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Recent Work By Steve Sparshott

I bought a book!

It happens sometimes. What are we calling physical books now? Book-books as opposed to e-books. I don’t feel a need to call them anything other than books, unless the distinction needs to be made. In this case, it does; I bought a paperbook.

Sometimes people buy them for me — people who know me well, who consider the content as well as the cover design and age. Pulp sci-fi collections are my favourite; recently I was given a 1963 Penguin science fiction compilation edited by Brian Aldiss, the classic orange-and-white cover overlaid with a scribble of something that might be a robot, or a satellite, or a bucket of spatulas. It includes stories by Isaac Asimov, Walter M. Miller, Clifford D. Simak, Aldiss himself, “up-and-coming British author Jim Ballard”…and John Steinbeck.

 Planes used to fly over our house. A couple of miles away was an airfield called Hawarden, where there was a massive British Aerospace factory; they made Airbus wings, which were then flown to France in a bloated transporter called a Guppy, to be glued onto Airbus bodies.

(Hawarden — just say “harden”.)

If you haven’t read part one, it’s here.

Now, the obvious question is: Why am I suddenly so twitchy about live audience behaviour? Apart from my stuffy middle-aged Britishness, there’s a specific reason: I’ve been invited to enter the Literary Death Match, and I’m fucking bricking it (that’s English slang, it means “I am extremely apprehensive”).

Something is spoiling live performance: The audience. I blame the internet.

I had this dream – no, come back, it was only a short dream, or maybe just a fragment – and I’m not going to yap on about the dream itself, just some of the things in it, which are interesting, perhaps.

Author’s note: This is written from a 2003/4 point of view. UK drinking laws are less restrictive these days, but we’re no better at it.

Oh, I don’t know, maybe it was spring. Around 2001, perhaps, I don’t know, I was drunk. Sprawled on a bench across the road from Mile End tube, somewhere near the yellow Tellytubby bridge with the bulging lawn on top. It was night – give me some credit, I’m not a daytime bench-sitting Special Brew enthusiast – but it wasn’t dark there on the A11. Cars swooshed by and streetlights glowed. Below the UNDERGROUND sign the station’s yellow lights, white tiles and delay notices promised warmth and the vague possibility of getting home.

I’m not really supposed to be here. On the internet, I mean, and not just right now – I’m not meant to be here at all. The problem is that I’m not greatly interested in zombies, vampires, bacon, cupcakes or socially inept cats, and a fascination with one or more of these is a basic requirement for going on the internet and doing internet things. My presence here is only tolerated because I usually exceed my daily tweet quota by over 100%, and also thanks to a nice semantic loophole; I update my blog regularly. Regularly. Twice a year. It’s not frequent, but it is, technically, regular. They had to let that one through, but it’s under investigation.

You might remember Poykpak’s Williamsburg-set Hipster Olympics video from 2007. Events included MySpace photography and ironic t-shirt hunting, and it featured the American Apparel Instant Replay and sponsorship from PBR (“When you aim for authenticity…”) That video was a pretty good primer for anyone who asked “What’s a hipster?”

Invaders! The enemy is at the gates, and he looks just like us, but with better teeth. And really, we want to be his friend. And there are no gates. I’ve filed this piece under “Rants” and with good reason: I’m about to get right off my bike about British English’s gradual erosion and the slow, insidious advance of a simplified (dumbed down) form of American English.

But.

Let’s get Reality Bites out of the way, shall we? The definition of irony offered to the perplexed Lelaina (Winona Ryder) by the insufferable Troy (Ethan Hawke) is “It’s when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.” Well OK, cheers Troy, but it’s not that simple.

I wasn’t sure how to categorise this little number – memoir or fiction? The people, places and background are all real enough, but I can state with certainty that the scene recounted here never happened and is therefore, technically, fiction.

Author’s note: A year ago, up at my parents’ house for Christmas, I wrote a piece for a quarterly magazine called Nude. Shortly afterwards the couple who ran the magazine found that they were to be parents, so — no more Nude. The piece was a joy to write, because the loose brief — “magnificent obsessions” — allowed me to choose a subject that would be, well, fun to write about.

There are many examples of enterprises which have involved mind-boggling levels of dedication to a goal which was abstract, pointless, stupid or even unachievable — the Watts Towers, the first ascent of Everest, crossing America on a pogo stick — but I decided to go large and write about  the moon landings. This was just before the 40th anniversary.  There wasn’t much information readily available at my parents’ place, which remains stuck somewhere in the 1970s, a long way from the Internet. No problem, though.  I wasn’t particularly interested in facts and figures.  I wanted to address the spirit of the thing, its monumental scale and relatively modest aim. So I got to typing, drawing a few bits of physics, economics, and history from Andrew Chaikin’s comprehensive and engaging book A Man on the Moon.  Mainly I was looking at the sheer demented splendour of the thing.

But Nude, of course, was defunct, so the article languished in the depths of my hard drive for a year, with no place to go — until now! In a few days I’ll be boarding a train back to the past, to spend a couple of weeks in the real world, so…here’s a present for all Nervous Breakdown crew.  Have a good [insert holiday] and a [insert adjective] new year (if you’re on the Gregorian calendar).

-S.S.

 

“Of course it was all fake.”

Shut up.

Snap

By Steve Sparshott

Memoir

“Let’s climb that hill” isn’t something that anyone ever really says – unless it’s some kind of figurative hill – but I’m pretty sure Tom said those exact words. It was that sort of day. Any sophistication we possessed had dissolved into last night’s booze and evaporated in the day’s heat. I didn’t think of it that way, because back then I was living a life, I didn’t have the time or inclination to test the safe working loads of creaking metaphors, I just, like, did stuff. We all did. It was cool.

Being disabled and not being a billionaire evil genius is a shite state of affairs.

After a six year trial period, I’ve decided it’s not for me. The problem is context – context being, supposedly, everything. You see, I didn’t spec my environment; I don’t have a hollowed-out island full of boiler-suited minions, with smooth floors and rapid, spacious lifts. I have London, and it’s a fucking disgrace.

Enid was my local crush, as opposed to, say, a music crush, like Laura Veirs, or a back-in-the-day crush, like Janeane Garofalo. I miss Enid. Not terribly, not like a limb, more like a bus – there’ll be another one along in a while. Crush might be too strong a word.