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||The Savoy Book
Edited by David Britton
193mm x 125mm
Distributed by Wyndham Publications
ISBN 0 86130 001 7
|We said at the time this was 1970s' toughest collection of fiction and graphicsand we meant it! The first 'Savoy Reader', a collection of tales and artwork from the fabulous worlds of New Wave Science Fiction and Fantasy. Features Harlan Ellison, Brian W Aldiss, Lester Bangs, Heathcote Williams, Jim Leon and others. Hours of sitting in our bookshops meant that we could
study the form of David Sullivan's seminal 'fun' magazines, eg, Lovebirds and Playbirds, leaders in their field of porn cover design. They set the style
for the jacket lettering of this, and also The Glass Teat.
Jacket art: William Holman Hunt's The Lady of Shalott (1886).
A few copies of this title are still available.
Untitled drawing by Jim Leon
||"Followers of Michael Moorcock's New Worlds will find the flame still burning in The Savoy Book."
"The Savoy Book is just about the most exciting new anthology of creative writing and graphics to appear in a decade."
"The Savoy Book does not speak about its origins; no editorial or other information is supplied for the reader. It looks like it has arrived from nowhere, an ectoplasm out of the sunset. Such reticence is a pity in some ways because this publication is part of an interesting literary undercurrent.
The Savoy Book is a paperback anthology, professionally made up, of stories, poems, interviews and other unclassifiable texts (boundaries are not important here) interspersed with some intense graphics. Most of this material first came out in Wordworks magazine, a 'new writings quarterly' based in Manchester. (Wordworks itself used to appear under other namesConcentrate, Crucified Toad, Corridorand can be obtained from the same address as The Savoy Book. This magazine started off during those years in the sixties when avant garde writing and science fiction/weird fantasy material came very close together. That was the era of New Worlds magazine, which was a forum for a lot of exciting new writing and exploited science fiction's potential, strangely neglected up until then, for making literary as well as speculative leaps into the dark. After that it was only a step on the time warp from distant suns down into Ladbroke Grove and from the Grove over into 'inner space'.
This books retains some of the flavour of that age back over the hill. It is a mixture of ideas jutting out from reality, explicit sex, and fairly experimental writing that makes use of cut-ups, minimalism and other techniques. The datedness isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is no reason why this tradition should not continue and The Savoy Book, despite some over-writing at times, still has more vitality and originality in it than much of today's insipid stuff.
This is true of the first piece in the book, a rancid tale by M John Harrison, The Incalling, which disturbingly evokes a seedy bit of London's dirt-encrusted wen, "the land between Camden and King's Cross Station, with its tottering houses and its old men spitting in corners full of ancient dust each grain of which has begun as dog-dirt or vomit or decayed food......"
Other lively stories include Harlan Ellison's Eggsucker (a prequel to his famous story, A Boy and His Dog ) which takes place in a very nasty near future, and fiction from the disturbed present by Paul Ableman and Heathcote Williams. H Williams is a fine, natural writer who I sometimes think wastes himself with too much Grand Guignol. The poetry in The Savoy Book includes Jay Jeff Jones' often anthologised fierce lament to the San Francisco scene, Howl Now, and Richard Kostelanetz's Milestones in a Life, which has pretensions to epic minimalism but seems rather slight. The Savoy Book also prints an interview with Brian Aldiss. In fact no 'breakthrough fictioneering' collection like this is complete without either Aldiss, Michael Moorcock or JG Ballard, that trio of 'new wave' fantasy titans, holding court. All three have travelled on to a greater or lesser extent from the New Worlds landscape but they agitate this book like radioactive fallout. Though Aldiss's interview was done several years ago a lot of his comments still seem valid, as when he talks about science fiction's potential for being subversive.
The graphics in The Savoy Book seem closer to mainstream 'weird fantasy'in both the erotic and speculative senses of the term than the writing. This may show the influence of David Britton, art editor of Wordworks, who is a pretty weird illustrator himself. The illustrations sometimes are a bit over-indulgent, but as with the text this is often compensated for by their unnerving intensity. James Cawthorn's title illustration for instance is a scene from Moorcock's The Jewel in the Skull. The hero, Dorian Hawkmoon, sails up the river into the city; bridges, ships, buildings are all alive; the evil is literally palpable. Savoy Books Ltd are a new publisher. This is their second book. (The first was a collection of Moorcock pieces called Sojan). They have plans to bring out work by other authors including Harlan Ellison and Henry Treece, as well as more anthologies. Savoy Books are attempting to transfer the approach and layout associated with magazines into the paperback format, which is commercially more viable these days. these days. And The Savoy Book, for all its excesses, does work quite successfully presented like this. Opportunities for publishing this kind of experimental borderline writing are getting fewerwitness the troubles Ambit magazine (another publication incubated in the New Worlds hothouse) is now going through, with its Arts Council grant recently cancelled. Such publications are a good breeding ground for new ideas but if starved of funds they too easily become extinct."
PETER INCH, New Yorkshire Writing
"Followers of Michael Moorcock's editorship of the large-size 'new wave' period of New Worlds, which achieved a minor literary revolution and in the process joined Private Eye in being banned by Menzies and W H Smith (and copies of which now change hands, I'm told, for £2-£3 apiece) will find the flame still burning in The Savoy Book which resembles nothing so much as a book version of that magazine, right down to having many of the same contributors and lacking only Moorcock himself. Fiction, poetry, a long interview with Brian Aldiss (in some ways the most interesting item) together with eighteen pages of absorbingly interesting bizarre artwork (tending to dark erotica and including a simply enthralling two-page frontispiece by James Cawthorn) aroused in me, at any rate, a distinct sense of nostalgia. As with the old New Worlds the content ranges from the solidly professional (as in stories by M John Harrison and Harlan Ellison) to the gimmicky and inconsequential, but there's plenty worth reading, particularly The Incalling, a breathtaking piece of mood prose in which a dying novelist seeks to save himself by spirit possession in the dingiest parts of north London. Perversely, however, I most of all enjoyed Paul Buck's The Kiss and Kiss Kiss: what a poetical computer might have turned out if told to produce metaphysical pornography. The images need thinking about, but are rich indeed."
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