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
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee