Thursday, 30 August 2012

Where are they now, your 17 years? by Vladimir Vysotsky

Where are they now, your 17 years?

You lost seventeen good years
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Went through seventeen great fears
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Your black hand gun- anywhere?
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
What's the place without you there?
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Need I remind you of that house once more?
Naw, you still remember, that's for sure.
Yes, anybody's life is only half complete,
If you haven't walked Koretnyi Street.
I'll bet you yes
You lost seventeen good years
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Went through seventeen great fears
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Your black hand gun- anywhere?
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
What's the place without you there?
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Well, a while ago they changed it's name,
Things are turning into a whole new game.
No matter where you go to find what must be found:
I betcha that Koretnyi Street is all around,
I betcha yeah
You lost seventeen good years
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Went through seventeen great fears
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
Your black hand gun- anywhere?
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.
What's the place without you there?
At Bolshoy Karetnyi.

Translated by Hans Sleurink

More here 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Edinburgh Ebook Festival 2012

This is a slightly belated shout, as the Edinburgh Ebook Festival has just come to an end. 

However, as an online festival, it has the advantage of being available for a short time afterwards. 

The Festival is an important advocate of alternative online literature, and I hope lots and lots of people have visited the website during its 17-day run.  While we're on the subject, I should also mention that Philistine Press were featured as one of their guest bloggers.

Here's our entry.

For me, the highlight of the Festival was The Censorship of Invisibility, an open letter to delegates at the Edinburgh World Writers Conference.  I've pasted this below...

The Censorship of Invisibility

This is an open letter to delegates at the Edinburgh World Writers Conference – and a wider public who may be interested in the issues raised.

Edinburgh World Writers Conference Censorship Debate.

I have listened with interest to the first two days of the Conference. Several of the delegates have mentioned the role of the market and it would seem that the Censorship debate is the place to raise the issue of the censorship of the market.

Many writers are currently censored by the market where, as several of your delegates have pointed out, a quantitative version of success is promoted. While there has been a bit of coy dancing round the subject of digital publishing and ebooks – some vague references to ‘the internet’ in relation to publishing – only one of your delegates has addressed the topic and this in the loaded term of a ‘class struggle.’ This invective is both immature and unhelpful. We resist, reject and ridicule this attitude.

We do not consider it appropriate to engage in the epublishing debate using references to ‘the cultural elite’, or as we have been dismissed by this delegate ‘the digital masses.’ We are not the Babylonian hordes he would have you believe. We are not coming to eat your babies.

We are, in most respects, writers just like you – with established ‘professional’ track records, winners of awards and with mainstream publishing credits – who have chosen to seek to develop a less market mediated approach to publishing our work. We are all subject to (victims of?) market forces but we would rather that the reader has the power in this regard. To that end we strive for unmediated visibility and to develop a readership who can make personal informed choices about what they want to read and how they want to read it.

We no more threaten or challenge the ‘establishment’ than the Paralympics do the Olympics. As Ali Smith pointed out, it’s a big world and there’s room for all of us.

We are not whining or complaining about our position. We are not at war with anyone. We simply resist the current marketing model. We have a common goal with you : communicative interaction with readers.

We believe the censorship imposed by the market is ‘visibility.’ We are happy to note that the Conference adopts the mature recognition that ‘talent will out’ and ‘success is quantitative’ are myths delivered by a profit driven market model. We hope that despite being in many cases locked into this censoring market, your delegates will be able to look to the wider world and realise that the new ‘indie’ writers as publishers do not have any argument with them, and are not either at war or in competition with them. Many of those now ‘indie’ publishing have been where you are now. Many of you may be where we are now in the future. We are all writers. We all seek to find readers for our work. The emergence of epublishing does not mean that any or all of us are turkeys voting for Christmas if we engage with it.

We have set up our own parallel festival (a virtual online ebook festival ) to run concurrently with the International Book Festival. This has been achieved in 8 weeks with zero budget and in the first week has received 6,500 views employing only grass roots promotion (which suggests there is clearly something of a market for independent writers). Our festival offers over 100 featured ‘events’ and showcases the work of nearly 50 writers. We offer short stories, poetry, writers polemic, focus pieces, and commentary and discussion of issues related to publishing . We aim to inform and entertain in equal measure. We hope to redress the mistaken belief that all self/indie publishing is low quality rubbish through the work that we showcase. Included amongst authors at our festival are Bafta nominated writers, winners of established writing awards, several writers with over 40 mainstream and traditionally published titles, and many with professional track records over 20 years. One of our featured authors has been in publishing for 50 years this month. We also welcome emerging writers who are finding readers through their own hard work using social media.

Why have these writers chosen to engage in an independent model of digital publishing? There are many reasons. Bringing back out of print work is one of them. Publishing non mass market writing that does not fit comfortably into market fashionable genres is another. But the primary motive of the indie writers we showcase is the desire to connect with readers, to throw off the cloak of invisibility which is the censorship of the market. To open the debate.

We are not demanding to be heard. But we respectfully ask you to acknowledge that far from being a battle between the ‘masses’ and the ‘elite’, the role of many independent writers as publishers in our current publishing revolution is that of opening the market and working against the censorship of ‘invisibility.’

These writers are not your adversaries. We hope, like us, you will see beyond the myth of competition between writers and open yourselves to the possibilities of new co-operative methods of engaging with the reader. Mostly, we hope that you, like us, will acknowledge that if writers are subject to a market driven economy, those with the power in that economy should be an informed readership not the profit driven publishing conglomerates.

Cally Phillips Festival Director of the Edinburgh eBook Festival

and Editor of Indie eBook Review.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Here's a shout out for a proper alternative publisher, Outpost19...

And here's a web trailer for one of their wide and diverse selection of books, Spaces by Joel Kopplin... 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A History of Sarcasm - the ebook

A quick plug for my short story collection, A History of Sarcasm (Dog Horn 2009) ... just mentioning it's now available as an ebook. 

Download details here

Details of the book on

Some quotes about it

Praise for A History of Sarcasm

"A wonderful collection of decidedly weird short stories. Every single one of them is a gem. If you don't believe me, why not linger for a while and read the first one, a dysfunctional love story told in alphabetical order? I think you'll like it."

Scott Pack, Me and My Big Mouth.

“The writer William Burroughs once called language “a virus from outer space”, and there’s a sense of that in A History of Sarcasm, where Burton holds words up to the sun and lets the light shine through them.”
David Swann, author of The Last Days of Johnny North

"Frank's characters are startling, fragile, hilarious and chilling. If you haven't had a chance to delve into Frank's world yet, and you're not afraid your visit might turn into a long-term, straight-jacketed order of commitment, I highly recommend it. Every time I think he can't outdo himself again, he ups the ante and takes it one stupendous step further."

Deb Hoag, author of Crashin' The Real

Monday, 13 August 2012

War and Peace - the second epilogue

Tolstoy doesn't need me to big him up on this blog, but I'll say this anyway: War and Peace is worth reading to the end.  

Considering the bleakness of the subject matter and the fact that it's one of the longest books available in print, it's fair to assume that a large proportion of people who begin reading the book don't get round to finishing it.  

This is a shame, because it means many people will miss out on reading the second epilogue. (That's right - just when you think the damn thing's over, there's two epilogues.  And they're both several chapters long.)  

My advice is, if you don't have time to read the whole thing, skip through to the second epilogue.  

It begins like this... 

History is the life of nations and of humanity. To seize and put into words, to describe directly the life of humanity or even of a single nation, appears impossible.

The ancient historians all employed one and the same method to describe and seize the apparently elusive – the life of a people. They described the activity of individuals who ruled the people, and regarded the activity of those men as representing the activity of the whole nation.

The question: how did individuals make nations act as they wished and by what was the will of these individuals themselves guided? the ancients met by recognizing a divinity which subjected the nations to the will of a chosen man, and guided the will of that chosen man so as to accomplish ends that were predestined.
For the ancients these questions were solved by a belief in the direct participation of the Deity in human affairs.

Modern history, in theory, rejects both these principles.

It would seem that having rejected the belief of the ancients in man's subjection to the Deity and in a predetermined aim toward which nations are led, modern history should study not the manifestations of power but the causes that produce it. But modern history has not done this. Having in theory rejected the view held by the ancients, it still follows them in practice.

Instead of men endowed with divine authority and directly guided by the will of God, modern history has given us either heroes endowed with extraordinary, superhuman capacities, or simply men of very various kinds, from monarchs to journalists, who lead the masses. Instead of the former divinely appointed aims of the Jewish, Greek, or Roman nations, which ancient historians regarded as representing the progress of humanity, modern history has postulated its own aims – the welfare of the French, German, or English people, or, in its highest abstraction, the welfare and civilization of humanity in general, by which is usually meant that of the peoples occupying a small northwesterly portion of a large continent.

Modern history has rejected the beliefs of the ancients without replacing them by a new conception, and the logic of the situation has obliged the historians, after they had apparently rejected the divine authority of the kings and the “fate” of the ancients, to reach the same conclusion by another road, that is, to recognize (1) nations guided by individual men, and (2) the existence of a known aim to which these nations and humanity at large are tending.

At the basis of the works of all the modern historians from Gibbon to Buckle, despite their seeming disagreements and the apparent novelty of their outlooks, lie those two old, unavoidable assumptions.
In the first place the historian describes the activity of individuals who in his opinion have directed humanity (one historian considers only monarchs, generals, and ministers as being such men, while another includes also orators, learned men, reformers, philosophers, and poets). Secondly, it is assumed that the goal toward which humanity is being led is known to the historians: to one of them this goal is the greatness of the Roman, Spanish, or French realm; to another it is liberty, equality, and a certain kind of civilization of a small corner of the world called Europe.

In 1789 a ferment arises in Paris; it grows, spreads, and is expressed by a movement of peoples from west to east. Several times it moves eastward and collides with a countermovement from the east westward. In 1812 it reaches its extreme limit, Moscow, and then, with remarkable symmetry, a countermovement occurs from east to west, attracting to it, as the first movement had done, the nations of middle Europe. The counter movement reaches the starting point of the first movement in the west – Paris – and subsides.

During that twenty-year period an immense number of fields were left untilled, houses were burned, trade changed its direction, millions of men migrated, were impoverished, or were enriched, and millions of Christian men professing the law of love of their fellows slew one another.

What does all this mean? Why did it happen? What made those people burn houses and slay their fellow men? What were the causes of these events? What force made men act so? These are the instinctive, plain, and most legitimate questions humanity asks itself when it encounters the monuments and tradition of that period.

For a reply to these questions the common sense of mankind turns to the science of history, whose aim is to enable nations and humanity to know themselves.
If history had retained the conception of the ancients it would have said that God, to reward or punish his people, gave Napoleon power and directed his will to the fulfillment of the divine ends, and that reply, would have been clear and complete. One might believe or disbelieve in the divine significance of Napoleon, but for anyone believing in it there would have been nothing unintelligible in the history of that period, nor would there have been any contradictions.

But modern history cannot give that reply. Science does not admit the conception of the ancients as to the direct participation of the Deity in human affairs, and therefore history ought to give other answers.
Modern history replying to these questions says: you want to know what this movement means, what caused it, and what force produced these events? Then listen:

“Louis XIV was a very proud and self-confident man; he had such and such mistresses and such and such ministers and he ruled France badly. His descendants were weak men and they too ruled France badly. And they had such and such favorites and such and such mistresses. Moreover, certain men wrote some books at that time. At the end of the eighteenth century there were a couple of dozen men in Paris who began to talk about all men being free and equal. This caused people all over France to begin to slash at and drown one another. They killed the king and many other people. At that time there was in France a man of genius – Napoleon. He conquered everybody everywhere – that is, he killed many people because he was a great genius. And for some reason he went to kill Africans, and killed them so well and was so cunning and wise that when he returned to France he ordered everybody to obey him, and they all obeyed him. Having become an Emperor he again went out to kill people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there too he killed a great many. In Russia there was an Emperor, Alexander, who decided to restore order in Europe and therefore fought against Napoleon. In 1807 he suddenly made friends with him, but in 1811 they again quarreled and again began killing many people. Napoleon led six hundred thousand men into Russia and captured Moscow; then he suddenly ran away from Moscow, and the Emperor Alexander, helped by the advice of Stein and others, united Europe to arm against the disturber of its peace. All Napoleon's allies suddenly became his enemies and their forces advanced against the fresh forces he raised. The Allies defeated Napoleon, entered Paris, forced Napoleon to abdicate, and sent him to the island of Elba, not depriving him of the title of Emperor and showing him every respect, though five years before and one year later they all regarded him as an outlaw and a brigand. Then Louis XVIII, who till then had been the laughingstock both of the French and the Allies, began to reign. And Napoleon, shedding tears before his Old Guards, renounced the throne and went into exile. Then the skillful statesmen and diplomatists (especially Talleyrand, who managed to sit down in a particular chair before anyone else and thereby extended the frontiers of France) talked in Vienna and by these conversations made the nations happy or unhappy. Suddenly the diplomatists and monarchs nearly quarreled and were on the point of again ordering their armies to kill one another, but just then Napoleon arrived in France with a battalion, and the French, who had been hating him, immediately all submitted to him. But the Allied monarchs were angry at this and went to fight the French once more. And they defeated the genius Napoleon and, suddenly recognizing him as a brigand, sent him to the island of St. Helena. And the exile, separated from the beloved France so dear to his heart, died a lingering death on that rock and bequeathed his great deeds to posterity. But in Europe a reaction occurred and the sovereigns once again all began to oppress their subjects.”

It would be a mistake to think that this is ironic – a caricature of the historical accounts. On the contrary it is a very mild expression of the contradictory replies, not meeting the questions, which all the historians give, from the compilers of memoirs and the histories of separate states to the writers of general histories and the new histories of the culture of that period.

The strangeness and absurdity of these replies arise from the fact that modern history, like a deaf man, answers questions no one has asked.

If the purpose of history be to give a description of the movement of humanity and of the peoples, the first question – in the absence of a reply to which all the rest will be incomprehensible – is: what is the power that moves peoples? To this, modern history laboriously replies either that Napoleon was a great genius, or that Louis XIV was very proud, or that certain writers wrote certain books.

All that may be so and mankind is ready to agree with it, but it is not what was asked. All that would be interesting if we recognized a divine power based on itself and always consistently directing its nations through Napoleons, Louis-es, and writers; but we do not acknowledge such a power, and therefore before speaking about Napoleons, Louis-es, and authors, we ought to be shown the connection existing between these men and the movement of the nations.

If instead of a divine power some other force has appeared, it should be explained in what this new force consists, for the whole interest of history lies precisely in that force.

History seems to assume that this force is self-evident and known to everyone. But in spite of every desire to regard it as known, anyone reading many historical works cannot help doubting whether this new force, so variously understood by the historians themselves, is really quite well known to everybody.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Mindfulness by Lars Palm

On first glance this collection appears to be the same poem repeated over and over again with a different title each time.  Fair play, it's never been done before, so the least you can say is that it's original and interesting.

On closer inspection, this is more like one long poem, with each virtually identical version flowing through to the next.

It's a free download from

Read it here.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Stand Up Tragedy

This is very very very very very very very good podcast (and live event).

In their own words:

A new night where people get up on stage and do some tragedy: part cabaret, part variety show. Come and let some great performers make you sad, make you think and make you smile. Sometimes they’ll be putting a new twist on what they do with brand new material tailored towards the theme. Expect music, comedy, true stories and more, all playing up to the tragic form but not taking it too seriously. The night will end, not with a whimper, not with a bang, but with a cathartic sing-a-long.

Brought to you by Sony Radio Award nominated writer, musician and performer Dave Pickering, this monthly show will be recorded and released as a free weekly podcast at and through iTunes.