To Hell With Write-ups
(I LOVE this photo – B&W photos courtesy Daisy Anne Gree, colour cortesy Larry Harrison – of – left to right – Jessie Grace, Penny Goring, Marc Nash. It’s Penny’s pose – it looks like it’s taken right out of a shot of 60s New York)
To Hell With Books in the Dickensian Bloomsbury setting of Woburn Walk is about as far a cry from Rough Trade on Brick Lane as a venue can get, so it was fascinating to kick off our tour with this pair.
When I arrived at To Hell, the shop was still under construction, pictures being hung, floors cleared, beer prepared, all the most important aspects of opening one of the coolest shops in London (and the stock – oooooooooooooh the things they have – first ed Bukowski and Nin, ultra rare copies of Crowley – it’s about as close to paradise as shops get). And when the newest member of staff pitched up and was shown the ropes before work experience started, I got a fascinating insight into the literary world. In fact much of the afternoon, listening to Syd Barrett, drinking Relentless, hoping the rain would stop, was utterly enthralling. I felt liked I’d interloped to the other side of a fence.
(Larry has not only THE perfect voice for a piece of the power of Glimpses, but the look. He’s both Shakespearian actor and East End hard man)
Our line-up had a lot in common with the Rough Trade gang but the setting gave a totally different feel. It felt like staying up late in a student room, with a crowd perched on the floorboards as we did our stuff positioned at a bar that had once graced Malcolm McLaren’s shop, Sex. It was incredibly intimate, which made my first set, a duet with Daisy reading her “Conversation in a Basement on 17th and Mission, 1998” by candlelight one of the most magical experiences of my literary career. It was also unnerving at times without the comfort and distance of a stage.
Singer-songwriter Jessie Grace did an incredible job of coping with the unplugged set up, delivering three brilliantly crafted sets, moving from material taken from her current album Asleep on the Good Foot to new stuff she will be performing with her spanking new band. Her sleazy but soft blues sound is the perfect companion to our style of books.
We had some additions to our Rough Trade line-up. It was really special to have a podcast of DJ Young’s incredible short, Fallen, delivered in her incredible velvet sleazy voice, which made us feel connected to our beloved friends in The Wider World. And it was a privilege to get to read from Ali Cooper’s The Girl on the Swing, one of the first books I discovered on Authonomy all those, er, months ago.
(Another stunning shot of Penny and Marc)
As for our readings – it felt more intimate, possibly more angry, certainly more intense, than Rough Trade. Penny gave us the deeply moving Fish, Larry a huddled charcater scene from Glimpses, Marc assaulted us with meat hooks, I was utterly drained by Freakshow, and Daisy blew everyone away with The Dead Beat.
(Daisy is a Rock Goddess)
A huge huge thank you to everyone at To Hell. And a massive recommendation to every Londoner to check out the shop – not least because you can buy a huge selection of Year Zero books there. It was another electric night. We’ll all remember it for a long time to come, but I know I’ll never forget it as the night I got to perform Conversation with Daisy. Everything about the night, in fact, was ramped up in intensity. Draining, absolutely draining. But that’s what art should be, isn’t it. If it’s not you’re just not doing it right. At one point I was chatting with Emma from To Hell, talking about writers’ personas, and she remarked that “smiley” was one thing I’d never be accused of being (in my writerly guise, I hasten to add :p). Too right. Writing, and especially reading, is not about smiley. It’s about reaching deep deep down, puling out something deeply ugly and bringing it screaming into the (candle)light. It’s draining. Draining as Hell. But that’s waht makes it so damned rewarding.