It’s inexplicable to me that Will Self still hasn’t been fully rumbled. If the dreary, ponderous, unamusing indiscipline of his shaggy-dog story novels isn't enough to expose his shortomings as a writer of fiction and thereby disqualify him from being given space to spout codswallop in The Guardian then clearly nothing will.
He is an interesting essayist, and occasionally a wry commentator. But as a novelist he has a tin ear, the stylistic skills of a tree stump and the imagination of a pebble.
And yet there he is proclaiming that ‘the novel is doomed to become a marginal cultural form’. You only have to examine the terms he uses - drawing on that laziest of all cliches,’the water-cooler moment’ - to see how little he really has to say. And a quick skim through the film review pages would disprove his ludicrous claim that the film industry ‘no longer needs the novel lying behind it’.
In the same interview he admits that he doesn’t read contemporary fiction much. Oh. I see.
And he has been shamed into compiling a ‘list of important women writers’ for his Brunel students, after it was pointed out that all his cited influences were male. So Self has realised that there are women writers, has he? Oh no, he is only concerned with ‘important’ ones, a concept that perpetuates the utterly dysfunctional prejudices of ‘the canon’, whether propounded by Eliot, Leavis or anyone else.
Perhaps he is just trying to be provocative. Unfortunately he ends up sounding blinkered and boring.
The novelist Roxanne Gay gets it about right: ‘White men love to declare an end to things when they no longer succeed in that arena. The novel is fine’.
Personally I thought he made a decent butt for the jokes of Reeves and Mortimer for a while. But i’ll never forgive him for the wasted hours I spent on ‘Great Apes’ and ‘How the Dead Live’.