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Pensive Peter Salmon

Proof of Pudding


What discerning judges have said about The Coffee Story

'It's been a while since I read a first novel that felt as universally accomplished as Peter Salmon's The Coffee Story' - Toby Litt

'I was constantly intoxicated by a sense of desire & loss' - Jake Arnott

'Wild and raucous... an extraordinarily accomplished debut' - Niall Griffiths

'Reminiscent of Phillip Roth's Everyman. But it's much, much funnier' - Sydney Morning Herald

'An exceptional debut' - Martyn Bedford

Hard Sell

Lincolnshire Posy

brigg_1906

Percy Grainger (rear, centre) and four Lincolnshire folk singers, including Joseph Taylor (right, front)

Just spent a delightful couple of days in North Lincolnshire on the trail of Percy Grainger, with my old friend Charlie Davie.

Grainger collected folk songs in North Lincolnshire from 1906-09, pioneering the use of the phonograph to record the local folk singers. His visits to Brigg in particular, yielded a rich harvest of songs, which I had the privilege of listening to recently at Cecil Sharp House where they keep the complete recordings. Songs such as ‘I’m Seventeen Come Sunday’, ‘Lord Bateman’, ‘Creeping Jane’ ‘The Ship’s Carpenter’ (later recorded by Bob Dylan, ‘Bold William Taylor’ and ‘Died For Love’ were recorded for the first time here, as was ‘Brigg Fair’, famously set by Grainger’s friend and mentor Frederick Delius, a recording of which can be heard here.

For me the highlight of the visit was a visit to Saxby-All-Saints, home of Grainger’s favourite singer Joseph Taylor, who walked from his home to Brigg and won the first competition with his version – and introduction to the world – of ‘The Sprig of Thyme’. Of Taylor, Grainger wrote, “Mr. Joseph Taylor was a perfect artist in the very purest style of English folk-song singing, having, in addition to fine natural musical gifts, a resonant ringing lilting tenor voice… Though his memory for the texts of songs was not uncommonly good, his mind was a seemingly unlimited store-house of melodies, which he swiftly recalled at the merest mention of their titles. His versions were generally distinguished by the beauty of their melodic curves and by the symmetry of their construction. He relied more upon purely vocal effects than almost any folk-singer I ever heard. His dialect and his treatment of narrative points were no t so exceptional, but his effortless high notes, sturdy rhythms, clean unmistakable intervals and his twiddles and ‘bleating’ ornaments (invariably executed with unfailing grace and neatness) were irresistible.”

Taylor had sung in the choir at the church of Saxby-All-Saints for 45 years, and it was a moving experience to stand in that selfsame church and imagine him singing in that resonant voice that so beguiled Grainger. While the church was undistinguished, for me it held a great beauty, as I sat in a pew where Percy Grainger himself may have sat, and listened in appreciation to, not only Taylor, but the whole choir of North Lincolnshire locals at their devotions.

Grainger later took Taylor to London to hear Delius’s setting of ‘Brigg Fair’, during which, rumor has it, he got up and sang along. While we can’t hear this, we can here him singing another song he introduced to Grainger, ‘Rufford Park Poachers’, a song Grainger later set as part of his Wind Suite A Lincolnshire Posy. The recording is here, and shows why Grainger regarded him so highly.

Launch of Edit Suite

Edit Suite is a new service for writers who want detailed critical feedback on their writing, and a hands-on personal approach to their ongoing careers. As an experienced writer and teacher of creative writing, I thoroughly enjoy the process of working with other writers to help them produce the best possible work, and get their vision down on the page.

WHAT I OFFER

Manuscript Assessment
Writing a full length work, whether a novel or a short story, is a huge challenge, no matter how experienced you are. We all know how it feels to not be able to step outside the process, and get good critical feedback. When you submit your manuscript to Edit Suite you will get a detailed, constructive assessment of your work of at least 3000 words within 4-6 weeks, looking at your idea and giving advice about plot, narrative, character development, and how to take the next step. I also provide help with advice on future self-editing, so you have the tools to critically appraise your future writing.

Mentoring
If you feel that you want ongoing feedback of your work, I also offer a mentoring programme. Featuring six sessions spread over twelve months, you can submit up to 60,000 words for assessment, and we will meet one-to-one and discuss your work where and when it suits you, including online. At the end of the 12 months I will also produce a detailed assessment of your manuscript with the aim of having it ready to send to agents and publishers.

Copy editing and Proofreading
I also offer copy-editing and proofreading services for those who want to make sure their manuscript is in the best possible shape before they submit it to an agent, publisher or magazine.

For more information go to http://www.peter-salmon.co.uk/petersalmon/edit-suite/, or contact me at editsuite@hotmail.com

The erotics of discombobulation

Heinrich Heine knows nothing about me either.

Heinrich Heine doesn’t care what you think about his haircut.

I spent a lovely day yesterday reading Heinrich Heine’s Self Portrait and Other Prose Writings, in a gloriously dotty 1948 edition from the good people at Citadel Press. I know nothing about Heine, and this edition, I’m pleased to report, has done little to clear things up. For a start, the chapter numberings are utterly baffling, starting at page 301 and going through to page 872, in a volume that starts, as is traditional, on page one, and doesn’t go beyond page 617. Then there’s the introduction, by the astonishingly effusive Frederic Ewen, which tells nothing of the provenance of the book at hand, but waxes elegiac about Heine in prose so declamatory and hagiographic that I could only read the first three pages before collapsing under the onslaught of exclamation points. Beaten, all I could do was dive into the book itself – an experience both exciting and challenging.

It got me thinking about how seldom it is we now approach any part of our lives – art in particular – without large amounts of background information, and how radically this affects – to get a bit Heideggerian – our ‘being towards’ the artwork. Books are read now after engaging with a phalanx of received critical opinion to the point where, for the reader, the text becomes an exercise in confirming or resisting other people’s assessments. It is seldom we allow ourselves the opportunity to read without casting about for the background of the work, the writer, the circumstances of its creation and reception. The act of reading, as a first engagement with the text, is becoming more and more rare, to a point where the ‘erotics’ of engagement, in Barthes memorable phrase, is being effaced. This ‘way of being’ is not exclusive to our reading, or viewing art of course – more and more via the internet we have our experience before we experience it. I swear I have opinions on restaurants I’ve never been to, and movies I’ve never seen. And, shamefully, on books I’ve never read.

I feel like something is being lost here. Relying on our own critical faculties is, of course, more challenging, but to live a life where we constantly run from this confrontation is – to get Heideggerian again, to become inauthentic, to wallow about in the ‘they-self’.Before reading Heine, I had the chance to read Friedrich Reck’s A Diary of a Man in Despair, and again I resisted all temptations to Google Reck or read the introduction. As with reading the Heine, I found the experience deliciously discombobulating, and the book took on a narrative thrust driven by discovery, rather than being an exercise checking off my critical scorecard.

So thank you to Frederic Ewen for his impenetrable introduction, and all at Citadel Press for their baffling packaging. A hundred pages into the book and pretty much all I’ve established is that Heine hated how complicated Latin is (‘The Romans would surely have never conquered the world if they had to learn Latin first’), and that he seems to be well on the way to becoming either a lawyer or a poet. I suspect the latter, but I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I guess what I reckon is read stuff you know nothing about. Good for the old brain box, and the whole existential box and dice.