Nicholas Wroe interviews Will Self in the wake of How The Dead Live’s publication:
“Looking back, Self thinks that getting his first book accepted was the high point of his literary career. “By this time I had children to support, but more than that, at a personal level, it was enormously liberating knowing I could do this thing. Whether out of anxiety or productivity, I just didn’t want to stop doing it.”
In the decade since he has produced four novels, another two collections of stories, a pair of linked novellas, a book of collected non-fiction and, last year, a meditation on masculinity that focused on the case history of a transsexual. His most recent novel, How the Dead Live , is published in paperback this month. It echoes one of his earliest and best short stories, “The North London Book of the Dead”, in which a young man has the unsettling experience of meeting his recently deceased mother in Crouch End.
“I was very interested in writing about this idea of what it was like for materialistic, atheistic people to die with no sense of spiritual transcendence,” he explains. “I’d seen my mother and, to a degree, my father, die like that, and it had a profound effect on me. In order to write a book that would do justice to the subject, I realised that my own lifestyle, which at that point was completely mired in active addiction, would have to change. So in a sense the book became something of a vehicle of recovery, and possibly even redemption, for me.” ”