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  • CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    CRASH! How I Lost a Hundred Billion and Found True Love (Kindle Single)
    by Julian Gough

    The UK Kindle Single #1 hit.

    Jude lives in a henhouse with no roof, that he bought for ten million euro, at the height of the Irish property bubble. One day, his mortgage is rated the debt in Europe most likely to default... The political and financial elite of Europe arrive, with a plan: help Jude put a roof on his henhouse, stabilize his debt, and reassure the markets. It all goes horribly wrong.

    "This novella is very funny – laugh-out-loud at times…Gough is one of our most talented satirists" — The Irish Independent

  • Jude in London
    Jude in London
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for both the Guardian's Not The Booker Prize, and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, Jude in London is an epic, comic exploration of the bizarre love triangle between language, consciousness, and reality. Which is all very well, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • Jude: Level 1
    Jude: Level 1
    by Julian Gough

    Shortlisted for the 2008 Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.

    The novel's prologue won the biggest prize in the world for a single short story - the BBC National Short Story Prize.

    "Sheer comic brilliance" - The Times

    "The best comic novel I've ever read" - Tommy Tiernan

    "Could be the finest comic novel since Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman" - The Sunday Tribune

  • Juno and Juliet
    Juno and Juliet
    by Julian Gough

    My first novel, of which I am very fond. The adventures of teenage twin sisters Juno & Juliet, in their first year away from home. Life, love and literature, in Galway and Tipperary.

     

    "Like Roddy Doyle in an extremely good mood" - The Washington Post

    "A modern, at times brilliantly ironic reworking of the classical fairytale, with nods to Shakespeare, Austen and Beckett." - Literary Review

    "Hugely entertaining" - Vogue

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Sunday
Feb092014

Extreme Metaphors: Selected Interviews with J.G. Ballard, 1967-2008

To celebrate the paperback release this week of Extreme Metaphors: Selected Interviews with J.G. Ballard, 1967-2008, I've reprinted my Irish Times review of the 2012 hardback, below. (That original review has now vanished into the Irish Times archive, behind the paywall.) For those too busy to read the whole review: basically,Extreme Metaphors was my book of the year. I read it with delight, frequently chortling. An extraordinary alternate history of the 20th century, packed with prescient ideas which help explain the 21st.

- Julian

A photo of my copy of Extreme Metaphors, taken five minutes ago. The image links to more information, from the website of one of the editors, Simon Sellars.

 

Extreme Metaphors: Selected Interviews with J.G. Ballard, 1967-2008

Edited by Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara

Fourth Estate

503pp, price £stg25


J.G. Ballard might be the greatest English writer of the 20th century. He was certainly, for much of the second half of that century, the least understood, and most misread, when he was read at all. In 1970, when Nelson Doubleday Jr, a senior executive at Ballard’s American publishing house, finally got round to reading a finished copy of The Atrocity Exhibition, he was so horrified he ordered all copies pulped. In the UK, the reader’s report for Ballard’s 1972 novel Crash famously said “This writer is beyond psychiatric help. Do not publish.”


But live long enough, and respectability eventually covers you, like jungle vegetation claiming a wartime runway. In 1984, his most nakedly autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Martin Amis says on the back of this handsome hardback collection of interviews, “Ballard will be remembered as the most original English writer of the last century.” Will Self concurs; “Ballard issued a series of bulletins on the modern world of almost unerring prescience. Other writers describe; Ballard anticipated.”


Ballard most certainly did. The chapter of The Atrocity Exhibition which so disgusted Ballard's own publisher was titled “Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan”. In it, Ballard portrayed the former Hollywood actor, who’d co-starred with a chimpanzee in Bedtime for Bonzo, as President of the United States. It would be over a decade before reality caught up with Ballard’s imagination.


Indeed, some of the interviews here are almost comically prescient; Ballard predicted Facebook before the internet even existed. In 1979, dismissing the BBC and ITV news as “that irrelevant mixture of information about a largely fictional external world”, he describes a future in which we video everything, and


“…the real news of course will be a computer-selected and computer-edited version of the day’s rushes. ‘My God, there’s Jenny having her first ice cream!’ or ‘There’s Candy coming home from school with her new friend.’ Now all that may seem madly mundane, but, as I said, it will be the real news of the day, and how it affects every individual.” (And yes, he goes on to predict Youporn…)


He predicts the future; but he also questions the present. And many of the questions he raises here have not yet been answered. The real issue, behind all the fake issues, in this year's American election [2012], was summed up succinctly by Ballard in 1984, talking to Thomas Frick:


“Marxism is a social philosophy for the poor, and what we need badly is a social philosophy for the rich.”


As with a number of the more interesting American SF writers of his era (Philip K. Dick, Thomas M. Disch, John Sladek), Ballard became a science fiction writer by default. The SF market was the only available outlet for fiction this odd. But he is not a science fiction writer. He is not, indeed, a writer, in the normal sense of the term. Ballard is a visual artist. He makes the point again and again here; the greatest influences on his works are not other literary works; they are the paintings of the surrealists. As he said in an interview with James Goddard and David Pringle in 1975,“They’re all paintings, really, my novels and stories.”


And it is true. You read his spare, functional prose, and the most astonishing images erect themselves in your mind. The beauty of the sentence itself didn’t interest him. (This makes him hard to quote: reading Ballard, you drift into a dreamstate which can’t be evoked in a couple of lines.) Certainly he set much of his work in the future. But there isn't a space ship to be found. (Well, OK, one, in an early story.) As mainstream SF explored outer space, J.G. Ballard explored what he came to call inner space. He wasn't similar to SF writers like Heinlein and Asimov and Arthur C. Clark, he was their opposite, a point he makes in an interview from 1975:


“You can’t have a Space Age until you’ve got a lot of people in space. This is where I disagree, and I’ve often argued the point when I’ve met him, with Arthur C. Clarke. He believes that the future of fiction is in space, that this is the only subject. But I’m certain you can’t have a serious fiction based on experience from which the vast body of readers and writers is excluded.”


I get the feeling J.G. Ballard passed Ireland by. He was seldom piled high on the front tables in Easons. Seen, perhaps, as too English for our tastes? But of course, he wasn’t English at all. His sensibility was formed in Shanghai, where he was born to English parents in 1930; and in particular in the vast civilian internment camp of Lunghua, where he was interned by the Japanese (at the age of 11), along with his family. In this book he frequently talks of never getting used to the England he first encountered aged 16, in 1946, as a traumatised child of the tropics.


Exiled from Shanghai, an alien in England, Ballard nonetheless had a spiritual home. No matter where his books were ostensibly set, Ballard always wrote about America; not as a place, but as a state of mind. America as a condition. America as a psychological disorder… He loved America. Though Crash is set in England, on the motorways connecting his quiet home in Shepperton to London, the cars in Crash are American cars. His Shanghai childhood — in an Americanized Asia — was a century ahead of its time. He grew up in the future. As a result, these interviews have aged well. It helps that Simon Sellars and Dan O’Hara have edited this 500 page book with such love, intelligence, and deep knowledge of the material and its context. Extreme Metaphors presents, in chronological order, 44 interviews from the many hundreds he gave. (The editors estimate the total wordage of the novels as 1,100,000; short stories, 500,000 words; non-fiction, 300,000… and interviews, 650,000.) The interviews they’ve chosen have a very low fluff content. Many of the best originally appeared in long-vanished, never-digitised, photocopied fanzines, and are genuine, deeply engaged and engaging conversations about important subjects. Nobody is trying to sell you anything (it’s often impossible to tell what book Ballard is supposed to be promoting).


The wide range of interviewers adds to the pleasure of the book. Ballard attracted intense, usually male, interviewers, who had a deep engagement with his work. There is a pleasantly kaleidoscopic effect, as each sees Ballard through the lens of their obsession. Fellow novelists Toby Litt, Will Self and Hari Kunzru take a literary approach. John Gray is philosophical. The Russian Zinovy Zinik gets Ballard to talk about Soviet utopias and dystopias. With Iain Sinclair, Ballard discusses the design of 1970s multi-story carparks in Watford. (Ballard; “They covered them in strange trellises. It was a bizarre time.”)


And he is very open. When Joan Bakewell says of Crash, “Now, this is a deeply disturbing book. Were you very disturbed when you wrote it?” he replies “I think I was. I think in a way the novel is the record of a sort of mental crash that I had in the mid-sixties after the death of my wife…”


Ah, death. Yes, it’s everywhere in his work. Ballard’s fiction is largely set in the dead spaces of the modern world. Underpasses, flyovers; abandoned and disintegrating runways; nuclear test sites; blockhouses; drained swimmingpools. The tide of humanity has gone out. What is left is returning to the natural world. The atmosphere is that of Max Ernst’s Europe After The Rain. The organic and the inorganic are inextricably linked. Things grow, and things crumble. The work of man is absorbed by the jungle.


It’s hard, reading this book, not to think of contemporary, Americanised Ireland, with its motorways and drive-thru McDonalds. Of Dublin, with its low corporate tax rate, reckless financial zone, and Euro-HQs of American corporations; with its expat communities of British, German and US workers in gated dockside settlements, surrounded by grinding native poverty; an open city, in a state too weak to defend itself. Dublin was, for a decade there, the closest thing Europe had to the booming, buckaneering Shanghai of the 1930s.


Now, in neglected Dublin back gardens, the outdoor hot tubs fill with dead leaves. Beyond the M50, the ghost estates are reclaimed by the whitethorn bushes. Ireland has become a Ballardian landscape. Given the extraordinary relevance of his work to Ireland’s psychological condition, it might be time for more Irish people to start reading J.G. Ballard. And this lovingly curated book of interviews is a fine place to start.


I will be very surprised if any novel this year gives me as much pleasure as this book. And I can guarantee (now that Ballard is dead) that no novel will contain so many provocative, intriguing, and visionary ideas.



Julian Gough is an Irish writer, living in Berlin, whose work was shortlisted this year for both the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and the BBC International Short Story Award. His latest novel, Jude in London, is out now in paperback from Old Street Publishing.


ENDS.


Saturday
Dec142013

Ireland After The Bailout - A Few Thoughts


My mum voting in the recent referenda, in our local national school, in Nenagh, Co.Tipperary

 

Ireland is about to emerge from the bailout process that she was forced to enter when her banking system and economy collapsed in 2008. Will Ireland emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis, or poop from a butt? We shall see...

Anyway, that fine and thoughtful journalist Conor Pope of the Irish Times asked me a few questions last week for a long piece he was writing on the subject.

I haven't read the article yet (I'll link to it here when and if it goes online), but I'm familiar with the way that quotes in an article can become unmoored from what you actually said (no matter how good the journalist, or the paper). That's just the nature of a daily newspaper's high-pressure, high-speed editorial process. Qualifiers get left out; the first half of a balanced argument makes the cut because you said it in a sexy way, the second half doesn't 'cause you didn't; a subeditor in a hurry can accidentally trim the punchline from a joke, or, in tightening up a saggy sentence, accidentally flip its meaning on its head. (Yes, all these things have happened to me. No, I'm not looking at you, New York Times, or Prospect, or Financial Times, or GREY Magazine, or The Times, or The Believer, or any of the little literary magazines. YES, I'M LOOKING AT YOU, GUARDIAN.)

Also, I miss the good old days, pre-Twitter, when I frequently blogged about economics from a novelist's perspective; I thought posting this might jolt me back into that habit. Plus, I gave myself a headache thinking about all this, and I know that, at best, only a couple of lines will make the finished article. (Conor has talked to a lot of people.) So, if anyone is interested, here's what he asked me, and here are my answers in full...

 

How would you explain the madness that gripped Ireland during the boom and why did so few people see the calamity coming down the tracks in 2006? 

I wouldn't give us a hard time over this. We were part of something much bigger than Ireland; the structural problems with the Euro blew up all the peripheral economies. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain; the way the Euro was set up almost forced them into classic, credit-driven bubbles, in their national flavour. The bubble just came down the easiest credit channel. In Greece, it expressed itself through state patronage; in Ireland, it expressed itself through property & mortgages, etc. If the founders of the Euro refused to see the coming problem, even thought they were warned by several grumpy economists at the time, then we can hardly be blamed for not spotting it.

Also, we were drunk at the time. And high. Not all of us, but a startling number. I’m going to guess that our consumption of alcohol, cocaine and credit all mapped onto each other fairly exactly in the bubble years. Again, I don’t blame us. We were coming out of centuries of relentless, grinding national poverty. And when you’re poor, you don't need to cultivate a habit of restraint. You spend till you run out of money; you drink till you run out of drink. Poverty stops you killing yourself drinking, and lack of credit stops you killing yourself with debt. But give a poor society unlimited drink, or unlimited credit, and it's likely to end badly. I stopped going out in those years, because my friends were putting three or four €70 bottles of champagne on their credit cards and saying, sure we’ll split the bill at the end of the night. And I’d be nursing a single glass of fizzy water for five hours. Socialising became impossible; being frugal was seen as being disapproving, or difficult. We were drunk on credit, and everything looked more and more beautiful the drunker we got. Until we ran out of drink, and had to deal with the hangover. Countries that have been wealthy for a long time have to develop internal habits of control. You won't see the Swiss drinking their wages, because that would kill them.

 

What impact did the scale of the banking crisis have on Irish people? 

What about the bailout? What impact did that have? 

 ((Yeah, I'm in Ireland a lot, but I live in Berlin now. I didn't feel qualified to answer these two questions, so I skipped them.))

 

Repeated studies have shown that in spite of the horror show, Irish people have remained happier than in previous recessions - why do you think that is? 

 

The recession removed the unpleasant, highly competitive status anxiety that was the least attractive aspect of the bubble years. We are much more respectful of our friends’ feelings now, of their situation. Much more sensitive to the fact that they might not be able to afford to keep up. I was so pleased when I started to see party invitations that say, no presents. Strip away the material things from a relationship, and, if the relationship survives, it strengthens the relationship, it doesn’t weaken it. We see each other to see each other, now, not to show off. Also, this is a recession, not a famine. It's only a recession relative to the boom. It's a very painful adjustment, but we still have colour TV and the internet. And the suffering has been spread relatively evenly, across the classes, which gives a sense of solidarity. We’re in the shit, but we’re in the shit together.

 

We seem to have accepted all the austerity - imposed first by our own masters and subsequently by the Troika without so much as a murmur. What, do you think, does that say about us as a nation. 

 

I know there’s a lot of bemoaning this, but I think it reflects well on us as a nation. It’s only money; it’s only stuff. Fuckit, we still have each other, and nobody died. That’s a good attitude. If we took to the streets and had a revolution because our investments went badly… No, that’s not us. What’s tragic is that some people have been destroyed psychologically by their losses. But what is marvellous is that most people have not been. Their identity was not tied up with their property, their self esteem did not collapse along with their bank balance.

 

What impact - both psychologically and practically - do you think the bailout exit will have?

 

Not a lot. It’s a shaky exit. The Eurozone still has enormous problems, we haven’t really fixed a lot of what went wrong. The European financial system is still under horrendous strain. I don’t think the story of the Eurozone crisis is over yet, and through no fault of our own we may yet be dragged back into it.

 

And do you think we have learned from our mistakes? Property prices are rising in Dublin - and to a lesser degree in other urban centres - could we possibly allow another bubble to inflate or have we learned our lesson?

 

Well, if you don’t fix the fundamental problems; and the ECB and Germany and France have not fixed those problems, just stuck some enormous band-aids over them; then yes, another bubble could well inflate. But that’s not because WE haven’t learned from our mistakes. That’s because Germany, the country on the other side of all these imbalances, and the cause so much of Europe’s structural internal imbalance, still doesn’t believe it has made any mistakes. We've acknowledged our errors. Germany has not. Let’s not give ourselves such a hard time… I think Ireland's behaved well, and with remarkable restraint, under very difficult circumstances.  We've held together as a nation, unlike Greece say, which has been massively divided and embittered by their crisis; and at an individual level I think we've, by and large, looked after each other.

Friday
Jul052013

50 Free Copies of “CRASH! How I Lost A Hundred Billion And Found True Love”

So, I’ve been laughing and crying, listening to the Anglo Irish Bank tapes for the past fortnight. How can you satirize this? The line about the bailout figure of €7bn —  “I pulled it out of my arse…” — sounds more like one of my lines than most of my actual lines do.

 

First cover designMore specifically, they sound like they come from the comic novella I’m publishing next week. Which, oddly enough, stars a senior Irish banker, naming no names (and a very broke Irish taxpayer… and a woman awfully like Angela Merkel… and a man awfully like the head of the European Central Bank).

 

It’s called “CRASH! How I Lost A Hundred Billion And Found True Love”, and DailyLit are collaborating with Amazon to publish it as a Kindle Single, on July 11th. On the left there you can see all the cover designs we considered. But let's get down to the meat of the matter...

 

FREE COPIES!

 

I’ve talked to DailyLit, and to Amazon (who are publishing this together worldwide), and they’ve given me 50 free copies, to give away to my long-suffering followers, here and on Twitter. (At last, a reward for putting up with my blog posts about German elephants eating Christmas trees, and my 3am Twitter rants about African toilet design improvements.)

 

Second cover ideaGive me your email address, and whether you use the UK Amazon store or the US store, and I’ll paste the info into our elegantly named DailyLit Amazon Kindle Gifting Spreadsheet, and, on the day of release (July 11th), you will be sent a free code so you can download a copy.

 

Your emails will just be used for this, they won’t be shared in any way. You can mail me personally —  I’m juliangough (easy enough to remember) at gmail dot com — or mail me through the website; or leave it in a comment down below; or tell me by tweet (or DM, if our relationship is already intimate) on Twitter. Disguise it (yourname at something dot com) if you fear spambots, or give it to me straight. Whatever works for you.

 

First 50 I see will get a copy. (I may even be able to give away more copies than that, but I don’t want to over-promise.) 

 

Third cover idea. Funky angle! Funky chicken!Oh, and tell me which cover design you like best, while you’re at it, in the comments below, or on Twitter. We’ll see if our tastes align…

 

OK! I will blog more about this in a few days. And maybe put up an extract. Hey, it’s practically a media strategy!

 

Talk soon,

 

 

-Julian

Fourth cover design. Magnificent chicken, but you can't read CRASH! Take more drugs, drink more coffee, off we go...

 

 

 

 

 

 


Fifth cover design. The winner! Perfectly balanced. Hurray for Michele de la Menardiere and Tiya Tiyasirichokchai!

Friday
Jun072013

The Anorexic Bodybuilder (a poem from a long time ago)

The ebook version of my collected poetryI got a fan email last month, from Japan, about a poem I once wrote. This — trust me —  doesn’t happen very often.

I wrote the poem for a nightclub flyer in Galway almost 20 years ago. I found a copy of the flyer in my parents’ attic, while I was assembling my collected poems in 2010, and included it in the book.

She came across probably the only copy in Japan, brought there by Robert, a friend of mine. I would guess that a few hundred people have read it, certainly less than a thousand. It occurred to me that if it meant so much to her, maybe it would mean something to some other strangers too. So I’ve decided to put it on my blog, below. (Poems are just birds that fly in your window; the writer doesn’t own them.)

If it means something to you, no problem; copy it, print it out, put it on a T-shirt, whatever.

For those who like to know the story behind any piece of writing; no, I won’t tell you the details. But yes, it turned out OK for some of the women I knew back then. Not so well for others.

 

-Julian, Berlin, June 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ANOREXIC BODY-BUILDER

 

If I'm very lucky, once a year

(Maybe twice, if I've been eating fish)

I am dazzled by a bright idea

And here's the one I got this year (I wish

It was a bit more bright, but it's bright-ish)

Anyway, yes, body-building, then.

It's an anorexia for men.

 

All the girls I know hate body-builders,

Find the mass of rippling flesh disgusting

Certainly not sexy. It bewilders

Boys to think their sister could be thrusting

Fingers down her throat like that... No lusting

After bulk for women then. And mannish

Boys have no desire at all to vanish.

 

To blow the self up, and to disappear:

Two expressions of a single urge

To shout the Will and make the body hear

The body-builder wills the flesh to surge

The anorexic wills an ebb, a purge

The Stalin of the mind lets the tanks roll:

The body is a place they can control

 

Each pursues a lunatic ideal

Each is lonely in the mad pursuit

When the vision of oneself's unreal

The vision of all others lacks a root

The muscle-man exploding through his suit

The wisp of girl who frowns at her reflection

They both recede from us toward Perfection.

 

This should end with some kind of conclusion.

Final statement. Answer to the riddle.

If I could, I'd give you the solution

Or at least some figures you could fiddle

But I can't, I'm stuck here in the middle

Seeing men expand and women shrink

I watch them go, and don't know what to think.

 

 

(From The Psychedelian, Issue 3 Volume 1, Thursday Oct. 21st, 1994. Collected in Free Sex Chocolate, Salmon Poetry, 2010.)

Thursday
Feb282013

Town & Country, edited by Kevin Barry. A mysterious new book of mysterious new stories by mysterious new writers. And some old writers.

I can't say much about this yet, or they will KILL ME AND FEED ME TO THE RATS, in the dungeon beneath the Faber & Faber HQ. (OK, OK, I am exaggerating. The dungeon beneath the Faber & Faber HQ is only used for consensual BDSM sex.)

Town. Not to mention Country. On Amazon. Or in your local bookshop. Wait, no that's a boutique now. Hang on, didn't they go bust? It's an artisan bakery. Feck it, there's always the library... Hey, where's the library?

But I can say, it's the cover of a book that may or may not contain stories by **k* ********k, and *e**** *e***, and good lord, *****n* ****n.

And, wow, *i*í* *í ***i****, and the excellent **i** *i*****, and **ll* ***l*****!

And *a* ***a**, not to be confused with *a** ****a*, who ALSO has a story in it... What's that noise? That squeaking noise, from behind the door? Two kinds of similar, yet distinct, squeaking? Getting louder... The door! It's swinging open... Rats! Rats in bondage gear! Their tiny, rubber-clad thighs rubbing together as they cautiously approach... break suddenly into a run... leap for my throat!

AAaaaaAAAAaaaaaAAaaaaaaaaaAAAääaäàááaAAAaááaááæaaãããæAAAæææååååāaāaāäaääààaa.....