Amphetamine Sulphate mini showcase
While Philip Best needs no introduction, since 2017 he has been running the boutique publishing house Amphetamine Sulphate, which to date has mostly issued short story format ‘chapbooks’. Over the preceding years of activity Amphetamine Sulphate has built up a small yet very solid roster of fringe underground writers who collectively mine the darker recesses of the human condition. As a case in point: try your hand at describing any of the thematic preoccupations of their published books to an unfamiliar audience during polite dinner conversation and see how well it is received. Below are just two of Amphetamine Sulphate’s publications from authors who have direct links to the post-industrial underground.
Gary Mundy – Specialist Fabricator chapbook 2018
Gary Mundy is an individual who needs no introduction. It would seem that Specialist Fabricator is his first book. The text is written in the first person; although there are some textual hints that the narrator is Gary, this is never actually confirmed. Some sections of text urge caution against interpreting the content as being ‘true’, and may very well be embellished, which is also possibly alluded to by the book’s title. But regardless of the reality of all of this, the prose is cleverly crafted in memoir / diary type chapters. The 40-page book commences with an internalized conversation debating both what to write and in what style to present it. Later, the story settles down and is hung upon a number of intertwining threads: awkward childhood memories, authenticity and artistic motivations, recent episodes of declining mental health, and a wider story arc relating to the hospitalization and death of the narrator’s father. The text is cleverly meandering in its structure, deftly weaving these disparate threads into a collective whole without it feeling jarring or disconnected between storylines. There is an open and self-reflective feel to the text, which is also unpretentious given its moments of acknowledged self-consciousness. While I had no idea of what to expect from a book by Gary Mundy, I found this to be both engaging and disarming in the way I was vividly drawn into it, resulting in an unexpectedly enjoyable read.
Martin Bladh – Marty Page chapbook 2018
Martin Bladh is yet another person who needs no introduction and someone who I am already more than familiar with given his musical, written, and artistic output. The ‘story’ presented within Marty Page takes place over the span of four days. The individual of the title is apparently the captive of another (only referred to as Martin), subject to humiliating and torturous scenarios that culminate in Marty’s apparent suicide. Thus, the book is an incisive exploration of the knife-edge relationship between abuser and abused, victim and victimizer. The text is presented in a fragmentary style, where profile lists and time-stamped selections of descriptive words function to outline specific information or render snapshot scenes. An example occurring throughout the story is the detailed description of the pose of a naked body prior to a polaroid photo being taken. These are interspersed with dream diary entries, open letters to Marty Page, and draft and final versions of Marty’s suicide note. In its stylistic format, the book is akin to a script for a stage play, apt given the potential conceptual link to Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty. Yet all is not as it seems. Given the book is introduced with a quote from Thomas De Quincey regarding jealousy and the attempted murder of a doppelgänger, there is a suggestion that Marty Page may be an alter ego of Martin himself (perhaps ‘Marty’ = Martin, while ‘Page’ = the pages of the documented journal). Whether or not this hunch is correct, the text and scenes outlined are very much consistent with the artistic obsessions that Martin has put on display for two decades now. The text is honed to its rawest elements and articulates a form of stylized and controlled violence with a particular focus on the individual body. The use of lists throughout (favourite films, actors, books, artworks, albums, songs etc.) is an opportunity to build upon the experience of the text itself, as the reader can choose to spiral out into additional reference material which has been of clear influence for both the story at hand and to Martin as an individual). Clearly this is not a story to ‘enjoy’ so much as to ‘experience’. It is unflinching and extremely well rendered in its chosen experimental style, meaning it is not to be approached flippantly.