The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford: muses and misspills on books, jazz, poetry, stuff like false flags and smoke screen: is randomly decrepid and is neo-bankrupt: is so analogue it's anal.
ALBION is an old word for England; BEATNIK is an American slang and constructed word for AN ATTITUDE OF MIND, introduced by JACK KEROUAC in 1948 (he claimed from the word ‘beatific’). The shop stocks twentieth century English and American novels and poetry, also jazz; and a range of second-hand books.
The BEATNIK READING GROUP meets next on Tuesday, August 30th at 6:30pm, all are welcome. The book to be discussed is At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien. It is available for sale in the bookshop. All are welcome to come along to this very friendly, monthly group meeting.
Three narratives going on at once here, as “one beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with” is the intent of its narrator, a nameless student. Metafiction is what is going on, that is a self-conscious literary device that defines the work as an artifact and under-mines the authority of the author (also O’Brien’s interest in Irish mythology). Graham Greene recommended it enthusiastically for publication by Longmans (“it is in the line of Tristram Shandy and Ulysses”), but it sold poorly, though it now holds iconic status. O’Brien (real name Brian O’Nolan) was an odd man: alcoholic, a childless marriage to a secretary from the typing pool, eleven siblings who were each dependent financially upon him. At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman are true highlights of the twentieth century canon, although O’Brien is often spoken of as a part-time James Joyce. (Although O’Brien was a fan and influenced greatly by him, he wrote: “I declare to God if I hear that name Joyce one more time I will surely froth at the gob.”)
VIDEO of guitarists John Etheridge and Pete Oxley in the shop recently, paying homage to Grant Green.
In stock now in the Beatnik is David Attwooll’s poetry pamphlet, just published: Otmoor. A sequence of ten poems echo tales of the local moor’s past and present and evoke its myths and buried memories. The poetry is a call and response to Andrew Walton’s mud-filled yet warm and playful paintings of this area of wetland, described forbiddingly as a ‘place apart’ (the paintings were exhibited recently at Art Jericho). The pamphlet is beautifully produced, its font, layout, brittle binding, all of a piece, each enrich the experience of its reading. The poetry and the cross-hatched landscape sketches dovetail to produce a remarkable and collaborative achievement, also a lodestar of poetry publishing, and so soon after their previous venture, Ground Work, which depicted Port Meadow. And I suggest all poetry lovers locally should buy a copy: this is the most impressive poetry book I have handled, it is worth every penny (and more) of its £6 sale price.
New books from Helen Mort and Alan Buckley are now in stock here at the Beatnik, Helen’s No Map Could Show Them and Alan’s The Long Haul (a title suggesting that perhaps a good poet is defined by effort, silence and space rather than immediate return, helter-skelter and clamour). I saw Helen and Alan read together at the recent Oxford Literary Festival (I went short back and sides, incognito) and was taken aback by their dramatic yet understated reading, nothing heavy, just that the morning was so well shaped and had poise. It was as though they were reading from grid maps rather than text, allowing the listener to know always where they were. That was a roadshow that they had put together and will no doubt tour.
The much-awaited (that is delayed) launch of the second issue of this year’s Ash, Oxford University Poetry Society’s termly magazine, is on Saturday, 4th June, early eve at 6:00pm. Contributors, including Jamie McKendrick, will be reading from the book, and Tom Cook, tuxedo clad (with a heavier wefted grosgrain than usual), will preside. Wine, etc, available, though traditionally it is cheaper than the book in every way. The book is £5, published by the Albion Beatnik Press, has some startlingly good poems, and only 60 copies are available (it sold like hot cakes last term). Please anybody come along and enjoy an informal and relaxed reading.
In stock is the tiniest literary magazine in the world: Matchbox Stories from Book Ex Machina, an original publishing initiative based in Cyprus. Each issue is a box, and within is collected four tiny stories, each its own matchbook. Each matchbox story is by a brilliant writer. The current issue (£12.99) contains stories by Ali Smith, Etgar Keret, Marti Leimbach and Frances Gapper.
For Oxford Arts Week we hosted an exhibition by local artist Stella Shakerchi entitled 50 Shades of Re(a)d, subtitled an attempt to curate a vital book collection. Stella exhibited here before four years ago. An accompanying book has been published, and the paintings will remain here for sale: sale proceeds will go to the charity Humane Society International, which works on animal protection issues
VIDEOS >> Two clips from the Beatnik. Firstly, some jazz from the Beatnik: the concluding extract from violinist Chris Garrick and pianist Dave Gordon‘s concert here on April 1st where they perform Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely. And secondly, another evening from the Not The Oxford Literary Festival with violinist Giles Lewin and accordionist Pete Watson, playing some Balkan folk music with a terpsichorean team from the 1970s Top Of The Pops audience.
FORTHCOMING POETRY >> Poems On the Loo will be a carefully curated series of impromptu poetry readings to take place in the Beatnik lav. Each week a video will be posted online, with participants discussing why they chose their poem.
HOMILY >> The Albion Beatnik Bookstore is an independent and enthusiastic bookshop in Jericho, Oxford, opened in 2008. It sells new and second-hand books, including twentieth century literature, poetry and jazz. It has a cafe with over 70 speciality teas and cake, and it hosts reading and writing groups, many evening events, including poetry, book launches, talks, and jazz and folk concerts. The shop has a no petting, diving or bombing policy (unless with the owner). And if you are genuine and enthusiastic, you are always welcome.