Julian Loose

Julian Loose is an editor at Faber.

Satisfaction

Julian Loose, 11 May 1995

Clearly, for Martin Amis, enough is nothing like enough. To read him is to discover an author as voracious as his characters: like Terry in Success, who specifies that ‘I want all that and I want all that. And I want all that and I want all that. And I want all that and I want all that.’ Or like the fast-food, fast-sex junkie John Self of Money, who always gets less than he bargains for, yet keeps going back for more: ‘I would cheerfully go into the alchemy business, if it existed and made lots of money.’ Amis goes to any length to remind us of our whole-hearted addiction to the unwholesome – to alcohol, say, or nuclear weapons. The central character in his new novel, The Information, is so committed to smoking that he wants to start again before he’s even given up: ‘Not so much to fill the little gaps between cigarettes with cigarettes (there wouldn’t be time, anyway) or to smoke two cigarettes at once. It was more that he felt the desire to smoke a cigarette even when he was smoking a cigarette.’ Keith Talent in London Fields feels much the same way about pornography: ‘He had it on all the time, and even that wasn’t enough for him. He wanted it on when he was asleep. He wanted it on when he wasn’t there.’’

Cool

Julian Loose, 12 May 1994

Thrillers are routinely deemed ‘chilling’, as though our feelings of fear and cold are in some way interchangeable. Yet outlandishly low temperatures alone cannot account for the tremendous success of Peter Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, even if it does open with a bleak Copenhagen December, and go on to describe a still colder place – Greenland, covered by an icecap up to a mile thick, with a climate so severe that if you need to drop your trousers to relieve yourself, you must first light a Primus stove under a blanket to prevent instant frost-bite. Miss Smilla differs from other chilly bestsellers like Ice Station Zebra not least in its celebration of this apparently cruel setting, its infectious sense of ‘snow’s mysterious warmth’.’

Grunge Futurism

Julian Loose, 4 November 1993

The future isn’t what it used to be. In one of William Gibson’s first published stories, ‘The Gernsback Continuum’, a photographer is assigned to capture examples of ‘futuristic’ American design from the Thirties, the kind of dream architecture that graced the covers of pulp science fiction magazines like Amazing Stories. Familiarising himself with streamlined dime stores and Coca-Cola plants built like submarines, the photographer starts to glimpse an alternative world born of the aerodynamic optimism of that earlier age, sees blond-haired people driving shark-fin roadsters down 80-lane freeways towards a towering metropolis. But these are ‘semiotic ghosts’ from a heroic, expansionist future that has passed America by: a gee-whiz, fascist-tinged fantasy that ‘knew nothing of pollution, the finite bounds of fossil fuel, or foreign wars it was possible to lose’.

Glasgow über Alles

Julian Loose, 8 July 1993

‘Something really weird was happening in the Gorbals.’ The opening sentence of Swing Hammer Swing!, Jeff Torrington’s great, boisterous first novel, might serve as a headline announcing his Whitbread Book of the Year Award (‘Literary Outsider wins Whitbread’, ‘Triumph of Thirty-Year Novel’, ‘Jeff’s in the Swing’), or herald more widely Glasgow’s extraordinary swell of literary talent. It seems that in the West of Scotland the sounds of heavy industry have given way to a quite different rhythm, one hammered out on word-processors and tested in literary workshops. With the initial support of small publishers such as Polygon and Canongate, writers like Alasdair Gray, Agnes Owens, Thomas Healy, Tom Leonard, James Kelman and Janice Galloway have found the city a congenial location for their life and work, and their success is encouraging others.

Number One Passport

Julian Loose, 22 October 1992

The Japanese language seems designed for the speaker who wants to deceive. In Japanese, the verb is always placed at the end of a sentence, a syntax that can be artfully manipulated. It permits the speaker to monitor the reactions of others present and, at the very last moment, insert the verb … The Japanese language, in effect, allows him to speak from both sides of ‘his mouth at the same time. On learning Japanese, St Francis Xavier, the 16th-century Jesuit, called it “The devil’s tongue”.’

Bragga

Julian Loose, 25 June 1992

Years ago I was walking down a street in a suburban town in the evening. The streets were empty, there was a feeling of dereliction. I passed this shop full of television sets, and I was on all of them. I thought ‘Christ, that’s awful.’ I found it quite disturbing.

Keep talking

Julian Loose, 26 March 1992

Howard Rheingold, in his recent Virtual Reality, explained the idea of ‘cybersex’: how someday we will be able to don sensor suits, plug into the telecommunications network and ‘reach out and touch someone’ in ways entirely unforeseen by Alexander Graham Bell. Speculating about the impact of such artificial erotic experience, Rheingold turned to an already up and-running technology – to ‘telephone sex’, the adult party lines where you pay to make conversation with a member of the preferred gender. While the UK attempts to shut down such hi-tech services, in America they are already writing academic papers on ‘Sex and Death among the Disembodied’.’

Sheeped

Julian Loose, 30 January 1992

Entering a Japanese department store one December, an American was startled to see, among the festive tinsel and fairy lights, an unusual seasonal decoration – a row of Father Christmases, crucified. Apocryphal, perhaps, but the endless production of blithe parodies of Western icons has surely struck more than one visiting gaijin. Japan is both closer and further than we think: it returns our language and traditions oddly transformed, yet to us many of its own categories are mysterious, if not invisible. This blend of the familiar and strange may explain our tendency to seize upon Japan as the very image of the contemporary. Having apparently jumped straight from pre-modernism to postomodanizumu, its culture seems both bewilderingly fluid and monumentally static. Even Baudrillard, it has been said, would find the Japanese passion for simulacra a little unnerving; Derrida would be at a loss, for nothing remains to deconstruct.

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