Penny Goring: The Zoom Zoom

cover image and design Sarah E Melville

It is an honour to announce that on June 1st we will be publishing The Zoom Zoom, the debut collection from Penny Goring, the most original voice to hit the English literary scene in the 21st Century.

The Zoom Zoom will be available as a paperback for £8 and an ebook for $2.99 on June 1st. There will always be a VERY special special edition. Let’s get to know a little about what makes Penny tick.

One of the most exciting things about your work is that you’re not afraid of language. A lot of writers would be terrified of putting the words together that you do. Do you think people have had their imagination scared out of them?

I don’t know about other people. I had my imagination scared INTO me! I get self-destructive if I’m not making things that give me a buzz. To get that buzz I have to be pushing the envelope. For example, if I’m writing a story and it starts making too much straight-forward narrative sense – it scares me. It scares me because it won’t hold me on the seat. I might fly off the handle instead. Relapse for the buzz. Go jump under a bus. To escape the predictable and mundane. It’s fucking everywhere. I don’t need to be making it. I need to keep my arse on the seat and try to entertain my brain.

I’ve never read quite such a glorious celebration of language as your work. It’s like you fill the page with great big mouthfilling globs of word, and I can’t think of metaphors for it that aren’t about painting. Would I be right?

Painting became stifling – it felt like everything worth doing had already been done – so I started writing instead. Writing is wide open, more exciting, has possibilities. Painting was heavy – writing is a relief. You can make anything with words – I love that. If I can visualise my story I know I can write it. I might see a red plastic shiny spiral spinning fast in a grey sky – that will be my way forward. For Hexing the Sexing, for example, I saw a scrap of organza gorgeously embroidered to death and smothered in pretty applique – that’s how I wrote it.

Dolls. And the sea.

I used to make rag dolls – dolls are small and mysterious and you can love them and mutate them and play with them and they can be made out of anything you fancy, as abstract or realistic as you like, and they are good listeners, good at keeping secrets, they always understand. If they get damaged you can mend them. They never go anywhere without you.

I grew up by the river Thames and I’ve lived by the sea. I live by the Thames now. I love the river. I love the sea – but seaside towns, well, the ones I’ve lived in, are dreadful: Hastings, which is a cursed place, strange and evil. And Weston-super-Mare I loathe because I spent six months in a brutal rehab there – it’s one of the toughest in Europe. With Shame Dolls.

OK, I found one. A metaphor, that is, but it’s still crafty. Looking at your writing as a whole, it feels like a glorious patchwork quilt where some of the seams have been picked apart. Like there are gaps, and islands of experience and memory. Do you invite the reader to fill the gaps, or is that how you imagine your life, as patches of colour some of which are islands.

I don’t ever want to bore people – or myself. I only write the parts that interest me. And when I re-write I cut huge chunks. Then I’m always disappointed my pieces are so short!

I see my life as a dark underground tube station tunnel receding behind and before me. I’m standing at the station, which is NOW, and I shunt up and down the tracks, shining my torch on different stops. Darklings is where I looked at my life when I was 9 – 10 years old – way down the end of the tunnel. House – that’s much closer, that’s 1997. Bone Dust Disco is 2020 – my future – up the other end of the dark tunnel.

But sewing, by hand, is something I’ve always done. Not by machine, that kills it for me. I used to make sculptures from fabric. I love what one of my favourite sculptors Louise Bourgeois said, something like – some days you want to MAKE AND MEND, stitch, stitch, some days you want to DESTROY, cut, snip, unpick.

Same with paper and scissors and glue. I spent a few years happily buried in stacks of old magazines – Vogue, I-D, The Face – I was addicted to magazines (and Kit-Kat Chunkies) – making intricate A3 collages. Cutting up – sticking back together in new ways: making skies out of curtains and lips, houses out of jumpers and hair, faces out of glass and jewels… Very absorbing, totally satisfying.

Tell me about the three-part structure of King Size. It feels less like a triptych and more like an architect’s drawing – the same view from three projections.

I never thought of King Size as a triptych. I might write some more King Size. There could be twenty one day! I was thinking about music, the way songs, dance tunes get re-mixed. Like, King Size – the Flamenco mix, King Size – the Rave Mix… How we see things from different angles in different moods. Mood swing stories!

But the architect’s drawing is close too – my Dad used to have his drawing board set up on the end of the snooker table that dominated our livingroom, doing architect’s drawings at home for extra cash – I loved watching him. And those drawings stayed with me. I like to imagine living in an upside-down house. If you look at technical drawings of rooms the wrong way up, it wouldn’t be too hard to live in them – you’d be climbing over the walls at the bottom of the doors, kneeling to look out of the windows and walking on the ceilings…

What was it like being another artist’s muse? Has it helped your work?

Everything you experience can eventually ‘help’ your work – if you manage to survive it!

When I was at art college and up until I got sober and stopped socialising five years ago, it seemed like I was everybody’s muse. I was painted, photographed, written about, filmed, had clothes designed for me and so on… Basically, I attracted all sorts of attention.

But you see, I was labelled ‘ugly’ and ‘weird’ at school and beaten up really badly, I mean broken nose, two black eyes, my spine was damaged – and then I was completely ostracised for two years – so when the tables turned – it was simply another extreme and baffling reaction I was getting from those eternal ‘other people.’

I’m always looking for intense communication, intense connections – and people who idealise you and use you for their work don’t really want anything from you but the perpetuation of their own myths. If you spoil their fantasies by being real – they don’t like it. It got lonely, confusing and distracting.

I need to be rooted down deep inside my real self to work properly – not outside it, not surface me, not Disco me! I like to be scruffy, unwashed, and talking as much bloody nonsense and gibberish as I want, being as uncool or angry or idiotic or ungainly as I feel, with people who accept me as I am. I need lots of time alone, too. Then I can get on with it – make things that might keep me safe.

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12 Responses to Penny Goring: The Zoom Zoom

  1. Hi – good interview (both -er and -ee).

    It’s interesting the point about some writers being afraid of words; being afraid of your raw materials is weird. I think you can often tell a lot about a writer by what *other* art forms they compare their work to – those who compare to film or TV are often more interested in the plot or overall form, whereas those who compare to visual arts or music seem to me more likely to be concerned with the individual words and rhythm of those words. (Of course these aren’t mutual exclusive and I could be making too much of the analogy. Again.)

    But yes, sounds really interesting, as are the extracts on Penny’s website.

  2. alisonwells says:

    I am so excited to see this book coming out, I can’t wait. It will be terrific. Loved the interview of course! xxx

  3. I’ve always wanted to live in an up-side down house, too. The up-side down lamps would be the best part.

    Lovely interview, of course!

  4. Exciting is always the word that springs in my mind when I read Penny’s writing.

    It’s exciting!

    And I am excited about reading the Zoom Zoom too.

  5. Joel JoelTalk says:

    I stumbled upon Penny via twitter and have been a fan since. Very much looking forward to the book and continued tweets and bits and pieces and munchable sentences for me to consume …. love the work

  6. Kept me on my seat – reading this. I admire fearless people. I am not one of them so it matters to me that there is a wonderful explosive fireworky brilliant person called Penny being herself so much it dazzles. Zoom Zoom indeed. If a teensy bit of you rubbed off on me – I would be the luckiest person on the planet.

  7. great interview the whole thing is very exciting & cutting edge, i like it

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  11. Marcus Speh says:

    i came across penny on twitter, i think. she zooms there, too. enjoyed the interview and ZOOM ZOOM, the collection. some exciting british writing…i’ve missed that in in the midst of all the often too adapted and well behaved new labour style penning.

  12. danholloway says:

    She does, indeed – she’s a star in the twittersphere’s firmament

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