“Will Self has a distinguished history of idleness. At 12 he renounced all sporting activity and involved himself in counter-cultural pursuits. In his twenties he drew a cartoon strip for the New Statesman, Slump, which featured a proto-idler who never got out of bed. It was semi-autobiographical, as Self himself rarely rose either. Following a flirtation with the world of business as a magazine publisher, he found himself experiencing success as a novelist, writer of short stories and journalist. The Idler met Self – lanky, loud and louche – in this latest of his multiple personalities and discussed driving, drugs, small businesses and the will to dullness.
Idler: Are you an Idler?
Self: I’m an incredibly indolent person. I have an enormous natural inability to do … virtually anything, actually. For long periods of my life I just lay in bed and read novels. When people used to ask me what I did, I would say, “I lie in bed and read philanthropic novels”. Somewhere round the house is an edition of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu which I re-covered entirely so that the spine read “Lying in bed reading philanthropic novels” because that’s all I fucking did, you know. When I did Slump for the Statesman, I had that and I had a gig at City Limits, the frontispiece cartoon on the letters page. One paid me 35 quid, the other paid me 70, that’s 105. I had a free flat. And that was it. It took me a morning to do the cartoons. The rest of the time I did nothing. Between ’82 and when I started in a serious suit and tie business in ’86, I did very little. That was the nadir of my idleness.”