Illusory Flowers in an Empty Sky

Barry Graham, Scottish Author

by Barry Graham

A few years ago I read a personal essay by the author of a popular book in the “misery memoir” genre. In the essay, the author described their lowest moment as being when they were jogging past a McDonald's and saw the employees watching and laughing. The author was horrified that “even” people working at McDonald's felt able to mock them. If only those proles knew who they were laughing at!

This kind of grandiosity is, in my experience, more common among authors than not. I've long suspected that the reason authors are so self-important is that we know how unimportant our work really is.

If there's anything positive about the pandemic, it's that it brings home whose work really matters. You can't eat books.

#classism #elitism #narcissism #personalessays #miserymemoirs #covid19 #pandemic #authors #writers

RSS

by Barry Graham

It's a mystery to me that there's so little discussion of Banshee. It might be the greatest TV show nobody knows about.

I heard about it a few years ago when I lived in Portland, Oregon. My friends Bart Lessard and Johnny Shaw lived there too (we've all fled America since then because Trump). The three of us would have breakfast every Sunday morning. The venues varied, but what they all had in common was that they served stout.

Johnny Shaw has an uncanny ability to recommend films, TV shows or books his friends will like. This is partly because, unlike most people, he bases his recommendations on his understanding of the person he's talking to rather than on his own tastes, and partly because he's... Johnny Shaw, John Andrew Fucking Shaw to his friends.

He's never once been wrong in recommending something to me. Our tastes are very different, but there's some overlap, the best example of which is Banshee.

“Imagine if Witness had been written by an insane person,” he said. He then gave an epic description of it, finishing with: “That's just the first episode.”

I won't give any plot details here, because I think the best way to watch it is to go into it cold, but I will say if you're at all squeamish or prudish, it won't be your thing. In Banshee, no one gets a tooth knocked out when they can have each of their teeth removed one by one, shown in baroque detail. No one has a tastefully-shown makeout when they can get completely naked and have sex that's shown in detail more explicit than what used to be found in “soft porn.” It's funny, dark, and strangely moving. At one point, I laughed out loud, even though the scene I was watching wasn't funny; I was laughing not in amusement, but in sheer delight that something so brilliant, and so original, got made.

#banshee #quarantinetvviewing #johnnyshawauthor #bartlessardauthor #barrygrahamauthor #crimefiction #neonoir #sexandviolence #crimedrama

RSS

by Barry Graham

Holding Back the Dawn is a short film from 2001, from a script by me based on a short story in my 1992 collection Get Out As Early As You Can. Shot in Phoenix, Arizona, it was directed by MV Moorhead, who also plays Tom. It depicts the last night of a relationship, and the game of psychological cat-and-mouse between Tom and Kate, who plans to leave him in the morning.

#shortfilm #indiefilm #fiction #barrygrahamauthor #mvmoorhead #heartbreak #relationships #emotionalabuse

RSS

by Barry Graham

I lived in Portland, Oregon, for my last five years in America. One of the most venerated icons there is Powell's City of Books, a new and used bookshop whose main branch occupies an entire city block.

I never understood why it was so beloved as an “independent bookstore.” For years, it fought against its staff attempts to unionise, and it sells used books at rip-off prices. (Disclosure: before I learned about the reality behind the image, I spoke at an event there, and did a book-signing.)

Now it has closed indefinitely because of coronavirus, and its staff have received no severance payment and no continued health insurance.

They're still selling books online. Please boycott them as you would Amazon.

#powellscityofbooks #portlandoregon #coronavirus #covid19 #workersrights

RSS

by Barry Graham

The Guardian asks: “Are novelists obliged to tell the story of their private life?”

​“Write what you know” is a maxim preached to aspiring writers.

I get emails from single fathers who tell me The Book of Man captured their experience. I have no children. I get emails from people who’ve been hospitalised for depression saying the same thing about the same book. I have never been depressed, and when I wrote that book I had never been hospitalised.

I have also never been a young Dutch woman, nor a Mexican-American drug-dealer and murderer, nor a murderous paedophile, nor a female ex-cop from an upper-class background, nor a former U.S. soldier turned handyman, nor a lounge musician who commits armed robberies.

War veterans have said that the book that best represented their experience was The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, who never saw combat.

Bram Stoker wasn’t a vampire. Stephen King doesn’t hang out in drains, wearing a clown suit and luring children to their doom. ​ Experience is a poor substitute for imagination and empathy.

#writing #books #fiction #ownvoices #dogobarrygraham

RSS

by Barry Graham

My short story The Temp Typist's Tale is published on Dockyard Press's Harbourmaster's Loug. It's a story of sexism, class struggle and different realms of power.

#fiction #noir #crimefiction #sexism #sexualharassment #murder

RSS

by Barry Graham

My publisher, Dockyard Press, has a blog called The Harbourmaster's Loug, which, since starting in November, has published work by an impressive variety of writers. From me there's an essay about why I left America and returned to Glasgow after 22 years, a short story updating William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost-Finder to contemporary Scotland, and a poem.

There's fiction and poetry by Bart Lessard, Tony Black, daishin stephenson, Lisa Mooncat Stormler, Babs Nicgriogair and Tracy Taggart. There's Scottish political commentary by Xeno Albannach... and something that defies category by Johnny Shaw.

The Harbourmaster's Loug usually publishes twice a week, so I recommend subscribing to its RSS feed.

#crimefiction #horrorfiction #poetry #glasgow #scotland #scottishbooks #scottishwriting #tartannoir #gothic #gaelicpoetry #dogobarrygraham

RSS

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.