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Book Chat > Will Self, and the novel is doomed

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message 1: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments This response from Scott Pack is a great read.

message 2: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8782 comments This has to be the most telling part of the Will Self interview

I’m drawing up a list of important women writers, because I’m teaching a course on the importance of literary influence and the books that influenced me as a writer, and one of my students pointed out they’re all by men. Ditto with literature in English from more diverse cultural backgrounds and heritages.

His performance at the Goldsmiths reading was verging on a disgrace I thought - literally didn't let one of the other authors get a word in.

message 3: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4890 comments I assumed Self made that announcement simply to get a lot of attention; it worked, it’s all over Twitter.

message 4: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Paul wrote: "His performance at the Goldsmiths reading was verging on a disgrace I thought - literally didn't let one of the other authors get a word in."

I thought, on the panel, he waited until others were finished speaking before he gave his (contrary, of course) opinion. It was his dismissive treatment of student questioners that made me uncomfortable.

message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8782 comments Well Jon McGregor afterwards was not happy at all, and Sara Baume didn't even get to speak in the Q&A. He really is full of his own undeserved self importance - I am not a fan of the person nor of his books.

message 6: by Louise (new)

Louise | 222 comments I tried starting "Umbrella" twice - after realizing that my mind actually preferred to hang laundry and feed the dogs, rather than go on reading, I gave up and donated the book :-) I have the Book of Dave somewhere as well, but I haven't gotten round to giving it a chance...

message 7: by Louise (new)

Louise | 222 comments And I think I read somewhere that with and Persephone Press and others - older (literary) fiction is getting a revival

message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8782 comments To balance my own negative view - he certainly has some interesting things to say about the future of communication etc (which relate to his 'end of the novel' routine). Parts of Umbrella and Phone (I haven't read the 2nd of the trilogy) are interesting

message 9: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Paul wrote: "...and Sara Baume didn't even get to speak in the Q&A. ."

I'd tend to blame Adam Mars Jones rather than Will Self for that. He should have brought her in. However, he did seem nervous, so perhaps it is a function of having to deal with Will Self!

message 10: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments I tried Umbrella and I was interested in the character and story, but I need paragraphs as a reader. I think they're probably very good books. After his treatment of students at Goldsmiths, I'm not a fan of his style (perhaps influenced by one of my sons currently being a student at Goldsmiths!) - no one should be treated like that for asking a question. I agree with you to an extent on his retort to Jon MacGregor but at least he didn't interrupt.

message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8782 comments Yes it was more McGregor's reaction afterwards - he clearly wasn't happy, and Baume also seemed to rather blame too much mansplaining on the panel for her not getting a chance to speak (although I agree it was poor by Adam Mars-Jones not to give her a chance).

message 12: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1997 comments Will self's first novel, my idea of fun, is an excellent book, there's a huge Martin Amis influence but it's still a pleasure to read... then came great apes and his experimental tendencies were unleashed

message 13: by Trevor (last edited Mar 19, 2018 12:27PM) (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1842 comments Mod
I don't see a link to the original interview, so, for those looking, go ahead and click here.

I'm curious if anyone here thinks that the novel is doomed. I have to say, the notion is so cliched that I don't think I'd dare say it even if I did believe it, for fear of being called unoriginal and out of touch, and for fear of thinking that fear was absolutely justified.

It seems Self thinks the novel is dying because no one has talked about a particular one around the water cooler in his presence since Trainspotting. Does he think, then, that the novel, to be relevant, has to reach some threshold of public consciousness/reaction? Does he really think that hasn't happened since Trainspotting? And, for goodness sake, does he really think that happened with Trainspotting?

I always wonder, when someone makes this statement, if it's that they feel the novel doesn't mean the same thing to them in their personal life, and then they make the mistake of applying that universally. That he thinks Trainspotting was the last to inspire a water-cooler moment in Britain supports this, I think. I mean, you may not like it (and I do), but one has to at least acknowledge Harry Potter, right? Or is that not the type of thing he's considering? If that's the case, and I suppose it is, again I think that it says more about him than the state of the novel generally. I'd argue that such water cooler books as he seems to be invoking are quite rare in any period.

Or maybe he's right and I'm the one living outside of the mainstream. Perhaps I think the dialogue around books is active and lively, when it really isn't. Easily done, I suppose, when I'm part of this group and active on Twitter.

message 14: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (mookse) | 1842 comments Mod
I didn't see this until now, but I think Colin Barrett put my whole personal/universal thing so nicely in his tweet here:

"As a writer, I'd be embarrassed to ever say there's been no good contemporary writing/no good books in X number of years etc, because more than anything it just reveals the poverty of your own appetite for engagement."

message 15: by Ang (last edited Mar 19, 2018 01:07PM) (new)

Ang | 1685 comments That's a good quote from Colin Barrett and interesting thoughts from yourself, Trevor.

FYI, Scott Pack linked to the actual interview in the second post on the thread which I why I didn't.

It sounds like Will Self has been saying this for quite some time, and indeed one of the students asked him about it at the Goldsmiths shortlist event, resulting in his nastiest reply of the evening.

message 16: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4890 comments I have very little experimental of Will Self other than How the Dead Live and hearing him in interviews, so maybe he is far more important than I realize, but I am surprised his statement hasn’t gotten this much traction. He sure seems to be the type of man that likes to be provocative and when there is so much evidence to the contrary, the number of active members on Goodreads for example, I can only think that he said that so that he would be talked about.

message 17: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1685 comments Here's the interviewer, Alex Clark's response to the outcry:

message 18: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1997 comments If Self is complaining about the fact that he is the only author to mention the gulf war (is that what he means by Iraqi war?) then he's wrong because Ali Smith writes about it in Artful

message 19: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8782 comments And many many others - e.g. Saturday by Ian McEwan which is set on the day of the anti-war protests in Feb 2003 and many many others.

Whenever anyone claims they are the only novelist to have tackled X one can pretty much discount any thing else they say.

Which is the best attitude to Mr Self-Obsessed.

message 20: by Lee (new)

Lee Self did a talk with AL Kennedy and Tony Parsons(!) not so long ago...I say 'talk' as Self interjected aggressively on numerous occasions, and this seems to be his public metier. He'd whine tiresomely on the merest pretext. But both authors in question had his number. And I do wonder if there's a bit of a consensus amongst the veterans of the circuit - 'Flatter him a wee bit and he chills out.' Which is precisely what Parsons did...but that this is even needed is ludicrous. Can you imagine what he was like when he was a major cokehead?

Additionally, while doing a different talk with Martin Amis and Erica Wagner in Manchester, he tried to derail Ian McGuire during his introduction, mugging for the audience, mocking the compere. Is he just a provocateur arsehole?

(Yet he seemed very pleasant at Hay and when responding to an email I once sent him.)

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