I started reading the new Will Self novel/memoir/insane, self-flagellating mash-up last night, “Walking to Hollywood”, and as of 11.00am this morning I’ve read nearly half of it. I’ve been fascinated by Self (“Self-obssesed”?) since the mid-1990s, and although I’ve always found something lacking in his fiction (or not found something that made it seem the novel/short stories was/were lacking), I’ve always thought his non-fiction was peerless. Long have I waited for him to write some genre-bending travel book, or something that would reflect and refract the influence of his literary mentors, the late WG Sebald and the late JG Ballard. On first glance, the new book looks to be it, but I’ll wait and write a proper, considered review when I’ve finished. It goes without saying that the book is excellent, and never anything less than disturbing. The most idiosyncratic of all contemporary writers, I find something almost thrilling not just in the oddness of Self’s combined interests – scale, psychiatry, topography, psychotropic drugs – but in his approach to them.
In the meantime, it’s well worth watching this South Bank Show interview with Self from the mid-1990s. It’s a five-parter, the first part is behind the link. Self comes across as much more confident and even slightly arrogant than he really is, but it’s an excellent introduction to his life and themes.