in romanticising the fates of those who disappear. In absence of facts and explanations, their fates become infinite, subject to limitless speculation which may seem irresistible for the fan or casual observer but is unimaginably horrifying for the loved ones they leave behind. Whilst we envisage all manner of fantastical stories, they are left with untold horrors.

Sometimes the riddle of disappearance is solved. When her husband abruptly left her for his mistress in the winter of 1926, Agatha Christie went AWOL, provoking a nationwide twitching of curtains amongst Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple fans across Middle England. She was discovered 11 days later, lodging at a hotel in Harrogate, under an assumed South African identity, suffering from amnesia and a suspected nervous breakdown (an episode she hastened to discuss).

Within the last ten years, the fate of the masterful French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of The Little Prince and Wind, Sand and Stars), who vanished flying a reconnaissance mission for the Free French airforce over the Mediterranean, has become slightly clearer with a fisherman discovering his ID bracelet and a diver locating his P-38 Lightning plane off the coast of Marseilles. Just last year, a former Luftwaffe fighter (and fan of the writer) Horst Rippert claimed he’d inadvertently shot down his hero in a dog-fight during the Second World War.

Rather than the traditional binary view of existence and identity, it’s clear there are vast shifting grey areas. Consider Arthur Rimbaud, “the savage of the Latin Quarter” and poetry’s great enfant terrible, who famously disappeared at least from Western eyes but in doing so appeared to African ones and whose later life became the stuff of rumour and myth (slavetrading, gunrunning, going Kurtz) to the extent it’s almost impossible to decipher the truth from the fiction. Or B Traven (of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre renown) who didn’t disappear but didn’t ever fully appear, remaining a curious cipher of a man whose true identity has never been established. Or M. Ageyev the Istanbul-based Russian emigre whose Novel with Cocaine became a literary sensation before he chose (or was forced) to disappear into obscurity (over sixty years later, his book was found in the abandoned hotel room of Manic Street Preacher Richey Edwards after he’d gone missing). Or Oscar Acosta, the drug-crazed “300-pound Samoan” Dr Gonzo from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas who was last seen boarding a coke-filled Mexican yacht with a number of extremely shady undesirables. Or Franz Kafka who on his deathbed instructed his friend Max Brod to incinerate his papers in an attempt to posthumously fade away (an instruction that thankfully Brod ignored, barely escaping Prague and the Nazi invasion with a suitcase filled with the writer’s then-unpublished works). J.D. Salinger and Thomas Pynchon have so far successfully evaded the cynical all seeing eye of the modern world and it could be said that they just wish to be known (and unknown) on their own terms. It’s ironic that dodging the spotlight can make such writers all the more intriguing, the curious double bluff of fame; the more you hide, the more they (or we) want to uncover.

Of course the writers mentioned so far chose to disappear. There were many who had no choice in the matter. In totalitarian regimes, the first to go are nearly always the writers, being the conscience/trouble-makers of society (Lenin prophesised this murderous philistinism in a missive to the writer and Bolshevik Maxim Gorky when he castigated “the educated classes… who consider themselves the brains of the nation. In fact they are not its brains but its shit” and eerily warned him not to “waste yourself on the whining of decaying intellectuals”). It’s such a customary factor to dictatorships, this terrible need to silence, to make those who question disappear, that it becomes a noun: Zhen Fan in Maoist China, the Yezhovschina (“Yezhov’s Era”) in Stalinist Russia, the Nacht under Nebel (Night and Fog) of Nazi Germany, los desaparecidos under the right-wing juntas of South America. Some of the greatest cultural figures of theirs or any time (Osip Mandelstam, Robert Desnos, Bruno Schulz, Victor Jara, Sarah Powell, Jakob van Hoddis and on and on) were simply made to evaporate. “No man, no problem” in the words of Uncle Joe.

These are merely a few examples from the ones that we know. Then there are the writers whose names and works have been so deftly excised from history by their killers that we know nothing of them or their work. They die the first physical death but also a second death; that of forgetting which causes them to never have existed in the first place. The act of remembering thus becomes a revolutionary act, an act of defiance against the forces of death.

There is another more mundane but just as perilous a route to oblivion; that of sheer disinterest. Whether due to public taste (or lack of) or the woeful lack of vision of mainstream publishing houses, many writer’s legacies fall into disrepair or ebb away completely. Some are rescued by the admirable work of far-sighted publishers (Rebel Inc’s resurrection of Richard Brautigan and Sadegh Hedayat in the nineties for example or the recent Richard Yates revival) or by near acts of God (Janet Frame the great New Zealand novelist was only saved from a lobotomy by winning a literary prize). The question arises, who’s to save long neglected writers (say Delmore Schwartz, Chester Himes, Clarence Cooper Junior, Lola Ridge, Nathaniel West) from the death that is amnesia if not us? And to paraphrase that great architect of remembering the writer Primo Levi, if not now, when?

Meet the New Barbarians

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This interview with the late Steven Wells appeared in 3:AM Magazine in 2001:

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Attack Books!: Meet the New Barbarians

Steven Wells interviewed by Andrew Gallix.

3:AM: When did you launch Attack! Books and, more importantly, why?

SW: I was hacking away at a Stewart Home-influenced psycho-novel titled Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty, about what would happen if everybody who has ever taken ecstasy suddenly went totally INfuckingSANE and started hacking up their nearest and dearest with garden tools and safety scissors.

Tommy Udo then invited me along to his “extreme spoken word” club The Shining Path where these mad scribblings went down a storm. It was the start of a brutally beautiful sado-masochistic sexual relationship. Tommy had some cash left over from his disastrously brief career as a Channel 4 TV presenter and wanted to start a publishing company.

Soon we had a name — Attack! Books. And a shitload of titles: Pagan Bastards!, Fat Goth Chick, Legalise Cannibalism, Apes of Wrath, Vatican Bloodbath, Prince Bastard (followed by King Bastard and Intergalactic Emperor Bastard) etc.

And a manifesto:

“ATTACK! WHERE THE NOVEL HAS A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN!

This generation needs a NEW literature—writing that apes, matches, parodies and supersedes the flickeringly fast 900 MPH ATTACK! ATTACK ATTACK! velocity of early 21st century popular culture at its most mEnTaL!

HARD-CORE ANARCHO-COMMIE SEX PULP

We will publish writers who think they’re rock stars, rock stars who think they’re writers and we will make supernovas of the stuttering, wild-eyed, slack-jawed drooling idiot-geek geniuses who lurk in the fanzine/internet shadows.

HORROR! SEX! WAR! DRUGS! VIOLENCE!

“Subtlety” is found in the dictionary between “shit” and “syphilis”. The self-perpetuating ponce-mafia oligarchy of effete bourgeois wankers who run the literary scene must be swept aside by a tidal wave of screaming urchin tits-out teenage terror totty and DESTROYED! ATTACK! ATTACK! ATTACK! Hail the Social Surrealist revolution! Death to Brit Lit! Meet the New Barbarians!”

And a concept:

“Attack is punk rock—but for books! We are the Tamla Motown of publishing! In your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed! Written by psychopaths! For psychopaths! Gratuitously violent, stomach churning two-fisted avant-pulp rock’n’roll fuck-fiction! Attack! is the literary equivalent of being spit-roasted by two horse-cocked muscle studs! (On crack, obviously.)

Our novels will be hacked out by ranks of glassy eyed author-serfs, the skeletal fingers of these mindless minions tip-tapping away at 200 words per minute for 24 hours of every day of every week of every year churning out an endless stream of pulp fiction classics with titles like: HUGETITTED SPUNKSUCKING NAZISNAKE SLUTNUNS IN CYBERSPACE!, FISTFUCK TO FREEDOM! , JOYRIDING INTELLECTUAL CRACKBABY BLOODFIENDS!, GASHCRAZED MEDICAL STUDENT CANNIBAL PARTY PAEDOPHILE CRACK-MASSACRE!, SUBMISSIVE BOOTBOY SMACK ADDICT SEXTOY!, I KILL FOR LAGER!, SKINHEAD TAKES IT UP THE SHITTER!, MENTAL SELF-MUTILATION FRENZIED KUNG FU GLUESNIFFER SPUNK RIOT!, I SHAT THE HOT-CUM OF A BILLION NEW LABOUR SPIN-DOCTOR SCUM IN A CRACK-WRAP LITTERED AND BADLY-LIT BACKSTREET, BOMBAY BUMBOY BROTHEL FOR BASTARD YONKS!, MY LIFE AS THE DRUG-DERANGED AND SAVAGELY UNDERPAID MAD MONKEY WAGE SLAVE OF CUTTING EDGE ENFANT TERRIBLE BAD BOY NOVELIST MARTIN AMIS FOR PEANUTS AND LOVED EVERY FUCKING MINUTE OF EVERY CUNTING DAY! And:

SHITSURFINGFISHNETS TOCKINGEDI NTELLIGENTJUNGLECRAZEDMUTANTFERRET SEXSLAVECANNIBALSPUNKADD ICTS INGLEMOTHERDRUGALIEN CRACKSMUGGLINGCOPKILLERAND ROIDRIOT GRRLWHORENUNS FROMREABCLINICCOLDTURKEY HELLVERSUSTHECOCKSU CKERMER CENARYSKULLFUCKEDPSYCHODRUG KOPSPACEFASCI STRANGERSFA NSFROMSPEED GABBAKEBAB PUKESMEAREDMINICAB HELLPLANET 9ONSMACK! 2—THE SCREENPLAY which will sell in their millions.

The stinking ranks of pulpspewing semi-android hacks’ hideously swollen heads will all sport heavy steel headphones which blast cutting-edge extreme pop sounds straight into their shaking skulls whilst banks of video machines spew looptapes packed with horrific images of slaughter, torture, kids’ cartoons and triple-X rated hardcore-europorn straight into each slackjawed slave’s visual cortex through a complicated spaghetti of multi-coloured wiring. Using these revolutionary production methods we aim to flood the English reading world with thousands of utterly psychotic surefire smash-hit but shudderingly subliterate teensploitation novels mindlessly churned out in a few hours by the utterly drugboggled brain of an anonymous kidnapped rock hack whose finer sensibilities have been mercilessly crushed by a relentless and totally desensitising non-stop barrage of gratuitously-violent, overtly sexual and utterly tasteless cultural effluent and then smashed into atoms by the computer generated super-orgasms that thrash their emaciated body as a reward each time they concoct a savage sentence, sordid sex scene or sickeningly violent pig-getting-his-ear-sliced-off-in-Res Dogs style scenario that leaps clean over the boundaries of civilised good taste and falls screaming into the abyss of barbarity, perversion and dangerously demented decadence beyond.”

And a press release:

“Attack! Books are gaudily painted ruffian whores blatantly flourishing the rouged lips of their distended genitalia and giving you the come on. You are aroused to passion. Feverishly fingering the cheap pages, you speed-read the sordid contents, your mind reeling under the savage mental carpet bombing of the fuck-frenzied prose. At last, satiated and weeping, you collapse in a heaving heap. Then you sit down at your computer and start to write. The world must hear of the glory, the frenzy, the dementia and — yes — the love that IS Attack! Books. The pulsating glory that you once thought could only be found in the screaming amplifiers of beautiful and tragically thin young proletarian sex-rock gods thrashing machine-gun fuck rock out of cock-level held and crude-slogan plastered electric guitars has now found its literary equivalent!

The doors of perception are ripped off their rusting hinges and smashed into worm-ridden matchwood by a barbarian horde of Viking berzerker skum who stomp into the darkest corners of the human soul, howling like crazed wolves, roaring like priapic mastodons, screaming like blood crazed bull-chimps and shitting in your spanking new trainers like naughty puppies. Did someone say punk rock? Fuck punk rock! Did someone say Acid House? Fuck Acid House! All cultural references are redundant. Attack! is like The Battle of Stalingrad experienced by a five-year-old psychopath on Jacob’s Ladder style CIA experimental combat acid! It’s like being butt-fucked to a bloody pulp by a detective chief constable with a hammer head shark for a cock. It’s like wading knee deep through a sea of used condoms casually tossed aside by the Ghaddafi trained lesbian terror squads whose mission it is to inject infected semen into the arteries of the common mind. But basically, chum, it’s about love. Let’s not forget that, OK?”

But unfortunately Tommy had no money left after having to pay for a series of operations following a disastrous move to America where he tried (and failed spectacularly in front of 7.8 million TV viewers) to make it big on the WWF pro-wrestling circuit.

So we hawked it around:

MAJOR PUBLISHER: So who’s the target audience for Attack!?
US: Um, working-class and lower-middle class males. Probably.
MAJOR PUBLISHER: Do they go into bookshops?
US: AAAAAAAAAARGH!

So eventually we fell in with Creation books (nothing to do with Creation records) and put six books out. Tits-Out Teenage Terror Totty by Steven Wells, Raiders Of The Low Forehead by Stanley Manly, Satan! Satan! Satan! by Tony White, Get Your Cock Out by Mark Manning (AKA Zodiac Mindwarp), Vatican Bloodbath by Tommy Udo and Whips & Furs — My Life As A Bon-Vivant, Gambler And Love Rat by Jesus H. Christ (edited by Stewart Home). But that relationship is coming to an end and we are currently looking to go solo and are in negotiation with some RICH PEOPLE to make this happen because we got TONS OF SHIT-HOT MANUSCRIPTS screaming to be born.

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3:AM: I believe you used to work for the NME. Is this still the case? What sort of music are you into today? Do you think there is a generation gap in British fiction today between writers influenced by pop music (from punk onwards) and the rest?

SW: Yes, I still freelance for the NME. I am into loud, fast, violent rock’n’roll music and mindless bubblegum pop that makes me smile. I think everybody over 40 should be allowed to carry a large wooden stick (with a knobbly bit at the end) with which they should be allowed to beat all teenagers sporting long hair, goatee beards, ridiculously baggy trousers and pierced genitalia.

3:AM: Your manifesto attacks the Britlit establishment. What about the Chemical Generation writers or the New Puritans?

SW: The Chemical Generation are BORING! What the fuck have they got to say? I put on some ridiculously baggy trousers and a tea cosey and went to a disco and took some drugs that made me want to twitch to music designed to be twitched to by people who’ve taken drugs that make them want to twitch to music designed to be twitched to by people who’ve taken drugs that make them want to twitch to music etc etc etc. And then we went back to someone’s house and took some more drugs and talked shit and then crashed out for 48 hours and woke up maniacally depressed having contracted Parkinson’s disease. It was great. BORING!

And what the fuck is up with the New Puritans? It’s all so minimalist! Good luck to anybody out to sir up the stagnant, class-ridden cesspit of “serious literature” but the New Puritans seem to be reformists and, as it says on the tattoo on Tommy Udo’s horse-sized cock: ONE SOLUTION! REVOLUTION!

3:AM: What do you think of other alternative publishers/imprints like Pulp Faction, or Canongate in Scotland?

SW: Good luck to them. But I don’t think that any of them have Attack!’s evangelical zeal or clarity of vision.

3:AM: You want a “NEW literature” for “this generation”. How would you define this new type of literature?

SW: That slogan: Punk rock for books! It’s a tad crude (hem hem). Especially when we’re talking about a medium which, in musical terms, hasn’t even had its bebop yet. We want literature that is the literary equivalent of “No Limits” by Two Unlimited, Gabba, Hardcore, Grindcore, The Sex Pistols, Digital Hard Core, Daphne & Celeste, Little Richard, Apocalypse Now, The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl, The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Akira, amphetamine sulphate, The League Of Gentlemen, fucking on poppers, the screams of 80,000 assembled screaming teenypop fans, John Zorn’s Torture Garden, Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner, Brute!, the beach scene from Saving Private Ryan. ALL AT THE SAME TIME! We want literature that reeks of the sex, speed and violence of 21st century culture at its most mental! Writing that sucker-punches you in the heart, head, guts and gonads at the same time!

We’re offended by the very concept of “serious” literature. It’s so one-dimensional! We’re sickened by the constant elevation of prematurely middle-aged 19th century style wannabes as cutting-edge enfant terribles. A university English Lit course that fails to teach comics is as redundant as a media studies course that fails to mention television. Fucking hell! Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife burnt the first draft of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde because she thought it was shit. So the nutter hammered it all out again from scratch in 72 hours while off his fucking skull on medicinal cocaine. THAT’S Attack! It’s about dumbing UP! More is More! Screaming tabloid headlines, Stalinist aesthetics, situationist rhetoric, twisted morality, an ultra-modernist social-surrealist agenda, chip shops on both shoulders — who needs “character development” and “plot” when you’ve got a manifesto, a hit-list and a billion drugfucked chimps hammering away 24/7 on stained and battered Macs? “I wanna start with an earthquake and build to a climax!” — Sam Goldwyn

Avant-pulp is Social Surrealism.

Most novels take one or two good ideas and string them out over 200 pages. Fuck that. We want TEN great ideas. PER PAGE. Grab the reader by the throat and pummel him or her to a bloody pulp. And then fuck the corpse. Live on prime time terrestrial TV.

The swearing, violence, drug abuse and sex in Attack! Books is extreme, savage, frequent and utterly gratuitous. But we’re NOT into middle-class ooh-mummy-look-at-me “mondo” decadence. Pornography is dull. Avant-pulp is mindblowing. And Attack! avant-pulp is “moral” — from an extreme nutter anarcho-commie perspective. Ie all Tories, smothermummies, wankers, fascists and bastards DIE! Spectacularly.

It isn’t “literature.” Oh GOD! Fuck NO! The “serious”, “psychological” novel is the most tedious genre going. It sucks. It’s boring. Who wants to read about the inside of some knuckle-suckingly middle-class fucker’s head when they could be reading about vampires, aliens, mutant alligators, drug-crazed zombies, Margaret Thatcher sex golems, deranged ex SAS assassins, killer-priests, frankensteins, satanic rockers, football hooligans etc etc etc? You know — exciting, fun stuff. Mad POP stuff. Most of the manuscripts we get sent try to be “literature”. They fail miserably. Don’t give us “an idea!” Give us a universe! Preferably one per chapter. Be honest, face facts. You know three chords. So hammer out some hilarious, ranting, frenetic, breathless punk rock. Leave the symphony till later. Get loose, Let rip. You’ve got the rest of your life to be boring.

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SO — TO SUM THE FUCK UP — WHAT IS ATTACK!? * It’s Motown for Pulp. * It’s literature that reflects the insane revved-to-fuck flick’n’fling pace of the century that spawns it. * It’s extreme digital hardcore punk rock’n’roll speed gabba for books. * It’s about whacking 50,000 volts through the corpse of an artform that is so moribund and up its own middle-class arse that it considers sad bastard public school Oxbridge junkie Will Self to be a punk rock enfant terrible. Is he fuck! He writes like a sanatogen-sodden geriatric! And you can stick Martin Amis up your arse as well. * It’s in your face, down your trousers and up your arse like a shit-eating rabbit on speed. * It’s a REVOLUTION!

To save the English novel we must first destroy it! Attack! is an unequal-opportunities employer, we’re out to finally and irrevocably destroy the Oxbridge upper-middle class death grip on “literature”. Our bible is John Carey’s The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia (Faber, 1992). We have swallowed wholesale the knowledge that the reason novels got so tedious, self-referential and dull in the early 20th Century was as a reaction against mass literacy. They didn’t want the oiks to read books. God no! Well fuck you, you snobs! The oiks are biting back.

We’ve gone back to Swift, Defoe and Austin and brought them screaming forward into the 21st century. We’re sick of desiccated and prematurely middle-aged bores telling us that comics and action movies should be more like novels (character development, grandiose statements about the human condition witter, drone, bore blah blah blah). Fuck that! Novels should be more like comics and action movies! Visceral, gaudy, exciting, vulgar, cheap, nasty, banal, cheesy, tasteless, head-exploding and gut-wrenching technicolor roller-coaster rides through the nerve-shredding extremities of human behaviour. Cheap thrills! Books that spew 10 ideas a page at you, that leave you breathless, sweating, frightened, excited, inspired and with urine-drenched trousers. Novel writing isn’t an “art form”. It’s typing on drugs.

3:AM: What do you mean by “avant-pulp”? Hasn’t the concept already been used by Jeff Noon?

SW: Yes, we nicked it of Jeff, Fuck him. He’s not having it back.

3:AM: Could you tell us when and why you started writing?

SW: God no. I’m knackered!

3:AM: What sort of submissions are you looking for? Do you also intend to publish fiction on your website as well as on paper?

SW: See above and yes.

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