Will Self: PsychoGeography

Postcards from Ontario
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The Independent Online


Dear Will,

Today's the day! The anniversary of the global climacteric that rived the present from the past, man from God, and God from his numbered Swiss bank account. It is odd on such a day to be so isolated, staying in a log cabin on one of the islands in Lake Huron's Georgian Bay. We come and go by boat. Last night we fished for supper from the jetty, but I looked into the victim's big eye and said: No! I cannot kill you. You must go back from whence you came! So we had spaghetti instead.

I can fish again tonight, but I wonder: do I really want to eat something that looks at me? We must have a serious discussion about this and carefully choose what we must eat. I tend towards Leviticus – it's the only book of the Bible I really like, besides Daniel. I like the way the Babylonians in the Book of Daniel are always turning people's houses into dung heaps – they must have had a special government department responsible for the task. I can't remember what Leviticus says about crackers, but we have plenty of them; also buns, homemade bread, fishing worms and fruit, so we are OK.


Just to let you know what it is really like here. There are no walkers on these islands. Walkers are frowned upon, and last week one was shot. We hung his rangy body from a spruce and ate his boots. It may've been unethical – but they tasted great. Gore-Tex may be the food of the future. We are boaters and swimmers – and fishers. The weather's been stop and go – sometimes there's no weather at all for days on end, just a numb and aching grey void, fuzzy and indeterminate in all directions. But at other times you can see a rainbow, a monsoonal downpour and a hailstorm all in the sky at once, while a zephyr plays upon your sackbut. Still, who cares? It is so natural and beautiful.

I spend my time sleeping and reading Seamus Heaney; actually, "reading" isn't strictly accurate, I have a talking book. No, I tell a lie, I don't have a talking book – I have the man himself (right). That's right, Heaney is staying on a nearby island and rows across every day in order to read aloud to me. The first few times he did it I was flattered: little old me, from Wallasey (not even Liverpool!), being read to by a Nobel Laureate. However, it soon began to pall – Heaney's poetry that is, he himself has a fine, mellifluous voice – and I asked him if he wouldn't mind reading something else, like a thriller. Perhaps a Dick Francis, or maybe the latest Le Carré? He obliged for a bit, but then got very uppity and said he'd grass us up to the Mounties if I didn't read to him. Heavy. Now I'm compelled to read him Dostoevsky's The Idiot for hour upon hour. It occurs to me that Famous Seamus may be trying to tell me something.


I haven't done any work since I've been here, but the contact with literary genius has gotme thinking about my own literary endeavours. Some time ago I wrote a story called Beaver: A Saga of Wild Ambition. It's a sort of anthropomorphic version of Fitzcarraldo, in which a beaver builds an opera house deep in the woods. When it's done, Beaver ends up standing on a cloudy podium conducting Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, sung by all the animals.

I suggested to Heaney that he might want to collaborate with me on revising the piece, and adapting it as the libretto for an opera – I already have a lot of the music – but he was altogether dismissive. He can be just the tiniest bit arrogant sometimes.


The Mounties came this morning and dragged Seamus off. They made a fine sight, swimming their horses across the lake then urging them up on to dry land in a spray of crystalline drops. The poet made rather less of a fine sight, hog-tied and thrown across a saddle, bellowing his innocence in quatrains. It turned out that it was he who killed the walker – not us. He managed to convince us that we'd done it using creepy Celtic mind control. Having grown up in North Wales myself, I should've seen through his friendliness and affability.


Margaret Trudeau and the Rolling Stones have turned up. Marge nude sunbathes all day, but the Stones have proved most adept as backwoodsmen. Mick and Ronnie have dug the foundations for a traditional Native American sweat lodge, while Charlie Watts helps them by gathering sticks. Only Keith is wayward, spending his days climbing trees. You'd think he'd learn – besides, winter is coming. People have said a holiday in Canada would be dull – but I haven't found it so.

Speak soon,