Where Did All the Ideas Go?

I’m pleased to introduce guest blogger Dan Holloway, author of several novels including the Oxford-set crime novel The Company of Fellows. Dan will be part of the Rising Stars panel at the main Blackwell bookstore on Broad Street at 7pm on 28 July. He will be back there in October along with Sophia Satchell-Baeza and Clarissa Pabi in the show This is Oxford.

Inside the Albion

Where did all the ideas go?

That was the strapline for the launch of issue 2 of Dissocia, Oxford’s most thought-provoking zine. Dissocia is the brainchild of raconteur and salonista extraordinaire Sophia Satchell-Baeza and multi-award-winning poet Jay Bernard.

The answer was rather self-evident. The ideas had headed to the Albion Beatnik bookstore for the night, where they got together to give eighth week complacency a good slapping. Dissocia is part literary criticism, part cultural theory, lashed over with uncompromising political activism and agit-prop poetry. It is also clever enough to pull off that “takes itself so seriously it doesn’t take itself seriously” thing that only the most incisive commentaries can do.

In the very punkest traditions of the handmade pamphlet that go all the way back to the early modern pamphleteers and beyond, Dissocia looks the part perfectly – cut up, scrawled on and then run through the photocopier. Only what’s been cut up, scrawled on and run through the photocopier is as sharp as some of the cheekbones on display at the launch.

What’s so great about events at the Albion Beatnik, and this one in particular, is the slightly chaotic energy. Like the zine, nothing is stage-managed. Only it is. In its own way. There’s a beautifully made running order (scuppered of course by the vagaries of hangovers and Oxford traffic), and there are strategically positioned postcards for the audience to offer their own take on the night’s central question: where all the ideas go? Even the performers have that this-is-all-a-shambles casualness that wins you over and makes the fierce ideas behind it easier to swallow. So Leo Marcus-Wan gave a mock-chaotic melange of ideas deconstructing contemporary protest ideologies, and Clarissa Pabi gave a delightfully throwaway reading of poems that left you stinging long after everyone had gone home.

So what *has* happened to the ideas? Well as any student of the past 30 years knows, they all went on a postmodern gap year and learned to have a good laugh at themselves, to undermine their own pomposity every time they got a little too tempted to call themselves Ideas with a capital “I”, and came back all comfortable in their own skin and full of that slightly disconcerting huggery-thuggery that smiles at you with eyes that say “I love you. Now listen to me. Don’t look away. Listen.” These days ideas have a ramshackle steeliness that makes them rather elusive, and in an age where very few things are able to capture that edginess, Dissocia does so perfectly.

If you would like to be a guest blogger for the World Book Capital bid, please email me.

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