My search for a grown-up soft drink

“I think it ill behoves recovering alcoholics – among whose number I include myself – to complain about the mores of the great drinking majority. After all, we’ve had our fill, and we’d be well advised to shut up and take our sparkling mineral water like the good men and women we’d like to become.

“But then … there’s the use of that verb – drinking – to indicate alcohol drinking without any modifier being required; it’s tough living in a society where the very act of imbibing is synonymous with intoxication, and all the harder because the available alternative drinks aren’t so much soft as sugary gloop suitable only for inducing fits in preteens (or mixing with teens’ and kidults’ vodka).”

World Book Day choices

For World Book Day, Will Self was asked by the Times which book he’d like to give and receive:

One to give: I would like to give JR Ackerley’s My Father and Myself to the entire Tory shadow cabinet. While ostensibly fashioning a memoir of a late Victorian bourgeois paterfamilias, Ackerley – who was arts editor for The Listener – turned out what is probably the most subversive book about British social mores and social hierarchy ever written. Both Ackerleys served in the Army, JR fought in the first world war, his father had served in the Guards and was a respected importer of bananas. However, Ackerley fils was gay, while Ackerley père was a bisexual former rent boy and a bigamist to boot. The brilliance of this book is that – rather like Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That – it shows how tissue-thin the narrative of power and ‘respectable’ class-consciousness always has been. The likes of David Cameron should read this book and think again if they believe hegemony to be part of their birthright.

Werner Herzog interview

An interview with the German – or, more specifically, Bavarian – director Werner Herzog, whose Encounters at the End of the World is out now.

Four Werner Herzog moments:

1. The opening sequence of his 1972 film Aguirre, Wrath of God, so astonishingly other for a teenager in the acrid darkness of a 1970s London cinema. I remember the porcelain face of the Madonna in her glass box, then the camera reverse-zooming, so that we see the conquistadors strung out along the jungle path. Back and back the camera pulls, revealing more and more immensities of mountain. It’s a perfect image: the European invaders, with their religious baggage, reduced to the status of ants crawling up a log.

Wystan: a new short story

“Chloe dreamt that she was having sex with her father-in-law’s dog, Wystan, a particularly skinny and nervous whippet. The whippet’s claws scratched her shoulders and breasts terribly — his needle-sharp teeth nipped at her ears; what was going on down below Chloe could only intuit, not feel, but the idea alone sent alternating pulses of nausea and shame coursing through her subconscious.