MJ Nicholls's Reviews > The Sweet Smell of Psychosis

The Sweet Smell of Psychosis by Will Self
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Jun 05, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: sassysassenachs, novellas
Read in May, 2009

This is the most physically disturbing work by Will Self I've read (it actually made me semi-gag in places). Does that grab your attention?

Written in collaboration with tip-top cartoonist Martin Rowson, who provided a dozen or so ghoulish drawings, this is one of the most interesting little finds in Self's burgeoning oeuvre.

The story is almost atypically Self-ish, centring around a weedy hack desperate to claw his way into a subcultural journalistic elite in London (of course), and equally desperate to bed the staggeringly beautiful social parasite who frequents with them.

The protagonist persists in his attempts to bed this woman (whose name escapes me now) until the novella ends with another atypically Self-ish twist (readers of "Cock & Bull" will have a head start).

What sets this apart from other Self novellas is the sheer frenetic bile of the narrative. One gets the impression Self is venting his well-greased spleen about his colleagues in the grubby world of London's rags and tabloids, and holds nothing back.

As several reviewers have commented, the characters in this book are remarkably beastly (there's one particular reference to a Down's syndrome sufferer which left me mentally puking) and Self surely knows his way around contemptible bastards. Those weak-stomached readers might wish to peruse Self's more academic works!

I recommend this for all Self devotees looking for some of his momentously splenetic cocaine-fuelled fiction. The combo of Self & Rowson is terrific. I would love to see a reunion.
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