Walking to Hollywood, By Will Self
Travels with a dirty-minded doodler
Sunday 11 September 2011
Will Self's Walking to Hollywood consists of three skewed travelogues, in which truth bleeds bafflingly into fiction.
Of Self's previous work, it is perhaps closest in spirit to his erstwhile "psychogeography" column for The Independent, in which he professed to unpick the "relationship between psyche and place". But if those articles were often little more than scatological jeux d'esprit, this is a darker and more serious affair.
Not that Self's usual exuberance is entirely absent. Reading the title essay, which documents his perambulations around downtown LA, is like watching a dirty-minded cartoonist doodle on a postcard, turning famous sights into obscene tableaux: the Incredible Hulk comes to life and starts rutting with the cars along Miracle Mile.
Elsewhere, however, the book strikes a different tone. In "Very Little", Self tramps the gloomy South Downs with a megalomaniac dwarf; "Spurn Head" recounts a hike along the crumbling Yorkshire coastline. Elliptical and unsettling, these two pieces suggest an intriguing shift in Self's work, from the colourful surrealism of William Burroughs to something more akin to WG Sebald; as in Sebald's Vertigo, captionless black-and-white photographs embed the text, and dead-eyed doppelgangers abound.
Walking to Hollywood ultimately fuses physical and psychological landscapes in ways that are unique, making it utterly Selfish – but in a good way.
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