Not much more than eighteen months ago literary fanzine PUSH was launched onto an unsuspecting public. I liked it immediately and wrote here suggesting "Amalgamating pop culture, drug paranoia, rushed sex, football hooligans and the threat of violence, it is just one glance away from a character in a John King novel". And so it continued.
These things can be a flash in the pan and soon fizzle out but editor Joe England has pumped out the issues - thirteen and counting - whilst keeping the standard exceptionally high. So much so East London Press have published PUSH Best of the First 10 Issues as a smart paperback book. Not only that but John King himself has written a glowing foreword (see, I must occasionally know what I'm on about/throw enough shit at the wall...).
King draws the comparison with these unfamiliar working class writers - all outside the established literary circle and clique - and a similar scene in the 1990s when his The Football Factory and Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting were published and "there was similar talk, an amazement among commentators that the common folk could read - let alone read such books".
The problem is finding this stuff. I don't read that many books as it's difficult to know where to find work that connects. As King correctly attests, "The truth is that many people are not interested in contemporary fiction because there is nothing that remotely relates to their lives". Spot on. I was unceremoniously dumped out of my English Literature O Level studies as the teacher believed there was no way I'd pass the exam. He was probably right. Not to diss old Billy Shakespeare but I couldn't make head nor tail of Richard II; was bored stiff by Silas bloody Marner; and didn't give a hoot whether some boy John went to sea or not. I don't know what's on the school curricular these days but it's a wonder I ever picked up a book again. In fairness unless it was about football or music I wouldn't have been interested anyway. Luckily I'd later discover the Beats but even they can be impenetrable much of the time. But Joe England has found enough writers for the likes of me to fill his fanzine every six weeks and edit what one hopes will be a succession of Best Of editions.
Reading these pieces again I'm struck once more how great and perceptive the writing is. Some passages make me wince in horror, some choke me up, some are angry, some downright funny and some are written by right cankerous bastards. Whether short stories, poems (yes, poems for Christ sake), interviews or artwork, I get it. It makes sense. It's alive. It talks my language. I'm not going to single out individuals as I'd have to list too many. It's all good.
Fanzines are fabulous things, born out of the passion and the need to share of the editor, and they're the labour of love of one person who often ploughs a lonely furrow. I'm chuffed and indeed weirdly proud of Joe England for seeing his baby - so far limited to blink-and-you-miss-it print runs sold on the street outside West Ham games (football fans read something other than tabloids or mags with soap actresses in various states of undress? What an audacious assumption on England's part) - recognised by East London Press. East London Press aren't Penguin Books - they are still a tiny independent press - but this feels like vindication of Joe's vision. It's not really, the words of these talented writers were already valid no matter what the format, but in its small way it's a victory, a triumph, for everyone involved. It'll reach more people, it's a step forward. PUSH Best of the First 10 Issues now sits on the bookshelf next to John King, Irvine Welsh, Dan Fante, Tony O'Neill etc. as an essential volume of modern day underground literature.
PUSH Best of the First 10 Issues is available from East London Press, priced £7.99.
For more about PUSH see Joe England Books.A launch party with readings, music and debauchery takes place at the Orford House Social Club, Orford Road, Walthamstow, E17 on Saturday 6th December. 7pm. Free. Cheap bar.