Submarine author Joe Dunthorne maps modern writer's mind

Alice Jones' Arts Diary

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The Independent Culture

Past the Bonfire of the Exes and Mount Amazon, take a shortcut through The Atwoods, avoiding the Reef of Pretension and the Twitter whirlpool – the picture above is a map of the modern writer’s mind. It was drawn by Joe Dunthorne, author of Submarine, who is one of 16 high-profile contributors to Where You Are. A box-set of “personal maps” by Alain de Botton, Tao Lin, Adam Thirlwell and Olafur Eliasson among others, it will be published by Visual Editions in December; an interactive website is live now at

On it Geoff Dyer traces his teenage dabbling in sex and drugs around the streets of Cheltenham while Leanne Shapton paints still lives of her desk at the end of each writing day. Dunthorne’s is a map of “the mess of every writing day, including his literary inspirations, the shipwrecks of unrealised projects (“My Sci-Fi Gangster Script”) and an archipelago of islands representing different poetry scenes, “who all despise each other”.

“I wanted to represent each day as a writer. There is always the prospect of finding wonderful treasure”, he says. “But also of getting very distracted and lost.”

Dunthorne, 31, has just started working on his third novel, which will be his “London novel”, he says. “It’s about that unique, strange generation of young Londoners who have been forced by financial and cultural circumstances to have permanently prolonged childhoods. Nearly all of my friends have turned 30 recently and it’s been a magnet for meltdowns. Everyone is wondering why they haven’t achieved the lifestyle of their parents yet. The whole East London café culture is a façade, really – we couldn’t have a different lifestyle even if we wanted it.” 

Bad sex

It is the most hilarious and, usually, revolting of literary prizes. The Bad Sex Awards announced its nominees last week and has been tweeting some of the offending passages (ahem) at #BadSex ever since. Nominees include the late Woody Guthrie, for his rediscovered explicit novel House of Earth and Jonathan Grimwood (pictured) whose first non sci-fi novel The Last Banquet. about a gourmet’s life in pre-Revolutionary France, includes one particularly cheesy sex scene. “Reaching behind me, I found the Brie and broke off a fragment, sucking her nipple through it. She tasted almost as she had the day I took the drop of milk on my finger.”

Is he offended by the accolade? “Each to their own”, he tells me. “But my personal opinion is that anything who thinks food and sex don’t go together deserves neither.”

The Literary Review will announce the winner at The In and Out Club in London on 3 December.

Homeland viewing figures

Is anyone still watching Homeland? Last Sunday it drew just 1.9million viewers, a small increase on a series low of  1.6million the previous week. The opening of the third series on 6 October drew 2.2 million but viewers have been deserting it ever since, with six weeks still to go. The news that the CIA drama has been recommissioned for a fourth season may see even more fans give up rather than wait for another end-of-series cliffhanger. Has C4 signed it up? “It has only just been green lit in the States this week so too early [to say]”, I’m told.

Most popular play

To the English Touring Theatre’s website to cast a vote for the nation’s best-loved play. The company will perform the most popular plays by region to mark its 21st birthday in 2014. On my last two visits to the site, the Most Recently Voted For box showed the same play: Hamlet, by a certain William Shakespeare. Which other rarely performed gems will the project uncover?