Thursday, 19 February 2009


Slam among other things can be South London and Maudsley NHS trust, an organisation which hosts massive techno club nights around Europe, half a basketball technique or a book slam. The last one is a monthly London event in a club just near the top end of Portobello road, beside a busy flyover and near an equally busy mosque. It was set up by writer Patrick Neate and the guy from Everything But The Girl who has now left it all to Patrick, as an alternative to readings in libraries and bookshops.
The venue is certainly different from a Waterstones or an independent bookshop. It suffers a bit from a lack of vodka or ecstasy googles as it is a night club open very early with not very loud music and not a lot of drunks. Everything was painted black some time ago so it is mostly scrapped, the toilets are, quite frankly, scary and everyone is sober enough to notice. But it does remove reading out loud from the gentility of the bookshop, it does give it more of an edge and does give a literate high brow audience a chance to be gritty and urban without actually getting gravel on their shoes.
The audience seemed to consist of types who work in publishing, types who wished they worked in publishing and types who were looking to be published. I was quite disappointed by the lack of white men with dreadlocks. The best that could be had was Jamie Bing, the head of Canongate Press’ slightly long hair pushed behind his ear.
Maybe white ‘dreads’ like gravel.
On the night I attended there were four young men listed all to stand up and read from their new novels, two of them having just published their first. Patrick was the compere playing it with that self-deprecation and apologetic air so beloved of posh Englishmen. Think Boris on old episodes of Have I Got New for You with less stammering and wearing a hooded top.
The compere repeatedly informed us that the ‘gimic’ of the evening was how the four writers Ross Raisin, Chris Kullen, Joe Dunthorne and Richard Milward had been selected to read because they all were all exceptionally good looking. Personally I thought that they were all chosen because they were exceptionally thin. Apart from the married Ross Raisin they all looked as if you could fold them up concertina like and put them inside a small suitcase as if they were pieces of cardboard.
The now fashionable 80s drainpipe jeans with trainers does nothing for an exceptionally skinny man except make him look like an actual drain pipe or a cardboard cut out of himself. An awkward young writer nervous about reading to an audience of over 300 people ends up looking like a cardboard drainpipe in a Lowry painting. The actual readings were entertaining if somewhat predicable (awkward young men, unfathomable women, self-hatred and doom) and I am sure that all of their books are worth a read. And if enough people buy their books they all will be able to eat some decent food.

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