REVIEW – Will Self, Edinburgh Book Festival

Will Self’s weapon of choice is his inimitably erudite vocabulary: he is unashamed to let loose multi-syllabled salvos into his writing – and into the audience at this entertaining and characteristically acerbic event at the Book Festival.

Reading three passages from his recent fictionalised travelogue “Walking To Hollywood”, Self strode around the platform unaccompanied, spitting out his literary vitriol and wit. The chosen readings – each from a separate section of the three-part work – covered such Hunter S Thompson-esque topics as walking around a sweltering Los Angeles in a Barbour jacket; fantasising about playing Scrabble whilst plunging to one’s death from the Golden Gate Bridge; and a ponderous meander along an eroding section of the English coastline whilst contemplating the theme of loss.

Self’s writing is unmistakable in its construction, socio-political references and language. When reading, we get the sense he has a love / hate relationship with his writing, rolling his tongue around the words with measured consideration before spitting them out venomously.

Each reading is interspersed with some anecdotes and observations, with some typically Self-ish comments reserved for Peter Mandelson, whose talk at the RBS Main Theatre immediately preceded Self’s own. His mental agility is of Olympic calibre, and he is as entertaining here as he is in print – if not more so.

Accordingly, Q&A sessions with Will Self are always a delight; sadly last night’s was brief, allowing him to exercise his imagination and wit on only a few subjects. The topic of his potential deification as some kind of languid and louche literary god was a thought that very obviously entertained Self’s mischievous intellect – don’t be surprised therefore if the concept ends up in his next novel.

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