San Francisco based novelist Peter Plate came up in conversation the other night. I was at the launch of the Sara De Bondt and Fraser Muggeridge edited tome The Form of the Book at Art Words new Broadway Market shop, where I ran into some people I hadn’t seen for a while and we started rappin’ about mutual friends. None of us had been in contact with Peter Plate for a year or two and he became the focus of our conversation. While we were still in touch with him, he refused to do anything on the internet: he seemed to see it as a vehicle for police surveillance. Although it can be and is used in this way, it also has other functions and possibilities. So what happens when a contemporary writer not only refuses to use social networking platforms like Facebook and doesn’t have their own website, but won’t communicate by email? Does this give them an overview of the world as it is today, or leave them out of touch with their contemporaries? It’s probably impossible for us to judge that objectively right now, so I’ll leave it hanging… Without forgetting, of course, that Plate may not be ‘in love with today’, and might believe that being out touch with the contemporary world makes him a better writer!
What I can say is that a web search for Peter Plate didn’t turn up too much of interest: a page about Plate and his books on the site of his publisher Seven Stories, the odd review and the inevitable web book retail operations selling his stuff (plus a lot of results for other individuals who share his name). So Plate hasn’t quite disappeared, but he looks like he might join the ranks of the reforgotten. That said, I’m sure I could get a message to him via his publishers and I could almost certainly get his current home address and phone number from someone I know in London, but he isn’t easy to locate and right now doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. That said, there are other authors with several books to their name who are active on social networking sites and elsewhere on the web, but who aren’t currently represented on Wikipedia (such as Barry Graham whose entry was deleted in September 2009 for being ‘self-promoting’). My own view is that both Plate and Graham merit Wikipedia pages, but then we all know that particular platform works in mysterious and often non-rational ways….
I haven’t read Peter Plate’s more recent books, but I admire him for his hardcore stance against the net. One thing this certainly does is provide him with is more time to concentrate on his fiction. That said, personally, I enjoy engaging with the twenty-first century world and I appreciate the new horizons the web opens up, while simultaneously recognising that in its current form it certainly has some serious downsides. Does anyone know of anyone else currently active in the culture industry who has never used email or the internet?
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!
Comment by Smell of Fi Male on 2009-12-19 08:48:45 +0000
Plate? When was the last time you gave a man head?
Comment by Dana Dana Dana on 2009-12-19 09:17:00 +0000
Back when I lived with Plate in the 80s I once bought him an electric typewriter. At the time he was writing with pencil. He refused the contraption and it was returned to the store. That must have been a graphite revolution? I think he eventually tackled the typewriter, many years later. I say this with love, respect and fond memories.
Comment by Dave Kelso-Mitchell on 2009-12-19 11:23:38 +0000
Comment by Dave Kelso-Mitchell on 2009-12-19 11:25:30 +0000
And although the Savoy Books office have a website and email that Mike Butterworth and John Coulthart maintain, David Britton doesnt have one of his own and doesnt even use w rod processor. He still writes everything out by hand and then gives it to Mike and Sarah to decipher and type up.
Comment by Dave Kelso-Mitchell on 2009-12-19 11:33:15 +0000
I think that stance is a bit Luddite and King-Canutish. It also smacks a bit of elitism. If the majority of the audience have moved to the internet, then refusing to move with it is simple snobbery. You would be admiting that you have chosen to write ‘for the few’ who are ‘discriminating like yourself’.
Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-12-19 12:04:57 +0000
If you include musicians and sound engineers in the ‘culture industry’ then you can add Adrian Sherwood to the list — he told me he can’t even type, and hates the internet/web, apparently on the grounds that it isn’t ‘real life’. I think his assistant does the answering of mails/co ordinating myspace etc.
Comment by Howling Wizard, Shrieking Toad on 2009-12-19 13:02:17 +0000
Plate looks like a good guy — I dig his prose style.
Also I see that he campaigns for housing rights and organizes against slum landlords — which reminds me, speaking of UK here, how that entire fair price housing scene just seems to have simply disappeared now under the vast weight of extreme Thatcherism that is New Labour.
I don’t know how people pay rent in London anymore — at least in the late 70’s/early 80’s there was still the remnants ( just about ) of a cheap rent scene in places like Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove ( hard to beleive now ) , and at least the small chance of getting on a Housing co op list.
Blair et al seem to wiped that culture out; so much so that even the memory seems implausible somehow.
Comment by fi on 2009-12-19 15:34:46 +0000
Plate – what’s the Russian for “Plate”? I want to enrich my vocab.
Comment by The Fake Bruce Forsyth on 2009-12-19 20:58:10 +0000
But hasn’t Plate done well without a computer!
Comment by Gary Waterworth on 2009-12-19 21:50:10 +0000
nice post mate,angels of catastrophe was the last thing by plate i read… the thought of Barry Graham being chucked off wiki for self promotion made me howl… wiki is obviously run by cunts… book of man is in my top 100 books to liberate in case of fire/flood/etc
Comment by The Ghost of Barry Graham’s Deleted Wiki page on 2009-12-19 22:14:55 +0000
Barry Graham didn’t write a word of his Wiki entry, it was written with enthusiasm for his work but not by him… the decision to delete it is absurd!
Comment by Berlin Wal-Mart on 2009-12-20 00:51:58 +0000
Over the wall or under the counter it all amounts to the same thing – police will be waiting for me so please don’t be waiting for me…..
Comment by The Kinky Kevin Federline on 2009-12-20 20:00:13 +0000
Peter Plate is one of my favourite authors, I love Barry Graham’s work too!
Comment by I Shot Valerie Solanas on 2009-12-20 20:56:11 +0000
I only read books written by birds, stuff written by blokes just doesn’t give me the horn.
Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-12-21 16:29:32 +0000
Wouldn’t shunning the Internet be the counter-revolution?
Of course, this all depends on whether or not one subscribes to the idea of there having been a digital ‘revolution’… although the ‘digital evolution’ sounds really dull.
Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-12-21 16:30:53 +0000
And didn’t Genesis have a song about this guy?
Comment by mistertrippy on 2009-12-21 19:18:43 +0000
Toot toot Chris! And the “off-line counter-revolution” has one too many hyphens! You’ve lost me with what I assume is a witticism about Genesis – did a web search and couldn’t find a Genesis song about Peter Plate; but I can’t claim to know Genesis inside out so could have missed it if this ain’t a joke…. The main music connection web searches give me for Peter Plate is one half of the duo Rosenstolz… And interesting searching the name again after posting my blog, coz it looks like I’ve pushed the writer Peter Plate I’m dealing with up in the web searches and half of Rosenstolz and other possible results down… Of course something else may also have happened to cause this but if it has it doesn’t turn up in the first few pages of a search (but my blog does)…. So I like to think this blog has a good effect on the world in ways like this….
Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-12-21 19:42:07 +0000
I quite agree – the ‘off-line counter-revolution’ just isn’t snappy enough, and as we all know, a revolution or movement only ever takes off if it’s got a decent title or hook!
It’s ofen interesting to see the effects a blog can have on search hits… or where your blog crops up by the strangest of routes…
The Genesis quip was just me being obscure and making a crap pun on the song ‘Paperlate’ (and I should point out that I’m by no means a Genesis fan – just a cultural sponge whose parents listened to some fucking awful records when I was a child!).
Comment by Old Rope on 2009-12-24 02:09:58 +0000
Love ribs, dont mate