Will Self (born in 1961) is a prolific writer, journalist and columnist with a very high public profile, partly because of his reputation for being the enfantterrible of the London literary scene. The flamboyant persona he has created for himself should not, however, overshadow the fact that he is probably one of the most inventive and radical writers of his generation in Britain. To date, Self is the author of eight novels or novellas, six collections of short stories — all marked by a grotesque, macabre, surreal and often absurd dimension — and six volumes of non-fiction. His latest production, Walking to Hollywood (2010), a fictionalised memoir in three linked pieces, is difficult to situate in terms of genre. Critics and reviewers have often pointed to Self’s Janus-like ambivalence. On the one hand, the writer posits himself against the literary and political establishment and does not hesitate to shock readers by writing crudely about sex, drugs, perversity, psychosis and violence in his novels, and by being blunt and provocative in the media. On the other hand, one should not forget that he comes from a middle-class, highly literate background: his father was a professor of political science at the London School of Economics, his mother a publisher, and his elder brother Jonathan is a writer. Self himself was a committed and precocious reader who studied at Oxford University and said the prevailing ethos in his family was suffocating bookishness. This duality is marked in his novels by the use of sometimes abstruse vocabulary combined with a mastery of demotic speech and slang.
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