Walking to Hollywood

Bloomsbury filmed Will Self in a teaser for Walking to Hollywood – a mixture of fact, fancy, memoir and invention – which was published on September 6 2010.

“Walking to Hollywood is an extraordinary triptych in which Will Self burrows down through the intersections of time, place and psyche to explore some of our deepest fears and anxieties with his characteristic fearlessness and edgy humour.

Walking To Hollywood - Will Self
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“In the autumn of 2007, Self became ill with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The first part of the book is ostensibly the account of a curative journey to Canada and the USA, but in fact the record of a nematode’s progress, as the worm of obsession – with scale and packing and the ‘stuff’ of our lives – bores through a mind in extremesis. It is a journey that leads to three suicide attempts.

“On his return to England, Self put himself in the care of Dr Zack Busner, one of the originators of The Quantity Theory of Insanity. As the symptoms of OCD diminish, the obsession with his own inability to suspend disbelief in narrative art forms takes over. Self convinces himself that film itself is dead and becomes determined to find the murderer of the medium he once loved. ‘Walking to Hollywood’ is the story of his week-long 120-mile circumambulation of Los Angeles which led to his abduction by members of the Church of Scientology, a passionate affair with Bret Easton Ellis, and mortal combat with the reanimated corpse of Walt Disney.

“Back in London, the writer recovers from his flamboyant psychosis of the summer, only to become aware of a new malaise. Prey for some years to ordinary amnesia, Self now realises he is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. However, remembering that Holderness in East Yorkshire has the fastest-eroding coastline in Europe, the writer decides to take a 40-mile walk over a weekend in late July, a walk akin to a magical rite and one that no one would ever be able to replicate.”

Walking to Hollywood, an early review

Walking to Hollywood, Will Self’s new book, is published by Bloomsbury today. One of the first reviews is from the Sunday Times, who said that it was “Casually delirious and unfailingly precise … the whole book is a painfully brilliant performance full of Self’s characteristic obsessions with scale, texture and metamorphosis. The overall effect is hallucinogenic, paranoid and almost gruellingly clever.”

There was an interview with Self in the Telegraph last week talking about the book, which can be found here.

Walking to Hollywood – some more reviews

The Guardian: “You see suddenly that, beneath the apocalyptic humour and fizzing contempt of Walking to Hollywood lies the iron will and cold, self-inspecting intelligence of its author. All along the book has been about death.”

The Spectator: “The conversations with Scooby-Doo, the made-up characters, the sex, lies and videotape – this is a landscape contoured, almost in whole, by Self’s imagination … It is, as always, a place crammed with a Devil’s Dictionary’s worth of wordplay, and with an unerring tendency towards the absurd and perverse … Walking to Hollywood is certainly an engaging enough breakdown on the part of its author. Just make sure to approach it with all the professional detachment of a psychiatrist.”

Watch ‘Obsessed with Walking’

Watch some clips from the fascinating 30-minute Australian film Obsessed with Walking by Rosie Jones, which follows Will Self around Los Angeles “doing field research” for his book Walking to Hollywood and interviews him at home in London too.

Obsessed with Walking clip 1

Obsessed with Walking clip 2

Obsessed with Walking clip 3

To listen to the director talking about why and how she made the film, go here. For more information about the film, visit the Flaming Star Films website. To buy a copy of Obsessed with Walking go here.

Mapplethorpe beach, Holderness coast

The beach at Mapplethorpe.

The beach at Mapplethorpe.

“This is the extraordinary beach at Mapplethorpe on the Holderness coast of east Yorkshire. I walked the length of the coast from Flamborough Head to Spurn Head in the summer of 2007 as part of the research for my misery memoir Walking to Hollywood. The Holderness coast is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, losing six feet of its friable loess cliffs every year to the chomping of the waves. My idea was to walk the entire 35-odd miles within six feet of the cliff edge or bottom, thereby taking a route that could never be replicated. All went oddly from the start: I left my maps at Flamborough Head; my boots turned into flesh-eating monsters; and the weather was a weird compounding of bright sun and ghostly sea fret blowing in off the sea.”

Walking to Hollywood: paperback of the year

The Independent has given Walking to Hollywood five stars in its paperbacks of 2011:

“The three essays collected in Walking to Hollywood are non-fictional travelogues that spiral slowly into abstraction, similar in many ways to the ‘psychogeography’ columns on which Will Self collaborated with Ralph Steadman.

“But here the tone is markedly different, the author’s usual Technicolor exuberance tempered by a monochrome melancholy. It is significant that Steadman’s illustrations have been displaced by the sort of black-and-white photographs beloved of WG Sebald; Self’s writing seems to have taken a darker turn under the German writer’s saturnine influence. Not that this book entirely lacks the old scatological mischief. Sebald, after all, is unlikely to have described car exhausts as ‘turbofarts’.”

New Bloomsbury book covers

Greg Heinimann at Bloomsbury has created a series of new book covers for Will Self’s back catalogue to coincide with the paperback publication of Walking to Hollywood (below) in September. The new covers are for My Idea of Fun, The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Cock & Bull, The Sweet Smell of Psychosis, Junk Mail, Grey Area, Great Apes and The Butt.

Read a short report about it in Creative Review here.

Walking to Hollywood paperback

The Idler Academy: Being There

Will Self returns to the Idler Academy for a symposium on walking to mark the publication in paperback of his book Walking to Hollywood (Bloomsbury). Self’s talk, Being There, will discuss the idea of using walking as a way of escaping “the man-machine matrix: that nexus of mass communication and transit that ensures we never really ever are where we are, but always being transported somewhere else.”

The Idler Academy, 81 Westbourne Park Road, London W2 5QH, Thursday 15 September, 6.30pm for 7pm, £20. Includes “free wine and dainty morsels”. Visit the Idler website for more details.