There are still some tickets to see Will Self introducing Tarkovsky’s Solaris tonight at the Curzon Renoir at 7.30pm here.
“Yesterday’s anti-colonialists are trying to humanise the generalised colonialism of power. They become its watchdogs in the cleverest way: by barking at all the after-effects of present inhumanity.” So wrote the situationist Raoul Vaneigem in The Revolution of Everyday Life, his manifesto for an insurrection of the felt, the experienced and the real against the collective, the mediated and the fake. Vaneigem’s book was published in 1967 but it reads as fresh as ever: it is a bracing indictment of a society that inculcates alienation not through the whip across people’s backs (or at least not those anywhere too nearby) but by marketing the whip for £19.99, together with a range of pastel-coloured accessories.
Will has written before about the time he spent living with Matthew De Abaitua – his “live-in amanuensis” – in the 1990s, most notably in the Independent in 2008:
“Thirteen years ago, Matthew – who is now a talented novelist in his own right – spent a six-month sojourn as my live-in amanuensis and secretary. It was a thankless task: so far as I can remember I was completely spark-a-loco. We were living in a tiny cottage in Suffolk, and I was given to harvesting opium from the poppies that grew wild in the field margins, then driving my Citreon deux-chevaux across the same fields, solely by the light of a horned moon, Matthew placidly crammed into the passenger seat.
An interview with i-D ahead of one of Will’s recent Bookslam appearances, talking about music.
In the 1970s, when the world was just as evil and scuzzy as it is today but my gastrointestinal tract had a certain innocence – and even freshness – there was a pizza joint in Hampstead with the predictable name (at least to the ears of our current era) of Pizzaland. I remember nothing much about Pizzaland’s food but the decor has lodged in my memory – “lodge” being wholly apposite, because it consisted of banquettes topped off with little pitched roofs like lychgates, a lot of wooden fretwork, and a series of murals depicting skiing scenes that looked as if they’d been painted using an Old English sheepdog dipped in Artex.
“At an event organised by the Writers’ Centre in Norwich the other week, one of the volunteers – a woman perhaps a few years older than me – observed that when she was young writers were semi-mythical creatures, farouche, barely ever seen in the flesh, and their only spoor faded black-and-white photographs on the backs of their books. In some ways this was an exaggeration – there have always been writers (and by this I mean specifically fiction ones) – who’ve had a public profile. In the States this was, perhaps, carried off with a little more swagger, but we Brits always had our fair crop of novelists – and even poets – who were also public intellectuals. However, given the relative paucity of media forums – a mere brace of television channels, a triad of radio ones – these were inevitably only either the most personally egregious, or the most politically or socially plangent.
“Caesar! We who are about to die salute you!” So, it is said, the gladiators of old addressed the Roman emperors before they went about the entertaining business of mutual butchering. It was drizzling and outside the grey-dun hulk of the Colosseum there was a small gaggle of modern Romans dressed up not as gladiators but as tacky-looking legionaries. I wanted to accost them and say: “You can do better than this: hanging around in this Gibbonian drag, hustling the odd euro by having your picture taken with marauding phalanxes of orthodontically challenged Benelux schoolkids.” Then I wanted to climb up on a shattered column, strike a pose and orate: “Give me your poor and huddled masses of legionary impersonators! Come with me to London, where there are plenty of creative opportunities for enterprising folk prepared to spray-paint themselves silver and stand on a cardboard box all day!”
Listen to Will Self’s talk at the Writers’ Centre Norwich last Friday:
Listen to Will Self’s contribution to this BBC4 programme about the birth of modern art here (starts at the 21min mark and is available until May 29).
I once had lunch with the late Malcolm McLaren. It was during his short-lived run for the London mayoralty and I confess I can remember none of the following: a) where we ate; b) what we ate; I’d like to be able to say that both these amnesias were because of the strange and unearthly fascination exerted on me by the discourse of this famed bowdleriser of the Situationist International’s détournement, but sad to relate I cannot recall; c) a single word that he said. This must’ve been in the early years of the last decade – at any rate, not that long ago. By contrast, I can recall, note-and-letter-perfect, “Buffalo Gals”, the proto-hiphop ditty McLaren released in 1982, including his serially offending yelps of “Two buffalo gals go around the outside/’Round the outside, ’round the outside …” Such is the queer pretzel-shaped path that time’s arrow describes.