Culture: Self Ecntred on the Art of Rule Breaking; Will Self Is Appearing at the 17th Durham Literature Festival Tomorrow . Daniel Thomson Talks to the Author and Journalist about Walking to New York, Drawing Politicians' Legs and Writing Intellectual Bubblewrap

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Byline: Daniel Thomson

HIS novels often take place in strangely familiar, yet fantastic parallel worlds, and it is clear that Will Self enjoys the freedom that comes with creating fiction.

"It's a hoot," he says. "I never understand writers who don't enjoy writing. I was sat next to Douglas Adams once and he was complaining to me that his publisher was going to lock him in a hotel to finish his next book.

"I thought 'why not become a plumber instead?'" The journalist and broadcaster will be in Durham tomorrow for An Audience with Will Self at the Gala Theatre.

But he reveals he is considering renaming the evening. "An Audience with Will Self sounds a bit too regal doesn't it? Especially for a republican," he laughs. "I'm really looking forward to it though. It will be slightly different from my more literary readings.

"I have a new book coming out called Psychogeography, which is a collection of columns originally written for The Independent. They're short comic pieces, so I will be using those as a framework for the night.

"It's called Psychogeography because it's loosely about the relationship between psyche and place and hopefully this will be something which gets a reaction from the audience."

Will has established himself as one of Britain's most respected contemporary authors with critically acclaimed novels such as Great Apes, Cock and Bull, How the Dead Live, and The Book of Dave.

He also writes regular columns for national newspapers and has appeared on radio and TV on the likes of Have I Got News For You and Shooting Stars.

He is appearing at the Gala Theatre as part of the 17th annual literature festival organised by Durham City Arts and one of the topics he will be talking about is how he got started as a writer and journalist.

"It was more or less simultaneous," he says. "I cut my teeth as a cartoonist on the New Statesman and in the mid-to-late 1980s started writing joke books for comedians.

"I wrote my first 'serious' book in my late 20s. It was a success for me and I was able to pick up commissions as a writer."

Psychogeography also features illustrations from artist Ralph Steadman who Will first worked with 10 years ago.

"We have an unusual way of working," he says. "Sometimes I'll write to his pictures rather than the other way around. That's how we started working together.

"Ralph was working for the New Statesman and decided he would no longer draw politicians faces because no matter how grotesque he made them they were so arrogant they still found them flattering.

"So he vowed only to draw their legs and I found myself with the task of writing pieces to go with these strange, leg drawings. Ralph's great to work with. He's our finest living cartoonist and graphic artist."

Despite starting out as a cartoonist himself, Will, who read Philosophy at Exeter College, Oxford, no longer draws for a very simple reason.

"I'm no good at it basically," he laughs. "It took me three years just to learn how to draw in perspective."

The written word is Will's current weapon of choice and working as a journalist has allowed the writer to interview some of his literary idols, such as JG Ballard.

"Of the living writers, Jim Ballard, is indisputably the greatest influence on me. …


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