Praise for Will
“ Will looks back to Self’s adolescence and early 20s, when he was strung out on smack, and presents himself as a wheedling, whining bully who treated his friends, family and lovers with that junkie’s inversion of the categorical imperative: seeing others only as a means of achieving his next fix . . . Recalls the great wave of drug memoirs that came in the 1990s, and particularly Ann Marlow’s superb, genre-bending How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z. . . The book is a joy to read, with the final part in particular recalling David Foster Wallace at his best . . .There’s more than mere nostalgic pleasure in this gleefully self-lacerating memoir of drug abuse and rehab.” Guardian
“One of Britain’s most inspired writers employs his novelist style to a chronicle of his addictions . . . A third-person, no-holds-barred tale of [Self’s] fascinating life . . . His readers won’t be surprised by this heady stew of J.G. Ballard, Hunter S. Thompson, and Philip K. Dick . . . The prose is consistently spectacular . . . A tale of addiction and consequences by the singular Self earns its shock and awe.” Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Will Self
“Will Self may not be the last modernist at work but at the moment he’s the most fascinating of the tradition’s torch bearers.” New York
“Self is the most daring and delightful novelist of his generation, a writer whose formidable intellect is mercilessly targeted on the limits of the cerebral as a means of understanding. Yes, he makes you think, but he also insists that you feel.” Guardian
“Mr. Self often enough writes with such vividness it’s as if he is the first person to see anything at all.” New York Times
“Self writes in a high-modernist, hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness style, leaping between sentences, time periods, and perspectives . . . The reward is a strange, vivid book.” New Yorker
“Self’s prose demands real attention, but is never less than sharp, biting and incisive. Prepare to be eaten whole.” Independent
“Like the work of the great high modernists from the 1920s, like Joyce, Woolf and Eliot, there is a kind of chaotic beauty in Self’s unrestricted writing . . . You’ll be simultaneously entertained, mesmerized, intellectually stimulated, baffledand laugh your ass off.” NPR
“Will Self’s Phone will be one of the most significant literary works of our century . . . Over and above the intellectual sprezzatura of the work, there is, at its heart, an emotional core, a profound sense of grief.” New Statesman
“[ Phone ] delivers a hurricane of satire and suspense . . . A novel of grand ideas, powered by a ravenous curiosity about the role of the technological revolution in our private and public woes . . . William S. Burroughs, meet John le Carré.” Financial Times
“Self has indeed been a goat among the sheep of contemporary English fiction, a puckish trickster self-consciously at odds with its middle-class politeness . . . Writers, too, as Self so wonderfully proves, can awaken the half-dead and reanimate that which has been sunk in oblivion.” New York Review of Books
Self (Phone) charges his first-ever memoir with harrowing—and, occasionally, humorous—accounts of drug addiction, primarily to heroin and cocaine. While the author readily name-checks Big Bill Burroughs (Junky), his adventures and suffering crackle with absurdity absent from that Beat Generation bible. That's not a swipe at Burroughs: his first book was written under far darker circumstances—the accidental shooting of his common-law wife, Joan. Much to his credit, Self shows us everything (emphasis on every), thus defusing any chance of readers romanticizing his buying-and-selling days as an extended hedonistic vacation. The facts of addiction are ugly; guilt and shame as present as needles and opioid nirvana. The horrors of withdrawal cannot be understood by the uninitiated, but Self conveys their affect with existential brutality. From a North London childhood to Oxford, Morocco, to the great Australian outback, to hypocrises—moral and ethical—he explores the complicated relationship between intoxication, risk, desire, and the creative artist. A comparison of heroin's erasure of fear and tension to that of the author as a child, safe in his warm bed, reminds readers that loss plays a profound role here. VERDICT Readers of William S. Burroughs and Beat literature, as well as experiential journals from Djuna Barnes, Paul Bowles, and Hunter S. Thompson will find here much to endure and enjoy. [See Prepub Alert, 7/29/19.]—William Grabowski, McMechen, WV
One of Britain's most inspired writers employs his novelistic style in a chronicle of his addictions.
In this hybrid of memoir and novel—nominally nonfiction, although one wonders how a serious addict could recall so much—Self (Phone, 2017, etc.) offers a third-person, no-holds-barred tale of his fascinating life. The author has always worn his influences on his sleeve, so his readers won't be surprised by this heady stew of J.G. Ballard, Hunter S. Thompson, and Philip K. Dick. Much of the narrative falls somewhere between Tony O'Neill's drug-fueled ultraviolence and the grungy milieu of the self-destructive, filth-covered addicts of Trainspotting. Self's hallucinatory journey begins in 1986 with 24-year-old Will, with 57 pence to his name, idly pondering stealing painkillers from a chemist's shop. The book jumps back and forth through the 1980s as Self gets higher and higher, even while studying at Oxford, "hardly ever breaking cover." The amount and diversity of the drugs are staggering; consider this nod to Thompson: "multicoloured collection of uppers, downers, twisters and screamers…namely: ten blotters of acid, a half-ounce of Pakki black, four black bombers, twenty-odd amphetamine blues, a couple of Mogadons Mike'd nicked from his mum and a bottle of amyl nitrate." The prose is consistently spectacular, but the narrative is oblique, portraying the author's troubled youth in moments and flashes. The supporting characters, while presumably real, are mostly generic with the exceptions of Chloë, the love of Self's life, whom he ultimately abandoned before he could inevitably hurt her; and Caius, the spoiled junkie who accompanied Self on many of his (mis)adventures. Despite the author's inevitable trip to rehab, this is no redemption song. From London to Marrakesh to India to Australia and back, Self delivers a hallucinatory, confessional version of his life devoid of melancholy and, mostly, regret.
Addiction memoirs are ubiquitous, but a tale of addiction and consequences by the singular Self earns its shock and awe.