Dominic Cavendish on literature

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The Independent Culture
Offbeat post comes through Elaine Palmer's Holloway letterbox like there's no tomorrow. "Someone from Italy sent me something recently, with a note attached saying `Please excuse the fact that this has been translated by a computer'. Some of the sentences were very, very weird." If you are the editor of an avant-garde anthology of new writing, then you take it in your stride. In Palmer's case, you positively encourage it. The launch of Pulp Faction - or "Granta with street cred" as it was later dubbed - was a commercially unviable clarion call to writers on the edges of the publishing universe. With its bright book covers (acidy yellow, orange and blue) and radical internal design (for every story a different font, usually competing against urban collages), it was the south's answer to Rebel Ink, which helped Irvine Welsh go places. At first glance, there are a WORRYING amount of TRIPPY text effects, in the vein of Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares, but, given a chance, the writing proves itself fresh, witty and quite capable of looking after itself. Small stars were born of Skin, the first edition, and the latest, The Living Room (cue shots of empty sofas), has even attracted a few - an extract from Deborah Levy's new novel (Bill England's Book of Pain) and a "small bad story" from Tim Etchells, of Forced Entertainment theatre group, about a woman who starts getting ignored by automatic doors.

A personal favourite is Justin Cooke's tale of an exhaustive search for a pair of white swimming trunks - a real problem these days. Here is fiction for the Tarantino generation that doesn't lower itself to cheap gangster thrills. "It fits the lifestyle we have, the lack of time, the short attention span," Palmer says. And she's getting the beers in to prove it.

Readings and party: tonight, Union Chapel, Compton Ave, London N1 pounds 6/pounds 4. `Pulp Faction' available from 60 Alexander Rd, London, N19 3PQ, or freephone 0500 418 419, pounds 6.99 plus pounds 1 p&p

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