Her Quiddity for a Few Quid

Another illustration provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum.

“An old dear who had been strangled in broad daylight with her Hermès scarf near the Champs-Elysées. The motive of the crime remained a complete mystery prompting prominent columnists to brush up on their Gide, eager as they were to frame this putative acte gratuit with lashings of Lafcadio. There was no CCTV footage. No witnesses. None of the woman’s expensive jewellery had been stolen. The wads of banknotes she was wont to carry about in her handbag? All there too and all too there. Not only was their non-theft ostentatious, even downright provocative, but rumour had it that a couple of extra bundles had been bunged in for good measure — that is, presumably, as compensation for the murder. A tip of sorts. Her quiddity for a few quid, or the equivalent in euros. Stranger still, forensics had found breadcrumbs lodged, hither and thither, in the biddy’s extravagantly-lacquered bouffant. They believed the victim was beaten about the head with a baguette tradition bien cuite. Whether this had occurred before, after or, less plausibly, during the strangling, remained a moot point at this stage. One school of thought argued that the criminal had planned to kill their easy prey with this incredible — and indeed edible — weapon, before consuming it, thus cunningly disposing of exhibit number one. In the event, however, the crusty bread had proved insufficiently crusty, hence the scarf. The only real clue, and a rather cryptic one at that, was a note pinned to the corpse’s coat, which read NOTHING IS LOST in English and in all-caps Helvetica Neue. A death sentence.”

Drawing Him Hither

Another illustration provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum.

“Then he got up to refill her glass and, instinctively, she got up too and then they were kissing, deep and slow, their tongues going round and round and round like the ground bass number in the background, and he gently lifted up her summer frock as the melody soared over the looping bassline and she found herself reclining in a Le Corbusier-style chaise longue. ‘J’aime quand ça s’incarne,’ she whispered, drawing him hither with her long legs.”

Zanzibar’s Kitchen Corkboard

Another illustration provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum.

“She had four sisters and one brother. It was the latter, Athelstan, who had taken the picture that was proudly displayed on Zanzibar’s kitchen corkboard: Andromeda, Lunula, Phylloxera, and Loren, all stark naked, on a Cornish beach (a re-enactment of the famous 1914 shot of the Olivier sisters).”

The Blue Yonder You Can Never Possess

Here’s another fine illustration provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum.

“He pictured Loren curled up on the floor by the open fire, her flared ultramarine skirt like an Yves Klein swirl lapping at her bare ankles; her face concealed by the book she was reading out loud — something heart-rending about the blue yonder you can never possess.”

Cheeky Spritz

Here’s one of the wonderful illustrations provided by Christiana Spens for a short film based on the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Loren Ipsum. That’s Loren Ipsum on the left, with Victorine Gribiche — her French translator — on the right.

“The two young women could often be found, giggling away over a cheeky spritz, at La Fourmi, after their Pilates class.”

A Writing Against Itself

Andrew Gallix, “Go Forth (Vol. 4)” by Nicolle Elizabeth, The Believer Logger 14 November 2012

Andrew Gallix is editor-in-chief of 3:AM Magazine, which the Guardian credits as technically the first literary blog ever. He writes fiction and criticism, edits books, and teaches at the Sorbonne, and I love him.

NICOLLE ELIZABETH: What is 3:AM, and how did it start?

ANDREW GALLIX: 3:AM is one of the oldest literary webzines out there, as it was launched in April 2000. We were among the first to make use of the international dimension of the web: the founder was American, our first webmaster was Canadian, and the rest of the team was located in Britain, France, Ireland and the US. We were the first, or one of the first, to launch a literary blog (if by that you mean a compendium of literary news links). We innovated by placing fiction in a wider cultural (artistic, in particular musical) context. We also pioneered the revival of live literary events in London, mixing music, art, and spoken word.

NE: This is a collective thing?

AG: Very much so. The whole point of 3:AM was to foster a community of literary loners; to create a space where we can be alone together.

NE: Print ever or no?

AG: Two anthologies of 3:AM short stories (edited by Andrew Stevens) have been published, but the magazine itself is online-only. I think we were also pioneers from that point of view: we realized that online publications were the way forward. They cost virtually nothing, which means that only literary/artistic criteria apply, instead of financial considerations. There are no space constraints (a piece can be as long or as short as it needs to be). You can reach so many more readers than if you publish a story in a small literary journal. Christiana Spens has just launched 3:AM Press, which releases both ebooks and limited print editions, showing our attachment to both formats.

NE: Main concerns ethically?

AG: There is no party line, although we are rather contrarian, hence our tagline (a nod to Groucho Marx, the Ramones, and Adorno): “Whatever it is, we’re against it.” It sounds rather pedantic, I know, but what I consider to be real literature is always, at some level, a writing against itself.

NE: Main concerns aesthetically?

AG: Once again, 3:AM is a very broad anti-church. Personally, I think we should publish fiction that has the inevitability of death.

NE: What advice do you have for those who wish to start a magazine?

AG: Don’t give up the day job.

NE: Anything else you’d like to tell us here?

AG: Sure, but only things which cannot be told.

The Socialite Manifesto


I wrote a short presentation of Christiana Spens‘s The Socialite Manifesto for the Spring 2009 issue of Flux magazine (issue 68, p. 92):

From her publicity shots, Christiana Spens stares out at you with the faraway look of innocence lost. This 21-year-old Cambridge student is the precocious golden girl of our gilded age. Christiana launched her writing career at fifteen when she began filing copy for various arts and music magazines. “The deadlines gave me discipline, the music gave me dialogue and the art gave me ideals — so I was all set to start.” Last year, she published her debut novel which established her reputation as the poet laureate of elegantly-wasted Sloanedom. Reminiscent of Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh and Bret Easton Ellis, The Wrecking Ball zeroes in on the existential nightmare at the heart of the consumer dream — a theme that is also central to her latest project.

The Socialite Manifesto — which we showcase in the following pages — is clearly more graphic than novel. “My parents both write art books, so I grew up surrounded by picture books of every kind,” Christiana explains. “In a way, visual books are more natural to me than straightforward novels.” She was also inspired by a recent exhibition of collaborations between French writers and artists as well as a felicitous bout of writer’s block. “I started painting properly again when I had writer’s block in the spring. Painting seemed a more direct and sensual way to express myself, and gave me an elation writing didn’t. I swing from one to the other though. When one brings me down, the other brings me up.”

The Socialite Manifesto is meant to be the diary of one Ivana Denisovich whose name is an obvious nod to Solzhenitsyn. “I was interested in how there are all these Russian oligarchs around who have so much money it’s vulgar — and that that came out of communism. Where Ivan Denisovich was trapped by the Soviet regime, Ivana is trapped in the gilded frame of capitalism.” The writing is kept to a minimum to ensure that Ivana remains largely a blank canvas. “I was thinking of all the visual icons, like models and actresses, who never have anything to say but are stars because everyone projects their fantasies on them. I wanted my main character to be everyone’s personal fantasy, so to do that I couldn’t make her speak too much. If she started talking you might not want her anymore.” Christiana Spens subverts the traditional division between author and reader by inviting us to colour in the artwork and fill in some of the diary entries thus transforming the book into a truly collaborative experience. As for the eponymous Socialite Manifesto, there is not one — “just blank pages and a feeling that something isn’t quite right.”