Paperbacks of the year: Walking to Hollywood, By Will Self

A mischievous guide down melancholy lane

The three essays collected in Walking to Hollywood are non-fictional travelogues that spiral slowly into abstraction, similar in many ways to the "psychogeography" columns on which Will Self collaborated with Ralph Steadman.

But here the tone is markedly different, the author's usual Technicolor exuberance tempered by a monochrome melancholy. It is significant that Steadman's illustrations have been displaced by the sort of black-and-white photographs beloved of W G Sebald; Self's writing seems to have taken a darker turn under the German writer's saturnine influence. Not that this book entirely lacks the old scatological mischief. Sebald, after all, is unlikely to have described car exhausts as "turbofarts".