As part of Shakespeare and Company‘s celebration of the centenary publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Will reads the first episode, which you can listen to here. Listen to the rest of the readings of the novel here when they become available.
Will Self’s fantasy dinner party
Frankly, any dinner party is a fantasy to me nowadays. I was pretty disaffected from the polite pissing contest that constitutes the average middle-class munch-fest long before the pandemic, but the past couple of years have seen the psychic equivalent of sticky tape printed with “POLICE CRIME SCENE” stretched across this particular zone of sociality. So it’s with considerable pleasure that I retreat into a purely fantastical one.
I’ve chosen to whine and grine my guests in the Circular Hall at Lambeth Town Hall. Why? Because it’s local to me — I’ve lived in this area of sarf’ London for a quarter century this year — and its Edwardian elegance contrasts with the busy central Brixton streetscape which can be seen from its ocular windows. The Reliance Arcade and the entrance to Electric Avenue (of which more later) are both in view while the Academy music venue, where I saw one of my guests, Martina Topley-Bird, give an extraordinary performance with Tricky in the late 1990s, is only a trip and a hop away.
Topley-Bird’s ethereal voice was the skylarking that soared above the rocky soundscape of the late nineties, which was about the last time I truly felt the pulse of the zeitgeist. It will be a pleasure to dine with this remarkable artist, who went on to have an equally brilliant solo career. I’ve also invited Eddy Grant because he was not only a pathfinding black artist in the Britain of the 1960s, but he also subverted the teeny-boppy “Baby Come Back” (his first big hit) by recording that paean to all things anarchic — and the Brixton riots of 1981 in particular — “(We’re gonna rock down to) Electric Avenue”.
Obviously, I’m interested to see how Margaret Thatcher, whom I’ve resurrected to be my sommelier for the evening, will react to Grant’s presence. But we won’t find out much, because as my paid employee I’ve instructed her to say nothing to my guests beyond polite requests as to what they’d like to drink and tasting notes on the beverages.
Find out who Will’s other guests would be at the FT here.
Mark Francois’ Spartan Victory is illiteracy on parade
Will’s review of Mark Francois’ self-published memoir in the New European.
Interview with Our Struggle podcast
On the betrayal of Afghanistan
Will’s latest column for The New European.
Radio 4 bonanza
If you missed Will’s Point of View, A Sense of Home, on Radio 4 earlier on, you can listen again here.
Also on Radio 4, Will returns to the Moral Maze for a special end-of-year debate on Meaning, with Rowan Williams, Alice Roberts and Bonnie Greer on 29 December at 8pm.
Sastrugi: a new short story
Pick up a copy of the brand new INQUE magazine to read Will’s new short story. Other contributors include Margaret Atwood, Max Porter, Joyce Carol Oates, Ocean Vuong, Tom Waits, Ben Lerner, Alexander Chee, Kae Tempest and Hanif Kureishi.
A journey to the bottom of my bin bag
“Click-clack goes the kitchen bin flap and it’s as if some definitive barrier has fallen into place in our minds and we forget — we forget about our rubbish. You may be like me, and have a dedicated recycling bin in your kitchen as well, in which case where you deposit your detritus delivers you either a little positive stroke — see how virtuous I am, carefully discarding this cardboard packaging — or a tiny demerit: perhaps I should have exhaustively washed out that yoghurt pot, so as to avoid it going up in smoke?
“Because that’s the reality of what happens to our waste: the days of extensive landfill are over. The new solution is to recycle as much as possible and incinerate the rest, in the process generating electricity. I wasn’t aware of this before researching a BBC Radio 4 programme on the subject, which is not say that I wasn’t conscious of my own lack of awareness, if you see what I mean.
On the contrary, I’ve always been intrigued, good Freudian that I am, by the nature of the rubbish heap upon which our civilisation is built. For the discoverer of the unconscious, it was the desire to repress the reality of our own organic nature — and together with it, its derelictions, defecations and eventual death — that resulted in the refinements of society. But surely: as it is to the individual, so it is to the collective — if we didn’t forget about that empty yoghurt pot the second we discarded it, we might not be able to get on with our important economic role as consumers, and buy another full one.”
Read the rest of Will’s piece on what happens to our waste, published in the Times (paywall) here.
Will-of-the-Dump is on BBC Radio 4 today at 4pm.
Confirmation bias and its role in culture and society.
On driving too fast
In this week’s Multicultural Man column, Will writes about his second speed-awareness course, this time a virtual experience.
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