So, I came upon this interview with Will Self in Epigram (Bristol University’s Independent Student Newspaper) via a Twitter mention a couple of days ago. I have been marveling. Endlessly. I am terrified of Will Self. He is so fierce, it made me feel weak just to type his name in that sentence. And his picture is staring at me now. His eyes are so direct. His whole presentation is so bold. Fearless. Unapologetic. Not to mention his vocabulary.
I thought I would do a running commentary of what went through my mind while I read this article. Of course, it is mortifying on one level: my ignorance is vast and now right here for your amusement. On another level, it is liberating and a relief. There is always more to learn, more to know. It is only when I think I’ve heard it all or have that creeping feeling that words are empty wrappers and none of us will ever connect or understand one another in the slightest that I am truly depressed.
As I am wont to do, I have put my comments directly into the text and highlighted them. I am MM. The Interviewer is FP. And Will Self is WS. Enjoy!
Title: Will Self
MM: even his name is aggressive…Will! Self! Self Will! Monosyllabic. Final.
MM: Wow! This student from Bristol got to meet Will Self*
Title: ‘The Olympics Suck’
MM: I don’t know if I think the Olympics suck or not, but I bet Will Self will make it sound fantastically obvious.
Author: Faye Planer (FP)
MM: Lucky student from Bristol who got to meet Will Self *
January 30th, 2012
MM: Why did I not see this until like six days after! (As if the student newspaper of Bristol would be at the top of my to-do pile).
MM: Holy fuck. Just look at him. Even his dog is looking at me like he knows I don’t really know what ontogeny means. Is that shirt meant to look like that or it it the result of a bleach accident? That’s what my black t-shirt looked like when I splattered bleach on it. Why did I throw that out? It looks pretty cool. Hmmm, Will Self has a big hand. And I like the way he is holding that dog…I wonder if it’s a pure-bred Jack Russell…it’s kind of cute…I wonder if Will Self is cute with his dog…British people tend to be cute with their animals…should Abigail (the heroine of my third novel) have a dog? It might soften her a little bit…she’s coming across as a bit of a hard-ass.
Faye Planer probes
MM: Odd choice of words…sounds like an alien medical inspection
…the nation’s angriest wit
MM: Now that Christopher Hitchens is dead and probably Hitchens would seem milquetoast by comparison anyway and maybe Hitchens wasn’t even British anymore…did Hitchens ever become an American citizen, I wonder.
…on his views of the upcoming Olympics, and on what on earth ‘psychogeography’ is all about.
MM: Oh, a new word! Psychogeography. Probably something to do with how fucked up people are by where they live or something. Thinks briefly of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.
FP: I hear that you are unenthusiastic about the prospect of the Olympics this summer. In your eyes, what is the greatest folly of this whole affair?
WS: Rather unenthusiastic is putting it waaaaay mildly…
MM: Are Faye and Will sitting in a cafe in Bristol when he says “waaaaaay” like that? It sounds sort of Valley Girl-ish.
WS: I think the Olympics suck dogshit through a straw.
MM: YAY! There’s the Will I love. Dogshit through a straw. Must remember to use that (to myself only, of course) when thinking of that book I forced myself to read while I was on the cruise with my mom over Christmas…because that book sucked dogshit through a straw. I hate myself a little for not being able to say what I think on my own blog about a book I read that I thought sucked dogshit through a straw…(re-reads last week’s post about not being properly prepared to ignore what other people think of me)…some people loved that dogshit book and who am I to rain on their diarrhea-swilling parade?
WS: People believe they encourage da yoof…
MM: Momentary fond memory of the first time I saw Ali G in the late 90′s when he interviewed Professor Sue Lees, and I clung to my husband’s arm and laughed so hard I cried as Ali asked Prof. Lees if she thought all girls should try feminism at least once (Video here: http://youtu.be/pyRfJDcNdb0)
WS: to take up running, jumping and fainting in coils…
MM: Makes note to look fainting in coils
WS: – but this is nonsense. They’re a boondoggle…
MM: Why do I always misuse boondoggle? It sounds like it should be a fun junket…a boon, with a dog along for company. Like a trip you win to go to Hawaii for a week. Avoid future use of word boondoggle.
WS: …for politicians and financiers, a further corruption of an already corrupt self-appointed international coterie of Olympian cunts…
MM: DAMN IT!!! Why does Will Self get to say cunts out loud and I don’t? I love to call people cunts.
WS: …an excuse for ‘elite’ athletes to fuck each other, …
MM: I wonder if he means that literally…do Olympic athletes shag like minks?
WS: snarf steroids…
MM: Is snarf still slang or is it in the OED now?
WS: and pick up sponsorship deals, and a senseless hitching of infrastructural investment…
MM: I like this use of the word hitching.
WS: if there’s any reality to this anyway – to a useless loss-trailing expenditure on starchitectural bollix…
MM: Have to look up starchitectural…and I thought bollix was bollocks.
WS: The stadia themselves are a folly.
MM: I don’t think he means this like the Temple of Apollo at Stourhead.
WS: The new Westfield is a temple to moribund consumerism – in ten years time they’ll all be cracked and spalled;
MM: Have to look up spalled.
WS: a Hitlerian mass of post-pomo nonsense.
MM: Must try to use post-pomo in a sentence…why wouldn’t that just be po-po-mo?
FP: If the Olympics did not exist, would it be necessary to invent them?
MM: I think Faye is trying to be cheeky here…I don’t think she is in a coffee shop with Will Self. I think she is on the phone in Bristol. And Will Self is somewhere dank and abandoned in a fug of smoke and ideas.
WS: They didn’t exist for thousands of years. The modern Olympics is a fatuous exercise…
MM: Try to use ‘fatuous’ today.
WS: in internationalism through limbering up and then running down to entropy…
MM: Great use of the athletic metaphor (or would that be synecdoche?) only to arrive at chaos.
WS: The modern Olympics have always been a political football – nothing more and nothing less – endlessly traduced…
MM: Have never used the word traduced. At least I know what it means.
WS: and manipulated by the regimes…
MM: Are all governments regimes? Probably yes.
WS: that ‘host’ them.
MM: How did he indicate that the word host was to be put into quotation marks? Was that to suggest that they are like a host-body with a contagion? Or just the idea of a regime hosting a cocktail party? Whichever is more damning, I suspect.
WS: This one is no different, presenting a fine opportunity for the British security state apparatus and its private security firm hangers-on…
MM: Love that.
WS: to deploy…
MM: I love martial language.
WS: the mass-suppression and urban paranoiac technologies…
WS: in the service of export earning.
MM: Repeats to self softly: Export. Earning.
WS: Some peace, some freedom.
MM: A little bit of Rita’s all I need.
FP: Assuming we will always have the Olympics, could you suggest a better way of doing them?
WS: Why assume that?
MM: Yeah, Faye, why? I imagine myself scraping my metal chair legs across the unfinished concrete floor and moving closer to Will Self in the dim basement where he and I are taking Faye’s call.
WS: If you want to run and jump, go do it in a field for free.
MM: Fuck yeah.
WS: If you want to run and jump with a Kenyan or a Croatian, go out and find one – there are plenty around my way – and go and run and jump together in a field.
MM: I don’ think there are many Kenyans or Croatians around my way…why do I live in Florida?
WS: Costs nothing.
MM: True enough.
WS: You may even make a few bob by charging people to watch you.
MM: Wait. But isn’t that what the Olympic hosts are trying to do? But since it’s the individual and not the security state apparatus, we’re good with it. Got it.
FP: You walked around the Olympic site a few years ago. What were your observations? Have you been back since?
WS: I didn’t see much of it – there wasn’t much of it to see. I joined Sinclair…
MM: Hope they tell me who Sinclair is later in the article.
WS: for part of his circumambulation…
MM: Does Will Self really say circumambulation in a random sentence? Does he also say postprandial and diaphoresis?
WS: of Hackney for his book.
MM: Okay. So Sinclair must be writing a book about the Olympics. Or Hackney.
WS: I can’t remember a lot about the walk at all, except that Iain…
MM: And Sinclair’s first name is Iain.
WS: held forth a lot – but that’s OK, he’s good at holding forth.
MM: I also like people who are good at holding forth.
WS: He and I agree on most things Olympic and consensus is a big barrier to keen observation…
MM: Oh my, if that isn’t the truth. So much easier to just all share the same opinion than it is to really look at something afresh.
WS: – ask Lordy-Lordy Coe and Tessa Jowls.
MM: For some reason those names made me think of Gertrude Jekyll. They must be poncy Olympic organizers. I might name a future fictional butler Jowls.
WS: I haven’t been back – it’s not my manor, thank God.
MM: ‘It’s not my manor’? Is that like ‘I don’t have a dog in this fight’ or more ‘not in my back yard’?
FP: Could you explain the principles of pyschogeography and do you think it’s something that can only be applied to urban spaces?
WS: Ooh, big question.
MM: Is Will Self making fun of Faye?
WS: I take my lead on matters psycho-geo…
MM: Is this hipstellectual talk? “Yo, Psycho-geo! Po-po-po-mo psycho-geo, yo!”
WS: from the Situationist fons et origo.
MM: Definitely going to need to get the dictionary out on this one. No clue about the Situationist, but I like the sound of it. Can sort of deduce that fons et origo are something to do with font and origin…beginnings…and not with Happy Days and/or Iris. Am so relieved my 12-year-old has taken a shine to latin. She will have such a better grasp of language than I ever will. I wonder where she will go to high school?
WS: It’s part of the tearing down of the Society of the Spectacle…
MM: Ooooh, I like the sound of the tearing down of the Society of the Spectacle. The Super Bowl confused me.
WS: mandated by late capitalism; unstructured dérives…
MM: Back to the dictionary.
WS: or drifts across the urban landscape cut across the predetermined routes of commercial necessity which were best defined by a graffito I once saw on a supermarket wall outside Yate in Somerset: ‘Work, Consume, Die’.
MM: Now, that is something I can totally get my mind around. (Tries not to think to hard about how true that is. Momentarily hates all humanity.)
WS: What I think of as ‘the man-machine matrix’ wants you trammelled on EasyJet…
MM: Oh my god! Remember that time we took EasyJet to Nice and what a fucking nightmare it was? I had totally forgotten about that.
WS: watching a six-inch screen implanted in the back of another human’s head,…
MM: Borg. Borg. Borg.
WS: wants you stuck in a car coughing out lead particulates, wants you staring at a VDU,…
MM: Dictionary. Probably British for monitor.
WS: doesn’t want you on foot, transgressing.
MM: Oh, how I want to be on foot, transgressing. Get me back to New York or London. I want to wander in strange patterns along streets where I have neither purpose nor destination. Thinks momentarily of Ford Madox Ford.
FP: I went to a talk you gave about J.G. Ballard. What do you think he would have to say about the Olympic transformation of the east end of London?
MM: Have never read J.G. Ballard. I did see Crash and Empire of the Sun. (Makes note to read J.G. Ballard).
WS: He’d probably have loved it! He loved modernity, he loved big things – he was ambivalent of course, but it gave him a sort of visceral thrill that he connected to his wonderstruck childhood in Shanghai…
MM: Thinks of Shibumi.
WS: which at that time – the 1930s – was one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world.
MM: Was Will Self personally acquainted with J.G. Ballard? Hmmm. I want to be given visceral thrills, too.
FP: ‘Really, one may say that the whole Olympic process was a pasteurisation of the city… the microbes disappeared and from a hygienic point of view maybe that was positive, but really what happened is that the variety was destroyed in the process…’
MM: I was in Barcelona in 1999 and I thought it was varied.
FP: Manuel Vázquez Montalbán said this about the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Do you believe that London is being pasteurised too?
WS: No, I’m quite confident that London is too big and too anarchic to be seriously pasteurised by the games.
MM: Whew. I always want London to feel on the edge of falling away.
WS: It’s so big, so filthy, so nasty that it could probably eat twenty Olympiads for breakfast and spit out the Ferroconcrete bones.
MM: Dictionary. Ferroconcrete. Probably Brit for rebar.
FP: Iain Sinclair believes that cities aspire to be like an airport departure lounge. How do you envisage cities of the future?
MM: I think I will be reading some of this Sinclair person. It’s not just cities. I think most of America is an airport departure lounge already.
WS: Declining in the West, certainly. With no industry and an ageing population – except for Gastarbeiter –
MM: Dictionary. Visiting workers. Interesting. Reminds me of husband’s Swiss boss who always put the emphasis on awkward syllables. He pronounced foreigners like fuh-RAY-nerz.
WS: the cities will decline into monumental care homes rather than departure lounges.
MM: Oh. Please, no.
WS: No one will want to go anywhere because their private health insurance provider – which is what the Government will become –
MM: No. No. No.
WS: will make them stay here. The colours will be muted pastel, the building will be soft and foamy, the food will be puréed.
MM: Florida. Florida. Florida.
FP: You are the ringmaster: what sport would you make Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP enter in the Olympics?
MM: I think I have heard of this Hunt fellow. Sounds like Fay and Will Self are about to have a bit of fun at his expense.
WS: Something equestrian – he could be the show pony.
MM: Um. Dirty mind thinks of pony play.
FP: What would be your sport of choice?
WS: Riding him – hard.
MM: Hey! I ended my last blog with the word hard. Still thinking about pony play, with Will Self using a little crop on the Right Honorable Rump of Jeremy Hunt MP. I wonder if they were at Oxford together. Maybe Will and Jeremy have a secret past. Wanders off.
The original interview (sans MM) is here: