Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Audio Series: Adam Ingle


Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. This feature requires more time and patience of the author than any of the ones that have come before. And that makes it all the more sweeter when you see, or rather, hear them read excerpts from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.


Today, Adam Ingle reads an excerpt from his debut novel Necessary Evil and the Greater GoodAdam's a basement-dwelling, graveyard-shift nerd by night and an aspiring peddler of exorcised creative demons by day. He and his chinchilla live in a tin can on the side of the interstate somewhere in South Carolina.





Click on the soundcloud link below to experience an excerpt of Necessary Evil and the Greater Good, as read by Adam Ingle. 





The word on Necessary Evil and the Greater Good:

For best friends Mestoph and Leviticus the end of the world can’t come fast enough. Mestoph is a demon and troublemaker for Hell Industries, while Leviticus is an angel and cubicle jockey for Heaven, Inc. They might be unlikely friends, but they have something in common – they both hate their jobs. 

Unfortunately for them The End is nowhere in sight. The two take matters into their own hands when they come up with a scheme to get themselves kicked out of the Afterlife without spending an eternity in Purgatory. Their misadventure will take them from the tiny town of Truth or Consequences, NM to the highlands of Iceland as they cross paths and pantheons with Neo-Vikings, Greek and Norse Gods, and a Scottish terrier named Sir Reginald Pollywog Newcastle III.
*lifted with love from goodreads

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Whole New Ballgame Blog Tour



Today, we are honored to kick off another Grab The Lapels blog tour. This time, it's for Caryn Rose's A Whole New Ballgame, and here she is, sharing with us the story of how her love of baseball all started!



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For someone who has published two baseball books in one year, it might seem odd to point out that 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to explain one thing about baseball to you. I didn’t grow up a baseball fan; my dad is one of those guys who gave up on baseball when the Dodgers left Brooklyn. My mom was a White Sox fan, but not enough to have passed it down to me.  So, I grew up without a team, and very little understanding of baseball.

I lived in Seattle in the mid 90’s, when the Seattle Mariners just started to get good. I had lots of friends who were die-hard fans and always wanted to go to games, and I would go, but largely felt guilty to waste time and money because I didn’t know what was going on. And everyone assumes that you do know, so you don’t want to try to ask them to explain it to you. Some people aren’t good teachers, and others don’t understand things well enough to explain it to you.

When I started dating my significant other almost 11 years ago, I knew he was a die-hard Mets fan, and I never would have expected him to watch less baseball just because we were a couple and I didn’t love baseball like he did. But I definitely wanted to go to games with him, because he loved it so much. So, we started going to games, and I started asking questions, and the more questions I asked, the more he explained. Talking about baseball is one of the things he absolutely loves doing, and his enthusiasm was infectious. Plus, it’s a lot more fun to watch the game if you understand what’s going on.

At some point in 2005 I said, “I think we should go to some more games this summer,” and by the end of the season I had been to 12 games—some I even went to of my own volition, solo, because I’d had a bad day or to get out of the house or because there was a moment I didn’t want to miss, like Mike Piazza’s last game as a Met.

In the winter of 2005, I got an email from the Mets urging me to consider putting down a deposit on a season ticket plan because season ticket holders would have first priority on ticket locations in the new ballpark they were going to start building to replace Shea Stadium. I had seen what had happened to my friends in Seattle when the Mariners moved from the Kingdome to Safeco Field, and I didn’t want that to happen to the SO. I had a day job at the time where I earned commission and I’d had a pretty good month, so I put down a deposit. We were officially Mets season ticket holders.

I started blogging about baseball because I wanted to capture my first real season as a baseball fan. I’m a writer, and writing is how I process and celebrate and commemorate things.  It was my own tiny little project, and I had no idea I would be good at it or that anyone who didn’t know me would care about reading it. It was also the first year that the Mets “blogosphere” (for lack of a better word) really took off.

My readership grew as the season went on; my non-sports-loving friends started reading my blog because they liked my writing. Other Mets fans, especially those not in New York any more, started reading it for the same reason. And once we reached the post-season, other non-Mets baseball fans (whose teams were out of contention) were drawn to it. I wrote about baseball the same way I wrote about music; I wrote about the experience of watching the game, of what it was like to be there. This was different than some of the more analytical or statistics-based writing that was going on at the time, and was an easy place for someone to jump in who wasn’t completely familiar with every nuance of the season.

In 2007, I moved the blog off Blogger and bought my domain name, and kept writing. Our ticket plan meant I was at 25 games at a minimum, and we would augment that by following the Mets on the road and visiting other ballparks. We would average 40-45 games a year in a 162 game season, 80 of which are at home. That is a lot of baseball.  Some I watched on TV or listened to on the radio, but I was happiest writing about being at Shea Stadium, sitting in Section 12 with the rest of the season ticket holders, people you see twice a week from April to September. The stories of Shea and Mets fans were endless. The Mets, however, did not have an endless season, and if you’ve read the book, you know what happens.

Baseball blogging was now officially a focus of mine, and I was writing about all of the games I attended, every night, just like one of the beat writers. I had finished my first novel and my agent was working on selling it, while I went off and started the next one. Of course, with the frenetic pace of the baseball season, this meant that I only wrote fiction in the off-season. At some point during all of this, an editor contacted my agent, saying that she liked my baseball writing, and wanted me to write a baseball/rock-and-roll type of memoir—she referred to it as “The Eat, Pray, Love of baseball and rock and roll.” I wasn’t interested in doing that, but I was interested in writing about being new to baseball and learning about baseball late in life.

One year, when I was composing a piece to submit to Hobart’s annual baseball-themed issue, I started writing a story about a woman who travels to visit her out-of-town paramour, only to find him otherwise engaged when she arrives. She gets caught in traffic as she’s trying to flee, discovers the traffic is heading for a baseball game, and decides to join them. When the story passed 7,000 words, I realized it had taken on a life of its own. Eventually, it became A Whole New Ballgame.

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Caryn Rose is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer who documents rock and roll, baseball and urban life. From 2006-2011, she authored the groundbreaking blog metsgrrl.com, covering baseball and the New York Mets. A Whole New Ballgame is her second novel. You can find her at jukeboxgraduate.com and on Twitter at @carynrose and at @metsgrrl during the season. Purchase A Whole New Ballgame HERE


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Like this post? Why not continue following the rest of the tour? Tomorrow, stop by Booked in Chico for Day 2. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Oliver Serang Kidnapped My Blog: Where Oliver Writes


(Oliver Serang is an American lecturer at Universität Bremen and a research scientist at Thermo Fisher in Germany, where he swims in the river during snowstorms. He has published papers on computational biology algorithms and is the author of the novel Stay Close, Little Ghost. He can be found at colorfulengineering.org.


Regular content will return next week!)






I wrote Stay Close, Little Ghost while I was finishing my PhD in [1] Seattle, while I was a visiting scientist in [2] São Paulo, Brazil, and when starting a research fellowship in [3] Boston. After finishing it, the manuscript sat dormant for a while until I finally published it shortly after moving to [4] Bremen, Germany.

These are recommended places (and experiences) where I wrote, read, and thought while I was working on it:


[1] Seattle:


Seattle is a nice town to think or to write in, in part because there are so many coffee houses and because it is accepted that you generally will not visit a cafe without your laptop. Also, aside from the odd couple who will approach you looking for a third in bed, it is fairly easy to find a bit of solitude.

Roy Street Coffee / Capitol Hill

First of all, this place is an undercover Starbucks experiment, but it is phenomenal. The quality and variety of coffee is amazing and the service is a nice hybrid of genuine get-to-know-you atmosphere found in independent espresso shops (e.g., they will almost certainly remember what you ordered last time, your name, and possibly offer you a freebee on your birthday) with a refreshing dash of Starbucks peppy polite that is so often lacking at independent places. But its atmosphere is its finest selling point, with lots of space for reading, writing, or thinking.

Top Pot donut shop / Capitol Hill

I recommend the Boston cream (which they will call "Bavarian cream") donuts and mochas. It’s a low-key shop where you can camp out and let your mind wander for hours.

The Bainbridge Island Ferry / On the water

It’s one of the best places to have a snack or a cup of coffee alone, and the cool wind makes you feel adventurous out on top.

Cupcake Royale / Ballard

I've heard that the age of the cupcake is waning, and have even heared some people say (I've actually heard this) "pies are the new cupcakes". But this place is not going anywhere; I had fancy-pants cupcakes in Boston and Bremen, but if I ever get back to Seattle, I am going straight there. The last time I was in town, I ate several cupcakes. Also, it's conveniently located almost directly across from the Sonic Boom record store (with several listening stations to sample albums recommended by employees).


[2] São Paulo:


The truth is, I didn't write so much in São Paulo, but I thought a lot and filled my writing tank. In particular, I spent a lot of time in Piracicaba, a bucolic little city a few hours inland where a short walk from the University of São Paulo ESALQ leaves you alone with your thoughts in fields.

Aside from walks, I felt like I got my best thinking and writing done at little snack shops, which always offer a plethora of fresh juice options. It is common for coworkers to take a few breaks a day for a "Pingado" (a nice, strong coffee drink that resembles a latte) or for a glass of amazing fresh juice. I don't remember the name of the snack shop I went to most, but I do remember the drink that I got. It is called "frutas vermelhas", and it is a puree of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries mixed with either sugar and water, or with sugar and milk (like a smoothie). Go sit in an ordinary-looking cafe sipping frutas vermelhas and magic will find you.

N.B. Not only do coffee houses almost never offer decaf, I had at least one experience where the woman working there thought I was making fun of her until my friend intervened. She kept asking, "And people want this?" and called other coworkers over to listen.


[3] Boston:


Boston is a wonderful town for writing, drawing, and working. The mix of ambitious and educated students and professionals makes for a great atmosphere for doing anything creative. Aside from the Harvard libraries, which are not open to the public, I did most of my writing in two coffee houses.

Starbucks / Harvard Square

It's often crowded with students camped out with work, but it's also a great place to work late at night when it thins out. Also, it's a short walk to Harvard's main campus or to wander down to beautiful little stone bridges crossing the Charles river. Even though Boston is a reasonably large city, Cambridge feels quaint and sleepy while still energetic enough to be inspiring. I don't think it's a coincidence that one of the first people to read my novel did so after overhearing me in the line of the frozen yogurt place next door. And even though it's fairly polished, the anonymity of it (it's still a Starbucks) is liberating, like a little airport that will casually fly you anywhere you need to go in your mind.

1369 Coffee House / Cambridge (the one on Mass. Ave.)

1369 isn't the most polished coffee house, but it is such a wonderful place to sit and think. The people who work there are really friendly, and it is decidedly old-fashioned (they didn't accept credit cards or offer free WiFi until just before I moved). It is a wonderful place to be.

The Red Line / Throughout Boston and Cambridge

I actually mean the subway line (or "the T" to local Bostonians): no kidding, this is actually where I finished writing Stay Close, Little Ghost, sitting on a seat on the Red Line. Riding it at night or early on a weekend morning offers some of the best solace in the city.


[4] Bremen:


Bremen is a bit tricky; on one hand, in Europe it is generally still anathema to bring a laptop most places. But on the other hand, the combination of the dark winters and the slightly gothic architecture of the older buildings can be nearly perfect for reflection and inspiration.

Marianne / The Viertel (pronounced "The Fettel")

This is among the most charming cafes I have ever been to: candles, cozy and snug layout (the Germans have a word "gemütlich" that describes this place perfectly), friendly staff, along with delicious things to eat and drink. It is not the most laptop-friendly place in the world, but it's very unlikely that you'll get any dirty looks if you aren't spoiling the mood. And they have a copy of my novel sitting on their shelf for anyone to look through.

Starbucks / Domsheide

I finished the final publication steps of my novel (i.e. image processing for the cover design, LaTeX layout, etc.) at the Starbucks in Domsheide not long after moving here, because it was the one place I knew I had internet and where I knew it was acceptable to use a laptop. But this turned out not to be any ordinary Starbucks. Only a few weeks later I was sitting outside drawing/writing on my bike helmet with pieces of duct tape (this is something I used to do on the walls of my apartment in Cambridge), and when I got out the helmet and the duct tape, an inside table just through the glass started staring at me. There were two girls and one boy, all college age, and the more I wrote on the helmet, the more openly they stared. I was writing "GRIT" across the front of the helmet, because I like the idea of having grit (or toughness), and helmets and duct tape are two things that should be synonymous with "tough". After writing "GRI" in pieces of duct tape, they came outside to ask what I was doing, and when I described it, the girl in the lead said something like, "Yes. Grit. But that is my name. Have I met you? You are writing my name on your helmet. I cannot believe this." And if that doesn't inspire an awe in the magic of everyday things, I don't know what will.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oliver Serang Kidnapped My Blog: Interview with Mattias Frånberg


(Oliver Serang is an American lecturer at Universität Bremen and a research scientist at Thermo Fisher in Germany, where he swims in the river during snowstorms. He has published papers on computational biology algorithms and is the author of the novel Stay Close, Little Ghost. He can be found at colorfulengineering.org.

He has kidnapped this blog.

Regular content will return next week!)




In this discussion, I talk with Mattias Frånberg about several aspects of my novel Stay Close, Little Ghost, including the following:


-Magical realism in modern urban life: the anonymity and mystery of getting lost in a forest made of concrete
-Modern morality, magical thinking, and how we act when we are unseen by others
-The choice of an unreliable first-person narrator to blur the line between fantasy and reality


-The book's nod to Swan Lake and its relation to the madonna-whore complex and objective evaluations of our romantic partners
-The use of mathematics as a proxy for art, the quest for P=NP and how the two parallel the black swan Odile and the seductive but misguided thirst for objective perfection


-The economics of relationships, the "stable marriage problem", and balancing the universal desire to be loved with our evolutionary instinct to shop for partners
-The place for idealism in the online dating era, the narrator's dilemma of whether to offer his clean hand or his burned hand, and whether genuine honesty is possible in a relationship


Interlocutor Mattias Frånberg is a PhD candidate at KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden and guitarist for the band Rage Invest.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Oliver Serang Kidnapped My Blog: Audio Excerpts


(Oliver Serang is an American lecturer at Universität Bremen and a research scientist at Thermo Fisher in Germany, where he swims in the river during snowstorms. He has published papers on computational biology algorithms and is the author of the novel Stay Close, Little Ghost. He can be found at colorfulengineering.org.


Regular content will return next week!)



Here are a few short stories and excerpts from authors whose work I really love, and which resonates with my worldview (Ardour by Jonathan Keats, One Last Story And That’s It by Etgar Keret, Noah and the Flood by Jonathan Goldstein, Gimpel the Fool by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and After the Storm by Ernest Hemingway). I also share a couple of passages from my novel Stay Close, Little Ghost, and briefly discuss exactly what I admire so much in those stories and what I wanted to create in my own novel.


I hope you love these stories as much as I do!



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Oliver Serang Kidnapped My Blog: How Stay Close, Little Ghost Came To Be


(Oliver Serang is an American lecturer at Universität Bremen and a research scientist at Thermo Fisher in Germany, where he swims in the river during snowstorms. He has published papers on computational biology algorithms and is the author of the novel Stay Close, Little Ghost. He can be found at colorfulengineering.org.

He has kidnapped this blog.

Regular content will return next week!)



How Stay Close, Little Ghost Came To Be


The idea to write a novel came from a former colleague back when I was studying for my PhD. We were playing pool after midnight at a grimy bar when he said he'd found some short stories I had posted online and he said that he thought I should write a novel, just like that. I hadn't thought of it before, but the what if of the suggestion took hold. Writing short stories had felt somehow necessary to drain the pressure from an inner tank that I carried. Now I let the tank grow more and more full and told myself that I was saving it all for something important.

As I discussed subplots with friends, the sharp edges of the ideas chipped away until I swam in what remained: the painted walls that erupt into a storm and consume a woman, the X-Ray Specs that see people's most private thoughts, the lost secret city where you can sample the all-too-rare taste of true affection, the woman shrieking in the subway as she smears into a shadow on the concrete, and above all, the deep and sincere love of which we are genuinely capable, in spite of our many imperfections. These stories began to pulse through my daily life and through my dreams, until it started feeling as if I was living within a dream that I had created. And the thread running through them all was this: do we have value that doesn't come from our objective qualities, that doesn't come from winning some contest that could later be ripped out of our hands?

People who have read Stay Close, Little Ghost have asked how much is real and how much is fiction, but this question is difficult to answer. I felt I had two choices when writing as this character, to either distance myself from his perspective and sanitize any partisan emotion I may have, or to climb inside his head and turn it all up to 11, his flaws and virtues and everything. Because the subject matter was so important to me, I felt I must choose the latter or else it may ring hollow. And so I set out to live as deeply in this dream world as possible.

Years ago a woman in my bed shyly told me that she'd never seen a man naked, and I got out of bed and turned on the light and took off all of my clothes and posed forward and backward as the Vitruvian man. At the time, it was the gentlest thing I could think of to do, and its obvious symbolic implications-- trying to emulate perfection as deeply as possible for the joy and safety of someone else-- were accidental or subconscious.

But if I was to grow a new world in my dream, a world where people handled each other as gently as if the other were made of glass, this memory seemed like a wonderful seed to start with. And so I planted it and watered it and let the dream world grow unattended until it became a dense forest where I still often live. Just as the narrator's recollection blurs fantasy and reality, I have remained deeply ensconced in my dream that we are greater than the sum of our objective qualities, that real love can exist if we want it enough. And that is the reason that I wrote a novel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Oliver Serang Kidnapped My Blog: Book and TShirt Giveaway




(Oliver Serang is an American lecturer at Universität Bremen and a research scientist at Thermo Fisher in Germany, where he swims in the river during snowstorms. He has published papers on computational biology algorithms and is the author of the novel Stay Close, Little Ghost. He can be found at colorfulengineering.org.


Regular content will return next week!)




As the first step in my five day guest appearance on The Next Best Book Blog, I’d like to thank Lori Hettler for her support of independent authors and publishing.

And second, I’m happy to announce a contest giving away 5 copies of my novel, Stay Close, Little Ghost, and a homemade screen print t-shirt (design and shirt shown below). The design was made in collaboration with German designer Saskia Burghardt, and features an eye-catching mathematical description of eternal love. 


To enter, please mark the novel as to-read on GoodReads , and if you win I will be in touch to get your shirt size (shirts are from H&M). It will be screen printed just for you!






About Stay Close, Little Ghost:

Stay Close, Little Ghost: A Novel from Tape Tree Press on Vimeo.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: Love Water Memory

Read 7/15/14 - 7/17/14
3 Stars - Recommended to fans of "memory loss and love" stories, because lord knows this stuff's been done before
Pages: 326
Publisher: Gallery Books
Released: (in paperback) January 2014



I'm going to come clean and state that Love Water Memory is not my usual fare. But you know this already. You're scratching your head as you look at this and you're probably wondering what prompted me to pick this up. I know. I know. And you're right. You are absolutely right. It's much too mainstream and the plot is just way too common to have caught my attention on its own.

So a disclaimer: the publicist for this book had reached out to me back in February and after discussing the premise, I felt it had a lot of promise as a group read for TNBBC. For that monthly Author/Reader Discussion series I host. I know juicy, conversation-sparking content when I hear it. So I planned to have the book and its author featured in the group in September. Can you believe September is only two months away? Where the hell has this year gone?! And so, based on my freak-out about the year passing by in a blink of an eye, and because I like to read what TNBBC will be discussing during these author events, I felt that now would probably be a good time to get my read on. And what a read it was.

So many things went through my head as I read it.

First. That title. Love Water Memory. It's got to go. I don't know why, but it really irks me. Maybe it's too much like Eat Pray Love? It just doesn't seem to fit the book well. And it feels waaaay too oversimplified. As if everyone who worked on the book decided "Fuck it. What three words will communicate to the audience exactly what this book is about?" Over on Twitter, I mentioned two alternative titles - "What Water Makes Us Forget" and "The Weight of Water"  (that second one is pulled directly from text found within the book, and is actual my favorite of the two). Either of those are preferable to me over its current title.

Second. That cover. What is it with floating, wispy, watery lady images lately? Is this a new thing? Is it something that's got staying power? It's been done. A lot. And ok, so I think I get what they're trying to do - see, the book opens with Lucie, our leading lady, suddenly becoming aware that she is standing knee-deep in the ocean, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or why she is there. So if you want the cover to play off of that moment, play off of it. But don't have this wispy white dress floating off of a girl half submerged, who appears to be walking deeper into the water. It's just too, I don't know, YA-looking? Maybe that's what's bothering me?

So I call the cover "been-there-done-that". And now I have to call out the plot for the same exact thing. Please keep in mind, I don't read these kind of books on the norm so if I'm saying I know it's been done, isn't that kind of telling?

Not that I'm knocking the story. Listen, I admit to sitting down and reading the entire book in two days. It's engaging and kept me turning the pages. Not because I HAD to turn them, but because I wanted to. I enjoyed being taking on Lucie's journey of self-re-discovery, uncovering who she was and how she had changed after coming out of the disassociative fugue state that day she "awoke" alone and confused standing in the San Francisco Bay. It was interesting, the way we were led along by Lucie as she began to piece together what triggered her mental collapse, learning the secrets her aunt, fiancee, and even she herself had been harboring.

I thought the strangeness, the tension-filled awkwardness between Lucie and her fiancee Grady, who came to collect her from the hospital once she was "found" and of whom she had no recollection, was well written and also quite frustrating. All of the internal talk - the concern and worry they both had but failed to put into words, the tip-toeing around each other for fear of pushing too hard or being rejected -  seemed so unnecessary and yet, it was that very tension that Jennie Shortridge built her entire novel around. There were moments where you thought... ok, here we go, finally, some conflict, some "get it all out of your system and feel better for it later" head-on conversation, but every single time, Lucie and Grady, or Lucy and Helen backed off... waaaay off, and defaulted back to their internalization, rationalizing that the timing was not good, or just flat out chickening out. Now, the sadist in me was upset to see all of those opportunities go passing by, but the emotional me could see why Shortridge took that approach. It forced her to flesh the characters out more. It helped you connect with them as their individual stories slowly came to light.

Looking back on it all, Love Water Memory was a pleasant, kick-back-and-just-get-lost-in-the-story read. It required little more than just simply letting go and going with the flow.

Does the story eventually come to a nice, happy, satisfying close? Does Lucie get her memories back? Does she find out what triggered her disassociative fugue and get the closure she so desperately needs and longs for? Do things work out between the new her and her fiancee? Well, you're just going to have to pick up a copy and find out!

And oh the fun we are going to have discussing the ins and outs of it all when we host the book and its author in September! You'll come join us, won't you? Watch out for the giveaway, which will run during the first week of August. Land yourself a free copy so you can read it for yourself and then hit us up come discussion time! I wanna know what you think!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Where Writers Write: Darran Anderson

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!



Where Writers Write is a series that features authors as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 



photo by Chris Kelly

This is Darran Anderson. 

Darran Anderson is an Irish writer. He is the author of A Hubristic Flea (3:AM Press), Histoire de Melody Nelson 33 1/3 (Bloomsbury) and Tesla's Ghost (Blackheath Books). He is also the author of the forthcoming Imaginary Cities (Influx Press), Jack Kerouac: Critical Lives (Reaktion Books) and The Ghost Republics. He is the editor of the literary publication The Honest Ulsterman, having previously been a co-editor of 3:AM Magazine and Dogmatika.





Where Darran Anderson Writes





A Hubristic Flea is a chapbook taken from a journal I kept, having washed up in Cambodia in 2012. It was written as events happened, or shortly afterwards, on a little notepad I kept in my belt. My friend Chris Kelly lives in Phnom Penh and has been making a documentary there on human rights and land-theft, The Cause of Progress, for the past five years. So I followed him around the country for six months, from Ratanakiri in the remote North-East to the Cardamom Mountains in the South-West. At the time, the idea was to record what happened in the “I am a camera” mode of one of my idols Christopher Isherwood. I wanted to stay as dislocated as possible. A writing version of Vertov’s kino-eye, as absurd as that sounds. On the surface, this was to try to avoid falling into some typical occidental gaze but looking back, I think it was really because I wanted to lose, and possibly destroy, myself as much as humanely possible. Either way, it was impossible. The self seeps in, whether you want it to or not. I’ve put the final book (working title The Torrid Zone) into a time capsule for the foreseeable future, given it deals with real people and real events, life-changing in some cases and perhaps too close to the bone for the time being. The last time I read it, loathe as I am to have a point to the thing, it seems unintentionally to be about how friendship can pull you back from the abyss. A Hubristic Flea is a glimpse of that.

More importantly, it’s about Cambodia and the people there and what happens when you let the tape roll and try to commit everything to memory. At first, I had all these ridiculous psychogeography techniques in mind such as walking across Phnom Penh at night the way Dickens did in Sketches by ‘Boz’ to investigate the place. And it soon became clear I’d be killed doing such a thing. So instead I hung around, drifted, kept my eyes and ears open, tried to let the city dictate what it wanted to. And the stories come to you, in a thousand different ways and directions. Sometimes it’s a case of being careful what you wish for. A city like that has ghosts, living ones and dead ones and it’s hard telling who is who after a while, including yourself.

One interesting aspect from A Hubristic Flea is realising how subjective perception is and how memory is partially fictional. I can talk to people who were there at that time – at crime-scenes and ruins in the rain-forest, in the Sodom and Gomorrah side of the capital, on deserted islands in the gulf – and their recollections are completely different from mine, and both are completely different again to the notes I kept as it unfolded. The past, because it’s located in the mind, seems inherently deceptive. Every account is different, yet no one is lying. That’s a paradox we’ve yet to fully grasp but there’s a world to explore in it.

Thinking back now, even though it was only a couple of years, is like thinking back to a past life and at the same time it exists as an incredibly vivid and tangible film in my head. At the moment, I’m writing a book, inspired by Calvino and Borges, on imaginary cities for publication with Influx Press next year.  I’m staying in the woods in Fife, Scotland, where my fiancée grew up and where her family have lived since before the time of Mary Queen of Scots. The whole area is witch country and it still feels that way. There’s a dark magic to it for even a cynic like myself. During the day, you hear the crows conspiring in the canopy, punctuated every now and then by the thud of a shotgun in the distance, a jet fighter overhead or the old terrifying air raid sirens from the airforce base not far along the coast. Some days you watch the fog roll in from the sea across the fields. Other days, like today, there’s complete silence except for the rain and an ocean of trees rustling in the wind. It’s a long way from the tropics but it’s nothing really in the grand scheme of things and, as with the other cities in the book, it’s just a question of closing your eyes and floating away.