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11 February 1993
Complete Prose 
by Woody Allen.
Picador, 473 pp., £14.99, November 1992, 0 330 32820 4
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... whole passages of Getting even and Without Feathers. Almost twenty years later I still find myself cribbing and restructuring some of Allen’s gags in conversation. It wasn’t until I came to rereading these pieces that I recognised the origin of the joke, ‘K. would not think to pass from room to room in a conventional dwelling without first stripping ...


Will Self: James Ellroy

2 December 2010
The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women 
by James Ellroy.
Heinemann, 203 pp., £16.99, September 2010, 978 0 434 02064 5
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... and troubling – life arrived on my doorstep I assumed the business of reacquainting myself with the terrain shouldn’t be that difficult. The Hilliker Curse: My Pursuit of Women is, on the face of it, a substantiation of Ellroy’s previous memoir, My Dark Places, in which he employed the true-crime plot device of hiring his own homicide ...

At the Wellcome

Will Self: Bedlam, The Asylum and Beyond

17 November 2016
... career. I remember also that during my Royal Free period I was reading R.D. Laing’s The Divided Self – so I came to an awareness both of the state-mandated asylums, and of those who radically opposed them, at more or less the same time. Still, I don’t believe I’m atypical, either among the psychically distressed or those who’ve never suffered from ...
18 April 1996
... conclusions of extreme generality on this sort of question, that I expect my remarks about the self to apply, if true, to human beings generally. When it comes to the sense of the self, the difference between those who can’t sleep and those who can may be more important than any cultural differences. By the ‘sense of ...


Stefan Collini: The Movement

25 June 2009
The Movement Reconsidered: Essays on Larkin, Amis, Gunn, Davie and Their Contemporaries 
edited by Zachary Leader.
Oxford, 336 pp., £18.99, May 2009, 978 0 19 955825 4
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... fallen,’ Raine comments, ‘for the propaganda – Larkin’s bluff, insular, faux-xenophobic self-caricature.’ Compound terms using ‘self-’ often raise questions about agency and responsibility. When we speak of ‘self-criticism’ or ‘...


Adam Phillips: Isaiah Berlin

23 July 2009
Isaiah Berlin, Enlightening: Letters 1946-60 
edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Holmes.
Chatto, 844 pp., £35, June 2009, 978 0 7011 7889 5
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... as specks in the distance & that I was alone in my distinguished detachment. Noticing, in his self-amused way, that he was behaving rather oddly, both inside the plane and when he got out, Berlin was baffled by the choices he’d made. An interest in the costs of choice-making, in the losses that every decision involved, was one of the things that ...


Will Self: On the Common

25 February 2010
... something of a badge to be worn with pride by the contemporary British dilettante. I often find myself groping for conversation, when my interlocutor, perhaps sensing my abstraction, will reveal that she listens to – and loves – the Radio 4 discussion programme on the history of ideas. I, too, am happy to concede that I’m an In Our Time fan, preferring ...
8 March 2012
Militant Modernism 
by Owen Hatherley.
Zero, 146 pp., £9.99, April 2009, 978 1 84694 176 4
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A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain 
by Owen Hatherley.
Verso, 371 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 1 84467 700 9
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... of “classical” modernism, it supported the original theory in toto and regarded itself as the fulfilment rather than the abolition.’ Elsewhere he is still more millennially utopian. Brutalist architecture was ‘a political aesthetic, an attitude, a weapon, dedicated to the precept that nothing was too good for ordinary people’. The ...


Will Self: Battersea Power Station

18 July 2013
...  ...


Will Self: Cocaine

5 November 2015
... to the war. Or, at least, it’s the only response that comes to mind when in the end you ask yourself, now what? To be fair to Saviano, ‘Now what?’ must be a question he’s asked himself a fair number of times since the publication of his first book, Gomorrah (2006), made him a household name throughout Italy and ...

The Frowniest Spot on Earth

Will Self: Life in the Aerotropolis

28 April 2011
Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next 
by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay.
Allen Lane, 480 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 84614 100 3
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... where a prototype ‘transpark’ was built in the 1990s at his suggestion. The aim was a ‘self-contained factory town with assembly lines literally ending in the bellies of waiting planes’. Kasarda didn’t actually choose the duff site for the transpark, but it haemorrhaged state money for a decade before getting on track. No matter, because in the ...

Man-Eating Philosophers

Will Self: David Cronenberg

17 June 2015
by David Cronenberg.
Fourth Estate, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2014, 978 0 00 729915 7
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... of William Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1991), David Cronenberg apotheosised both the writer and himself by claiming his screenwriting and Burroughs’s literary style had synergised. Cronenberg apparently mused that were Burroughs to die he might write his next novel. Burroughs expired in 1997, and although Cronenberg has directed many films since then ...


Andrew O’Hagan: A Paean to Boswell

5 October 2000
Boswell's Presumptuous Task 
by Adam Sisman.
Hamish Hamilton, 352 pp., £17.99, November 2000, 0 241 13637 7
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James Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson’: Research Edition: Vol. II 
edited by Bruce Redford and Elizabeth Goldring.
Edinburgh, 303 pp., £50, February 2000, 0 7486 0606 8
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Samuel Johnson: The Life of an Author 
by Lawrence Lipking.
Harvard, 372 pp., £11.50, March 2000, 0 674 00198 2
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Dr Johnson's London 
by Liza Picard.
Weidenfeld, 362 pp., £20, July 2000, 0 297 84218 8
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... in those who claim themselves no party to the admiration. A good example of this offers itself at the opening of Vanity Fair – ‘A Novel without a Hero’ – when the single-minded Becky Sharp, high in a coach bound for Russell Square, flings a copy of Johnson’s Dictionary out of the window to land on the grass at the feet of her former ...

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