I did my postgraduate degree at Goldsmiths, as did all of the friends I made on that course. I was, therefore, naturally curious to see the work that was being but out by the university’s [either] new [or recently revived] publishing venture. I’ve seen a couple of things advertised under the Goldsmiths Press brand, but it was the March 2018 release of four chapbooks in a series called “Goldsmiths Shorts” that really caught my attention.
I fucking love a chapbook. I love reading something that feels fresh and flimsy and rough ‘n’ ready. I bought all four, because I love to support the Arts, yeh, and I read my first, Nowhere to go but back again by Dizz Tate, while I walked my dog through my overcast hometown this morning, taking an al fresco breather from the aggressive life decluttering I am deep within. In terms of feeling rough ‘n’ ready, this chapbook has enough spacing errors and typos that it feels like a somewhat sixthformery affectation on the publisher’s behalf, rather than a remotely believable apathy. However, this aesthetic choice [or genuine carelessness] is easy to ignore, as the text itself is great.
Tate’s chapbook is about 40 pages long and contains three chapters of a single work. I would consider it a complete piece as is, though there is such a richness in characterisation that this could very easily be extended and expanded without any sense of strain. The novelette, the long short story, whadevva, contains enough gaps to have further events unproblematically slotted in, but it also evokes the moments of the lives that we see with such depth that I felt very confident that what my imagination filled into the narrative absences was exactly what Tate had intended. Despite allusion and intentional gap, there is a dense clarity to Tate’s characters, and as I read through the three chapters – each from the perspective of a different person in a group of three friends at different stages of their lives – I felt that each girl and then woman was vividly evoked as a relatable and understandable human in the text in front of me.
The reader is with ten year old Moss as her struggling mother takes her to a rich schoolfriend’s house for a sleepover, where Moss laments her long term best friend Megan’s preference for the glamorous, moneyed Greta. Then, I found myself meeting 21 year old Megan, who is attempting to feel as happy as she feels she should feel, living as a hometown gal with a [beige] fiancée. Megan thinks about her most recent meeting with bohemian Moss in a daunting big city and that, though she still speaks to Greta a lot, Greta only really calls to complain about the peas under her regal-seeming bed. The final chapter sees Greta fleeing into an aquarium from her marital apartment, bored of her husband, bored of her life, bored of her friends, bored of being nice. Though there is a very Goldsmithsy edge to the narrative of Moss, an unhappy child who becomes the most satisfied, creative and thus unconventional adult, I fucking loved it. Yes, I know that this is exactly what I want to read right now, living – as I am – the least conventionally and the most happily I have in years, but I think Tate’s treatment of the material is very much worthy of the praise I am giving it.
Yeah, it is nice to read a tale about gilded childhood leading to unhappy adult life. Yeah, it is nice to see the triumph in a story of the character you most identify with from the off. The narrative of Nowhere to go but back again, yes, is perhaps cynically or accidentally geared towards hitting all the pleasure points of the hippieish Goldsmiths alumnus, but fuck it. This is a deftly written, literarily successful piece of writing with solid characterisation, an engaging narrative and very, very little to criticise. Who cares if it’s a story that I like? When I was younger and sadder and less optimistic, I railed against plot as a weakness. It’s really not, because when crisp, insightful writing combines with a pleasing, engaging narrative, that’s where real fucking literature comes from.
Nowhere to go but back again is definitely worth a look, and I have followed Dizz Tate on Twitter so I will, hopefully, get to read more of her work. This was the first time in a very long time where I have enjoyed a narrative with a focus on childhood, and I don’t think that is a coincidence. Strong stuff. I only wish Goldsmiths Press hadn’t deliberately skipped the proof read…