Word Bombs

22 September 2007

Watching Kate McIntosh rehearse in Leuven day-before-yesterday. The piece is called Loose Promise and it's a project that I've contributed some text to via a series of triggers/frames that Kate sent to myself along with a number of other writers (Deborah Levy and Mike Harrison included). Green carpet was one of the triggers; there really had to be a green carpet somewhere. Great watching the rather disparate fragments accumulate in the space and through the time of the piece, and great watching Kate accumulate the traces of the stories too through the actions and images that she's slowly building up around them. At this point the text itself – strewn as pages on the floor, folded in clumps, shredded in piles – is a major presence in the performance. Very often its under duress – torn, soaked, falling to pieces in her hands.

Still reading Steven Hall's The Raw Shark Texts which is also dripping in text – at the level of structure you're navigating layers of stories, and texts nested inside each other etc but as you drop into the vivid madness of the story itself you soon find characters hiding out in vast labyrinths of books, carrying stolen letters as psychic decoys, or throwing bombs made of fireworks and typewriter keys. In a beautifully Burrough's move (with echoes of his essays in The Job) Hall's central character periodically hides his presence in a room by placing dictaphones in its corners playing back tapes in which other people have been recorded as they talk or go about their their daily lives – the result a kind of identity camouflage.

There's a great pleasure reading strange, intelligent, funny and compelling fiction that happens to come from, and is at times set in the north of England. Some perverse pleasure in seeing your own landsacpe mythologised. With Hall and Tony White Sheffield Hallam University starts to look like quite a little contemporary fiction-factory. Raw Shark is very smart. There's a nod to House of Leaves, to Philip K. Dick maybe, and something of a David Mitchell-ness to it but there's plenty of originality, invention and wit in how its put together. I'm liking how these ideas books (like Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, Tom McCarthy's Remainder, Tibor Ficher's The Thought Gang…) are so full-on in embracing plot as a device – action and super-abstract ideas all tangled up with each other. It's an interesting moment.