The pioneers of aviation were never lonely
Check which is the shallow end and note the point where you will be out of your depth.
Who: Isabel Waidner.
Where: London, UK What: writer.
Cat No: DW-66
What do you do?
I write prose, or prose poetry, or innovative fiction, or avant-garde fiction, or queer fiction, or working-class fiction, or subcultural literature (I just made that last one up), all of the choice categories, all for choice. I've written five experimental novels (two unpublished, one of which is in German), two or three absurdist plays, short stories, a PhD and academic articles. Yet I seem to write mainly emails.
Stock question. Can you tell us a bit about your influences?
My current literary influences are contemporary writers and poets including but not limited to Dodie Bellamy, Juliet Jacques, CA Conrad, Jay Bernard, I love the recent collection Large Animals by Jess Arndt, also Eley Williams. The New Fuck You collection edited by Eileen Myles still stands. Generally speaking New Narrative writing still stands. Dostoyevsky Wannabe's publications stand (check out Ben DeVos's Madness Has a Moment). Brigid Brophy's In Transit still stands. I've come through the canonical avant-garde (Bernhard, Ionesco, Kafka, Themerson), but if there is an avant-garde that has relevance now, it is not this normative thing of the past. The now avant-garde is what the queers are doing, at the intersections, across disciplines. I'm also influenced by performers including Mojisola Adebayo, Bird La Bird, David Hoyle, Scottee, more recently Travis Alabanza. Feminist/queer theory, cultural theory, queer art. Feminist science studies has been useful to me for rethinking all sorts of practice-based knowledge procedures, including writing.
Can you tell us about your most recently published book and whether it does or doesn't differ from the types of things you've written before?
My most recent book is Gaudy Bauble (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2017). Gaudy Bauble is riot of all things queer and marginalised. It's designed as an intervention against the normativity of literary publishing contexts in the UK. The narrative builds around a fake detective story. The detectives don't detect anything. Instead, they effect an out-of-control insurgence of disenfranchised things. We have split-second cameos of Simon Le Bon/Simone Le Bon, Gilbert and George, The Little Mermaid’s main antagonist Ursula and Princess Di. Everyone is a queer and not everyone is white. Gaudy Bauble is the culmination of all of my past and future writing.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a new experimental and autobiographical novel called They Are Made of Diamond Stuff It's set on the Isle of Wight off the South coast of England, post-EU-referendum Britain. I'm not from the Isle of Wight, but embracing my new subject position as an EU migrant, I'm not from the UK either. The Isle of Wight lends itself as a setting because it captures the somewhat insular mentality which appears to have taken hold of large parts of the UK. In a post-truth sociopolitical context where certain narratives and imaginaries shape public opinion and influence electoral results, I guess it's worth testing whether avant-garde fictions have the potential to advance a more progressive politics. They Are Made of Diamond Stuff tries to do just that but it will not be finished until 2019.
Swimmers Club has a focus on the state of independent culture at the moment (independent coffee shops, presses, record labels, etc). How healthy do you think independent culture is right now?
Indie presses and literature journals like 3:AM, Berfrois, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Minor Literature[s], Queen Mob's Teahouse and Tender are game-changers. They are doing the work that needs doing now, namely actively seeking submissions from marginalised (LGBTQI, BAME, working-class, migrant, women) writers. There is a lot happening in queer and trans poetry, film, performance and art. Other than that, London in 2017 is in a state.
What influence, if any, does the city in which you live have on your world?
The London queer scene circa 2007 remains my top literary influence, largely unacknowledged.
Finally, can you swim?
I can swim and I'll dive off any platform, any height. I wouldn't be seen dead in a bikini.