Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Seaton Point

Robert Dellar, Ted Curtis, Rob Colson etc.
Seaton Point (1998)

This is a collaborative novel cooked up between seven different authors, each presumably contributing a passage here, a passage there, editing each other's work and so on. The process of its creation hasn't exactly made for a smooth narrative, but then that's the whole point, relating more to oral traditions of storytelling because it is forgotten that the modern novel of single authorship came into being only in the modern era, as we are told in the introduction.

I thought it might be stranger than it was to read this now. Robert Dellar, who instigated this enterprise, was a good friend who recently passed on at the age of fifty-two, someone I've known for decades. It was odd to realise that I'd never read this book while he was alive, and when we last spoke and the subject came up he was surprised that he'd never got around to slipping me a copy. I think it was simply that my attention had been elsewhere when the thing saw print. I knew of it mainly through the involvement of Rob Colson, with whom I travelled to Mexico in 2005, and I've known all but two of the other writers in a social context at various points of our respective lives. So I suppose there has always been the worry that I might hate the thing for whatever reason.

Roughly speaking, Seaton Point captures the psychological landscape in which a few of us were living for much of the eighties, nineties, and beyond. I was never quite part of a gang, but a lot of my friends seemed to be people who had fallen into the orbit of the Brougham Road squatting community in Hackney, London - loosely coalesced around bands such as the Apostles and the Assassins of Hope and numerous fanzines. They were, I suppose, my Andy Warhol's Factory crowd, my beat poets, my Bromley contingent - but hopefully without too many of the wankier associations summoned by any of those references - so, even in 2017 with me living on a different side of the planet, these are probably my people in so much as I ever had people. Andy of the Apostles would have called us the dispossessed, which seems as good a term as any; and so Seaton Point is inhabited by those left behind, the horrible fuckers who couldn't fit in if they tried, those rejected as lacking redeeming or interesting artistic qualities even by those making arts council funded punk documentaries, the working class as we were known in less aspirational times, the nutters, the weirdos, the alkies, the transexual vampires...

The narrative lurches in and out of reality, much in the same way as reality itself tends to do if you're paying attention, and so we have drugs, sex, violence, toilet humour, and psychogeography drafted in to tell of an ancient demon imprisoned in the basement of a tower block, a man trapped in an elevator in the same surviving on mystic yoghurt dispensed from a spigot, and their bid for freedom. With seven authors at the wheel, there are a lot of characters flying around, not all of them entirely likeable and it's easy to get lost, but I'm not sure it matters whether or not one is able to keep track of every last name, because the point still works despite the confusion.

Blokey sat in flat 67, his earplugs partly protecting him from the onslaught of industrial electronic bollocks about fascist barbarian armies rolling across the icy wastes of Northern Europe. As one million decibels of tripe by Coil vomited mercilessly from the speakers, the dice man stroked the sawn-off shotgun lying across his lap as if it were a furry animal.

That's my favourite paragraph, and I suspect it came from Dellar given his generally poor regard of industrial electronic bollocks. I've  read a few things by Ted Curtis, notably the exceptional Darkening Light, as well as Rob Colson's brilliant - at least from what I can remember - Descent of a Man, which he really needs to get into print one of these days; so I recognise occasional elements which remind me of specific contributors, but the focus remains, as ever, on the story which may be taken as an explanation as to why everything is shit, if you like, or if you don't like, then there are plenty of chuckles, albeit often unusually dark chuckles. My first thought was that this is Rachel Redhead rewriting Lawrence Miles' This Town Will Never Let Us Go as a sequel to Trainspotting, which as a recommendation should probably be taken all three ways, assuming you can appreciate that as a recommendation. Martin Amis is invoked in the introduction, although not in particularly glowing terms. I haven't actually read any Martin Amis, but I've read plenty of Will Self and I'm told it's the same thing; so if you like, this is Will Self with less public school and more diarrhoea blah blah Rabelais blah blah Hogarth blah blah Reader's Wives - I'm sure it can't be too hard to work out what I'm saying here; and it has the greatest closing sentence of any novel I've ever read, which I won't give away for obvious reasons.

Seaton Point is both horrible and brilliant, and arguably a record of an era of human experience presently getting airbrushed from history as the nostalgia industry grows and grows, replacing more and more of what actually happened with Stewart Maconie chortling away over how they changed the name of Opal Fruits to Starburst. In this sense it's probably also an important book, but you wouldn't want to say it to its face.

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