Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Some UK events I'm doing this summer
The first one is next Tuesday and you should definitely come!

Tuesday 3rd July

Monday 9th July
with Dave Gorman and Nat Luurtsema at the Latitude Book Club at the Century Club

Saturday 14th July

Saturday 21st July
at Port Eliot

Thursday 26th July
at Waterstones Covent Garden

Tuesday 14th August
with Nick Harkaway again at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interesting autoantonym: according to the OED, bleach now means "a bleaching liquor or powder" but it once also meant "any substance used for blacking; e.g. ink, soot, lamp-black, and esp. shoemakers' or curriers' black used for leather."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Teleportation Accident: Readers' Guide

Since The Teleportation Accident has just received its very first print review*, and there are only a few weeks left until publication, I've decided it may be time to prepare for the possibility of real people finally reading my new book. To that end, I've compiled a short readers' guide. I'm certainly not suggesting you have to work your way through this to appreciate the novel, but it might be of interest if you're some sort of huge Beauman fan.

"he's done it again... the verve of a young Amis... a great romp of a novel, delightful in its inventiveness" - Prospect

Here, in no order, are a list of works that had some specific and notable impact on the conception of The Teleportation Accident. By 'specific', I mean there's a particular thing I could point out on the page: that's why e.g. Ulysses is on here – all modern fiction carries its genes, so normally its presence on a list like this would be redundant, but as much as I dislike Joyce's work it did shape this novel in certain direct ways – and that's also why e.g. Updike is not – although his influence on my style is pervasive and permanent, I don't think there are any discrete, tangible Updikean elements in the book.

The Shield (TV)
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Ulysses by James Joyce
Assassin's Creed 2 (Xbox 360)
V by Thomas Pynchon
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Seinfeld (TV)
"The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by HP Lovecraft
Planet of the Apes
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann
The Return of Bruce Wayne by Grant Morrison
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Those last two are, of course, by far the most recent books on this list. Most of the time publishing feels very slow, but not always – it gives me a lot of pleasure that Egan can publish her wonderful novel in summer 2010 and only two years later I can bring out my own thing that bears its traces. Meanwhile, the graphic novel The Return of Bruce Wayne was coming out in individual issues while I was writing The Teleportation Accident, which meant it stayed with me for several months, like some sort of weird environment factor affecting a pregnancy.

Historical figures
As is addressed self-referentially in The Teleportation Accident, I've made a rule for myself that in my fiction no real historical figure will ever be seen 'on stage'. (So far the only exception to this has been LL Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto, in Boxer, Beetle, and in that instance all his lines are taken directly from his published writings, so I haven't had to make anything up. ) However, in the new book, there are dozens of real historical figures mentioned, and I think in some cases the reader might enjoy the book a bit more if he or she is able to pick them out. For instance, if I'd invented Serge Voronoff myself, his life story might seem gratuitously, tiresomely zany. But every detail about him is true. Here are links to the Wikipedia pages of a few of these real historical figures – appropriate, because I always begin my research on Wikipedia. (I'm not including very famous people like Hitler; arbitrarily, I have set the upper threshold for notoriety at Brecht.)

Sylvia Beach
Bertolt Brecht
Harry Chandler
Alfred Doblin
George Grosz
Cordell Hull
Fritz Kortner
HP Lovecraft
Titus Lucretius Carus
Robert Millikan
Willi Munzenberg
Nicolas Sauvage (no Wikipedia entry yet)
Henri Sauval
Giacomo Torelli
Jean-Jacques de Villayer

I haven't compiled a full bibliography this time but here are ten of the most enjoyable books that I encountered during my research – I would recommend all these to anyone.

Daily Life in Venice at the Time of Casanova by Maurice Andrieux (out of print)
Los Angeles by Reyner Banham
Exile's Return by Malcolm Cowley
City of Quartz by Mike Davis
Before the Deluge by Otto Friedrich 
Memoirs of Montparnasse by John Glassco
The Monkey Gland Affair by David Hamilton (out of print)
Raymond Chandler by Tom Hiney (out of print)
HP Lovecraft by Michael Houllebecq
The Crazy Years by William Wiser (out of print)

The title
Here is a list of incorrect renderings of the title of the book that are already proving popular.

The Teleportation Incident
The Transportation Accident

(This has been previously published on this blog.) Around the time that I was about to send the final proofs of The Teleportation Accident to Sceptre, I noticed that the selection of animals named in the text seems unusually diverse for a book that is not explicitly zoological in theme. Here are all 48.

bat, bison, blackbird, budgerigar, cat, chicken, chimpanzee, cockroach, cow, coyote, cricket, dog, duck, electric eel, elephant, fox, frog, goat, grizzly bear, horse, housefly, iguana, loris, mouse, mussel, ostrich, oyster, panda, peacock, penguin, pig, pigeon, rat, rooster, seagull, silkworm, skunk, sloth, sparrow, spider, stag, starling, stingray, tiger, trout, turtle, wolf, woodpigeon

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Edison G.E. attempted to prevent the development of alternating current by unscrupulous political action and by even less savoury promotional tactics. In both arenas Edison G.E. attempt to damn a.c. on the ground that its high voltage – wherein lay its technical superiority – was dangerous, a menace to public safety... The promotional activity was a series of spectacular stunts aimed at dramatising the deadliness of high voltage alternating current, the most sensational being the development and promotion of the electric chair as a means of executing criminals. The state of New York adopted this innovation in 1888 after a gruesome promotional campaign, conceived by Insull, Johnson, and Edison, and carried out by a German-American named Thurington and H.P. Brown, one of Edison's former lab assistants.

from Insull by Forrest MacDonald
Witness the anecdote concerning the magnifico who, for a variety of reasons, usually a failure to recognise him on the part of the green desk clerk but sometimes attributable to the malice of the manager, is unable to get a room or suite in his accustomed hotel. Outraged, he disappears briefly into the night and returns with a deed to the property, having purchased the establishment lock, stock, and barrel, and forthwith discharged the obnoxious flunkey and gets a good night's rest. Sometimes he makes a deserving bellman manager on the spot. In some version he goes off to build a rival hotel, which eventually puts the offending hostelry out of business. The episode, stylishly embellished, appears so frequently in the folklore of the old West as to assume the dignity of portions of the Icelandic sagas or the Arthurian legends. The wish-fulfillment hotel purchase, already well established in the national mythology, can factually be traced to at least three authentic episodes in Denver, Butte, and Colorado Springs, respectively, a circumstance which must be viewed by the social historian with much the same satisfaction as is activated in a student of the chansons de geste by supporting evidence that there was in fact a Roland who did indeed blow his fated horn at Roncesvalles.

from Big Spenders by Lucius Beebe

Had dinner by myself tonight. Worked in the Lee House office until dinner time. A butler came in very formally and said, 'Mr President, dinner is served.' I walked into the dining room in the Blair House. Barnett in tails and white tie pulls out my chair, pushes me up to the table. John in tails and white tie brings me a fruit cup, Barnett takes away the empty cup. John brings me a plate, Barnett brings me a tenderloin, John brings me asparagus, Barnett brings me carrots and beets. I have to eat alone and in silence in candle-lit room. I ring. Barnett takes the plate and butter plates. John comes in with a napkin and silver tray – there are no crumbs but John has to brush them off the table anyway. Barnett brings me a palte with a finger bowl and doily on it. I remove the finger bowl and oily and John puts a glass saucer and a little bowl on the plate. Barnett brings me some chocolate custard. John brings me a demitasse (at home a little cup of coffee – about two gulps) and my dinner is over. I take a hand bath in the finger bowl and go back to work. What a life!

from the diary of President Harry Truman, November 1st 1949

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In addition, Senator Bradley provided one bit of assistance that he was unusually (almost uniquely, in fact) qualified to give. Many of the men who had been present on the Senate floor during the 1950s had told me how Lyndon Johnson was so tall that he “towered” over senators in the well as he stood at his Majority Leader’s front-row desk one step above it, and how his eyes were almost at the level of the clerks and the presiding officer on the dais across the well. Bill Bradley, as I realized from perusing an old program I had kept from a Princeton University basketball game, was six feet four and a half inches tall, just slightly taller than Johnson. When, near the end of the wonderful day on the floor that he arranged for me, he asked if there was anything further he could do to be of assistance, I said there was. The then Majority Leader, Bob Dole, wasn’t at his desk. I asked Senator Bradley if he would mind going over and standing at it, so I could get a picture of precisely to what degree Johnson had in fact “towered” as he stood there. Bill was gracious enough to comply. Since this was an opportunity I was not likely to have again, I was determined to get the picture fixed firmly in my mind no matter how long that took. After a while, I realized that Bill had been standing there for quite some time, and that he was in fact looking at me as if to inquire if he had been there long enough. I said I would appreciate it if he would stand there a while longer, and he did, uncomplainingly—for as long as I needed.

from the notes to Master of the Senate by Robert Caro
There was a rumor among some officers that Fawcett used a Ouija board, a popular tool of mediums, to help make tactical decisions on the battlefield. “He and his intelligence officer . . . would retire to a darkened room and put their four hands, but not their elbows, on the board,” Henry Harold Hemming, who was then a captain in Fawcett’s corps, wrote in an unpublished memoir. “Fawcett would then ask the Ouija Board in a loud voice if this was a confirmed location [of the enemy’s position], and if the miserable board skidded over in the right direction; not merely would he include it in his list of confirmed locations, but often order 20 rounds of 9.2 howitzer to be fired at the place.”

from The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Monday, June 18, 2012

I wrote about going to see a few of the 2013 resort collections in New York for the AnOther website. Perhaps wisely, my editors cut the line in which I compared the presumption against straight men reviewing women's fashion to the ban on gay men serving in the army.
Silvershed, the apartment and exhibition space where I've been living in New York, is on the cover of the new issue of Art Review.