Sunday, 26 August 2012

Will Self @ Bookfest

Will Self, 9.30 at RBS Main Theatre, Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh Bookfest Aug 25 2012

In conversation with Stuart Kelly—author of the bibliophile’s wet dream, The Book of Lost Books—Will Self was loose, witty and cerebral. His latest novel Umbrella was showcased in two furious readings with Self assuming the voice of his Cockney protagonist, a woman struck down with mental disorder encephalitis lethargica, teasing the audience with the book’s daring stylistic experiment, his apparent “paean to modernism.” Self was, as usual, acerbic and willing to dérive on any topic thrown his way, batting away comparisons with Joyce and Woolf in Umbrella’s subtle shifts between protagonists and time periods, trouncing the conventional novel’s reliance on metaphor and simile to render the experience of being inside a human brain. For a moment he invited us to share the consciousnesses of everyone around us, which might have been a fun experiment, if a little messy. One questioner picked up on Dylan lyrics inserted into the text—it seems Self has made cunning use of popular song in the novel in an attempt to dodge the copyrighters—so it’ll be interesting to see how far the line of influence has extended, and how successfully he managed to sidestep this legal hindrance of the novelist’s art. A terrific evening, especially for Stuart Kelly, who was described as a “prim spinster” during the course of Self’s improvised comedic spoutings. And finally, my sister shook Mr. Self’s hand on the way out. Nice chap.

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