PERVERTED BY LANGUAGE:
FICTION INSPIRED BY THE FALL -
EDITED BY PETER WILD
At the end of a night's drinking an idea can be hatched that at the time seems the most brilliant thing ever but when viewed in the cold light of the next day is quickly dropped and never considered again. Perverted By Language: Fiction Inspired By The Fall as edited by Peter Wild is one such idea that by some quirk of fate was carried through to fruition.
Approach a bunch of writers and ask them to write a short story using the title of any Fall song as the inspiration. Yes, good idea. After all, The Fall are renowned for having uniquely interesting song titles so it would be handing inspiration to those writers on a plate. Get some funding from the Manchester International Festival and away you go. A sure fire winner.
So why is this book so curiously unsatisfying?
There are 23 stories in all from 23 writers, a lot of them I must admit to not knowing at all. Among the names I do recognise, however, are Nicholas Blincoe, Michael Faber, Niall Griffiths, Stewart Lee, Nicholas Royle, Helen Walsh, and John Williams. The editor, Peter Wild, I know nothing of. Not that this matters.
The most well known of these is probably Stewart Lee, the stand up comic, and it's interesting to read what he comes up with using the 1995 Fall song The Aphid as a title. It turns out that his is one of the best as he adopts a very good and quite unexpected writing style.
The best one of them all, however, is An Older Lover Etc by John Williams and the reason for this is because it's not a piece of fiction; it's factual, relaying John's personal encounters with and experiences of The Fall back in the early Eighties.
There's an overload of name-dropping in John's piece but rather than being cringe worthy it captures a precise moment in time for posterity if nothing else. And what makes it all the more interesting is that John mentions Kay Carroll a few times who in the early years of The Fall was the formidable 'matron' of the band and a very important part of it. Kay was also - apparently - the older lover of Mark E Smith, and whom the song is about.
And talking of Mark E Smith, by all accounts he didn't think too much of this book as well although he did at least have The Fall perform at the launch party for it. And that's quite significant actually, as there's probably no other book regarding The Fall that he'd have done that for.
Not that it alters the fact, however, that the book is still a curiously unsatisfying affair.
The thing with projects such as this is that they're one-offs, meaning this particular exercise in getting writers to write some short stories based on Fall song titles will never be repeated again, which is why I think editor Peter Wild should have been a lot more ruthless. He should have approached a much wider range of people to write for the book and held out for them. He should have asked Will Self, Shane Meadows, Neil Gaiman, Nick Cave, Frank Skinner, John Cooper Clarke. He should have asked Kay Carroll or Marc Riley. Can you imagine? He should have asked Hilary Mantel.
And when it came to editing he should have been unforgiving with no qualms about rejecting unworthy pieces. Niall Griffiths' piece based on Bingo Master's Break Out, for example, I would have thrown right out.
I wonder if any of the writers in this book were actually paid anything for their efforts?
I hope not.