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Will Self is one of Britain's most famous and infamous contemporary writers, a public intellectual known for his sardonic worldview, his logophilia, and his wide-ranging interests, from psychogeography to socialism to hard drugs. His novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and been translated into over twenty languages. In Will, his first ever memoir, he turns hi Will Self is one of Britain's most famous and infamous contemporary writers, a public intellectual known for his sardonic worldview, his logophilia, and his wide-ranging interests, from psychogeography to socialism to hard drugs. His novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and been translated into over twenty languages. In Will, his first ever memoir, he turns his attention fully to his own self. A brilliant literary work, Will echoes the best of Self's fiction, reminding us how the personal is always historical, and reflecting that personal history through a psychedelic prism. Will spins the reader from Self's childhood in a North London suburb to his mind-expanding education at Oxford, to a Burroughsian trip to Morocco, an outback vision in Australia, and, finally, a nightmarish turn in rehab. From an attempt to score as a teenager by buying a pastry breakfast for a user-dealer friend in lieu of payment (Self also considers buying a banana to rob a chemist's to get his fix), to his university years, fueled with literature but also with "heroin, hashish, cocaine, grass and amphetamine"; to his experiments in sex, identity, and his first relationships, Self takes us on a tour of his young life, letting us inside one of the best minds of our generation. Whether discussing pharmacology: "there's nothing remotely euphoric about methadone: it just makes you feel as if you're buried up to your waist"; religion: "God is great . . . Gear is great . . . Therefore: gear is God . . ."; or economics: "the best things in life are free--while the worst retail at a tenner a bag," Self's mordant humor and vivid writing make this book one of the most powerful depictions of the allure and power of hard drugs ever written. It is also a technicolor portrait of the strangenesses of family, the transcendence of art, and the defiant quest for self-expression in a rule-filled world. Will is an addiction memoir like none before, powerfully bringing to the page the peerless euphoria of getting high, and simultaneously offering a pitiless examination of the lows that follow, a karmic cycle that leads back to the author's own lack of . . . will. Both kunstlerroman and confessional, Will is a tale of excess and degradation, an exploration of the wild experiences that have formed the basis of Self's incandescent fictions.


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Will Self is one of Britain's most famous and infamous contemporary writers, a public intellectual known for his sardonic worldview, his logophilia, and his wide-ranging interests, from psychogeography to socialism to hard drugs. His novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and been translated into over twenty languages. In Will, his first ever memoir, he turns hi Will Self is one of Britain's most famous and infamous contemporary writers, a public intellectual known for his sardonic worldview, his logophilia, and his wide-ranging interests, from psychogeography to socialism to hard drugs. His novels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and been translated into over twenty languages. In Will, his first ever memoir, he turns his attention fully to his own self. A brilliant literary work, Will echoes the best of Self's fiction, reminding us how the personal is always historical, and reflecting that personal history through a psychedelic prism. Will spins the reader from Self's childhood in a North London suburb to his mind-expanding education at Oxford, to a Burroughsian trip to Morocco, an outback vision in Australia, and, finally, a nightmarish turn in rehab. From an attempt to score as a teenager by buying a pastry breakfast for a user-dealer friend in lieu of payment (Self also considers buying a banana to rob a chemist's to get his fix), to his university years, fueled with literature but also with "heroin, hashish, cocaine, grass and amphetamine"; to his experiments in sex, identity, and his first relationships, Self takes us on a tour of his young life, letting us inside one of the best minds of our generation. Whether discussing pharmacology: "there's nothing remotely euphoric about methadone: it just makes you feel as if you're buried up to your waist"; religion: "God is great . . . Gear is great . . . Therefore: gear is God . . ."; or economics: "the best things in life are free--while the worst retail at a tenner a bag," Self's mordant humor and vivid writing make this book one of the most powerful depictions of the allure and power of hard drugs ever written. It is also a technicolor portrait of the strangenesses of family, the transcendence of art, and the defiant quest for self-expression in a rule-filled world. Will is an addiction memoir like none before, powerfully bringing to the page the peerless euphoria of getting high, and simultaneously offering a pitiless examination of the lows that follow, a karmic cycle that leads back to the author's own lack of . . . will. Both kunstlerroman and confessional, Will is a tale of excess and degradation, an exploration of the wild experiences that have formed the basis of Self's incandescent fictions.

30 review for Will: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    Question: What would you get if a skinny six foot six Brit seasoned his hits of smack with the spirits of William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson and Paul Bowles? Answer: William Woodard Self aka Will Self. By all means read Will: A Memoir but this is one memoir where you'll definitely want to listen to the author read his own bloody, fuckin' book. I can assure you, listening to the audio will make for a high-speed, rollicking jolt. Harrowing, hellish, humorous - the Will pulls it off as only th Question: What would you get if a skinny six foot six Brit seasoned his hits of smack with the spirits of William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson and Paul Bowles? Answer: William Woodard Self aka Will Self. By all means read Will: A Memoir but this is one memoir where you'll definitely want to listen to the author read his own bloody, fuckin' book. I can assure you, listening to the audio will make for a high-speed, rollicking jolt. Harrowing, hellish, humorous - the Will pulls it off as only the Will can, talking about himself in the third person in five fiery chapters: WILL, AGE 25, PART 1 Addiction has reached the point where Will needs drugs the way a drowning man needs air. However, there's a problem, a colossal problem: life in London with all its shitfaced little women and men stand between Will and his next fix, exacerbated by the fact Will lacks the scratch to pay for what he so desperately craves. Will zooms back and forth across London in his Volkswagen Fastback, his "Veedub," in a desperate, frenzied, frantic attempt to score, his fuckin' mum's eternal admonition, Waste not want not, endlessly repeating in his dope starved noggin. How desperate is Will to get his fix? "Will thinks: You're seriously going to buy two apples Danish then take them back across the road? You're seriously going to offer them to John through the letterbox." Will does indeed reduce himself to such saccharine grovelling. Will told his boss where he was working a crap blue collar job "I think I can do better for myself with an Oxford degree" and transitions to a white collar crap job - telemarketing for IBM. But crap is crap, a job is a job, and Will knows it. "He's time to regret the drugs and the debts and the betrayals - the weeping, the wailing and the rotting of teeth. He's wanted to be a writer - to lounge about in a silk suit, smoking opium . . . . but, clearly, that's not going to happen now." Sorry, Will, you're poor not rich - and you've found out the hard way that without money to bolster your dreamed lifestyle, your Oxford degree means shit. What I write here expressed in book reviewer language can only hint at the smarmy, snarly intensity Will serves up in his seventy-two page rant re his life at age twenty-five. WILL AGE 17 "The book recreates the skittering druggy consciousness presumably inhabited by Self at the time, presenting episodes novelistically without any clumsy sentimentality or redemption." This MJ Nicholls snatch particularly strikes true when the Will depicts a day in his Naked Lunch life as a teenager. Ahhh, dope addled Will Self at age seventeen - can you imagine? One direct smacker: "Days seem to float on the surface of reality, film and insubstantial, with nothing to fill them but the crude black doodles of Will's desires: he's found himself, wheezing in the empty, airless house, longing for a bomb with which to blow it all to smithereens - he sees tatty paperbacks and broken crockery strewn across the road, his father's voluminous flannel underpants draped over a rose bush in Mrs Cohen's front garden." WILL AGE 21 Rage on, rage, on, Will! Dope and sex, sex and dope turbocharged when Will teams up with fellow Oxford student Caius (Edward St. Aubyn). "Caius has, besides his vast trust fund, untold reserves of built-in orphan power. Will's mother says what defines chutzpah is the ability to murder your mother and father, then claim clemency on the grounds you're an orphan." WILL, AGE 23 Adventures with Caius, from Sydney to Varanasi, from Kashmir to Manhattan but some things (like dope) remain constant: "Indeed, back-and-back . . . as he ranges over the week he's been traveling in India, it occurs to Will that Death - and the fear of death - have been his constant companions." WILL, AGE 25, PART 2 "Will's a dreamer - he knows that. A dreamer who strongly identifies with what De Quincey said of his own opiate-addicted-nature: that it took up residence in some secret chamber of his brain, and from there engaged in a sickening commerce with his heart." How will it turn out? Sacrifice and bliss, Will? Can literature count as a higher form of ecstasy? Read all about it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    For over twenty years, eminent novelist and professor of contemporary thought Will Self was riding the horse with the vigour of a cowpoke traversing the high plains. This anti-memoir spans twelve years in the young artist’s life, panning in on particularly wild escapades and episodes of debauchery told with third-person remove, sprinkled with acidic italics showing the self-hatred and nihilism of the artist as a young crackhead. The episodes range from Will feebly proffering a Danish breakfast t For over twenty years, eminent novelist and professor of contemporary thought Will Self was riding the horse with the vigour of a cowpoke traversing the high plains. This anti-memoir spans twelve years in the young artist’s life, panning in on particularly wild escapades and episodes of debauchery told with third-person remove, sprinkled with acidic italics showing the self-hatred and nihilism of the artist as a young crackhead. The episodes range from Will feebly proffering a Danish breakfast through the letterbox of a crack den to score, to wild Burroughsian rambles around India, Nepal, and Australia, where, alongside the novelist Edward St. Aubyn (masked here as Caius), the two snarling trust-fund terrors navigate their way around the limits of their own dysfunctional upbringings and contempt for everything unrelated to smack. Using a similar style to his recent trilogy, the book recreates the skittering druggy consciousness presumably inhabited by Self at the time, presenting episodes novelistically without any clumsy sentimentality or redemption. The absence of any particular navel-gazing in favour of self-flagellatory Gonzo reportage will alienate readers unfamiliar with Self’s brand of mordant humour, and anyone seeking insights into Self’s life as a literary enfant terrible will have to wait until volume two. An accomplished exercise in hyper-stylised, self-mythologising anti-memoir.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    In the 90s, Will Self helped form my literary tastes - and as my friend Alex said in his own review: "I was just the right age to find the appropriate tinge of outlaw glamour in things like doing heroin on the prime ministerial plane." Alongside such shenanigans, the author already had a prodigious output of journalism (collected in Junk Mail, which I hoovered up in my late teens), and most importantly for me, he presented the regular Cult Book Slot on Radio 1's Mark Radcliffe show - which, as w In the 90s, Will Self helped form my literary tastes - and as my friend Alex said in his own review: "I was just the right age to find the appropriate tinge of outlaw glamour in things like doing heroin on the prime ministerial plane." Alongside such shenanigans, the author already had a prodigious output of journalism (collected in Junk Mail, which I hoovered up in my late teens), and most importantly for me, he presented the regular Cult Book Slot on Radio 1's Mark Radcliffe show - which, as with its film equivalent with Mark Kermode, I (unlike my more independent-minded friend) took as gospel about what the cool intelligent person ought to consume to be, and show they were, cool and intelligent. If only I still had a full list of the titles, the unread and unwatched ones would be nagging at me to this day. As the writer's book recommendations shaped my fiction reading, especially in that formative phase from my mid-teens to mid-twenties, and as I have also been an enthusiastic reader of journalism and novels by several of his friends, it is hardly surprising that I would like this memoir quite a lot. This familiarity with the same cultural world is why I felt I got, more than the average reader, a good proportion of the allusions and unattributed quotations strewn though the text. They are predominantly, though not always, in italics, which I felt was a perfect way to show how such stuff, from lyrics, literature, ads, TV, film and packaging, integrates itself with one's thoughts, at least if you are the sort of low-and-high culture obsessed magpie whose head is at least half full of such stuff. (I also have them from conversations, emails and profiles, obscure online articles and the like. Goodness knows if any such are in the memoir, one would never know.) A couple of younger Goodreaders have said that it's a very Gen X habit to fill your writing with references like that - and it certainly made me feel like a member of the same tribe, as if there weren't more than 15 years' age difference. If you want to argue this is a superficial sort of cleverness, that's fine by me - this interweaving arguably hews closer to pub quiz material than philosophy seminar. Though there's some of the latter here too. Even the author's name, which I've been mostly avoiding to this point, can seem like one of these mutifaceted allusions. For in referring to him with any sort of brevity, it's impossible also not to feel like I'm simultaneously referring to his mate Martin Amis' most infamous character and a fellow fiend for intoxicants (Self), or to Shakespeare (WS) and a set of imaginings about how having those initials probably feeds the ego of a confident writer with a large vocabulary, and about how I think the modern WS's literary reputation might increase posthumously, once his media appearances are no longer needling the public and fellow pundits. Additionally, a gentleman I've been spending quite a bit of time with the last couple of months told me he'd always assumed "Will Self" was a pen-name, chosen for some Nietzschean reason. Whilst it's actually, remarkably, the author's real name, this memoir makes clear just how relevant the ideas of "will" and "self" are to his personality and his addictions, as if by nominative determinism. Will Self, perhaps due to his productivity, doesn't have the same cult following as Thomas Pynchon, but if anyone decides to do a Wiki in the style of the Pynchon Wiki to crowdsource notes on this book, hit me up. Because goodness knows it needs one, and there were plenty of lines on which I'd love to hear other people's input. And also concepts, some which probably require the sort of insight into the author's world that can only be found from someone who's read nearly the complete works, and/or who knows him. For example: "orphan power", a fascinating phrase coined by the author's mother, describing the ability to provoke useful pity, concessions, assistance and generally get away with things. It's most often attributed to Will and to Edward St. Aubyn - in the memoir re-named Caius - so does that mean that some modicum of privilege, and especially a life which has mixed privilege and difficulty, is integral to it? Or is it class-indifferent, and, to give a recently-encountered example, would include the newly homeless girl I heard crying into a mobile on the next park bench over, with a broad accent from an area I've lived in, which was 200 miles away from where we were sat? (I gave her all the cash I had, which was £8.50, and I couldn't really afford it.) Or more specific to someone like the well-educated chap with a frayed shirt collar who almost seemed to have stepped out of the pre-welfare state era, like a contemporary of Orwell? (At any rate, I suspect I have it sometimes, not much online, but to some of those who've met me in person.) Nearly two years after this memoir's publication, I was aware it hadn't been terribly well received. Thinking about drafting a memoir of my own, I had a plan to re-read a few books and authors whom I felt were the biggest influences on me. Then I decided to pick this up as a useful example of how *not* to write a memoir. But perhaps its clearest lesson was to finally, illustrate properly to me why a therapist circa 2008 said that it was a very good job I was straight edge, the implication being I was an obvious personality type to have become an addict. By two thirds of the way through this book, I could see in my boring non-substance-hazed 3D how the ego, the wilfulness, the feeling one deserved better, the smothery mother, the youthful sneering boredom at most people and places, the disdain for activities one nonetheless participates in - like modern literature - were commonalities. (And on top of that I also had bad childhood experiences, which, whilst not as horrific as St Aubyn's- were unpleasant enough that that author's semi-autobiographical novels also struck many chords with me, and were part of the re-read plan.) Will Self grew up near Hampstead and went to Oxford - the sort of places which at the same age I regarded as "the centre of things", where life and people would be truly interesting and not boring, yet he was as bored and scathing as I felt about being in a benighted part of Northern England, well beyond the cool bit that people usually refer to as "The North". I'm old enough to see that means this is an attitude, a psychological tendency, at least as much as it is about people and place per se. Some may question the ethics of reading and posting favourably about Will Self since Deborah Orr's - his late ex-wife's - statements about their relationship. I very much liked Orr's Guardian articles and I often found her wise, in a way that few contemporary newspaper columnists are. But given what I read about both of them (including this), and because of life and family experiences of my own, I in the end interpreted the relationship as one where the people concerned were, or became, a toxic combination, and could both be aggressive under the wrong sort of pressure, whilst they may have been okay with different people. However, Self's height and vehement manner must have made him intimidating when angry, and that could have a cumulatively stressful effect. I concluded that I would have continued reading both their work had they both still been alive, as each was much too interesting individually to boycott. (A couple of years ago, this conclusion also helped me make peace with something in my own life, when I had previously been frustrated that a few of my friends had not unfollowed someone [with whom, for the avoidance of doubt after this example, I'd not actually been in a relationship].) This post started with the 90s, and I'll pretty much end it with them too. (Sometimes I feel like a 90s creature, that the decade is there through my marrow as letters through a stick of rock.) This seemed such a 90s book to me, and not only the cover. Though perhaps to those ten years older, it feels like an 80s book, that being when it was set and when quite a few of the books I read in the 90s were written, or at least set. But the edgy litfic of my youth (edgy being the adjective the less trigger-happy young people of the present day use to dismiss it) was like this: lots of drugs and petty crime and arrogance and unlikeable characters who were always egotistical and angry and usually male, recounted with a clever sneer and great detachment tinged with vague melancholy. Trainspotting and cyberpunk and hundreds of imitators. It's a clever thing to have done if you like allusions and recursiveness (more postmodern than the 'modernist' label given to Self's recent trilogy). He composed a memoir in the late 2010s in the style of novels from the heroin-laced 80s, mostly about living as a heroin addict in the 80s; he uses third person as his former comrade St Aubyn did, and as his mate Amis does in Inside Story, which he was probably working on whilst Self was finishing Will. But it's unmistakeably Will Self's own voice, and it's written as it is for a bloody good reason. Most readers may dislike it, and I couldn't feel warm towards it either despite admiration, a certain amount of chord-striking etc, but the point of the exercise, is, as another GR friend, MJ, put it with denser verbal fireworks than I could hope to muster even after days of rewriting: "the book recreates the skittering druggy consciousness presumably inhabited by Self at the time, presenting episodes novelistically without any clumsy sentimentality or redemption. The absence of any particular navel-gazing in favour of self-flagellatory Gonzo reportage will alienate readers unfamiliar with Self’s brand of mordant humour." So, I guess the lesson is for putative memoirists, don't be too clever and unlikeable by half - unless you have a solid publishing record over thirty years; explain at least as much as evoke.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    I used to love Will Self; I was just the right age to find the appropriate tinge of outlaw glamour in things like doing heroin on the prime ministerial plane. Whereas these days one can only assume the leaders themselves are all getting high on considerably dodgier stuff than that, probably along the lines of that Torchwood story where the aliens are basically huffing human children. Anyway. The past decade or so, I've drifted away; that last trilogy sounded a lot like a middle-aged lunge toward I used to love Will Self; I was just the right age to find the appropriate tinge of outlaw glamour in things like doing heroin on the prime ministerial plane. Whereas these days one can only assume the leaders themselves are all getting high on considerably dodgier stuff than that, probably along the lines of that Torchwood story where the aliens are basically huffing human children. Anyway. The past decade or so, I've drifted away; that last trilogy sounded a lot like a middle-aged lunge towards respectability, following McEwan's tedious trajectory from enfant terrible to shortlist staple, and all those columns about the death of the novel, those young people and their screens, really didn't help. Much like Morrissey or Bret Easton Ellis, he seemed not to have noticed that without very careful management, what came across as puckish outrageousness in a young man can seem a lot more like Blimpish bullshit in an older one. Still, much like those arseholes who haven't bothered with a singer's last 20 years of music, but still get the celeb memoir for Christmas, I thought I might as well give this a punt. I really wish I hadn't bothered. At one point I even had to neck a whole other Will Self memoir (Matthew de Abaitua's one, a far more rewarding read) to check if there was anything I still liked about the guy or whether it was strictly something for my younger palate. Turns out yes, I still like Self as he was and as he wrote in his pomp – I just really don't like this. Obviously, it's in the nature of a memoir of one's younger self that often we'll be mired in the perceptions of said younger self, but there are ways to do that such that we still get the benefits of experience, whether in the wisdom or the prose, counterpointed with the callow prototype's misdeeds. And right at the close we do get one wonderful moment of that. Until then, alas, Will feels more like it was bashed out by the tyro at the time, an unloveable early attempt at the Self style – or at least, that's the charitable reading, because better that this be the unformed early version of Self's prose than a flabby late form into which it has deliquesced. The recondite vocabulary for which he's famed is here, but without the rightness one could once expect – I've never encountered a use of the word 'entelechy' that didn't feel fatuous, and the example here is no exception. There are occasional glimmers of the sickly, fascinating worlds he could once weave – in particular, the two cousins whose ghastliness is sufficiently novel that they'd have been at home in one of the novels – but too often, while the account may be true, that doesn't excuse how desperately overfamiliar it is. In particular, the childhood friend's family with no books, a big colour TV and lots of fruit machines, counterpointed with young Will's own, more bourgeois household, is exactly the sort of clunking litfic detail I used to read Will Self books to avoid. As for the insights, dear gods the insights. Junkies are fucking boring. Narcotics Anonymous is a sinister cult. The attempt to maintain a Western-style civilisation in Australia is completely insane. You get the idea, except that if those three examples were quotes rather than paraphrases, the last two words of each would be in superfluous italics, with which this book is littered as if to capture an absolute beginner's idea of conveying emphasis. (Netgalley ARC)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I've always been a big fan of Will Self and this book did not disappoint. I think he managed to create an autobiography that perfectly reflects himself; strange, somewhat morbid, and incredibly clever. Furthermore, this book contains the best writing I have come across in a long time, especially from modern writers. I've always been a big fan of Will Self and this book did not disappoint. I think he managed to create an autobiography that perfectly reflects himself; strange, somewhat morbid, and incredibly clever. Furthermore, this book contains the best writing I have come across in a long time, especially from modern writers.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. An addiction memoir, this by a British writer. He has a privileged life while becoming addicted to almost every substance under the sun. He describes the horrors of addiction well, but I never felt sorry for him.

  7. 5 out of 5

    R.

    Succulently sizzling and smoking and steaming beneath the mustard of Modernism is a tasty Burroughsian bratwurst of a bromance betwixt Self and Patrick Melrose writer and wrongdoer Edward St. Aubyn. I relished it! Keen-eyed readers will see the ley-lines that led from Will's wilderness years towards Zack Busner and the Concept House. One can only hope the author is working on Self: A Memoir, furnishing us with the first steps towards the first scribblings. Succulently sizzling and smoking and steaming beneath the mustard of Modernism is a tasty Burroughsian bratwurst of a bromance betwixt Self and Patrick Melrose writer and wrongdoer Edward St. Aubyn. I relished it! Keen-eyed readers will see the ley-lines that led from Will's wilderness years towards Zack Busner and the Concept House. One can only hope the author is working on Self: A Memoir, furnishing us with the first steps towards the first scribblings.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter Mathews

    I have been an admirer of Will Self ever since I read his first collection of short stories, The Quantity Theory of Insanity (1991). As a writer, Self is smart and acerbic, grimly funny in the way in which he cuts through the nonsense and bullshit of the world. His intelligence comes through in numerous ways - the extensive literary and cultural references, the dazzling vocabulary that has even the most seasoned reader reaching for the dictionary, and a sense that there is a never-ending stream I have been an admirer of Will Self ever since I read his first collection of short stories, The Quantity Theory of Insanity (1991). As a writer, Self is smart and acerbic, grimly funny in the way in which he cuts through the nonsense and bullshit of the world. His intelligence comes through in numerous ways - the extensive literary and cultural references, the dazzling vocabulary that has even the most seasoned reader reaching for the dictionary, and a sense that there is a never-ending stream of narratives flowing out of his creative mind and onto the page. The only problem with Self's fiction, as if often the case with people of this ilk, is that he has a tendency to push things too far. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it just results in work that is shrill, annoying, and tedious - How the Dead Live is a perfect example of that principle. For all his brilliance, there is something of the annoying and rebellious little boy in Self's adult persona that really turns some people off. This book, thankfully, manages to avoid this pitfall, mostly because its author is now almost sixty years old and, while no less acerbic than before, he is at least able to regard his younger self with a degree of wry detachment. Indeed, Will Self is so detached when recounting the stories of his younger days that he exclusively refers to this character in the third person, as though it were someone else. It is the perfect choice for a book in which young Will spends all his time taking drugs, scamming the men and women in his life (mostly the women), traveling to places like Australia and India, going through rehab, and just being an all-round c***. It should be mentioned, too, that he befriends a trust-friend junkie by the name of Caius, who is quite obviously the author Edward St Aubyn, a portrait that somehow manages to be even less flattering than the main protagonist's. I listened to Will on audiobook, which is read by the author, and I would highly recommend for others do the same. There is an extraordinary cadence to Self's writing that makes it feel like poetic word association on speed. It's well worth your time, and I hope (and expect) there will be more installments of this sorry but fascinating tale.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leah M

    I received an advance reader copy, but this is one of the few books I had to stop reading. I wanted to finish, unfortunately I had to give up at 40%. Normally, by this point, I have been able to identify a plot. However, nothing had emerged in this one. The story jumped around so much that it was really disorganized and disconnected. There was a lot of British slang, much of which I didn't understand. Often it would jump back and forth between the present and various times throughout the past wit I received an advance reader copy, but this is one of the few books I had to stop reading. I wanted to finish, unfortunately I had to give up at 40%. Normally, by this point, I have been able to identify a plot. However, nothing had emerged in this one. The story jumped around so much that it was really disorganized and disconnected. There was a lot of British slang, much of which I didn't understand. Often it would jump back and forth between the present and various times throughout the past with no warning and for no discernible reason. This was unrelated to whatever he was talking about at the time. There was constant use of italics and ellipses, as well as smushing words together that didn't need to be, frequent cursing, and honestly, the book turned my stomach. I started to really lose interest when the author discussed hurting the family dog on purpose. The author definitely isn't a likable character at any point in the 40% that I did manage to read. But what really made me decide to stop reading was his persistent anti-semitic statements in the second chapter. Statements like "well, that's Israelites for you, always on the move - or at least they should be," and "he'd arrived at the conclusion that, were he to die without having had sexual intercourse, this would constitute a greater human tragedy than the Holocaust." There's plenty of memoirs that do make sense. Save the time and read one of those. This one isn't a good one.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angus McKeogh

    A memoir about Self’s journey through drug addiction. Fairly entertaining and sort of mirrored fiction at some points since it was written in the third person. But as with the personal lives of most authors who write fiction; I’d rather read their fiction.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chad Guarino

    I requested this book with no prior experience reading Will Self. The main draw was the subject matter: I'm usually a big fan of memoirs that speak of and confront addiction. Unfortunately, "Will" just did not end up doing it for me and was a bit of a chore to finish. I have no doubt that Will Self is a skilled writer. His over the top verbosity and witty remarks were the best thing about this book, but for me what typically works in an addiction memoir is the ability to empathize with the author I requested this book with no prior experience reading Will Self. The main draw was the subject matter: I'm usually a big fan of memoirs that speak of and confront addiction. Unfortunately, "Will" just did not end up doing it for me and was a bit of a chore to finish. I have no doubt that Will Self is a skilled writer. His over the top verbosity and witty remarks were the best thing about this book, but for me what typically works in an addiction memoir is the ability to empathize with the author and I never once did throughout this meditation. For me, this seemed like a continuous chain of set pieces with diminishing returns. Perhaps if I had read Will Self prior it would have resonated with me a bit more, so if you're already an established fan of the author, give it a read and see what you think. **I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Grove Atlantic**

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Pennell

    Once you get past the sheer genius that is the book's title (is it "Will, by Self"? Or "Self, by Will"? Or maybe "Will Self, by Will Self"? One po-faced site lists it as "Will: A Memoir", but Self is far too intellectually playful to ever have agreed to such a pedestrian title), this is an occasionally tedious but mostly readable account of the author's various drug addictions through the 70s and 80s. It's hard to call it a "struggle" with drug addiction because, aside from a short segment at th Once you get past the sheer genius that is the book's title (is it "Will, by Self"? Or "Self, by Will"? Or maybe "Will Self, by Will Self"? One po-faced site lists it as "Will: A Memoir", but Self is far too intellectually playful to ever have agreed to such a pedestrian title), this is an occasionally tedious but mostly readable account of the author's various drug addictions through the 70s and 80s. It's hard to call it a "struggle" with drug addiction because, aside from a short segment at the very end in rehab, Self instead revels in his copious consumption. There's also a lot of sex - it's never explicitly stated, but you get the impression that may be another addiction to which Self happily succumbs - and a motley cast of friends and fellow addicts, all described in the colourful, clever prose that has won him awards in the past.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisalou

    Not an easy book to read but well worth reading.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I am wont to make mention, with some regularity, of my childhood discovery of William S. Burroughs by way of an article in DETAILS magazine. I do this because I have long interpreted the Event of that discovery as the key catalyst of a pubescent transformation for which the mischievous gods ought damned well be held accountable. I jest. I guess. The article in question presented itself to me in 1993, a few months before I would turn fourteen. It would be a number of years before I would begin to I am wont to make mention, with some regularity, of my childhood discovery of William S. Burroughs by way of an article in DETAILS magazine. I do this because I have long interpreted the Event of that discovery as the key catalyst of a pubescent transformation for which the mischievous gods ought damned well be held accountable. I jest. I guess. The article in question presented itself to me in 1993, a few months before I would turn fourteen. It would be a number of years before I would begin to intravenously inject narcotics, a kid of about twenty soon to begin grad school, but my reading habits were to be categorically altered in a manner both providential and terrifically immediate. I also recall reading about Will Self in DETAILS. His book COCK AND BULL, comprised of two related novellas, had come out in October of 1992, and I remember a writer from that magazine—a magazine, I want to insist, you should hardly denigrate a thirteen-year-old Canadian boy in the early 1990s for his having read semi-religiously—making the predictable associations born of the writer’s name(s), finding some mild merriment in the idea that the literary universe of the writer in question hardly seems to have much space for either rigid self or for ironclad will. More or less. I don’t mind telling you that the contract-scribe at DETAILS put it more cutesily. WILL, these many years later, finds the author himself playing around with this business…to almost uniformly fruitful ends. The book is sold to us—almost aggressively, and I believe counter-productively—as a memoir, but a memoir in the third person, Will, our hapless young addict and novitiate would-be man of letters, assessed by his author, his future self, with distance and something like dispassion. Anybody, like myself, who knows addiction directly, who is still out there flapping in the gale or has embarked upon some kind of halfway workable program of recovery, knows that the addict will and does experience various phenomena of dissolution, atomization, atrophy, loss of control, and the progressive erasure of any illusion of free choice. The self is reduced to particulate, the will is comprehensively hijacked. WILL the book presents all manner of bravura variation on this theme. When the author Will Self places himself at a remove from the Will whose misadventures and baleful lows he catalogues with singular élan, he is immediately putting himself in a position to do and/or insinuate a number of things. Part of this is clear from the epigraph borrowed from Aleister Crowley: “I’ve often thought that there isn’t any ‘I’ at all; that we are simply the means of expression of something else; that when we think we are ourselves, we are simply the victims of delusion.” And sure enough, when we immediately meet up with Will, subject of this supposed memoir, we meet him more as its estranged object, on Clapham Road, musing betimes on the subject of his literary mentors, Crowley and “Brother Bill” Burroughs, “the immemorial quality of the drug culture he was swagged in, its ossified moth-eaten mores and tatty mythology,” and bemoaning the fact that he “doesn’t have a methadone script—doesn’t have twenty mils of green gloop to pour on the wateriness of his own dissolution.” The grim slog, the junkie rounds and roundelay, the flirtation with bodily annihilation...as way of life. “I’m sweating, he thinks, and soon enough I’ll be immobilized.” Will is despicted attempting to trade two Danishes for a bag of smack from a connection who has very recently told him to fuck off, he will meditate upon a girl named Amber who lives like an insect trapped in the amber of her junkie parents’ paralyzed lives, and he will dwell on his own “necrotic flesh” with fiendish (which is to say characteristically dope-fiendish) perversity. How all of this relates to possible crises of will and self ought to begin to appear fairly self-evident. Varieties of dissolution will return throughout the book, such as during the recollection of an Australian idyll: “he’d curl up into the Dreamtime, allowing his troubled thoughts to become nothing more—or less—than the reverie of the Earth itself.” And of course one cannot forget Brother Bill Burroughs’ nickname among the street kid cognoscenti of Mexico and Tangier. Will certainly doesn’t. El hombre invisible. This is the ultimate manifestation of the junkie anonymity which Will tells us is part of the palliation the lifestyle promises. No surprise, then, that when Will finally does find himself in institutional care late in the book, one adjunct of “the Therapeutic State,” a lay counsellor, will predictably start making the same not-super-clever wise-ass associations made formerly by that writer for DETAILS, pointing to the irony of both given name and surname in the context of a clinical regimen that places great focus on “the addict-alcoholic’s diseased will” and which finds Will, now twenty-four years of age, as arrogant as ever in some respects but with the shit having most definitely been kicked out of him such that a level of demoralization has been attained, asking himself if his addict-self might not ultimately be just like his proper self: “the most spineless of individuals, completely lacking in any determination or fortitude?” Having come off the cycle of three increasingly breathtaking “modernist” novels, eminently Virginia Woolf-like in the particularities of their sprightly poetical finesse, Will Self is at his best ever as a prose stylist, still riding that particular crest. I very much enjoyed reading certain highly-honeyed passages of WILL out loud. Part of what we decree poetical here extends beyond the execution, the matter of language languaging à la Mallarmé, and toward the basic methodology of this imaginative autofiction they insist on calling a memoir. Let us consider the word Spirit, a concept absolutely central to German thought and German philosophy, where the word is Geist. When the disruptive and volubly precocious kid Symbolist Arthur Rimbaud declared Je est un autre, young Arthur was in a certain sense busy doing German philosophy by other means. Spirit isn’t just a capability allowing one to know, intuit, place imagination at impossibly large scale, or to feel deeply. Spirit is more properly the cradle of the capability for a position of remove, perhaps especially as it pertains to matters of self, will, and world. Will Self writing in the third person about Will is already the assertion of the forces of Spirit. The author then proceeds—in terms of basic methodology—by opening a secondary philosophical dimension. The book is in fact comprised of five sections written in a present tense germane to the field of a given frame of reference— May 1986, May 1979, April 1982, April 1984, and August 1986—such that the Will who is more object than subject becomes quite explicitly—Heraclitus and flux being invoked repeatedly—the Heraclitean river into which one cannot step twice. Will’s actions and internal dynamics are considered in the present tense from within the confines of each of these temporal frames, though there is regular recourse to past tense as any given Will processes past events and occurrences from the standpoint of each of the given frames. Indeed, the book is written in a contingent present tense (or five present tenses) that not only looks back but which tends to fragment quite turbulently, the river of flux hardly a calm one. Recalling earlier days from the standpoint of 1979, and further reflecting upon days earlier yet, Will considers “a time when world and Will were one and the same.” Will and world will become less and less one in subsequent frames, and when we get to April 1984, Will kicking opiates (hardly for the first or last time) in a YMCA Hostel in New Delhi, the present tense frame for long stretches threatens to get totally lost, turbulence having attained its ultimate ascendency. When Will does end up in treatment at The Lodge in August of 1986, this in large part precipitated by events from May of the same year with the detailing of which the book commences, the world begins to reassert an uncomfortable coherence, at least in compassion to the sections which immediately precede it, thus finding Will also in a potion to grapple with the damage wrought be his runaway self, this deathly figure bearing his curious name, an abject and very tall golem possessed by forces of grandiosity, insuperable monomania, and toxic heedlessness. Will becomes aware, though he is still more than a little loath to get cozy with the twelve-step set, that self-pity is the great pitfall of having to have a self, poison to the addict. All of this is very much the case. I know all too well. Part of the original sickness is the split disgust, half of it directed at the world, half directed at the self. Much of our world-relating when we are young is manifested in the institution of the family and the domestic scene. Will Self captures much of this stuff with his trademark mastery of literary technique. Consider Will on the subject of his father (from the standpoint of 1979): “And if he wasn’t writing one of his interminably boring books on town planning or public administration, Will’s father might well be found wedged in the narrow defile of the upstairs lavatory, a linen-backed Ordinance Survey map rugging his knobby knees, his distempered flannel underpants down round his lumpy varicose ankles, and his reading glasses tipped forward on his long nose, as he imaginatively promenaded and complacently shat.” There is American mother as well, her various maxim-like sayings (waste not want not, doesn’t care was made to care) routinely perverted by her embittered son. We also have a lovely/nasty little passage concerning neighbours: “there are the Smith-Simonses, two doors down, with their absurd and recently acquired hyphen—imaging they can somehow pole-vault their way into the upper-middle classes with this little typographic stick.” Simonses in its basic clunky euphony has a certain consonance with the Simon Says, and we might note that the false and tacky “typographic stick” is to a certain degree analogous to Will’s own tendency to fancy himself a regal descendant of his favourite chemically-augmented literary outlaws. At Oxford in August of 1982, “living in a tall, steep-gabled Victorian corner house in Jericho for this, his final year,” the womanizing, dope-greedy Will, already cynical about the “the Therapeutic State” and prone to both fatuous self-mythologizing as well as odious self-pity, maintains superficial alliance to a coterie of fellow high-society dopers, none of whom, naturally, attain primacy in his heart over and above smack et cetera, and one of whom happens to be the outrageously dissolute aristo Caius, a posh junkie and scion whose comradeship Will obviously both relishes and disdains, the two intractably selfish and vain and tunnel-visioned men subsequently coming to something like loggerheads on the Indian subcontinent in 1984. Anybody with a cursory knowledge of the background, or merely of recent cultural history, will be able to discern that Caius is based on Edward St Aubyn, author of, among other things, the five autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels, and thus, on that account, a man whose fictional alter ego came to be played in a widely-regarded limited television series by Benedict Cumberbatch. Many reviewers, especially in Britain, take exception to Will Self’s apparent self-satisfaction, especially when it becomes supplemented by venalities and cruelties discharged at Edward St Aubyn, whom folks have evidently come to revere quite soppily. One woman writing a typically heinous bit of idiotic click-bait for the GUARDIAN—what an insufferable microindustry that!—is especially gleeful is taking Mr. Self to task for presenting his younger self as experiencing a bit of queasy jealously over Caius's having been raped by his own father, a man early-twenties Will is proud to insist likes him more than he ever has any of Caius’s other friends. Is it a vile thing to think? Why, yes, of course, it very much is. But it is also a declarative element within the barbed-wire tangle of pathology. The confrontation of hideous internal business, its exposure to harsh light, is the beginning of doing right by that mandates meant to save your ass. You get better, or you die, or you continue to endure agony worse then death. You know it if you have been forced to come to know it as I have, myself a continually recovering addict with six-and-a-half years clean and sober. Will Self the author is revisiting the flux from which he emerges, immersing himself in it. We will recall Kierkegaard’s assertion that life has to be lived forward but can only be understood backward, holding this up next to Self's repeated supposition of effects that precede their respective causes. As a cynical Oxford shit, Will will make jokes to himself concerning a childhood friend who has himself begun to sink low into the morass of dependence: “but Mike’s mother had been a nurse before her marriage, and he still respected antisepsis, if not the law.” Later he will have to start looking at the hurt in others, hurt he has very often directly caused. It is not only a matter of owning the hurt, but of simply and viscerally beholding it, doing this without resorting to drugs…and doing it repeatedly. Let me be a Buddhist for a moment: discipline is born of right conduct plus repetition. This is precisely the precept Will is beginning to intuit in August of 1986. I have no illusions that Will Self is a terrific guy. In terms of his public pronouncements and even some of his essays, I have occasionally very much thought he seems like a bit of a daffy prat. Readers of WILL, the book which bears its author’s given name, will be unable to deny that the author is able to look down and distinguish some of this in himself, very often with bracing sobriety, though the verbiage can be decadent. It is not to be overlooked that twenty-four-year old Will begins to own his calumny in terms of the treatment of his long-suffering girlfriend Chloë, or that he begins to absorb the death of a friend such that he might do something other than damage with it. Waking up to self manifests both as a continued manifestation of self-disappearance, but also of nebulous other-directedness. Above all, I have been quite categorically convinced by Gregor von Rezzori’s assertion in THE DEATH OF MY BROTHER ABEL that the literary writer much find ways to address the presence of the self within the frame of reference, in fidelity to the breakthroughs of Werner Heisenberg. I see WILL as a book that has risen to that specific task. You may call it a memoir. Go well on right ahead. Hell, it’s your funeral.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    One part of me thinks Will Self is an absolutely astounding writer and another thinks he's an overrated, solipsistic, far-too wordy, gaudy, show-offy and wasted talent. This is what I guess constitutes the first part of more than one of his autobiographical books. None may follow, but this one covers his earlier years throughout addiction. He references William S. Burroughs enough times to make me think he not only wanted to write this book as though he actually were Burroughs—which would be stran One part of me thinks Will Self is an absolutely astounding writer and another thinks he's an overrated, solipsistic, far-too wordy, gaudy, show-offy and wasted talent. This is what I guess constitutes the first part of more than one of his autobiographical books. None may follow, but this one covers his earlier years throughout addiction. He references William S. Burroughs enough times to make me think he not only wanted to write this book as though he actually were Burroughs—which would be strange, as Burroughs himself wrote quite a number of autobiographical books in the midst of addiction—but then again, the book is so Self-ishly (pun intended) written that it's impossible to know. The result is a book that is written by an intelligent and acutely self-aware author. Self has created a book that delves into how people can act when in the throes of addiction. I guess many readers can loathe his experimental style plus the fact that the entire book is written in the third person: The May morning sunlight detonates against 1916’s façade, and its diamond-shaped windowpanes . . . explode. Will senses the build-up of commuter traffic behind him, as the cars, trucks and vans hump along the Clapham Road towards the city centre: a steely testudo, ever forming, dispersing and re-forming. Will thinks of the desperate manoeuvre he pulled off on the way from Kensington: ‘You coulda fucking killed yourself . . . No, really, you could’ve . . .’ Will’s fond of La Rochefoucauld’s maxim: God invented sex in order to place Man in embarrassing positions – yet none, surely, are as shameful as his own, for he lurches across town, hobbled by his half-masted trousers and underpants, from one impulsive liaison to the next. Self is currently quite sober, and as such, he's delved into a domain that I feel is always a pain for writers: soberly trying to describe the feeling of being intoxicated. While I think Self pulls it off for most of the time, his "psychogeography"—a word he uses often—seemingly can't dissuade him from adding difficult words while creating a solipsistic world that the addict is almost always in. I feel that writers like William S. Burroughs and Alan Moore have handled descriptions of mayhem and debauchery far better than Self has, mainly due to my personal dislike of Self's style in this book. Sure, the made-up words and stylistic slurs probably describe how Self felt at the time, but grate on me; I wish he'd have tightened-up and hence produced a more effervescent look back. I'm quite sure Self knows what he's doing. This book was very easy to read, which made me wonder what's wrong with me; ultimately, Self's style is quite easily digested if one is able to circumvent all the trappings, of which there are quite a few. I can't say I enjoyed this book, nor that I will remember it fondly, but it's an interesting look into the current mind of an intelligent person who was a massive drug addict a couple of decades ago.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Compared to the more challenging Umbrella which features the encephalitis lethargica epidemic this more sociable read which details an experience of the drugs epidemic is a much smoother ride. Autobiographical though written in the third person, the misery of addiction is contained within the authors long term devotion to drugs. It's the best heroin memoir, never dwelling on the sentimental, never elevating the tragic, just allowing it to tell itself. Elsewhere Self has said he believes covid ni Compared to the more challenging Umbrella which features the encephalitis lethargica epidemic this more sociable read which details an experience of the drugs epidemic is a much smoother ride. Autobiographical though written in the third person, the misery of addiction is contained within the authors long term devotion to drugs. It's the best heroin memoir, never dwelling on the sentimental, never elevating the tragic, just allowing it to tell itself. Elsewhere Self has said he believes covid nineteen is an outlier to other more devastating attacks on human society.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Annarella

    It's an interesting and informative read, well written and engrossing. Will Self is a controversial and fascinating character and I'm happy I read this book. Recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine. It's an interesting and informative read, well written and engrossing. Will Self is a controversial and fascinating character and I'm happy I read this book. Recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Paula Maguire

    Funny, Fragmentary and Fierce - this memoir is as difficult and delightful as Will himself. Will hates the skin that forms on porridge and suspects '...culture may be a skin that forms on society, tacky and colloidal' Perception like this drove me through this sometimes difficult book. Written in the third person, which seems strange, he either wants to distance himself from his youth or give himself biblical importance, it follows his early years growing up in Hampstead Garden Suburb, getting i Funny, Fragmentary and Fierce - this memoir is as difficult and delightful as Will himself. Will hates the skin that forms on porridge and suspects '...culture may be a skin that forms on society, tacky and colloidal' Perception like this drove me through this sometimes difficult book. Written in the third person, which seems strange, he either wants to distance himself from his youth or give himself biblical importance, it follows his early years growing up in Hampstead Garden Suburb, getting into Oxford and heroin, travelling to Australia and India and returning to rehab. It goes forward and backward in time which can be confusing and definitely challenged this reader, but the stream of consciousness mimics the meandering of the mind when your stoned, or not. ' Speeds a drug that throws a party without telling the neighbours' Usual post modern flourishes with intertextual references to children’s books such as 'Where the Wild Things Are' and lots of musical references to The Jam, The Israelites. We also get a sense of the eighties culture and political context. Margaret Thatcher was his local MP and when she visits his school, he describes shaking her hand. ' 'Afterwards she shaking his hand and held onto it so he felt hers rubbery stiff a laboratory clamp' Hanging out with friends 'Round and around North London they go,and sometimes further afield but they never escape this privet prison' He’s not the nicest kindest person in the world but he really knows how to write a turn of phrase and he is very perceptive especially about peoples delusions including his own. He is fairly insulting about his poor mother and father who tried to support him treating them like cartoon characters but he is equally judgmental about himself. The only person he seems to have feelings for is his friend Hugh who died as a result of a heart attack but had also suffered from depression. He misses him thinks about him every day . Other interesting things about the book where his relationship with Ciaus, who is based on Edward St Aubin, author of the Patrick Melrose novels. It’s quite interesting to see what he was like from a different persons point of view during his drug fueled days. Will also mentions his rapist father '...who'd taken some sort of shine to Will, exempting him from the snide and snobbish put-downs he practiced on his son's other friends' About his therapist's eyebrows ' It's these, Will feels, more than anything, that mark him down as a duplicitous smoothie - a man his age should have healthy untamed tussocks sprouting from a moorland forehead, not these well-groomed little parentheses...ironising his face. '

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ciaran Liam

    Old Will's self-conscious self-analysis of Young Will's libidinous wills makes for turgid reading. So unflinching is it in its glorification of excretal narcotic squalor that it often feels like it's attempting to break the final taboo: to write 400 pages in which nobody goes anywhere or learns anything or does anything much other than wallow in their self-soiled beds and speak portentously about aesthetics. The thing is I like Will Self, find him an engaging speaker and have heard him talk abou Old Will's self-conscious self-analysis of Young Will's libidinous wills makes for turgid reading. So unflinching is it in its glorification of excretal narcotic squalor that it often feels like it's attempting to break the final taboo: to write 400 pages in which nobody goes anywhere or learns anything or does anything much other than wallow in their self-soiled beds and speak portentously about aesthetics. The thing is I like Will Self, find him an engaging speaker and have heard him talk about the very period covered by this memoir, the opiated late 80s, in an entertaining way. But in 'Will' he eschews anecdotal familiarity in favour of ponderous grandiosity, and instead of focusing in on the essence of one subject, be it drugs or time or man's relationship with the city - as in the psychogeographical writing which to me constitutes Self's strongest work - he relies on a series of fragmentary vignettes, memories dredged from his embattled hippocampus concerning him and his rich, nihilistic Oxford junkie friends. For all his loquacity and verbal dexterity, there is something unsatisfactory about his reflections. They are full of curious lapses and jumps, like a novelisation of a PowerPoint presentation. He overloads us with context, yet the architecture of his own existence seems divorced from any relatable frame of reference, perhaps precisely because of this surfeit of gnomic allusions, pithy quotations and witty ironic asides. The whole Will Self shtick, in other words, which is a finely honed and well-loved thing. What it isn't is the authentic lexicon of a teenage junkie, even one as atypical as Will Self. What's more, it does that classic biography thing of quoting every conversation verbatim, even when conducted in a fugue of alcohol and morphine. As these long, eschatological dialogues unspool into self-indulgence, the reader begins to suspect that the longed-for moment where the book takes shape and themes and motifs emerge from the filth may never come. And gradually their suspicions harden into certainties, and they conclude that what they are reading is less of a memoir and more an artfully constructed picaresque. Hard work.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam Georgiou

    Not for me. Might be for you. After having binged a number of Will Self's lectures/debates/interviews online, and having read Tough, Tough Toys..., I wanted to know more. I love his quickness and breadth. I love his disregard for formality and propriety, and complete focus on The Empirically Lived Interesting Stuff of life. e.g., The benefits of nicotine, the state of Brexit, the map to and of creativity, the absurdity of domesticity. Politics, drugs, walking around. it's all on the table, and it' Not for me. Might be for you. After having binged a number of Will Self's lectures/debates/interviews online, and having read Tough, Tough Toys..., I wanted to know more. I love his quickness and breadth. I love his disregard for formality and propriety, and complete focus on The Empirically Lived Interesting Stuff of life. e.g., The benefits of nicotine, the state of Brexit, the map to and of creativity, the absurdity of domesticity. Politics, drugs, walking around. it's all on the table, and it's all interestingly woven together by Will Self. Knowing he came from addiction made me think there'd be an interesting trajectory from then to now. How does one occupy that boring repetitive cycle of the uni-dimensional cycles of drug taking, and then become — or at least maintain — so versed in so much? How do the skills and wit persist? Shouldn't this guy be either dead or at least burnt out? And yet he's still motivated, productive, and prolific. That's amazing, and I want to know more. But about a third of the way through the book — where I stopped — I got the feeling this memoir would be more of a Hunter S Thompson/William Boroughs style, front to back recounting of the that nether land of drug induced reality, as well as what drove Self there and what kept him there. Looking forward at the chapter names, you realize (for me, disappointingly after the fact) that this only covers ~7 years of Self's life — from 18 to 25 years old. I guess that still counts as a memoir, but I mistakenly thought this would be The Memoir of his life (so far). While the content enclosed is well written and interesting, I've graduated passed the point where this kind of stuff is interesting to me (see the formerly mentioned similar authors, but also I've had enough Bukowski and Lou Reed and whatever else, too.) I'm interested in those who have also graduated past it and how they did it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Gilman

    I was able to find a uncorrected proof of Will on Ebay while searching for other books by Will Self. At the time I was disappointed to see some unflattering reviews, but considering that some of them admitted to not finishing the damn thing or complaining about things like the English spelling and Vernacular of the dialogue I had to give a go. considering the subject matter and where Mr. Self is currently in his life I was not surprised that he referred to himself in the third person. As a man i I was able to find a uncorrected proof of Will on Ebay while searching for other books by Will Self. At the time I was disappointed to see some unflattering reviews, but considering that some of them admitted to not finishing the damn thing or complaining about things like the English spelling and Vernacular of the dialogue I had to give a go. considering the subject matter and where Mr. Self is currently in his life I was not surprised that he referred to himself in the third person. As a man in my 40s now I have to say I am not the same person I was back in my 20s. The stories at appear to jump back and forth connecting here and there and ultimately coming back to the beginning. There are catch phrases that are repeated "Againanagain" being one and "Waste not want not." there are several of these and a few appear to be song lyrics appropriate for the time. there is an odd mix of writing in Italics but I took it as pointing out the importance of the phrase and it of course came up in the story at some time later tying the book together in these fine threads. I'm not an addict and have never gone to AA or tried hard drug ever in my life, but I do know people who have gone that path and most of them are no longer with us. from what I saw and the things I know that happened I can say that regardless of this book taking place over the pond and in India, for a short period of time, the life of an addict is the same and I for one am glad that Mr. Self was able to pull himself out of it. I doubt this book will ever be turned into a movie or a Netflix series and it doesn't need to. The format of the novel was the perfect format to tell it and there is should remain.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Keen

    Only [email protected] and people doing impression of [email protected] talk about themselves in the third person. I have never known Self to do impressions, but he does spend the duration of this memoir describing himself in the third person. From the opening epigraph, which is in French, it doesn’t take long to see what we’re in for. The first 72 pages are made up of a grim, dull and pretentious account that amounts to little more than a series of forgettable entries in a junky’s banal diary of addiction. Like Bu Only [email protected] and people doing impression of [email protected] talk about themselves in the third person. I have never known Self to do impressions, but he does spend the duration of this memoir describing himself in the third person. From the opening epigraph, which is in French, it doesn’t take long to see what we’re in for. The first 72 pages are made up of a grim, dull and pretentious account that amounts to little more than a series of forgettable entries in a junky’s banal diary of addiction. Like Burroughs who he clearly tries to mimic, Self is another white, privately educated middle class male profiting from his addiction. For hundreds of pages the standard of writing fails to rise above mediocre, until we get to chapter 4 on page 238 then suddenly we tumble into something quite warm and special as he pulls out some beautiful descriptions of Australia’s sun baked interior and we see what he is capable of, but that quality soon fades . Aside from this chapter, this is an account riddled with clunky writing and awkward phrases that wouldn’t have gotten out of the slush pile if it hadn’t come from an established name. It often feels like an Irvine Welsh novel but without all the craft, fun and humour. There is the occasional flicker of promise here and there but it never quite catches fire and ultimately we’re left with one decent chapter clumped alongside a collection of dirty, broken pieces.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jo Everett

    For someone thinking this is your typical autobiography, it's not. What it is typical of is the prose of Will Self, the esoteric, metaphor riddled, at times confusing, read such as dominates his novels. I did make it all the way through the book, although at times I did question why I was continuing to read something I wasn't particularly enjoying just for the sake of it. That said it wasn't terrible, just emotionally at arms length, confusing and jumped around a lot. The main crux of the narrat For someone thinking this is your typical autobiography, it's not. What it is typical of is the prose of Will Self, the esoteric, metaphor riddled, at times confusing, read such as dominates his novels. I did make it all the way through the book, although at times I did question why I was continuing to read something I wasn't particularly enjoying just for the sake of it. That said it wasn't terrible, just emotionally at arms length, confusing and jumped around a lot. The main crux of the narrative was Self's adventures with hard drugs, ending with a struggle and then an acceptance into rehab. I did like that there were short sections which offered easy breaks, but these jumped around so that for a page and a half you were reading about him being in India scoring heroine off a Tuk-tuk driver, and then suddenly are transported to the middle of a Christian based play rehearsal, which I never seemed to figure out when this was or why Self was involved. I personally won't read it again, but if you are a lover of his work then I think you'll enjoy it because it is much the same but with a twist of personal reality.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim Atkinson

    The ultimate rock-star novelist writes his memoirs, or what his memory retains of a drug-addled early life as a man-about-squats, a wrecker of lives, oh hang on he’s in Spain now, we were in India a few pages ago, in-between flashbacks to a sojourn in Australia. Does Will actually like anyone? Or anything? Apart. That is. From drugs? He certainly doesn’t seem to like writing, or books, or readers. He seems to want to make it all as difficult for them as possible, to shock, set traps, make waves. The ultimate rock-star novelist writes his memoirs, or what his memory retains of a drug-addled early life as a man-about-squats, a wrecker of lives, oh hang on he’s in Spain now, we were in India a few pages ago, in-between flashbacks to a sojourn in Australia. Does Will actually like anyone? Or anything? Apart. That is. From drugs? He certainly doesn’t seem to like writing, or books, or readers. He seems to want to make it all as difficult for them as possible, to shock, set traps, make waves. Still, there are moments of lucidity, moments even Will can’t quite complicate enough to destroy all understanding and enjoyment, and those bits are good.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Dancall

    Autobiography as a stream of consciousness. I bought this as an audiobook, and It took a bit of getting used to - 'but I digress' could be Will's motto - but once you accept that he is going to jumping from drug deals to conversations with his mother, to driving around London, it's completely addictive. It's split into 5 parts, two in 1986, when his life is falling apart, in 1979 (first taking heroin), in 1982 (finals and a drug bust), and in 1984 (travels in Australia and India). Will Self’s pe Autobiography as a stream of consciousness. I bought this as an audiobook, and It took a bit of getting used to - 'but I digress' could be Will's motto - but once you accept that he is going to jumping from drug deals to conversations with his mother, to driving around London, it's completely addictive. It's split into 5 parts, two in 1986, when his life is falling apart, in 1979 (first taking heroin), in 1982 (finals and a drug bust), and in 1984 (travels in Australia and India). Will Self’s performance as a reader is extraordinary, so much so that I’m now listening to it for the third time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    The four stars for this book is entirely based on the last chapter which is 62 pages long; the first 327 pages of this book are incomprehensible, horrifying, unreadable and in a sense what makes the last 62 so incredible. If anyone ever wanted an explanation of what it must be like to be a drug, alcohol and sex addict this is what it is. Will Self is a very prolific author and I have great respect for him as an author, Cock and Bull is the first and one of his best but this memoir is in a catego The four stars for this book is entirely based on the last chapter which is 62 pages long; the first 327 pages of this book are incomprehensible, horrifying, unreadable and in a sense what makes the last 62 so incredible. If anyone ever wanted an explanation of what it must be like to be a drug, alcohol and sex addict this is what it is. Will Self is a very prolific author and I have great respect for him as an author, Cock and Bull is the first and one of his best but this memoir is in a category of one.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Will

    Will Self at his best, after his modernist trilogy with which I couldn't get onboard. He had me worried saying that once you've started writing in that style (Umbrella/Shark/Phone) it's hard to go back to, you know, readable stuff. But this is fantastic. It's all the squalor and grandeur of Self's prose, with the added weight of being ostensibly autobiographical. Not sure what the non-fan will think of it, though. Might not be the easiest bit iof Self with which to start. Will Self at his best, after his modernist trilogy with which I couldn't get onboard. He had me worried saying that once you've started writing in that style (Umbrella/Shark/Phone) it's hard to go back to, you know, readable stuff. But this is fantastic. It's all the squalor and grandeur of Self's prose, with the added weight of being ostensibly autobiographical. Not sure what the non-fan will think of it, though. Might not be the easiest bit iof Self with which to start.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fran Cormack

    Didn't enjoy this at all, but still gave it 3 stars as I didn't get through it all, and it MAY have got better. The quarter that I did read seemed to be all about drugs, drugs, and drugs. Is there a more boring topic. I have read some of Will Self's fiction and greatly enjoyed it, so I was very disappointed. Didn't enjoy this at all, but still gave it 3 stars as I didn't get through it all, and it MAY have got better. The quarter that I did read seemed to be all about drugs, drugs, and drugs. Is there a more boring topic. I have read some of Will Self's fiction and greatly enjoyed it, so I was very disappointed.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    Like Amis, it’s the death of others that gets Will in the end. 4* because, very good though it is, it’s not Umbrella, Shark or Phone.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    A fascinating look into one man's addiction. A fascinating look into one man's addiction.

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