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Feature: Steve Finbow - Unrealized Projects – Abandoned Works

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

By Steve Finbow

Itineraries Tokyo – a history of Tokyo for a well-known publishing company. Extract: The historical map of Tokyo is a neural one, one of memory. The city’s image – captured in haiku and cell-phone novels, in woodblock and print through to digital and future art – is one of continual transformation. Tokyo, both reflective and provocative, opens itself to visitors yet contains dark subterranean secrets hidden from the rest of the world. There are buildings to ascend and abysses to delve into, bright open spaces to stroll in and eerie cemeteries to explore. Like Heraclitus’ river, when you step out into the streets of Tokyo it is never the same city and one returns home never quite the same person.

Jukebox Beat: Beat Generation and the Music World. Proposal: An analysis and history of the Beat Generation’s relationship with music, from the classics to jazz, rock and roll, punk, and hip-hop, the book will explore how the Beats have influenced and been influenced by songwriters, bands, and producers. The chapter-to-chapter approach, assigning a decade to each of the main Beat writers, provides a historical overview of both literature and modern music.

Reading Loci – Introduction: Haven’t you got any friends? The ethics of reading – where and when. Auster and Artaud in an automobile. Barthes and Beckett in the bath. Breton and Ballard on the beach. Bukowski and Brautigan in a bar. Bacon and Bataille in bed. Borges and Benjamin on a boat. Baudrillard and Bolano in a bower. Bachelard and Barthelme in a bookshop. Blanchot and Burroughs on the bus. Camus and Carroll in a cafe. Critchley and Calvino in a caravan. Derrida and DeLillo on a deckchair. Foucault and Fowles on the floor. Guyotat and Gibson in the garden. Handke and Highsmith in a hotel room. Heidegger and Houellebecq on holiday. Habermas and Hawkes in hospital. Kundera and Kafka in the kitchen. Lispector and Levy in a lobby. Lautreamont and Levinas in the library. McCarthy and Marx in McDonalds (Burgess and Bernhard in Burger King, Kerouac and Kierkegaard in KFC). Nabokov and Nietzsche in a nursery. Proust and Pynchon on a plane. Ponge and Perec by the pool. Robbe-Grillet and Raymond in a restaurant. Strugatsky and Sebald in the shed. Sartre and Sinclair on the sofa. Trocchi and Trotsky at the table. Toussaint and Tanabe on the train. Wittgenstein and Walser on a walk.

Beat World – A Rough Guide to the Beats. Sample: United Kingdom, London, Earl’s Court. Befitting William S. Burroughs’ el hombre invisible persona, Earl’s Court, on the outskirts of once-Bohemian Chelsea, is a rather nondescript part of southwest London. Following his Paris arrest for drug possession in April 1960, Burroughs moved to The Empress Hotel, 25 Lillie Road, London SW5. There is nothing left of the original hotel. The two-star redbrick Lily Hotel claims the site, which now faces a Metropolitan Police recruitment office in the Empress State Piazza. Burroughs would have witnessed the completion of the Empress State Building in 1961, and may have known it housed the headquarters of MI6. John Snow, the famous epidemiologist, buried in nearby Brompton Cemetery – a place where Burroughs spent quiet afternoons relaxing – connects Burroughs with one of his main themes – virology. Although Burroughs had escaped to London, the agents of control, the government, and the virus seem to have followed him. Burroughs rose at 9am every morning in order to enjoy the English breakfast included in the price of his room. He would then spend most of his day working on the manuscript of The Soft Machine, published in October 1961 by Maurice Girodias’s Olympia Press Travellers Companion Series; this was the first book in his “mythology for the space age” trilogy. In his rooms at the Empress Hotel, Burroughs expanded his experiments with sound cut-ups using a tape-recorder Ian Somerville had bought him.

Flies in Milk – a crime novel set in Strasbourg where I lived from 2016-2018. Extract: I stared at my image until it dissolved into a black bubbling mass and then I was startled from my gaze by my iPhone playing Micropoint’s “Kiss, Kiss, Kill.” Where the fucking hell is the thing? The living room was in a state of disarray, my clothes hanging on chairs, there were empty beer cans and bottles of that tequila-beer mix the girl drank. The industrial techno directed me to the small Japanese garden I had cultivated in a stone and wood stand and my phone was in its centre like some new Zen god lighting up the rocks and plants. The small wooden houses on top of Jean-Michel Oltz’s slab of basalt had toppled into the mulch as if there had been a mini earthquake. I picked up the phone, “Damn,” I said. It was Villon. I touched the green circle, “Gutenberg,” I said. “Put it away and get to the cathedral,” he said without any preliminaries, “Looks like the Mason has sharpened a new set of tools.” “I’m there,” I said and pushed the red circle. I stepped back into the bedroom, pulled on some socks, a pair of selvedge jeans, my trusty Red Wing boots, a black hoodie and tucked my Propriete de L’etat SP 2022 into my belt at the base of my spine.

New York – part of an autobiography. Extract: On East Twelfth Street, I opened the front door and climbed the stairs to the fourth-floor apartment, opened the door and stepped in. The space smelled of vegetables and incense. I placed the journals on the large kitchen table and then stepped into the living room where the sliding bookshelves were located. Out of the large window, I could see the façade of the Mary Help of Christians Roman Catholic Church adorned, as it always seemed to be with huddling pigeons. I plugged in the record player and took the Clash’s first album from the record collection and put it on the turntable and pulled open the first of the shelves as ‘He’s in love with the rock ‘n’ roll world / He’s in love with getting stoned world’ blasted out of the speakers. I wasn’t too worried about the neighbours complaining, after all, Richard Hell lived upstairs and Luc Sante – author of Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York – lived in the apartment below.

Autobiography– The air is crisp and redolent of pine and mulch. The nights are mild enough to sit out on the porch wrapped around the cabin, and we spend our evening reading, drinking, looking at the stars invisible from the city, guessing what they are, devising new constellations—D’s finger, E’s ear, and—when I’m alone, a single drop of bourbon clinging to the glass—K’s increasingly inscrutable vagina. I was down there among the hair and the fluids and the smells and she said, “I love you” and I said, “I love you, too,” except it came out something like “A muvv yah, do” and I laughed and she pulled my hair and told me to fuck off out of it. Another time, I woke and the stink was unbearable, I pulled back the covers and it was like the horse-head scene fromThe Godfatherexcept the blood had been replaced by shit and I felt around and the shit wasn’t mine. Tonight, there is a scattering of thin cloud, cobwebby, catching and pinging back the nightjar’s manic typewriter, the tawny owl’s paranoid interrogative. I run my tongue around the inside of the glass, peat and amber, liquorice and flaming tarmac. Some nights, in the downstairs communal hallway, dick in hand, phone wedged between chin and shoulder, I had phone sex with my disabled girlfriend back in London. I would fall asleep and my flatmates would find me there in the morning sticky-hands, dehydrated. The sky was the colour of old computers. I first had sexual intercourse when I was thirteen, with a girl a year younger. That’s where it all started. Actually, that’s a lie. It started long before that. Way back. It had something to do with paddling pools—paddling pools and girls’ vaginas.


Steve Finbow’s most recent book is Death Mort Tod: A European Book of the Dead (Infinity Land Press, 2018). The Mindshaft will be published by Amphetamine Sulphate in 2020.

Image for bio by Kenji Siratori

In Our Own Words is an ongoing feature where artists and writers are asked to speak about their new work, ideas or projects in their own words. It is also part of invert/extant Transmissions for the Artist Writings series. If you would like to be kept up to date on this or other projects, please sign up for our newsletter.

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