Will Self (BSS #160)

Will Self is the author of Psychogeography and The Book of Dave.


Condition of Mr. Segundo: Frightened by walking and crosswalk signals.

Author: Will Self

Subjects Discussed: The overlapping relationship between The Book of Dave and Psychogeography, topographical narrative, Nicholson Baker, Nabokov’s rule about topographical necessity and novels, John Updike’s Brazil, the Post-It notes in Self’s writing room, early plotting efforts with 3×5 cards, short-term memory, Self’s use of arcane words, My Idea of Fun, working with a large vocabulary, Peter Carey’s “The Cartographers,” why Self uses “minatory,” lexical blending, “kidults,” writing 1,000 words a day, Anthony Burgess, the writers who showed Self the way, David Markson, NADSAT vs. Mockney, Russell Hoban’s Ridley Walker, George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex,” bodily functions and literature, J.G. Ballard, starting from corporeal qualities for characters, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Rackham as armchair historian, Karrie Higgins’s review, austere terms for psychogeography, why Self went to the obvious tourist spots, the Situationists’s failure to account for family, on having two passports and national identity, being a citizen of London and trying to get out of the city, the problems with the travel industry, the cigarette as a narrative unit, airline travel, Marx and Guy Debord, Self’s definition of the dérive, walking 25-30 miles a day, Self’s theories about Our Young, Roving Correspondent’s anxieties over long walks and drab details, how long walks become variegated, expanding one’s curiosity, Self’s difficulty in talking with people, and learning more about people through a system.


Self: When I wrote My Idea of Fun years ago, I was a stripling. I had a character — The Fat Controller — who was a kind of rampant sesquipedalian who was obsessed with neologisms and coinages and recondite terms. And maybe that was an expression of that part of myself. I mean, some of my stuff’s actually pretty straightforward. It just depends on what the mot juste is. I don’t think I’m a kind of wanton in that way, though many people charge me with it. I don’t collect words in any kind of obsessive way. I mean, I work with a good old-fashioned analog Oxford English Dictionary and if I look up a word, as a writer frequently must, and I see an interesting word next to it, I’ll note it down. But I never go truffling for words.


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