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 & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit