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 & experimental memoir that started life as a sound installation. It was named a New Statesman Books of the Year 2016 and a BOMB Magazine Book of 2016. It has been shortlisted for the Bread & Roses Award for Radical Publishing 2017, the PEN Ackerley Prize 2017 & the Gordon Burn Prize 2017. Much to my amazement and delight, Olivia Laing told the TLS that it was her favourite book of the year (if you want to learn more about Laing and why she liked the book so much, take a listen to this episode of Literary Friction).
‘A jagged, stunning meditation on war, violence and love. I’ve read it once and it was like drinking lightning; I can’t wait to rip through it again. ‘ Olivia Laing Best Summer Books 2018 Guardian/Observer
‘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
‘Fragmented, fresh, and frightening’. JM Schreiber
‘What emerges most of all, behind the humour, anger and uncertainty, is a memoir that is full of love and life.’ Time’s Flow Stemmed
‘This is the place to be also helps create this sense of sensory overload caused by our ‘modern’ existences – and how it can lead to fragmentation of thought and feeling. But it goes a step further because it does not seek to necessarily imply that the world is fragmenting the mind; but rather that the mind (being fragmented itself) seeks to make sense of the world through analysis of fragmented episodes, which, though they may seem unconnected and disassociated from one another at first glance, in fact share a much greater commonality.’ Professor Wu, Nothing in the Rulebook
‘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.
On 7 March 2018, the French edition Là où tout se passe launched into the world with Les Éditions de l’Observatoire. The translator is Yoko Lacour and the editor is François Guillaume.