“Remarkable…a do-it-yourself Nicola Griffith home assembly kit…oddly hypnotic, as if someone we barely knew had taken us up into her attic to rummage around in old trunks while telling fascinating stories about each artefact.” — Gary Wolfe, Locus
Award-winning author Nicola Griffith tells her life story up until the time she moved from England to the U.S. This is no ordinary memoir. Nicola is candid and unflinching in telling the ups and downs of her youth. Drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll are just the beginning. To commemorate this extraordinary work, Payseur & Schmidt is issuing a boxed set that includes the memoir bound in five volumes (including diary entries, photographs, poetry, and early fiction). The box also contains a facsimile of Nicola’s first book (created age 4), a CD of songs by Nicola and her early-’80s punk band, Janes Plane, as well as three scratch-n-sniff cards, a fold-out poster, a letterpressed preface by Dorothy Allison, and a numbered signing sheet. This is a limited edition of 450 signed and numbered box sets.
Dorothy Allison, from the preface
“You have here a ring of gold, a reflection of the mental landscape of an extraordinary writer and an astonishingly brave woman. This is a map of the changing world, the world that changed as Nicola became the writer she is, and the world we all share that has changed as so many women and queers and deeply unique outlaw voices began to speak all the stories not told before.”
Paul Di Filippo, Asimov’s
“…a life story wittily and bracingly told: brave, forthright, illuminating, passionate, rueful, and celebratory. If you melded Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home with Aldiss’s The Twinkling of an Eye and Delany’s The Motion of Light in Water, you might come up with a similar tale of a wild girl with literary sensibilities.”
Malinda Lo, AfterEllen.com
“This ain’t your Mama’s memoir.”
Colleen Mondor, Bookslut
“Somewhere out there a pissed off seventeen-year-old is looking for a reason to believe in the future; give her Griffith’s book and she will know she’s not alone, she will know that what happens next might just might make this whole growing up nightmare worth it.”
Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times
“The Seattle novelist (Always) takes an unusual approach to autobiography with this “Party,” which comes in a box containing five chapbook-memoirs of her English girlhood and wild youth, a CD of songs performed by Griffith (both solo and with her 1980s band Janes Plane), three scratch-and-sniff cards, an autographed baby picture, replicas of her childhood drawings, and more.”
Gary Wolfe, Locus
“[R]emarkable…a do-it-yourself Nicola Griffith home assembly kit…oddly hypnotic, as if someone we barely knew had taken us up into her attic to rummage around in old trunks while telling fascinating stories about each artifact…fiercely honest…’I’m a writer,’ she tells us early on, and she seems fascinated with the archaeology of that statement. By the end, so are we, and we’re convinced of its deep truth.”
“[A]mbitious and satisfying, this memoir of a writer’s formative years crackles with intelligence, wit, and pathos. Griffith’s essays about sexuality and her writing are often funny, and always insightful. This box of a book is another shining example of twenty-first-century book-making, and a delight to own.”
James Sallis, F&SF
“Lots of vivid writing here, and no apologies. And over all, that one single thing a writer most often and thoroughly thrashes about in the cane thicket trying to find: a clear voice.”
- winner, Lambda Literary Award
I’d never stayed in a dorm before, especially not one in humid 98-degree heat with no air-conditioning. Not one full of straight white people with wedding rings and big shiny teeth. Not one where all the pre-paid cafeteria food was useless to me. The cooked food was meat-based (I was vegetarian), or covered with cheese (I’m allergic). The bread was white spongy stuff that looked more like mattress filling than anything a human being should put in her mouth—and mouldy to boot. Worse, oh much worse: Midwesterners thought tea came in a glass over ice.
So there I was, trying to breathe air like warm potato soup. Workshop not due to start until the next day. (Half the workshop was already there. But these were the scary, white-teethed straight people.) Broke. Starving.
“Hey,” I said to Sue Ellen, another Clarion student, across the hall (the one who made me this nameplate from rubber dinosaur stamps). “Where’s the bar?”
“Oh,” she said, “it’s dry.”
“Yes, I can see that it hasn’t rained for a while, but where’s the fucking bar?”
“No, no, you don’t understand. The campus is dry. There’s no bar.”
I stared at her. “No bar?”
By this time it was late. It was hot. I’d have to walk miles to find a supermarket and I was exhausted by travel and the forceful and repeated ejection of my stomach contents for the last few hours. I went to bed.
The next morning, after a breakfast I couldn’t eat, I accosted another workshop member, one who actually lived in town and so knew where things were. “Can you point me to the nearest supermarket so I can buy some beer?”
He smiled and said cheerily, “It’s Sunday.”
“Sunday. I see.” I took a breath, determined to speak slowly and clearly and in a tone adapted to the meanest understanding. “Sunday. Yes. Now please give me directions to a supermarket.”
“No, no,” he said. “You don’t understand. It’s Sunday. Supermarkets don’t sell beer on Sunday.”
“No beer,” I said.
“That’s right!” He twirled his wedding ring and said, “Let’s go hang out with the rest of the gang!”
I followed him numbly. Six weeks of this. No beer. No air conditioning. No food. No tea. No real people. What had I done?
I talked to a group of my fellow students. We were mutually incomprehensible but we kept trying and eventually I came to understand that Clarion, for these people, was a big deal. They knew what to expect: workshopping, personal conferences with the teacher of each week, fun and games with water pistols (or “squirt guns”). They knew the teachers’ work, and by reputation. Everyone but me had brought their own computers. Many of them had corresponded before the workshop (they’d all received a variety of forms and participant lists and information sheets that had never made it to the UK). I asked them if they’d known, then, that it was a dry campus and there was no beer on Sundays at the supermarket. Why, yes, they said. Well, then, had any of them brought anything, any beer or wine or fucking Tennesee sipping whisky? Why, no. They were puzzled. We stared at each other, aliens.
After an inedible lunch I sat in my cheerless room and contemplated the wall. Minutes ticked by. Hours. The last few students arrived. I heard them trundling their vast carts of stuff—cushions, posters, blankets, PCs, special mugs, slippers, mosquito repellant, water pistols, and clothes, lots of clothes—down the corridor then thumpings as they customised their rooms and called out to each other and made friends. I stared some more at the bare wall.
Thunder clouds were gathering. It was one hundred and five degrees. The air was thick and slippery and difficult to breath. Tim Powers was here, ran the word. First meeting at 6:00 pm. I didn’t even know who Tim Powers was.
My wall was institutional green, my bed blanket babyshit yellow. I was to share my bathroom with a woman called Peg, in the room to my left (the room to my right was not yet taken). I examined the bathroom. Grey tile. No shampoo or soap or hand lotion.
About three o’clock I heard another cart trundling down the corridor, but also a noise I didn’t recognise. I stuck my head out of my door.
Thunk, thunk, thunk. A woman on crutches gimping down the corridor after the deputy director of the workshop, who was pushing her cart.
She had long blonde hair to her bum. Her bum was in Calvin Klein shorts. Her legs were also long, and the colour of sun-toasted biscuit. One ankle was wrapped in one of those nasty ‘flesh’-coloured Ace bandages. Sprained, I diagnosed. Her arms were long and golden, too, and her fingers.
I have never actually run into a sheet of cling film and bounced to a full stop, but I can guess how it feels. I looked at this woman and I felt a soft shock. As I tried to breathe something strange was happening. Pathways in my brain were being reorganised. It was as though every cell in my body lined up like iron filings and pointed at her. It felt irrevocable.
“Hello,” I said, and withdrew into my room. The newcomer thunked into the empty room next door. Next door, oh god. Just one thin sheet of plasterboard between me and all that golden longness.
I was deeply angry. I’d flown thousands of miles, risked everything. I was here to work, to learn. I’d been sensing the change heading my way, but it was work, it was writing, it was art. Not…this.
And then it was six o’clock, and the newcomer and I walked together to our first workshop meeting. Her name was Kelley. She’d sprained her ankle doing Wing Chun. I knew I was lost.
Kelley in her dorm room, 1988, tired after marathon writing