Foreword to Nick Cave: The Complete Lyrics

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Will Self’s Foreword to Nick Cave: The Complete Lyrics
Some 20 years ago, I had a long wrangle with the music writer Barney Hoskyns about the relative virtues of rock lyricists. Barney’s view was (and I hope I’m not traducing him in any way) that simplicity was the key. The structure of pop songs – most of which derive from the holy miscegenation of the English ballad form and the eight-bar blues – the importance to them of melody and their fairly short duration: all of these factors meant that facile rhymes, basic narratives and straightforward sentiments made for the best lyrics.

Alasdair Gray – 1982, Janine

Will Self wrote an introduction for the Canongate edition of Alasdair Gray’s book.

An unforgettably challenging book about power and powerlessness, men and women, masters and servants, small countries and big countries, Alasdair Gray’s exploration of the politics of pornography has lost none of its power to shock. Disliked by some and praised by others, 1982 Janine is a searing portrait of male need and inadequacy, as explored via the lonely sexual fantasies of Jock McLeish, failed husband, lover and business man. Yet there is hope here, too, and the humour (if black) and the imaginative and textual energy of the narrative achieves its own kind of redemption in the end.

William Burroughs: Junky

Penguin 2002 edition
Introduction by Will Self

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‘Junk is not, like alcohol or a weed, a means to increased enjoyment of life. Junk is not a kick. It is a way of life.’ In this complete and unexpurgated edtion of Burroughs’ famous book, he depicts the addict’s life: his hallucinations, his ghostly noctural wanderings, his strange sexuality and his hunger for the needle. Junky remains one of the most accurate and mesmerising account of addiction ever written.

Alasdair Gray: An Introduction

[This essay appears in the British Library edition of Essays on Alasdair Gray, edited by Phil Moores. Reproduced by kind permission of the British Library. © The British Library 2002]

A letter arrives from Phil Moores whose address is listed as follows: British Library, Customer Services, Document Supply Centre, Boston Spa, Wetherby, West Yorkshire. He encloses a selection of essays about the work of the Scottish novelist, artist, poet and politico-philosophic eminence grise, Alasdair Gray. You are holding this book in your hand so you know what those essays are, but picture to yourself (and let it be a Gray illustration, all firm, flowing pen-and-ink lines, precise adumbration, colour – if at all – in smooth, monochrome blocks), my own investigation of these enclosures.