Sunday, September 26, 2010

Will Will Self Self-Destruct, Or Will Will Self Self-Actualize?

Will Self, the iconoclastic British writer of such nihilistic books as Cock and Bull (1992), My Idea of Fun (1993), Great Apes (1997), How the Dead Live (2000), Dorian, an Imitation (2001), and The Book of Dave (2006), today turns 49.

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Most chroniclers of his life seem stymied how he could grow up to be a self-mutilating drug addict with a penchant for telling bizarre stories despite a comfortable childhood in a North London suburb; I figure, how could he not? I was also raised in a boring suburb, and look what I've become. The only thing that's saved me from a fate worse than cliche is my own inherent Canadian boringness.

Yet there is much to admire in Self's career: he was once removed from John Major's campaign aircraft after he was discovered doing heroin in it, which to my mind qualifies him for every honour there is; he was also fired from The Observer, which is another career goal of mine. He studied Philosophy at college rather than English, which could explain why his books have much to say about our modern world, rather than being so much navel-gazing twaddle. Quoth he:

'I want to be misunderstood. And the other thing that amuses me is: I don't particularly want to be liked. Nobody goes into the business of writing satire to be liked. Whether I am or am not a nice bloke is neither here nor there. It's not part of the task I've set myself in my art.'

Amen to that. The fact that Self is still a mid-career writer means we might expect yet more and even better from him, provided, that is, that on one of his epic walks around the English capital he isn't smited by some prat in a Ford Cortina.
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