Will has written an original essay for ‘The Exchange’ – a collaboration between Crossed Lines and the Science Museum – exploring the impact of the iconic K6 telephone box and the 706L Modern Phone on both public and private communication and examines how these technologies continue to shape our understanding of the world.
Will Self’s talk from October 2018 at the Hillingdon Literary Festival, which begins with a reading from a section of his short story “Scale” (from Grey Area). Will discusses the writing of his books Walking to Hollywood and Phone, the importance of the M40 in his fiction, pretending to be British, the Iraq war and a little about his new memoir, Will, which is due to be published in November.
There’s a rare chance to catch Will in the States this week – tonight at 7pm he’ll be at a free event at Harvard Book Store, 1256 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA, 02138; on Thursday at 7.30pm he’ll be reading from Phone with Martin Amis at 92ND STREET Y, Unterberg Poetry Center, 1395 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 10128; and on Saturday at 6pm he’ll be at: Politics and Prose book store, 5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC, 20008.
The FT said Phone is “A novel of grand ideas, powered by a ravenous curiosity about the role of the technological revolution in our private and public woes, Phone nonetheless bristles with anxiety about the abuse of ‘intelligence’ — in medicine, in warfare, in software, in love … [Self’s] hurricane of eloquence blows in terrific passages of satire, comedy, even suspense — not to mention his pitch-perfect ear for the jargons and lingoes of modernity.”
The Mail on Sunday: “Zack is back. Will Self concludes his wordsplurging trilogy (Umbrella, 2012 Shark, 2014) with another unbroken block of modernist text featuring psychiatrist Zack Busner, now 78 and slipping mentally. Zack sections alternate with those in which Jonathan ‘the Butcher’ De’Ath of MI6, the great-nephew of an early patient (in Umbrella), has an affair with a British tank commander deployed to Iraq and caught up in prisoner abuse. Zack’s autistic grandson will connect it all through a smartphone he gives Gramps. Self’s preternatural gifts for invention weave human suffering and caring with psychiatry, war and technology. Difficult but a stunner.”
The Daily Telegraph: “Will Self’s new novel, Phone, is a kind of epic anti-tweet. It unspools over 600 pages without a single paragraph break, remorseless in its commitment to its own difficulty. It is a confrontational novel, making no concession to the abbreviated attention span of those who spend their millennial lives glued to the titular device. What better riposte to a culture that thinks in fewer than 140 characters?”
The Guardian: “This modernist narrative is best approached with a commitment to playfulness rather than a determination to hold all its strands close, and Self’s achievement is to make it intensely funny and humane. The book’s cerebral qualities are buttressed by his great skills as an observer and flaneur … Here, too, alongside the dead ends, the provisional tales and the fallen away characters, are some of the great stories: of damage handed on, generation to generation; of fading parents and vengeful children; of subterfuge and deception as necessary conditions of desire. And, of course, of death, which makes its most straightforward appearance in Phone’s closing lines, though it has been there all along.”
Listen to Will talking for about half an hour on Afternoon Edition (available for 28 days) on BBC Radio 5 live here at the 1hr 11 minute mark, taking in the “muted” general election, autism, how the smartphone has changed us and finishing his trilogy of modernist novels with Phone in which “a new technology is visited upon us and a new conflict ensues and what ensues from that … is a new form of mental illness”. He also reveals that he’ll be recording an audiobook of Phone and that his next book will be a memoir.
Will was also on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London, which you can listen to here at the 1hr 10min mark (available for 28 days); an FT podcast; and Front Row on Radio 4 (at the 6 minute mark) here in which he reads a short passage from Phone, taking in James Joyce, the anti-psychiatry movement and why Alzheimer’s might be a sane response to today’s world.
Wednesday 24 May: 6pm, International Literature Festival Dublin, Smock Alley Theatre, 6/7 Exchange Street Lower, Temple Bar, Dublin. (This event is being recorded for broadcast on The Book Show for RTÉ Radio 1.)
Tuesday 30 May: Radio 5 Live Afternoon Edition live interview. Later that evening, Radio 4 Front Row live interview.
Friday 2 June: 5.30pm, Hay festival, Tata Tent.
Tuesday 13 June: 7pm-8.30pm, Guardian Live in conversation with John Mullan, Islington Assembly Hall.
Thursday 29 June: 8pm, Hebden Bridge arts festival, Town Hall HX7 7BY.
Friday 30 June: 7pm, City Books, Ropetackle arts centre, High St, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex.
Sunday 13 August: 5pm, Edinburgh books festival.
Monday 14 August: 1.30pm, Edinburgh book festival, Writing the City.
Friday 29 September: 7.30pm, Marlborough literary festival.
Friday 6 October: Foyles event with Iain Sinclair, 6th floor, Foyles Charing Cross.
Sunday 8 October: Hull central library, 7.30pm.
Tuesday 10 October: Manchester literature festival.