This Is the Place to Be


My second book, This Is the Place to Be, launched into the world in September 2016 with the utterly unique CB editions. It is a fragmentary (anti-)memoir, that started life as a sound installation. As well as being listed in New Statesman Books of the Year 2016 & a BOMB Magazine Book of 2016, lots of good people have said some very nice things about it:

‘It is elegant, profound, candid, affecting and funny. Taxonomically speaking, though, I have no idea what it is.’ Houman Barekat, Times Literary Supplement (full article here)

‘Brilliant and uncompromising.’ Jonathan Gibbs, The Guardian

‘It’s so compulsive I couldn’t stop reading it, loving almost every line. It’s an act of generosity… I cannot recommend it more highly. It’s just wonderful.’ Neil Griffiths (full video review here)

‘What makes a life? Lara Pawson’s lucid, sudden and subtle memoir unpicks the spirals of memory, politics, violence, to trace the boundaries and crossing points of gender and race identity.’ Joanna Walsh

‘Just finished Lara Pawson’s This Is The Place To Be, wanting it to go on & on. But it didn’t so I have to start it again. More please.’ Adrian Searle

‘A crushingly honest memoir of war, war correspondence and personal mayhem … Her focus is direct, bleakly honest, and as a result full of hope.’ M. John Harrison

This Is the Place To Be is principally a moving meditation on whether [the author] can trust her sense of belonging at the time or her sadness afterwards and on whether the violence of war can be separated from a strain of violence that seems more endemic to human life.’ Lara Feigel, Times Literary Supplement  (full review here)

This Is the Place to Be is notable for its structural oddness. We might call it a memoir, but that wouldn’t quite do justice to its fragmentary, decidedly nonlinear narrative composition, which gives it a kind of oneiric quality redolent of experimental fiction… For all its personal candor, the spare laconicism of Pawson’s prose — even when recalling harrowing acts of violence — militates against any sense of intrusiveness or therapeutic excess. The result is a sense of intimacy lightly worn; we are told a lot, but it doesn’t feel like a lot.’ Houman Barekat, Los Angeles Review of Books (full review here)

‘A small literary grenade.’ Penny Schenk, blogger (full review here)

‘Lara Pawson’s This Is the Place to Be is a stark, compassionate and troubling text that summons a fragmentary autobiography, circling experiences from her growing up in England and her time as a reporter covering civil wars in Angola and Ivory Coast. She deals with big questions through an intimate mosaic of lived experiences – the blank, funny, awful, gentle shards that remain in memory years after events have taken place – returning her again and again to the themes of identity, violence, race, class, sexuality and the everyday lives of people across several continents.

‘The simple form of the book belies a complex structure of association and contrast, point and counterpoint, in which the disconnected events of a life speak to and about each other across time and space, in illuminating ways. Reminiscent on a formal level of Edouard Levé’s Autoportrait and the writing under constraint of Perec and the OuliPo group, Pawson’s poetic recounting of facts also shares something of Kathy Acker and J. G. Ballard, in its attempt to write through both the extraordinary horror and the extraordinary mundanity of trauma.’ Tim Etchells

‘Distinctly original’. Cristina Rios, Peace News (full review here)

‘This is an explosive book encapsulating the kind of innovation that is characteristic of the contemporary small press scene. Despite her assertion that ‘I don’t feel brave, I feel angry’, Pawson demonstrates a courageous lack of self-censure and an unflinching desire to reveal all, resulting in an intensely powerful and compelling read.’ Becky Danks, Contemporary Small Press (full review here)

‘Pawson leaps with poetic ease from life’s more mundane episodes to the harrowing, exposing the power of each detail and its residual effects on the psyche.’ Full interview with Penny-Ante‘s Rebekah Weikel at 3:AM here

‘This original and challenging book is poetic in its structure and layering of ideas. Pawson challenges herself, our notion of the truth, history and memory, as she blends fragmented episodes of personal memoir with her time as a journalist, most notably as a war reporter in Angola.’ Bernardine Evaristo, Alexi Books

‘In our conversations it has seemed to me that one of your impulses in the writing was effectively to humanise war – to deal in some way with its ordinariness and its banality, or to stress the persistence of the everyday (boredom, trivia, laughter, sexual desire) even in the fearful environment of war.’ Full interview with Tim Etchells here

‘I’m interested in the overlap between war and peace.’ Full interview with Rhys Tranter here

This Is the Place to Be is available to order here. You can also buy it from most good bookshops including Foyles, Burley Fisher Books, Waterstones, Pages of Hackney, Housmans, LRB Bookshop, Broadway Books, Daunts and many more.