Two Poets: JT Welsch & Adrian Slatcher – 19th January 2011

JT Welsch and Adrian Slatcher will be reading from their new Salt Modern Voices Collections “Orchids” and “Playing Solitaire for Money” respectively at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Cambridge Street, Manchester in Manchester City Centre on Wednesday 19th January 2011, 6.30pm. Free and there will be wine and an opportunity to buy the books and speak to the poets. All are welcome.

Directions to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation

James Wood

Without a critical culture, is there, in fact, a culture? Literary criticism seemed to be something from the distant past when I was growing up, and though I managed to avoid much in the way of “literary theory”, it clearly coloured a lot of those of my age and slightly older growing up in the academy. Coloured, but not necessarily overwhelmed. Discovering James Wood’s criticism was like a light going on contemporary literary culture. A couple of years older than me, he is therefore younger than the generation he began writing about, and his perspective has always been engaged, but at one remove. Although he takes big themes (religion, satire), he never ignores the books or the authors themselves. UK educated, but US based he seems to span the best of both cultures. Often called “the best literary critic of his generation” I sometimes think he is the only literary critic of his generation. His essay collection “The Broken Estate” (2000) is a touchstone, but when he criticises a book it stays criticised, the value in his work being his deep engagement with particular books and writers. The author is not “dead” in Wood’s writing, but worthy of serious interrogation. Wood’s criticism is also highly readable, despite its depth. He has also written a novel, “The Book Against God”, a small, dignified debut.

Wikipedia on James Wood

James Wood’s writing at the London Review of Books

Michel Houellebecq

Several years ago I was speaking with a journalist friend who told me he’d just interviewed an exciting new French novelist who was little known in Britain. The name must have rung a bell since I picked up his first novel, (“Whatever” in English) when I saw it remaindered on Charing Cross Road. By the time of his second (“Atomised”) and third (“Platform”) novels Houellebecq had done what was unheard of, crossed over into being an English language bestseller. Perhaps its not surprising, after all, the success of counter-cultural enfant terribles like Irvine Welch had clearly not gone unnoticed across the channel. Houellebecq seemed to manage to mix that Anglo-Saxon beat writing with a European sensibility. In those first three novels he creates (or recreates) an archetypal loner, a late 20th century version of Camus’s L’etranger. Houellebecq’s overwhelming thesis, that sex is a capitalist commodity in the contemporary world seemed to resonate with an oversexualised age. Yet his novels are more subtle than that. Houellebecq’s heroes are not the existentialists of old, but with an added American pop culture sensibility. Their unhappiness is similar to John Self’s in Amis’s “Money.” Not afraid to address contemporary taboos, his importance has been restated in 2010 with his latest novel (not yet published in English) winning the Goncourt prize.

Wikipedia on Houllebecq
Houellebecq’s website (English version)

A.M. Homes

Iowa graduate, American novelist and short story writer A.M. Homes is a writer that crept up on me. I’d occasionally come across one of her remarkably elastic short stories online or in a collection and always marvel at her inventiveness. She’s a satirist, but owe something to the more experimental writing of Kathy Acker. For me, she’s one of the writers who manages to get to the heart of contemporary America. Her debut collection “The Safety of Objects” is remarkable, and I prefer her stories to her novels, which have often been on controversial subjects. Yet her 2006 novel “This Book Can Save Your Life” was an international bestseller, as well as a remarkably powerful book. Without the sentimentality of some of her male peers, she’s probably the best – and funniest – contemporary stylist writing in America today.

Wikipedia entry for A.M. Homes
A.M. Homes Website
My review of “This Book Can Save Your Life”
Read her early story “A Real Doll”