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Walking to Hollywood: Memories of Before the Fall

2.97 of 5 stars 2.97  ·  rating details  ·  189 ratings  ·  44 reviews
One of the most remarkably inventive voices of his generation, author Will Self delivers a new and stunning work of fiction. In "Walking to Hollywood," a British writer named Will Self goes on a quest through L.A. freeways and eroding English cliffs, skewering celebrity as he attempts to solve a crime: who killed the movies.
When Will reconnects with his childhood friend,
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Bloomsbury UK (first published September 2010)
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Anthony Vacca
The notion of inverted worlds is given a bizarre twist with Self’s Walking to Hollywood, a novel divided into three sections, with each recounted by a fictionalized Will Self undergoing a different form of neurosis. The first section of this triptych (while chronologically linked, these three tales are loose enough to be read individually as novellas), “Very Little”, is the Character Self’s 100-page obsessive-compulsive breakdown and a continuation of the Author-Self’s career-long obsession with ...more
MJ Nicholls
Walking to Hollywood is a triptych based around three mental pathologies: obsessive compulsive disorder, psychosis, and Alzheimer's.

"Very Little" explores Self's permanent obsession with scale. "Walking to Hollywood" finds him investigating who murdered the movies. "Spurn Head" is a bleak walk along a crumbling coastline and a rumination on death.

The narrative mixes Self's psychogeography writing with mordant satire, surreal fantasy and personal reflection. The book's freewheeling absurdity is
Jonathan McKay
As a fan of Will Self, this "novel" (really 3 bloated short stories) is particularly disappointing. Each section nominally relates to a psychiatric disorder propped up by a faux-memoir style (photos in the text, footnotes telling us that this is a clue that this is a faux-memoir).

"Walking to Hollywood" is Self recycling his recent "Psychogeography" journalism into a poorly edited set of fictions (how much clothing is "bespoke," how many skies "mackerel," how many times can you write "nuages mari
Friday evening, it was thought, however erroneously, that a viewing of Sofia Coppola's film Somewhere would be of benefit as I was completing Will Self's fictional memoir. Despite the centrality of the Chateau Marmont to both narratives, Coppola's effort appeared by the numbers, numbing and a waste of time for everyone involved. Nothing could be more removed from the gripping prowess of Self's triptych.
Jim Elkins
I picked this up because it is illustrated, and I'm trying to read all contemporary fiction that uses images. So my comments here have to do with that; I have something to say about the prose at the end.

In a book of fiction (well, experimental writing that combines journalism with bits of the novel, the memoir, and the travel account) the first image is always an unexpected guest. Here the first chapter opens with a description of a "dew pond" (not sure what that is, but never mind):

"A single cr
Matthew Thompson
In his new book, a perpetually wayward Will Self investigates all manner of madness the only way he knows how – by strapping on his boots and walking to airports. Staged as a “memoir,” we follow the author as he meanders from London to LA to Yorkshire Cliffs. Along the way, he gleefully prods at conceptual art, dissects a bloated, self-reflexive Hollywood, repeatedly catalogs his compulsive disorders, and peers into the void of his own diminishing mind. A fantastical skewering of psychosis and m ...more
Disappointing. Very disappointing.

I have found fiction by Will Self when he is "on his game" to be reliably intelligent, playful, satiric and entertaining. I wish I'd found the same here. This triptych of a story, a meta-fictional travelogue cum quest cum faux memoir, has much of what one looks for from Self. It has the fantastic, the magical and outrageous imagery which, when deployed sparingly, are literarily delightful. Unfortunately this book is less fantastical than it is confusingly and d
The very thing that causes me to enjoy reading Will Self is what put me off in this book: his writing is a constant surprise. Every book of his I've read previously, this has been its strength. This time, however, even to the last page of Walking... I had no idea what was going on.
Though it's a continuous narrative, it's divided into three distinct parts. Each one follows its own arc and (it's revealed most plainly in the authour's afterword) each one is devoted to a different mental illness.
Feb 28, 2012 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Black swans
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
Melting buildings and melting type, a distorted portrait of Self himself looking like eighty million dollars worth of Edvard Munch painting... the lurid orange cover of this recent Will Self triptych of feverish fabulations immediately made me think of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and inevitably of the film adaptation thereof. Turns out the cover was in fact actually done by Thompson's longtime favorite collaborator (and Will Self's own frequent illustrator) Ralph Steadma ...more
Bruno Espadana
'Walking To Hollywood' (WTH) surprised me. I am a fan of Will Self, although more of his short stories - so far I had only read one novel, 'The Book Of Dave', which I loved. Technically, WTH is a collection of three stories, although they can be treated as three parts of the same larger novel, each linked to a mental disorder - obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis, and Alzheimer's.
Each story has a different feel, all of them being centered on different episodes of the main character's - a wr
I parted company with Mr Self and his fiction several years ago as I found the constant dictionary referral quite tiring on the arms.However I like his personal style and found his column in the Independent entertaining,but unfortunately the Psychogeography books are beyond my economic means at present,so I plumped for this.
As with some of the other reviewers I found the title section with its abundance of surrealist sidetracking hard going at times,though the other two stories flow a little ea
This is a pretty difficult book to read, which I suspect is part of its point, and part of its value. The OCD, psychotic, amnesiac narrators prevent the world from ever appearing flat and readily understood. They make even the most familiar geographical or cultural terrain insistently strange, new, and bewildering. The cultural lenses we see the world through--particularly Hollywood movie tropes--are represented here as collective psychosis. But the only escape to an unmediated now is through a ...more
I like Will Self. I like many of his novels, I like his cultural commentary on radio and television, I like his newspaper columns, and I like him as a person/personality; Self seems interesting in the right kind of way, or at least the way that appeals to me. What I did not like, however, was this book. It literally gave me a headache and made me feel sick. Perhaps that was the point. I found Walking to Hollywood infuriating, an uphill struggle from page 1. Though I don't dislike it for being di ...more
Self does Sebald. Funny, mostly, but pointless 'cause, y'know, W G Sebald already did it. Bit like his Dorian Gray update/rewrite...
I hated this book. It felt like I was reading it for an eternity. I skimmed through the last chapter. I read whole pages only to forget what was written a mere 30 seconds later. Maybe I'm not smart enough to understand what he's trying to say or trying to do. There were whole paragraphs where I had no idea what he was talking about. I admire authors and artists who try to do something challenging, different, personal. There were a few funny moments, but mostly I was just waiting for something to ...more
I didn't finish it because I borrowed it from a friend who had to return it to the library, and to be honest I didn't care.
K Ryan
I couldn't get into this book so didn't finish it. I may try to read it another time. I found it a little bit w*nky.
Luke Franklin
Self's most recent novel plays, as others have noted, on some of the theme's from his "Psychogeography" journalism, which is fabulous in itself. Though uneven, and I haven't quite finished it yet (somehow, except for "The Butt" I get worn out by Self's novels, and I have to come back to them a few times, though the experience is exhilarating)Self does manage to mirror Rabelais and far supersede American John Irving, along with a few others, in mere pages.
It's a Will Self book, so you should have an idea of what to expect. A quirky tall fellow, called Will Self oddly enough, moves through life trying to find meaning maybe? The idea of fame?

Will's life is a tangled skein of obsessions (with art and little people), walking (from Pearson International to downtown Toronto) and ultimately of Hollywood, and a mystery ensues - who killed film?

It's a sideways look through a wonky glass. Only Self fans need read.

I supposed it takes a certain type of personality to enjoy this book. My coworker recommended it to me so obviously someone liked it! I just couldn't get into it. I forced myself to get half way and then I gave up.

The book was just all over the place, really hard to follow the thought process of the main character - storyline jumped around too much. I get that he has some mental issues so perhaps that's the point but I struggled to enjoy it.
Was prompted to read this by a brilliant lecture which Will Self gave to Google employees in 2007

Didn't enjoy this book though. The use of a walking narrative to explore semi-autobiographical mental illness states could of worked but didn't. The main section about walking around Los Angeles was particularly disappointing. My friend Lisa did this much better on her website walklawithme website.
Bobbie Darbyshire
Weird, but strangely compelling. Great writing, and often made me smile. Blurred photos, and fictional autobiography suggest a homage to W G Sebald? No story at all, just some linked themes. I was reading other, plot-driven books at the same time, which stopped me losing patience with this one. I wouldn't recommend it, but if it interests you, give it a try. It lingers...
Jay Daze
I didn't finish this. Got halfway through the titular middle section and there just wasn't a compelling reason to pick it up again. Perhaps, like the first part it would have gotten more gripping for me at the back end, but I didn't care enough. An example of great sentences but lacking an oomph to grip me. Perhaps not in the right mood at the moment.
Grim-Anal King
Three stories of which the longest is awful (a satire on such an easy target as hollywood can't be so clumsily over the top even if the ottness is precisely what the author is attempting to skewer) while the others are more decent. Given that Self's psychogeography is usually his strong point this is a surprisingly weak collection.
Oh dear, I had to stop reading this it's so bad. An interesting concept in part-fictionalising his life, but much like Doctor Mukti and Other Tales of Woe it's all over the place, random scattergun ideas with hardly any story. If it wasn't for the Book of Dave I'd give up on Self, but I still think he has it in him somewhere.
Psychotic author explores dementia and compulsion. or is it compulsive author explores psychosis and dementia or is it ... any way a lot of introspection for those into that sort of thing. With cover work by Steadman it is sort of Thompson meets Burroughs without being 1/2 as good as either of those guys.
willfully perverse? using bespoke 8 times in one novel.

Believe it or not this gonzo novel actually has a creeper effect and is in it's subtle way, a whole novel about what is really important in life and how one can recognize that importance, even while losing your mind.

to be cont
Bernadette Jansen op de Haar
I am sill reading it and not making much progress because of our short stort competition and outstanding manuscripts.

It's interesting like all books by Will Self but I had to abandoned it for now because of publishing duties.

Finally read it. I thought a bit hard work
Becky Walker
By far my favourite of Will Self's books that I've read. But, like most of his work, quite difficult to review. Clever but not incomprehensible, the way he builds on memoir may be why the central character is easier to hold onto than in some of his other work. Brilliant.
Doc & Charly
I suspect this book is either over-my-head (likely), plotless or having a plot so esoteric it is difficult to discern. The language, however, particularly the descriptions, keeps one reading.
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William Self is an English novelist, reviewer and columnist. He received his education at University College School, Christ's College Finchley, and Exeter College, Oxford. He is married to journalist Deborah Orr.

Self is known for his satirical, grotesque and fantastic novels and short stories set in seemingly parallel universes.
More about Will Self...

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“I explained to him - as I withdrew the cup, ripped open the sachet and dunked the tea bag - that tea was an infusion, which meant that it was vital for the water to be actually boiling when it came into contact with the leaves. He looked at me furiously... I had behaved like this many times before: taking Canute's stance in the path of the great surge of ill-brewed tepid tea that was inundating England.” 4 likes
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