‘Arse on Earth’ by Tim Etchells

I have the Pulp Books edition of Tim Etchells’ endlessly grainy, deeply sly, rebarbative, criminally under-published collection Endland Stories, with the blurry grayscale photos & the typeface that mimics a cheap printer from ten years earlier. It’s held up well although the paper’s looking forlorn after being cured so many years in flats, cellars & self storage units etc etc. Etchells’ fiction is less experimental than out on its own somewhere looking at things on your behalf, often from a viewpoint of psychically-damaged faux naif. My personal favourite is a story whose name I never remember but which is no more or less than a two or three thousand-word list of the nicknames of a vast motorcycle gang composed perhaps of everyone in Endland, or maybe even on this planet. Sadly, that one doesn’t seem to be in here, so I am going out on a limb for ‘Arse On Earth’, the weird but compassionate odyssey about a goddess–or perhaps less a goddess than a headstrong Aeon–and aren’t they all–who descends to Earth with the intention to solve this problem: WHY IS MODERN LIFE RUBBISH? and ends up in Derby, where a cull of street pigeons is in progress.

But you could pick any of these stories and it would be the finest as far as you were concerned. Endland Stories is best summed up from its own introduction—

Bear in mind it is not a book for idiots or time wasters but many of them are wrote about in it. For the rest–concerning the bad language, bad luck and low habits of the persons described–I make no apologies and, like the poets say, “welcome to Endland”©, all dates are approximate.

–and is about to come back into print from And Other Stories. Look out for it.

In Endland Stories, Pulp Books, 1999

‘About Lisa: A Short Bad Story in Twelve Good Parts’ by Tim Etchells

“Lisa is basically an unlucky misery guts with a hidden gift for brilliant ideas,” writes Tim Etchells. When she finally agrees to go on a date with her chip shop boss H. Stannington, her sister is killed, and Lisa blames herself – “if she hadn’t gone out it would never have happened etc.” Tim Etchells’ vivid and ultra-compact tragedy ‘About Lisa’ was written for the format and dimensions of Piece of Paper Press, a series of A7-sized publications that I’d started the year before in 1994. I’d got to know Tim Etchells, and his work with the brilliant and award-winning theatre company Forced Entertainment, while I was studying at the former Psalter Lane art school in Sheffield in the late 1980s. In the early ’90s I’d put on a reading by Tim in London of an unpublished novel of his called Helen © & her Daughters, so when I started Piece of Paper Press, he was an obvious person to invite to contribute. ‘About Lisa’ is a brutal, darkly comic and altogether surprising story that refracts its abbreviated plot through the miniature format of Piece of Paper Press, and an equally abbreviated language: what Etchells calls a ‘rough, cut-up, hybridised, slang.’ Tim writes that he plundered the unpublished novel ‘for landscape, characters and gags and atmospheres, hanging them on sharp, brutal, compacted little narratives – postcards from hell.’ A collection, Endland Stories, was published in 1998 by Pulp Books. It’s uniquely brilliant, and I wish someone would reprint it. An updated and expanded German translation of Endland was published in Switzerland not so long ago. Non-German-speakers can read Tim’s introduction to that Swiss edition here.

First published by Piece of Paper Press, 1995. Collected in Endland Stories, Pulp Books, 1998