Under The Skin: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Elle Nash…

For the latest SWH! podcast Ali headed to Edinburgh to speak to the American writer Elle Nash who was in the country for the city’s International Book Festival.

The conversation focused on her powerful novel Animals Eat Each Other, which is published by 404 Ink. The two discuss the novel’s themes and content, Elle’s intentions, how her style developed, the importance of names and language, the psychology of desire, the quest for identity, and much more.

You’ll also hear 404 Ink’s Laura Jones explaining why they felt they had no choice but to publish Elle once they had read her book. We consider it an instructive and insightful discussion which will interest writers, readers, and book lovers of all kinds. Have a listen and see if you agree.

Here’s an extract from the SWH! review of Animals Eat Each Other,
“Elle Nash has written the literary equivalent of a great Punk single – fast, furious, and unforgettable, one which sticks in your head and creeps beneath your skin. Animals Eat Each Other – you couldn’t ignore it if you tried.”
And you can read the full review here…

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). 

You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

The next podcast will be with you very soon, but in the meantime you can also check out our series of Scottish Opera Podcasts.

 

Local Heroes: A Review Of Jemma Neville’s Constitution Street…

A quote which came to shape the nation’s politics was Margaret Thatcher’s claim in 1987 that, “..there’s no such thing as society”. Even as a teenager who was just beginning to get interested in politics this rang as a deeply suspicious and bogus claim, one made to justify the policies not only of Conservative governments, but also, sadly, future Labour ones as well, placing the wants and desires of individuals and big business ahead of any idea of communal benefits and shared social responsibility. That may be politicly simplistic and naive (and if it’s deep political insight you’re looking for, I suggest you look elsewhere), but that doesn’t make it untrue.

Jemma Neville‘s Constitution Street (404 Ink) rightly turns that claim on its head. Its subtitle is “finding hope in an age of anxiety”, and at a time when global, and national, politics seem to be spiralling out of control, or at least out of our control, then it may seem impossible to affect any change or make a difference. If democracy has not failed us, then it’s fair peching heavy. Neville proffers that a difference can still be made, and the place to start is outside your front door. She looks at the local to make commentary on the global, taking individual stories to make universal points. By marrying the personal with the political, and fleshing out statistics with individual stories, she presents us with a book that engenders empathy and anger in equal measure.

It’s a tour around the urban landscape of her neighbourhood, and it is one that will be familiar to many. The ‘Constitution Street’ of the title is a thoroughfare in Leith, Edinburgh, and it is where the author calls home. Neville feels that if she is to better understand the wider world she needs to better understand her world – one which has undergone significant social and cultural shifts and changes over the years. By the simple, and increasingly overlooked, act of talking to those who live and work on the street, and hearing their own points of view and ideas, she asks us to consider the fluid nature of all communities, and therefore what a social contract for our times should consist of as it becomes clear through these conversations and stories that the current balance between the state and the individual is clearly out of whack. 

Using the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights as an ideological map, she looks at how those rights have increasingly been eroded and neglected over time. These include the ‘Right to Housing’, the ‘Right to Education’, the ‘Right to Food’, ‘Health’, ‘Work’, and even ‘Life’! They seem so bleeding obvious that you would hope that they don’t even need mentioning, never mind written into a Bill of Rights, but our political systems are failing people in every example. You won’t have to walk very far from your own residence to realise that is the case, no matter where you live. But that is exactly what Jemma Neville is suggesting you should do – engage with your community, get to know those who, like you, make it what it is and discuss how you can make it better.

Constitution Street is a book for our times, a socio-political work with humanity at its heart, and a timely reminder that there is more that unites than divides us. It’s a call to care, for ourselves and others, and where better to start than at your own front door. It’s a fascinating and intrinsically human approach to examining the practical applications and implications of social contracts in modern society. It learns from the past, examines the present, and looks to the future, offering the hope that by better understanding each other we will come to better know ourselves. How many books have you read lately that offer that?

Jemma Neville‘s Constitution Street: finding hope in an age of anxiety is published by 404 Ink where you can pre-order a copy.

Keeping It Corporeal: A Review Of Elle Nash’s Animals Eat Each Other…

As regular visitors to SWH! will know, 404 Ink have, in a fairly short space of time, come to be recognised as a reliable mark of quality, publishing books which are not only well written and enjoyable to read, but which challenge readers and the literary status quo, allowing for marginalised voices to be heard, loud and clear.

Recent publications include Nadine Aisha Jassat’s poetry collection Let Me Tell You This, the Queer words anthology We Were Always Here, Chris McQueer‘s second short story collection HWFG, Helen McClory’s The Goldblum Variations (the international rights to which have just been sold to Penguin Books) and the rightly acclaimed collection of essays Nasty Women. By any standard that is an admirable list, and it only scratches the surface.

Their latest is Elle Nash’s Animals Eat Each Other and it is a welcome and worthy addition. It’s a novel which hits you full in the face so hard it makes you fear for your front teeth. The arresting opening sentence sets the uneasy, and often queasy, tone which doesn’t let up till the last. A visceral read which is at times dreamlike as you become intoxicated by the sensual and sensory images and language. You may want to look away but you’ll find you can’t, desperate to know how things resolve themselves. However you’ll soon realise this isn’t about where the narrative is going, but why.

The writing is exemplary – lean and mean, reflecting the content – it’s where Ernest Hemingway meets Kathy Acker. It also pulls off the difficult trick of making you think you have experienced or read things which you haven’t. As with the infamous shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Nash makes you believe you have witnessed visceral acts of violence, and sex, when in fact she cuts away and lets your imagination run riot. In terms of editing as much as writing, Animals Eat Each Other is an example to all.

We are introduced to ‘Lilith’, although that is a name given to her by others, and which, she learns, is one rich in meaning and which comes to define her, and even shape her. Nash makes it clear that language is important, the things which are said and those that remain only thoughts, as well as how people are referred to and the way in which relationships are defined. The latter hold the promise of, if not happiness (which is rarely considered a possibility), escape, belonging, change, submission, and subsummation – the chance not only to be with someone else but to become someone, or something, else.

There are shifts in power and thought happening constantly, sometimes in the space of a single embrace. This is in no small part down to the fact that ‘Lilith’s’ is a mind never at rest, except when quietened by drink and drugs, or distracted by pain or pleasure. The world as she has experienced it has her constantly anxious which in turn has made her uncomfortable in her own skin – a skin she is, as with her identity, keen to shed, or to have others remove for her in the belief that psychological change can happen through physical manipulation.

Despite what you may initially think this is not a novel about sex and violence, but one which examines obsession, self image and worth, fantasy vs reality, want and the need to be wanted, and the complexity of human appetites and infatuation. You could say it is concerned with the politics of desire, the rules and regulations – some made clear, some unsaid – which play out in various, and arguably all, relationships. I have seen Animals Eat Each Other described elsewhere as ‘erotic’ but that doesn’t do it justice it at all as Nash digs much deeper than that. She is not concerned with the aesthetics of desire, but with the psychology – more Erica Jong than E.L. James.

If you are looking for recent points of reference then those of you who have read Helen McClory’s novel Flesh Of The Peach, Pauline Lynch’s Armadillos or Anneliese Mackintosh’s short story collection Any Other Mouth, will find similar themes in Animals Eat Each Other. With it Elle Nash has written the literary equivalent of a great Punk single – fast, furious, and unforgettable, one which sticks in your head and creeps beneath your skin. Animals Eat Each Other – you couldn’t ignore it if you tried.

Animals Eat Each Other is out now, published by 404 Ink.

You can still hear the SWH! Podcast with 404 Ink here

Tell It Like It Is: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Nadine Aisha Jassat…

For the latest podcast Ali spoke to the poet Nadine Aisha Jassat about her new collection of poems, Let Me Tell You This. It starts with a reading from Nadine, and the conversation is interspersed with further examples throughout which should give you a clear idea as to what makes this book so special.

During their discussion the two touch on narrative, family, the possibilities for poetry, the importance of rhythm, voice & language, why she is glad to be published by 404 Ink, and what these poems mean to her, and others. It’s one of the most engaging podcasts to date, and we hope you will be inspired to investigate Nadine’s work for yourself, and consider it with the care and attention it deserves.

If you are new round these parts there is quite a substantial back-catalogue of podcasts for you to discover. If you aren’t yet a subscriber you can do so, (or simply listen) at iTunes, on Podbean, or by RSS (but you’ll need to have an RSS reader to do so). You can also download the podcast by clicking on the relevant link to the right of this post, or, if you want it right here, right now, you can listen on SoundCloud

..or on YouTube:

And, as discussed in the podcast, here is Hopscotch, the short film based on Nadine’s poem of the same name:

Be here soon for the next Scots Whay Hae! Podcast, which, undoubtedly, has a lot to live up to…

That Was The Year That Was: It’s The Best Of 2018 Podcasts – Part 1 (Books)…

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For our Review of the year in Scottish writing and all things bookish Ali was once again joined by Booky Vikki herself, Publishing Scotland’s Vikki Reilly, to discuss their favourite books of the year and the state of Scottish writing and publishing. While doing so they try to identify the themes and trends of the last 12 months, look into what’s coming in the new year, forget the names of things (mostly Ali, to be fair), talk music, “Mayhem”, and explain why 2018 belonged to Muriel. It was quite the year and hopefully we go some way to summing it up and rounding it off for you.

The podcast is the perfect companion piece to our earlier post ‘The Good Word: Scots Whay Hae!’s 10 Best Books Of 2018 (+1)…’ (see right), where you’ll be able to link to reviews of many of the books and writers that Vikki and Ali discuss. There’s a lot of love for writers and publishers alike, and although we didn’t manage to cover it all, we hope you’ll find something to pique your interest. Continue reading

Stranger Hings: A Review Of Chris McQueer’s HWFG…

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As Harper Lee, The Stone Roses, or Sam Raimi will tell you (and that’s a dinner-party I’d like to attend), it’s not easy following up a cultural touchstone. When your debut strikes a chord with a wider public and becomes higher profile than anyone expected then there’s bound to be added pressure to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. Chris McQueer’s short story collection Hings was just such a debut, one which found its way into the hands of people who don’t normally bother with literary fiction.

As with lain Banks’ The Wasp FactoryIrvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and Alan Bissett’s Boyracers, Hings is a book with a reputation which spread in no small part by word of mouth, praised and quoted in the workplace and passed around the playground. It received mainly glowing reviews on sites such as this one, and in print, but so do many other books which don’t manage to achieve the profile Hings did.

In the age of social media such a reach can be more readily measured, with people posting pictures holding their copy on a variety of social media, often accompanied by messages professing that it’s the first book they’ve read in ages, a claim also made for those mentioned above. It feels as if Chris McQueer is reaching an audience outside of the usual Scottish literary scene in a manner not witnessed since Allan Wilson’s Wasted In Love received similar attention in 2011. But now we get to find out if McQueer can follow Hings. That’s the question which inevitably arises with the publication of his latest collection, HWFG. Continue reading

Man Of Letters: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Chris McQueer…

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For SWH! podcast 101 Ali speaks to the writer Chris McQueer about his latest collection of short stories, HWFG. If you haven’t heard of or read Chris’ work, where have you been? His previous book Hings took the world of Scottish writing by storm announcing a fresh and exciting new voice. HWFG, (Here We Fucking Go, if you haven’t worked it out yet,), sees him build on the success of Hings introducing readers to new characters as well as bringing back firm fan favourites.

It was fascinating to hear what inspired Chris to write, his influences, the difficulty in HWFG-coverfollowing a hit, the highs and lows of being reviewed, the importance of writing not only what but who you know, the crucial relationship between writer and editor, how vital a great cover is (see right), and his plans to branch out from writing fiction. He also kindly reads ‘Brexit’, one of his new stories, which gives the uninitiated a great introduction to Chris McQueer and his work.

For those of a sensitive nature, I should say, the podcast contains the sort of language you might expect when discussing a collection with the full name Here We Fucking Go, for once fully earning the ‘Explicit’ tag iTunes often gives us, seemingly randomly. Continue reading

The McClory Variations: The Scots Whay Hae! Podcast Talks To Helen McClory…

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For the latest podcast Ali met up with Helen McClory (below) at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket Gallery to talk about her life as a writer to date – and a very interesting story it proved to be.

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From studying literature and creative writing in St Andrews, Sydney and Glasgow, to winning awards for her debut short story collection On The Edges Of Vision, walking Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson’s dog, the difficult publication of her novel Flesh Of The Peach, writing about Jeff Goldblum, to her latest collection of short fiction Mayhem & Death, it is a fascinating tale, and one which will be of interest to anyone who loves reading and writing.

If you haven’t yet read Helen McClory, this is the podcast to persuade you to do just that, and you can find out more about her latest publications at 404 Ink. Continue reading

Stranger Things: A Review Of Helen McClory’s Mayhem & Death…

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One of Scots Whay Hae!’s Best Books of 2017 was Helen McClory’s novel Flesh Of The Peach, which should have reached a much wider readership but it became a casualty of the sudden demise of Freight Books, being published but with little or no publicity. I urge you to get a copy, if you still can, and treasure it. Thankfully, 404 Ink are publishing her latest collection of short fiction, Mayhem & Death – an apt title, taken from the powerful opening story ‘Souterrain’, as there proves to be plenty of both between its covers.

McClory’s stories share DNA with those of Kirsty Logan, particularly those in The Rental Heart and A Portable Shelter, and Ever Dundas’ excellent novel Goblin, but they are also reminiscent of Angela Carter and Alison Lurie, often looking to the natural world and animal kingdom, and the accompanying mythology, fantasy and fables, to examine themes of grief, alienation and loneliness. In fact Mayhem & Death has a dedication which reads ‘For The Lonely’, and it’s a subject which McClory returns to and examines throughout these tales. Continue reading

Talking Books: A Preview Of Aye Write! 2018…

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For 10 days in March (15th – 25th) Glasgow’s Book Festival Aye Write! is the only show in town for lovers of fact, fiction, food, poetry, prose, biography, comics, and any other form of writing that takes your fancy.  While the majority of events remain at the festival’s spiritual home of The Mitchell Library there is also plenty occuring at the CCA, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Tramway, City Halls, GFT and Glasgow University Chapel. But it is only right that Glasgow’s most famous library is the focus point for a book festival which is international in scope, but has its roots firmly planted in the city.

Here are SWH!’s carefully selected daily highlights to give you something to think about, but you can peruse the full programme at your leisure here.

You can also keep up to date with events as they unfold by following @AyeWrite on Twitter or on Facebook. Tickets can be bought here and you can click the links below for further details on the individual events.

619at83IyAL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Thursday 15th – Stuart David, 7.45 – 8.45pm, University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel
Ex-Belle & Sebastian and current Looper, Stuart David is arguably better known as a musician than a writer, but his debut novel Nalda Said is one of the most-underrated Scottish novels of the last 20 years, and his memoir about his time in Belle & Sebastian, In The All Night Cafe is a must for any Scottish pop music fan. Now his latest novel, Peacock’s Alibi, is being published by Polygon, and SWH!’s very own Ali Braidwood will be in conversation with Stuart on the 15th to discuss the new book, the true story of Peacock Johnson, the Ian Rankin connection, and so much more. If you have a burning question you’ve always wanted to ask Stuart please come along as this is your chance to do so.

Peacock’s Alibi is published by Polygon Books, and you can hear Stuart and Karn David talking to the SWH! Podcast back in 2015. Continue reading