Fiction & Biography '

SOCIAL DRAMA WILL SELF Dorian (Viking £16.99) .0

Will Self is a very clever man. Cleverer than you; cleverer than your neighbour; much smarter even than Ulrika Jonsson - though we reckon Bob Mortimer could give him a run for his intellecto-cash. He’s so cute that the Booker judges simply had to award him a place on their next long list for Dorian, even though it hadn’t arrived in the shops (and even though he’s written far better books). But then they also awarded a nomination to that old thicko Zadie Smith, who launches her new novel on the same day.

So does being rashly intelligent mean that, by extension, you’re bound to be really good? Critics may begin to wonder (if they hadn’t concluded before) that Sir William of Self (the Iacerating lyricist, that wiseacre of wordsmithery, our doyen of didactics) has way overstretched his mark.

Will Self is a head case. He cares little for the high-hat shimmerings of the heart. For Self and his loyal admirers, it’s all in the mind. Musing over his latest - ‘a shameless reworking of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece’ - the reader can’t fail to be charmed by some dazzling moments which hoist the soul through their sheer audacity but the prose gymnastics eventually tire you out and wear all too thin.

Wildeans will titter at the exact imitations at play in characters such as the young Dorian Gray (probably not the most deftly hidden persona in the book), a carnal, murderous, shiny-chested icon. This Mapplethorpeian wet dream is the subject of an installation by Baz Hallward, a fop who has us believe he’s


on first name terms with East European artist Andrew


This tragic trio is completed by Henry Wotton, self-

hating homosexual (married to the delightful Batface) with

an insatiable longing for drugs of every smell, shape and spice. By the time the AIDS revolution has swung round to

our cast, the party is very nearly over and all that is left to

look forward to is the inevitable visitation from Lady Di. You actually get the impression that Self wrote Dorian purely for the purpose of having unexpurgated goes at the



Nothing to Wear and Nowhere to Hide IFIamingo €14.99) 0...


A deceptively light touch

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The party is very nearly over

dead dame. The Eskimos have less words for ‘snow’ than Self has for the Princess of Clothes (or the royal fag hag, Thickie Spencer and much worse). Maybe Self hits out at targets because he knows he’s an easy one himself. He’s the food critic with a bitter taste in his mouth and the game show team captain playing it for laughs. Does he want to be a serious creator or a serial careerist? It’s not inconceivable that Self will one day make the dip from Booker long-lists and Shooting Stars to Bargain Books and Blankety Blank. (Brian Donaldson)

Shelf life

Classic novels revisited. This issue: One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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