's tabloid-friendly reputation as a connoisseur of proscribed substances should not obscure the fact that he can write many of his contemporaries under the table. Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys
, is filled with typically Selfish confections: gritty chunks of reality wrapped in a sweet shell of exquisitely funny and intelligent writing. Admittedly, some of the stories here feel a little underdeveloped, as if the author were flexing his literary muscles and showing how easily he can make highbrow style dirty-dance with his lowbrow obsessions, but even the least of them is a bravura performance by an expert wordsmith. Self's obvious pleasure in bringing his extraordinary talents to bear on the seamiest of subjects is irresistible: the description of a crack cocaine rush that closes the first story, for example, is quite possibly more intoxicating than the drug itself.
But the greater part of the book complements that dazzling style with deeper pleasures. As he ranges from the hilarious tale of a remarkable infant who babbles in business German ("Bemess-bemess-bemessungsgrundlage!") to a troubled psychiatrist's journey toward the abyss, Self shows an uncanny knack for mixing realism and absurdity. The closing piece, a short novella about a wrongly convicted sex offender's attempt to win a short-story prize, is the most assured of all. In this author's hands, the barely articulate conversations of career criminals are transformed into poetry, and the struggles of the central character are both moving and wickedly funny:
In prison, in the English winter, the word crepuscular acquires new resonance, new intensity. For here and now is an eternity of forty-watt bulbs, an Empty Quarter of linoleum and a lost world of distempered walls. It's an environment of corridors and walkways, a space that taunts with the idea of progression towards arrival; then delivers only a TV room full of modular plastic chairs and Styrofoam beakers napalmed by fag ends.
In Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys Will Self shows once again that he's someone to be reckoned with. The kind of writer a society needs, he uses his wit as a crowbar to pry open the cracks in our culture. --Simon Leake
About the Author
Will Self read philosophy at Oxford. He is the author of three other collections of short stories, three novellas, four novels (most recently Dorian) and four non-fiction works. As a journalist he has contributed to a plethora of publications over the years. He has a regular column in the Evening Standard and is also a frequent broadcaster on television and radio. Will lives in London with his wife and four children.
'Brilliantly original, Will Self is one of those rare writers whose imaginations change for ever the way we see the world' JG Ballard
Examining Mr Selfs case notes, I recommend we up the dosage Herald