Pushcart Rankings

A while ago I posted a list of US journals to submit to (courtesy of Bookfox), to which I’d like to add this list from Perpetual Folly, which ranks the journals according to how they are represented in the 2010 Pushcart Prize anthology. Though the two lists have considerable overlap (the domination of Ploughshares and Conjunctions for example) there are also some surprises, such as the Iowa Review and Glimmer Train being much lower down. I hope it will also be useful for alerting people to journals they may not be familiar with (my submissions to Noon and The Threepenny Review are already in the post…).

SCA talk

A man making doppas in Kashgar

I’ll be giving a talk about Xinjiang to the Scotland China Association on Tuesday 9th March in Edinburgh. It will be in the library of The Friends Meeting House on Victoria Terrace (at the foot of the lane down from the Lawnmarket, at the top of the stairs down to Victoria Street). From 7-9 p.m.

The Golden Hour Book Vol. 2


Now on sale from Forest Publications, the latest volume of prose, poetry and music (it comes with a CD) from the monthly Golden Hour cabaret at the Forest Cafe in Edinburgh.

It features contributions from Andrew Philip, Alan Gillis, Robert Alan Jamieson, Kapka Kassabova and myself. Ron Butlin, Edinburgh’s current Makar, had this to say about it

‘There is genuine wit, deep feeling and real entertainment in this most enjoyable volume. Light-hearted and serious by turns, ‘The Golden Hour Book Volume II’ contains some of the best and freshest new writing I have come across for quite a while.’

You can now also buy Stolen Stories (an anthology I c0-edited) from the Forest Publications site, as well as many other fine publications.

Vasectomania, and other cures for sloth

A rebellious monkey refuses to give up its glands

A rebellious monkey refuses to give up its glands

Cabinet magazine issue 29 has a fascinating article on the use of monkey glands by Christopher Turner.

The physiologist Serge Voronoff, a Russian working in Paris, was one of the most infamous of the gland doctors. He thought that the lazy, mentally disabled, run-down, and aged could be revitalized by testicular transplants. Many wealthy men underwent the costly surgery; Voronoff transplanted the testes of executed criminals into millionaires. Legal contracts were drawn up with prospective donors, but apparently willing individuals were in such short supply that what one scientist called a “despicable trade in organs” began to develop. According to one newspaper, men were even being mugged for their testicles, “knocked unconscious and then robbed of the long-sought-for organs.”

Voronoff solved this crisis by slicing and grafting the testicles of monkeys onto those of the men who sought his treatment. In his book, Rejuvenation by Grafting (1925), Voronoff promised the patients who acquired his monkey glands that they’d be able to work longer, and that they would be blessed with improved memories, eyesight, and sex drives. He set up a special breeding center on the Italian Riviera for chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans that was run by a former circus-animal keeper.

Sale of stuff

In a rearguard action to gain some shelf-space (and to support various legal ‘habits’) I’m selling some magazines and anthologies I’ve been in. I only have a few copies of each, so fortune will favour the bold.

For £6 (+£1 postage, UK only) you can get a copy of The Southern Review, which my story ‘The Ballad of Lucy Miller’ appeared in. Here’s a short Review of it.


For the same price, there’s the Edinburgh Review special issue on China that has a non-fiction piece about Xinjiang.


For £7 ((+£1 postage, UK only) you can buy a copy of the Willesden Herald Anthology that features my story ‘Amy’, and a fine story by Jo Lloyd entitled ‘Work’. There’s a review here.


Payments only accepted by PayPal. Send the £7 or £8 to nholdstock@hotmail.com

A change in habit

Henry James in 1890, aged 47

Henry James in 1890, aged 47

I have recently acquired two new habits in the way I read. The first concerns how I consume prose. It used to be the case that I would, on finishing a book by one author, make sure to shift to one by a very different author. e.g. from E.M. Forster to Henry Miller (or vice versa). If there was anything as developed as a reason for this (which I doubt) it was to avoid being overly influenced by a particular voice.

My new approach is to do the opposite, to read as much by one particular author as is ‘possible’ (which here depends on how many books by a particular author I have, and if it seems worthwhile to try and do so- answers in the negative include Ian McEwan, John Fowles and Herman Hesse). I suppose I began doing this with Faulkner, partly because the first 5 or 6 were so extraordinary, partly because I wanted to see if there was anything he couldn’t do. The benefits of this are that one gets to watch a writer’s style evolve (in some cases, degenerate into mannerism) and that one can identify central preoccupations (or, to put it less grandly, whether he or she is repeating themselves in an increasingly tired manner e.g. Paul Auster). Currently, I am in a Henry James phase, having read The Europeans (very slight), wandered into Colm Toibin’s The Master, then resumed with The Spoils of Poynton. This is from The Master.

Henry studied Gosse and paid attention to his tone. Suddenly, his old friend had become a rabid supporter of the stamping out of indecency. He wished there were someone French in the room to calm Gosse down, his friend having joined forces, apparently, with the English public in one of their moments of self-righteousness. He wanted to warn him that this would not help his prose style.

The second shift concerns poetry, and is, I now realise, the opposite. Where once I would try (and always fail, except with Raymond Carver) to read a poet’s Collected Works, now I either read a single volume, or start with the latest work. Often this latter work seems best, and one does not thus get bogged down in juvenalia or false stylistic turnings. I’m not sure if this is due to the nature of poetry (as opposed- if it is- to prose) or just my own capacity for enjoying it (five or six poems at a time is usually sufficient).

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