Mischief-maker and back with a new
yet to order a copy. Words: Teddy Iamieson
himself for some new names.
looking at the work. it’s looking at the writer. I just write books. It’s not as if I’m swinging round the place naked on a trapeze.‘
That said. Self’s ability to ﬁnd humour in the horrific is
not a hoot.‘
100 THE UST 16—30 Apr 1998
literary lout WILL SELF is
collection. John Major has
Will Self has been called a few things in his time. Poseur. self- publicist. professional junkie even. With a new book of short stories ready for the racks. he’s bracing
Tagged and bagged as a ‘cult novelist.’ Self does tend to cultivate extreme responses. Perhaps that’s not surprising for a writer capable of concocting a plot that involves the decapitation of a down and out and the subsequent sexual abuse of
His new collection. Tough, Tough Toys For Tough, Tough Boys. also offers the odd hostage to fortune. The publicity blurb for the book itself describes it as a ‘nasty heartless compendium‘ while a year after Self hit the front pages for allegedly smoking heroin on John Major’s election campaign jet. there’s surely some mischief in opening the book with a story entitled ‘A Rock of Crack as Big as
None of which. Self argues. should allow critics to resort to playground behaviour. ‘I clearly would be doing something wrong if I didn’t arouse strong reactions.’ he admits. ‘I realise. of course. that in my work there is stuff that people find upsetting and disturbing and don’t wish to confront. What I do mind. on a personal level. is the ad hominem quality of a lot of criticism. It‘s not
unsettling for many. His latest collection is no different. though Self reckons its tone is even darker than normal. ‘lt’s a harsh critique of masculinity and what it means to be a man. It‘s got some gags. but it‘s
For much of Tough, Tough Toys . . . strengths and weaknesses of Self‘s fiction are on display — a giddy playfulness to his language and ideas belies the shadowy subject matter. ‘Caring Sharing‘ offers a vision of intimacy-challenged men and women and their ‘emotos’ — l4ft tall walking. talking comfort blankets. ‘Flytopia’ is a skin-crawlino comic horror story of one man’s accommodation with the world of insects. Yet the inhabitants of Self‘s
’I just write books. it’s not as if I'm swinging round the pie-ice
naked on a trapeze.’ wax Self
Will's power: self-assured to self-loathing
stories all too often seem more story constructs than real characters.
That cannot be said. however. about the two longest stories which provide the real meat of the book. The title story — by some distance the best here
— is a British road movie in which the protagonist travels from (‘aithness to the Lake District and from self— assurance to self-loathing while ‘The Nonce Prize‘ is a chilling account of a man
framed for child abuse and his experiences in prison. You may come away with the notion that Self is a
wildly cynical misanthropist — it is a charge he
denies. ‘l'm much more optimistic personally. than I
am in my fiction. I‘m not exactly an upbeat. smiley
Alfred E Newman character. but I do think it is possible to live a good life. But I think people should be miserable in a way. because there are bad things happening and if Tough, Tough Toys . . . anything positive. it‘s that there is a certain peculiar virtue in accepting levels of misery.’
Tough, Tough Toys For Tough, Tough Boys by Will Self is published on Thu 23 Apr by Bloomsbury at £14.99.
The write stuff
Twenty-three-year—old Matt Thorne‘s debut novel Tourist sees an alienated youth run off to the seaside and has been described by Julie Burchill as ’sexy as a scar'. Let him leave his mark on you.
FIVE WORDS TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF: Deceitful, mendacious, hesitant. washed-up alcoholic.
FIVE WORDS TO DESCRIBE TOURIST: Slow, sexy, sadistic, low-key, funny. FAVOURITE FAIRGROUND RIDE: Dodgems. I'm scared of all the big ones.
DO YOU READ/CARE ABOUT REVIEWS: I don't really read the newspapers so I miss them. But I don't really care because I'm confident about my stuff so it doesn’t make much difference. But it's interesting to see what people say.
BOOK THAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME A WRITER: Blood And Guts In High School by Kathy Acker. BOOK THAT YOU WISH YOU'D WRITEN: The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil. It's a long German book about a man who invents his own philosophical system.
FUTURE OF THE NOVEL FORM: My second book.
AMBITIONS: I'm a very unambitious person which is strange having written a novel by 23.
FEARS: I'm afraid about offending people I've written about it. The first book’s completely fictional but I may lose friends with the second one.
IDEA OF HELL: Being surrounded by people who have problems with creativity and don't understand what you're doing or why you're doing it.
IDEA OF HEAVEN: I'm quite keen to move into the film world. I've just written a screenplay which would have to be a big American film if it was made. I enjoy Ieftfield stuff but find that quite hard to do myself. There's something in my head that keeps pulling me back to reality. WHAT YOU DO TO WIND DOWN: Go to the cinema. Nightclubs. Writing is a good way to get things out of your system.
WHAT YOU DO TO GET HIGH: I'm addicted to Coca-Cola. I don't drink tea or coffee so Coca-Cola gets me through the day. (Brian Donaldson) I Tourist is published by Sceptre at £10.