Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Walking to Hollywood

by Will Self

Bloomsbury, £17.99, pp. , 448,

ISBN 9780747598442

Will Self loves to go a-wandering; this much we know. For the past few years, he has followed the lead of authors such as Iain Sinclair, and undertaken huge, looping walks around city and country, before writing about the experience afterwards - in his case, in a column for the Independent.

This 'psychogeography' (for such is it called) is meant to be an exercise more for the mind than for the legs. The dedicated psychogeographer stomps across ground that is soaked in human interaction, history, myth and potential. His pen seeks out the significance in it all, cosmic or otherwise.

And so we arrive at Self's latest book, Walking to Hollywood - whose title tells you everything and nothing about its contents. On one level, it is a retread of his newspaper column: the account of a series of walks through Canada, Britain and, in particular, the west coast of America. Self himself is the walker and narrator, and the pages are interspersed with photographs and details that seem to suggest. . . this actually happened. But, then, most of it patently did not happen. The conversations with Scooby-Doo, the made-up characters, the sex, lies and videotape - this is a landscape contoured, almost in whole, by Self's imagination.

As to whether you will enjoy this book, the answer depends on how well you can tolerate imprisonment within Self's mind. It is, as always, a place crammed with a Devil's Dictionary's worth of wordplay, and with an unerring tendency towards the absurd and perverse. I have only hinted at its oddity above, so perhaps a synopsis is in order. For starters, Walking to Hollywood is actually a triptych. In its first part, Self's life overlaps with that of an artist who defies, or perhaps defines, his dwarfism by erecting sculptures that span across skyscrapers and hills. In the second, the author goes on a hunt for whoever killed the movies, and ends up in a deranged mystery movie of his own. And in the final part, he stumbles onto a cliff-side where both ground and time are receding into the sea. Lest it need adding: traditional narrative is there none.

The second of these rambles is the most resonant, and the one around which the book is structured. …

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