The Blagger's Guide To: WilL Self

So, Will, can a sesquipedalian be lost for words?

Poor Will Self. He has been writing novels for 20 years, yet never been long-listed for the Booker. This is odd, given that his talents were recognised as early as 1993, when Granta included him among their "Best Young British Novelists". Now all that has changed, as his latest novel, Umbrella,is on the long list for this year's prize. It's his ninth novel, and has been called his most ambitious, spanning a period of 92 years in a non-linear Modernist structure. The Independent called it a "consolidation of everything he has written to date". Find out what we think in our review next week.

Self is at least as well-known for being a journalist and controversialist as he is a novelist. Ever since he took heroin on the prime minister's plane, while covering John Major's 1997 election campaign, he has had the reputation of a literary bad boy. He went clean in 1998, and hasn't had so much as a drink since. And, as he said at the time: "I'm a hack who gets hired because I do drugs." But for all the early rebellions, Self is more of an establishment figure than he might like us to think.

Born in 1961, his father was an academic at the LSE and his mother a Jewish American who worked in publishing. Their house in East Finchley, north London, was "a great and messy repository of their great but messy minds". He started reading voraciously aged 10, only two years before he smoked his first joint, and spent the next two decades vigorously pursuing both interests. He injected heroin for the first time aged 17, in 1979. After attending University College School in Hampstead and Christ's College Finchley, Self read Politics Philosophy and Economics at Oxford, the same degree course as David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch.

Self's literary style has been likened to William Burroughs and Hunter S Thompson, and was shaped by the sci-fi he read aged 10: JG Ballard, Philip K Dick, and Frank Herbert's Dune. He cites Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as the book that is "really embedded on my cerebellum", and his novels feature similar excursions into surreality, with transgressions of scale and time. Self says he writes fiction to astonish people, and to "disturb the reader's fundamental assumptions", not to create people and worlds they can relate to.

He lives in Stockwell, south London, and is married to the ex-Independent columnist Deborah Orr, with whom he has two sons. He has a further two children by his first wife, Kate Chancellor. The Selfs have a Jack Russell called Maglorian, whose mother Cyril was named after the writer Cyril Connolly. Self writes his books in a study in the attic of his house, and makes notes using Post-its, which are plastered all over the wall. Earlier this year, the lintel at the top of his Victorian house suddenly fell off, owing to a change of temperature.

Self has admitted to reading the dictionary to improve his vocabulary, and is a shameless sesquipedalian (a lover of obscure words). Despite criticism from some readers, Self has defended his use of archane vocabulary, saying it's good for us. In any case, as he says, he doesn't write for the readers.

The Quiddity of Will Self, by Sam Mills (Corsair, £12.99) features a sinister organisation called The Will Self Club, comprised of members who idolise the writer. Life imitated art months before it was published, with a real-life Will Self Club contacting literary types and inviting them to become members. In the novel, Self finally wins the Man Booker Prize …

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence