It's CD Rose Week in outsideleft. We've excerpted his new novel, Who's Who When Everyone is Someone Else, and there's more fun at the end of the week when he talks about the five pieces of music he would go to the Ends of the Earth to avoid. Today. An our interview which sort of turned out Ted Chippington-esque we think - ask a question on any subject and CD finds an aswer. CD Rose is also the author of the satirical book The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure and is an award-wining short story writer. He currently teaches at the University of Birmingham.
Pt1. Who's Who When Everyone is Someone Else: The New Novel
Outsideleft: Let's start with 'Who's Who When Everyone is Someone Else'. Your current novel has just been published by Melville House in the UK (or worldwide?), it's been likened to a Wes Anderson story. Which is unfortunate for people who think that he's not just great, it is off-putting I guess spending half my time wondering who Owen Wilson will be in the movie. Or something. Anyways, you're let's see, a bit of a nomad, you teach and talk about writing, you're for now marooned in a backwater, in the UK, how much of the book is fiction, how much is magiked up and how much, hollowed out personal experience?
CD Rose: The stock answer here, of course, is to tell you to go and look at what’s printed on the back of the book: Fiction it says. Of course, what constitutes ‘fiction’ and what constitutes ‘what really happened’ is a far more complex question. But in this case, yeah, I made it all up. Every word. Honest.
Outsideleft: Where you live in Birmingham, in the UK, is teeming with creativity, and the cliques. I've heard of the New Street Authors, are you involved with those guys at all? Andy Conway is one, he's a great advocate for indie publishing, and is like you is from Northern England I think. How closely knit is Birmingham now for writers? Do you sense something happening, a groundswell of talent. Teachers are after all on the frontline of change? Could it ever gain say the reputation your alma mater city, Norwich, and the UEA writing program? There does seem to be a lot going on, at least
CD Rose: Birmingham is an odd city in many ways, and I’m only just getting to know it, really. There are certainly lots of pockets of frenetic cultural activity, though they seem to have difficulty communicating with each other. I’m convinced it’s one of those places where someone is sitting alone in a room somewhere in Perry Bar or Quinton or Druid’s Heath (places I know only know as destinations on bus stop signs) quietly producing unacknowledged works of genius. There is definitely a fervent poetry scene here, and one which is good at organising. For the rest, there’s no sense of a Birmingham school or anything, but I think that could be one of its strengths. It’s like the music scene: there’s no ‘Birmingham sound’, is there? Despite the valiant attempts of the city’s various writing schools and programmes, it won’t match UEA’s vastly well-oiled and well-funded writing machine. But that is no loss. Birmingham shuts up and gets on with things.
Outsideleft: When you're teaching. Let's see, I was at a meeting of the collected concentrated creative community of my neighborhood and I fell into a conversation which made me feel wholly delegitimised. In minutes. Credentialed, credential but flair? I wonder when you teach, you're at one end of a room, looking around and what do you see? Characteristics of characters for your next book? Talent to be spun into gold. Poor hygiene. Poor mental hygiene? What? Can writing be taught?
CD Rose: Writing can’t be taught, but it can be learned. When I’m in a room with other writers, of whatever level of attainment or experience, I see potential, ideas and energy waiting to take shape. (Poor mental hygiene, I sadly suspect, is one of the various things that makes us tick.)
Outsideleft: How do you feel about that debate, you know old school publishers vs. new school indies... Didn't some super famous writer David Cay Johnston, joined the same publisher as you based partly on their engagement with new technology...
CD Rose: I don’t know if it’s an argument about tech or not, but I do see most of the interesting work in new writing coming from independent presses right now. Fitzcarraldo, Galley Beggar, Dostoevsky Wannabe, And Other Stories, Penned in the Margins, Influx, Unthank, Salt, Myriad, Comma, Melville House – that’s only a few. They’re not hampered by massive corporate structures, and all the gate-keeping palaver of agents and marketeers and such. Sure there’s no money in it, but nobody but a fool ever wrote for money.
Outsideleft: You know, Serieses. Can you imagine another book with your central protagonist from 'Who's Who...?'
CD Rose: Yes - there will be one more, and then we will be done with him.
Outsideleft: If you weren't a writer what would you be?
CD Rose: A stevedore or a steeplejack, one of those jobs whose names sound fantastic even though I have little idea what they actually do. I could, perhaps, be a professional gambler, or a Formula 1 racing driver who spends their spare time solving crimes or indulging in some athletic and highly-risky cat burglary (all ultimately for a good cause, of course.) On the other hand, I occasionally fantasise about a simple, wholesome job: polishing glasses behind a zinc-topped bar somewhere in rural France, running a bike shop in Aviemore, or driving an ice cream van round the parks of a provincial English town. In all honesty, however, I would probably be rubbish at all of these things.
Outsideleft: Other writers you think we should admire?
CD Rose: Machado de Assis, Camilla Grudova, Eley Williams, Ali Smith, Daniil Kharms, Robert Aickman, Lydia Davis, Irenosen Okojie, Isaac Babel, Ann Quin, China Miéville, Petrus Borel…how many do you want? Read the lesser-known works of well-known writers – they’re often the most interesting ones.
Outsideleft: When I ran into you at Hera Lyndsay Bird (a testimony to your good taste!) not only had you heard of 'seminal' indie band Felt, but also knew the original guitarist was Maurice Deebank. Who Knew! Perhaps then, you must have been a fan at some point of the band, I wonder though, coming from Manchester, lets talk about how awful Elbow and in particular that Guy Garvey guy is and truly does that mean at the end of your day, you just get into the armchair and luxuriate in ACR's Do the Du on the home stereo? Is the Graveyard and the Ballroom the best thing to ever come out of Manchester?
CD Rose: The story of Felt is often told as the story of Lawrence, and fascinating character as Lawrence is, Deebank’s work on, say, Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty is amazing. They’d only ever have been half the band without him.
I’m always amazed that Elbow are so popular. It’s music for soft, middle-aged Northern men with an over-fondness for drink and a tendency to the maudlin. As a soft, middle-aged Northern man with an over-fondness for drink and a tendency to the maudlin myself, I love Elbow. Your loss. I have a photo propped on my bookshelves of Guy Garvey with my mother. He’s a very nice man.
Graveyard and the Ballroom is a good call, but ‘Winter Hill’ is actually the best thing to come out of Manchester.
Outsideleft: Have you ever been in a band? Let's hear about it...
CD Rose: Many. I have been in a proto-punk bedroom band with cardboard boxes for drums; a Casio VL Tone synthpop trio; a striped t-shirt indie band, banging out fuzzy VU cover versions while wearing sunglasses indoors; a southern Italian response to the Pogues; a low-fi folk/krautrock outfit who only play songs about trains. Unfortunately, none of these bands have existed much further than pub talk and my imagination.
Outsideleft: Talking of music, help me get to the bottom of trying to figure out why the people who publish Verve Poetry books are called Verve, I mean, that is name of an archive for the the greatest recordings by African American artists of all time, and yet Verve Poetry... It's either a massively ballsy tip of the hat, an ignorance of jazz or just a simple unfortunate mistake. I mean, I wouldn't call something Creation Poetry either, right?
CD Rose: It’s just a word, isn’t it? And quite a good word. Who knows if they weren’t actually named after that godawful ubiquitous Ladrock/Dadrock/Britpop abomination?
I will have no part of this, I’m afraid. Verve Poetry Press are doing some really good work, and they are a credit to Birmingham. (Btw, I think Creation did do some poetry books for a while – weren’t they all pretty awful?)
Outsideleft: What was the last thing you involuntarily spat out of your mouth. Like yeeeuuggghhh!
CD Rose: A few years back, I was in Morocco, and decided to try some of the snail broth being served up from a huge brass cauldron in the souk in Fez. To be honest, I’m not sure it even got as far as my mouth to then be spat out of it.
It's CD Rose Week In Outsideleft
Excerpt From Who's Who When Everyone is Someone Else
It's Over: 5 Songs CD Rose Would Go To The Ends of the Earth to Never Hear Again
Melville House CD Rose Page
Buy from Amazon