Will Self: interview

The novelist and critic, whose inimitable dry voice has been a literary fixture since 1992’s ‘Cock

  • Will Self: interview

    Will Self

  • See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

    What’s it like to be a London hero?

    ‘It seems fairly august, but the rest may be complete twats.’

    Who are your London heroes?

    ‘There’s such a wealth to choose from. Wat Tyler, who was stabbed to death by the mayor of London – the Honourable Company of Fishmongers keep the dagger at London Bridge. I’d like to steal it and hold it to ransom. It’s a key symbol – with one stroke the then-mayor of London set back the cause of democracy in London by 500 years. Blake also. Off his trolley, nude in his garden. People said he was what it would be like if a bad artist were a genius and that’s very London – London is what a city would be like if a bad city were a city of geniuses. Pepys as well, through Claire Tomalin’s astonishing biography, which is one of the great books of early modern London.’

    What’s your personal favourite moment in London?

    ‘I was born on Bruton Street in Charing Cross Hospital – the triangular building that is now a police station. A few years ago, somebody punched me in the face outside the Lyceum and I ended up being interviewed in the building in which I was born. It wasn’t the best thing to have ever happened to me, but it had a beautiful circularity about it.’

    What’s the future for your field in London?

    ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a new movement in literature. The psychogeography thing has developed more in London than anywhere else and that could take on a radical evolution. We are a world city and there is nothing that will happen out there that will not affect us. The YBAs came out of the last recession and it doesn’t matter whether we have boom or bust, decadence or disaster, the arts will benefit. Nothing will be lost in the economy of ideas.’

    Complete the sentence: London is…

    ‘…a mess. That’s what’s great about it. It resists reason. It’s inchoate, there’s no sense of closure and it’s ungovernable. And it’s all the better for it.’

    See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

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