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Book Stuff

As regular readers will know, last month my latest book was published: World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. Today, my mum sent me this:

world citizen allen ginsberg review

“Scottish book of the week”? I like the sound of that…

I also edited the latest edition of Beatdom literary journal, which was published a few days ago. Today I checked Amazon and saw that it was listed as No.1 for Literary Criticism Reference. It’s a small category, but still… I was delighted.

A few days ago, I published an interview with Casey Rae about his forthcoming book on William S. Burroughs. You can read that here. I have reviewed the book for another journal, although I have no idea when that will be published. Probably closer to the actual book’s publication date.

Speaking of Burroughs, my own book has gone through a bit of a resurgence of interest (perhaps the result of being excerpted at Tony Ortega’s website) and is selling very well once again. It got a new review a few days ago from a former Scientologist.

Finally, I was interview by Jon Faia for this website. I mostly talk about the Beat Generation and being a writer.

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New Book: World Citizen

It’s been more than 5 years since Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’ was published. I quickly began looking around for ideas for my next book, and decided to write about Allen Ginsberg, the poet who wrote “Howl” and “Kaddish” and “America”. After a few false starts, I eventually realized that I could write about his extensive travels. Amazingly, Ginsberg travelled to 66 countries, sometimes spending several years on the road. This was before Google Translate, Tripadvisor, and GPS apps…

Initially, I was interested in how and why he travelled, but as my research led me further into Allen’s world, I realized that travel really shaped who he was. In this new book, called World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller, I explore how travel shaped his poetry, politics, and personality. The book is broken into 4 sections, each covering a distinct phase of Allen’s travelling life: his first forays into the wider world, his early major journeys, the India trip that changed him forever, and his last journeys.

You can now buy World Citizen on Amazon, or go ask your local bookshop if you prefer.

You can read some related articles I have written about Ginsberg’s travels during my research for the book:

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My Next Book

I am terrible at self-promotional stuff, and I forgot to post the cover of my forthcoming book here.

The book is called World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller, and it is essentially a biography of the poet told through the prism of travel.

World Citizen cover

I’ve written a few things over at Beatdom about Ginsberg’s travels. You can also pre-order the book there (and find out a little more info about it).

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New Books

Although this blog has, in the past few years, become mostly a place for me to post photos, it used to be a bit more literary. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, and more than just the disjointed travel stories that now accompany my photography.

Back in 2007, I started Beatdom literary journal, which has since published 18 issues. We’re on a bit of a hiatus for now, but there’s still the occasional essay at www.beatdom.com. For those who don’t know it, Beatdom specializes in the Beat Generation.

Along the way, I’ve done various other projects, including novels and short stories. My best book was Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’, which came out 5 years ago.

Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult' cover

I’ve written here about a new book I’m working on, World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. It’s more or less finished, but needs a little more work to get it just right. I expect it to be on sale in 2019.

However, I have kept quiet about a book I published a few months ago. I don’t know why. It didn’t jive with my Beatdom or photography work, and probably wasn’t of much interest to most people reading this.

Since 2010 I have been teaching IELTS, which is an exam for English students. I’ve gotten pretty good at it and in the last two years I’ve run an IELTS preparation website. To accompany the website, I wrote a grammar handbook. It covers the very basics of English grammar in a way that would help both teachers and students. It’s called Grammar for IELTS Writing.

new_cover

That book is, like most, available as a paperback or Kindle title. However, the next is only on Kindle.

Earlier this year, I travelled to India. I posted extensively about it on this blog. I travelled from Chennai to Mamallapuram, then across India via Thanjavur and Madurai, passing through some hill stations and Periyar Tiger Reserve, to Cochi and Varkala on the west coast.

While I was there, and after I got back to China, I wrote my experiences down in a different form to how I usually write here. I had been reading Bill Bryson on my travels and I tried to channel his style of wit. The result was Crossing India the Hard Way.

india book

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Back in China

All good things must come to an end, and so after a month wandering India and ten days in Sri Lanka, I returned home to China. China is the land of filth and bad manners, but it is not all bad. There is a level of weirdness here that you just don’t find anywhere else on earth.

Take, for example, the outdoor pop-up dental practices:


IMG_1042
Open-air dental surgery

Before you ask, yes that the big filthy puddle on the left is an open sewer. The local elderly will at the same time use it as a toilet and a place to wash clothes, dishes, or just about anything else.

And, of course, is there anything funnier than Chinese attempts at translation? No, there isn’t:

963AB9A1-F4D2-400D-B6C2-7EC009F2575B-4834-00000630A08D9865_tmp
Rape Festival

(For the record, the Chinese says “oil seed rape festival,” which is still a bit odd.)

Every day brings a new weirdness, even after all these years. Some of it is just exasperating and some is easier to laugh at. Some, like this homemade bench-press set-up is actually quite impressive.

DSW_1796
If Rocky had been Chinese, he would have trained here.

I have been far busier with work than in previous semesters and so have done relatively little of note, but last week I found a spare few hours to go see the cherry blossoms herald the arrival of spring.

 

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Autumn in the 小区

It’s very nearly December and here in eastern China the weather is finally turning cold. In the middle of the day, it’s still warm but at night it is getting perilously close to zero. The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees now as the autumn winds kick up. Sadly, people don’t view the fallen leaves as beautiful, and sweep them away almost as fast as they can fall. But for the few weeks while the hang on the trees, and for the hours that they lay on the ground, it is actually quite beautiful. Autumn is probably my favourite season in Huainan, although it is exceptionally brief, sandwiched between the excruciatingly hot summer and the biting cold of winter.

I live in a quiet (by Chinese standards) little 小区 (that means “community”) here in Huainan. It’s actually a rather pleasant little enclave in an otherwise quite ugly city. I think at this time of year, it is about as nice a place to live as one would find in China.

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Buy Scientologist! with bitcoins

Several years ago, I wrote a book called Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the ‘Weird Cult’. It’s pretty well-reviewed on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere. You can buy it on Amazon and through any decent bookstore, and it’s available for download on your Kindle.

This past year I’ve been investing in cryptocurrencies and I’ve found it a very exciting development in technology and economics. So I figured, “Hey, why don’t you sell your book for bitcoin?”

So I did. You can click this link, stick in your address, send me some bitcoins, and I’ll send you a copy of the book. Easy! [e-mail me if you still want to buy this way]

(The price equates to US$16.00, the same as on Amazon.)

 

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Travelling Europe for Cheap

My readers know that I spent part of this summer travelling around Europe, and people who’ve read this blog for a long time probably know that I like to stretch out my journeys by travelling on the cheap.

I teach in China and between my employers and the government, it’s hard to know when I’ll have my visa ready to leave the country, making it difficult for me to plan my travels in advance. This year, I didn’t know when I’d leave China or where I’d go until a day before I actually left! All that makes it pretty damn difficult to travel cheaply or even get excited about the journey ahead.

When I finally did leave China, I headed back home to Scotland for a few weeks with my family. I had a great time there getting reacquainted with the area where I grew up, taking walks around the coast and shooting some photos of the local wildlife.

As much as I’d have liked to stick around, I also felt the insatiable urge to get out and travel some more, but where to go…? I really wanted to get back to Africa but it just wasn’t feasible on my budget or timeframe, so I put that trip on hold for a while.

After a lot of searching for ideas, I settled on a trip around Europe. Ever since I graduated from university a decade ago, I’ve been travelling Asia and the United States, and so I don’t really know Europe as well as I should. I booked a flight from Edinburgh to Amsterdam and another from Budapest to Hefei (which is near where I live in China). It took me a while to pad out the details between those flights but it ended up looking like this:

europe map

 

After a short flight into Amsterdam, I spent a few days taking in the art galleries before heading to Belgium and the city of Antwerp. Next, I embarked upon an unpleasant journey across Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Austria, and into Slovakia, where I explored the capital of Bratislava. Finally, I took another bus ride to Budapest, where I spent some four days wandering around one of the world’s most interesting cities.

Thanks to hostels and Flixbus, the journey wasn’t as expensive as it could have been. After I left Budapest, I returned to China for a two-day stay and then hit the road (or rather, the air) again for a fortnight in Thailand. Stories and photos from that journey will be posted very soon.