Self was born in London in 1961, educated in Finchley and
at Oxford University, and cut his teeth producing illustrative
cartoons for the New Statesman.
He is a journalist, critic and writer of critically acclaimed
novels including The Quantity Theory of Insanity which won
the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.
the Dead Live, a sequel of sorts to The Quantity Theory of
Insanity, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year
latest book, Dr Mukti and Other Tales of Woe was be published
by Bloomsbury in January 2004.
Self lives in London.
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in Reading was packed out with fans of Will Self, the verbose satirical
author and journalist who had come to read from his new book Dr
Mukti and Other Tales of Woe - out this month.
read one of his dark surrealist tales of woe, Conversations with
Ord, and spoke afterwards about his book, Oxfam, celebrity and responded
curtly to that heroin moment in John Major's private jet...
the story you've just read, Conversations with Ord, is about two
friends - one a bankrobber named Keith - who plot to murder a woman
by hoisting her up in a red balloon over South London. They also
like playing mental Go-Chess and inventing imaginary dialogues with
a fictional General in his late 80s called Ord.
How do you come up with these storylines??
"It's not as wacky as it seems. As David Hume once said, there's
nothing intrinsically strange about gold, and nothing intrinsically
strange about a mountain, but put the two together and you've got
a gold mountain. I'm not saying that my story is a gold mountain
but it's about putting the two together.
was actually a balloon over Vauxhall bridge and I have a friend
who is a bank robber. These two elements build up the story. The
story is about how malevolent friendships can be and that you can
have long-term friendships that can be founded in hatred."
Self reading to a packed-out Oxfam in Reading
are alot of stories based in London in your new book - why is that?
"It's by osmosis. In the late 80s I tried to get out of London.
I was born in London and grew up in London, I came to hate London
in the 80s. But being back in London I sort of 'plighted the troth'.
Writers can be more or less writers of place and you can hope to
extract things from that place that can be universalisable. You
write about what you know.
did you come to be associated with this Oxfam shop in Reading?
Georgia Boon the manager here wrote me a letter and it was a
very good letter. You know in life you get letters that say 'we
offer you 0% APR' and other letters are significantly better, including
those that start off with 'Dear John', but this particular letter
made me feel that Georgia was doing interesting things with the
"Of the big charities Oxfam has a very good record in clarity and
openness with regard to how money is being spent."
hit the headlines for snorting heroin on John Major's private jet
during the prime minister's election campaign in 1997. Why did you
was seven years ago and I really am pretty tired about being asked
about it. It's annoying."
you recognise yourself in the media?
"It's an exaggeration, a vulgarisation but it's not a complete lie.
vast majority of my time is spent picking the kids up from school
and sitting alone typing, so how I'm represented in the media isn't
foremost in my mind. I don't wake up in the morning and before I
put one leg in my pants stop and think 'how am I represented in
the media?!'. I don't mean to be blasé but it doesn't really exercise
me that much. It's kind of vulgar being remotely well-known, it's
like painting your house in day glow and people walk by pointing
and saying 'look at that'."