Thursday, 2 July 2009


LOOPS is out now. it contains a mildly edited version of the Paul Simon chapbook i made last year. the website now features extracts from things and lists of stockists, etc.

i am teaching creative writing at a summer school at the moment. i've been reading books like The Art of Fiction, talking about conflict and plotting and style.

i feel scared of fiction at the moment.

i don't know.

that isn't true.

i feel sort of excited about fiction but like it has turned into something else.

i feel like i have lost about three years of confidence, like they went somewhere accidentally.

i made a stack of books on my coffee table the other day: Victoria, Adventures in the Skin Trade, The Catcher in the Rye, No One Belongs Here More Than You, Like Life.

i looked at them and wondered what it was i liked so much about them, if there was a connecting thing, how and if i could apply that to my own writing.

i thought something like, 'novels and short stories about young people / no real problems / existential crises / relationship problems / small things / banality / etc.'

The Bird Room was recently reviewed here -- it got 3 out of 10. the reviewer didn't like the fact that it was "a dark work of run-down-to-earth twenty-something existence, populated with uninteresting characters who spend their days blandly surfing the internet for porn, dragging themselves to the bar to socialise with other monosyllabic individuals, and working in dead-end jobs which they don't even aspire to build upon."

i read that part and thought, 'that sounds good. that sounds like something i would want to read.'

i don't know.


Molly Gaudry said...

I've got some major non-writing going on lately, and I think I'll do what you did: make a stack of books I like(d) and figure out some sort of connection between them. I like that. That seems really useful.

chris killen said...

hi Molly. thank you for commenting. do you think you could post your stack of books or put them in a comment here?

Anonymous said...

hi chris

used to think the same and wrote the same way before realizing that i was creatively profiting off misery - my own and others - and repeating the same emotion, felt under the same worldview. the work was "good" and got published, but what good did it do but make the sadness of someone reading it more tangible and believable?

i thought:

america is not the only place in the world. 20 something is not the only age in a human life. lethargic alienation is not the only way to address the importance of agency.

the young writer - i now believe - must be able to look beyond themselves. they must chart as much human territory as possible and not be ashamed to project their idea of a "better" world.

otherwise, isn't it just a case of sadly living in a world that has been made for you, with no desire to change it where you can?

a kind of sulking?

the reviewer raises as few points and the more i approach full-blown adulthood (i am now 22) the more i realize i do not want genuine sadness nor its acceptable and cool second cousin. neither do i want to be ironic and indifferent to spite a life of privilege i carry on living.

i want to be active and not reactive.

don't you guys?

Rebecca Perry said...

chris! i enjoyed all of the words coming out of your mouth (on and off stage) for the duration of the reading the other week. well done! you super-top-trumped simon armitage for me and THAT'S SAYING SOMETHING.

Sarah Hymas said...

Confidence is a funny old thing, isn't it?

I was hugely confident in my twenties and then it vanished. Poof!

A decade later it's ringing me up every so often, generally late at night, to tell me it hasn't forgotten about me and stays on the line for a while. It sends the odd postcard too and promises to visit.

I appreciate it immensely now. I'm working for it. I understand its fragility.

I also think the depths to which I sank not having it are now available storage spaces for when I regain it.

Life changes. Constantly. It's our one saving grace

Anonymous said...

hi Sarah

do you also write? i would like to read your work.


i hope you do not think i am attacking you. why would i? you are one of my own! i only wish to engage you in conversation.

i happened upon your blog via muumuu house and its various affiliates, all of whom - i must admit - i have only been following for a week or so.

i have so many questions. is it a parody of literature? is it a parody of celebrity? what do its writers desire? i know, formally, the cause is to dispose of cliche, but i am not sure yet what 'concrete reality' is and to whom it belongs. the writing affirms a sense of social alienation but what does it say of society - American, English etc. does it have a tongue outside of the First World? can someone like me - from the Third World and a class apart- find a sense of relation in the works? what is the impetus?

Anonymous said...

free people do not know the value of freedom, that's the problem.

Brian Centrone said...

Hi Chris,

It's your good friend Brian. I was looking at a book on writing the other day the Cha Cha told me about. I didn't buy it as I thought I didn't need to be told what the agent was trying to tell me. Though there were some interesting bits that were usefull to store in ones mind. I'm not sure as writers, (you and me) can really understand anything about our writing process from a book on writing. I think things would just become a matter of form then.

I also think I will make a list of a stack of books I like(d) and post them here for you to see. Maybe we will both learn something from this.

Don't let yourself get all bent out of shape - we all fear at one point our own writing and our ability to write. You can do it, we all know you can. You have to change the conversation in your head...

What people might not "get" from your book is that you are writing about a generation that people don't really understand. What the characters in your you book do, is what our generation does. Everything that review said was off about your book is what life is really like for "us," so maybe they need to understand the 20somethings before they can understand your brilliant novel.

Anonymous said...

hi Brian

your "us"/"generation" knows nothing outside of cowardice and neuroticism? where does it begin and where does it tail off? i hope, in all honesty, that i am stood outside of its margins.

you get the sense that what you are doing is important. and will be written about like other great things have been written about.

and yet Coupland and Palahniuk - whom this writing parrots - are 48 and 47 respectively.

it's worrying, actually, the way you identify with yourself.

Brian Centrone said...

You shouldn't assume to know how I identify with myself based off of a blog comment, nor should you be worried about it or me.

I know Chirs and I know his work and he knows me and he knows my work. What we say to each other in comments is better understood between us. But that is the way it is between friends.

I'm not saying that I or all 20somethings are exactly like the characters in Chris' book. You can't say that about any characters. What novels do are to collect a reflection of a generation and show them off for a large majorty of people to reconize. The generation Chris writes uabout is the "It's not our fault" generation. We are into ourselves and we are afriad at the same time. We grew up in a time of excess and are now facing a time of loss. But people function on these themes to various degrees.

Still, there is something in Chris's work the generation can all identify with. That is the point. I never said I think what the generation is doing is important or that it is on par with other great things. That is not for me to decide. We write what we want to write about and that's all. What becomes of it is what becomes of it.

I understand you feel one should be writing about a better way of living, but sometimes one just has to write about the way one is living. Everyone has to feel their way through the dark before they can find the light.

Not all literature has to improve life. Why can't some of it be just a damn good read??

ryan manning said...

A loop is generally something that closes back on itself such as a circle.

Giles Ruffer said...

Dear Anon.

"your "us"/"generation" knows nothing outside of cowardice and neuroticism?"

Perhaps this has links to us growing up with the internet and being able to talk shit to other people and criticise them anonymously (not that you'd know anything about that, right?).

I'm not really sure what your manifesto is. You want all books to be positive, inspiring and full of joie de vivre?
I think there's an honesty in Chris' work, from what I've read. Surely it's the honesty that's important.

ryan manning - best comment.

ryan manning said...

cowardice and eroticism

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u.v.ray said...

Well, some of those reviews are funny. I don't know about you, but when I read bad reviews about my own work it is with an immense degree of pleasure! Anyway, here is my little stack of coffee-table books:

Joe Gould's Secret by Joseph Mitchell.

Burning In Water, Drowning In Flame by Charles Bukowski.

Junky by William Burroughs.

The Outsider by Albert Camus.

Road Movies by Lee Ranaldo.

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