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.
“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.”
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’.”
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.
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.
An interview with Will Self about Walking to Hollywood at the Paris Review here.
Will Self’s Walking to Hollywood: Memories of Before the Fall will be published by Grove in the US on May 3. You can order it from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, Borders, Books a Million and Powells.
Watch Laurie Taylor interviewing Will Self on the Sky Arts series In Confidence, posted on You Tube in various parts beginning here.
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.”
Listen to Will Self and Martin Amis (and others) talking about putting themselves in their fiction from the Guardian Books podcast here.