On Umbrella’s US publication

This will be the first major publication of one of my books in the US that I haven’t crossed the pond for – and so salutations to my American readers; I write to you from my London fastness, tucked up snugly at the top of my 1848 house in sarf London, looking across the rooftops to where Renzo Piano’s Shard upthrusts, a teasing A la recherche de priapisme perdu. I have mixed feelings about not making it over – I am, of course, a demi-American on the maternal side, and hold a US passport, so the States is not so much close to me as engrafted. On the other hand, if I have any nationality at all, it’s Londonish, and the older I get, the less I like to stray.

Family matters ostensibly keep me here in London, but there’s also a part of me that sees the author tour – when mediated by jet fuel – as something of a solecism. Surely the entire point of being a writer is to reach people with your words, not your breath? Certainly that’s what attracted me to being a writer in the first place: what thrilled me about reading was that in the medium of the text I met with another sensibility decoupled from all contingent factors – sex, age, ethnicity, class – and so experienced the purest and most intimate comingling possible.

In my experience, meeting the writers you admire is almost always a disappointment – how can it not be? – and I wonder why it is that more people don’t feel that way. Here in the YooKay (a mostly fictional land), the old-style bookshop readings have been replaced by a myriad of book festivals, and really this is only because serried municipalities have figured out that, as desperate writers will do almost anything for no money whatsoever, it’s a cheap way of inculcating their miserable and isolate burghs with a little kulturkampf. They are immensely popular – these BritLitFests – and have become the Nuremberg rallies of the contemporary bourgeoisie. I cordially loathe most of them …

Still, at least they afford me the opportunity of reading publically to a lot of potential readers (even if most of them are there to see the latest celebrity egg-flipper, and just came along faut de mieux), whereas, apart from back in the day when I was an enfant terrible – instead of a grotty middle-aged man – my readings Stateside have mostly been to handfuls of buck-toothed teens in Barnes & Nobles marooned in out-of-town strip malls …

So, much better I stay here and do what I do best: crack on with the next book, a strange sort of sequel to Umbrella. In Umbrella, Dr Zack Busner mentions an incident with the foolhardy use of LSD in his Willesden Concept House (he says it was three years before, ie 1968, but his memory deceives him – the bad trip in fact took place in May 1970, the same day as the Kent State shootings). Anyway, I think you can probably guess the direction my wayward fictive sensibility is taking … back to the future for Busner’s next appearance in Shark.

Very best,

Will Self