The British writer shares his daily work routine with The Guardian. (Source)

Source: Will Self.

Comedian Stewart Lee talks to Will Self about stage personas, social media, and comedic panel shows
I first saw Stewart Lee’s standup act in the early 2000s at the Hackney Empire, and have seen him several times since at venues in London and Edinburgh. Readers unfamiliar with the live Lee phenomenon may know of him through the hugely successful – and equally controversial – Jerry Springer – The Opera, which he co-wrote, or via the TV work he has done over the years, beginning with co-writing credits on Armando Iannucci’s On the Hour in the early 1990s. On Thursday the fourth series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle will begin on BBC2, and the new shows feature all of Lee’s trademark virtuosity – and his equally familiar self-evisceration. Shot as a live standup act at the Mildmay Club in Stoke Newington, where Lee plays to his home crowd (which he characterises as “politically correct, Guardian-reading terrorist sympathisers”), the shows consist of long, narrative-driven absurdist monologues, during which he deconstructs not just the warped problematic of contemporary Britain, but that of his own comic persona. On stage, Lee is apparently an embittered, envious, self-lacerating man, caught in a ferocious double-bind: if he’s unsuccessful it’s because his audience are stupid shits who don’t get his jokes; and if he’s successful it’s because he’s a stupid shit churning out jokes that confirm his audience in their prejudices. So convincing is this act – if indeed it is an act – that I became intrigued: was the “real” Lee quite as prickly as his performance persona? In order to find out I asked him over for a serious sit-down. Here are the results.

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Will Self rates the film as an adaptation of Ballard’s vision
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Promotional poster for Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise

Of the film adaptations that had been made of his work during his lifetime, JG Ballard vouchsafed to me that he liked Jonathan Weiss’s version of The Atrocity Exhibition the best. It was hardly a surprising verdict; the movie, released in 2000, eschews any of the easy certainties of narrative for a furious collage of extreme images – urban wastelands, nuclear explosions, penises rhythmically pumping in and out of vaginas – all to the accompaniment of a voice-over comprising near-verbatim passages from the quasi-novel. And as the book is a furious collage of extreme images, the film is of the highest fidelity imaginable.

Ballard also liked Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Empire of the Sun, although more, one suspects, because of the opportunity he got to be an extra in a party scene that was set in a simulacrum of his parents’ interwar home in Shanghai. So tickled was he by this Möbius-looping of reality and the imagined that Ballard wrote about the episode in another roman-à-clef, The Kindness of Women. When it was announced in the early 1990s that David Cronenberg was to adapt Ballard’s apocalyptic tale of autogeddon, Crash, and moreover set it in Toronto, I was so exercised that I phoned the writer. “You can’t let him do that, Jim,” I protested (or words to that effect). “Crash is one of the great London novels. The city demands that it be set right here!” He was having none of it and gently talked me down: the point of the novel was to describe a global phenomenon, one Ballard termed “the death of affect”. It was quite irrelevant which city the film was set in – the important point was that Cronenberg’s affectless vision and planar cinematography, all lit at operating-theatre strength, strongly resonated with Ballard. (more…)

Will Self contributes to The Observer’s ‘My Other Life’ series by pondering an alternative career as an academic
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Will Self

I thought I might be an academic. I read PPE at Oxford and was very interested in Marx, Wittgenstein, Habermas – theories of knowledge and praxis. I applied to do an MPhil, but unfortunately I was busted for drugs before I sat my finals and went into something of a tailspin. I would’ve been a crap academic anyway – like most novelists I’m only really interested in being interested. When I left university I took a job as a driver/labourer for a builder in Stoke Newington. I lasted about six months and was about to get a raise when – feeling my Tolstoyan Pierre moment ending – I threw it over. A succession of deadend jobs followed, strung together by the cartoons I published in the New Statesman and other small left-wing periodicals. The only proper suit-and-tie job I’ve had in my life was the two years in the late 1980s when I ran a small corporate publishing company. I even had a Ford Sierra! Actually, I quite enjoyed it, and learned about every element of the publishing process, from copy editing to layout to print. I wrote my first book, The Quantity Theory of Insanity, in the early mornings before the rest of the staff came in for the day. [Read More]

4th Estate releases beautiful contemporary editions of Ballard’s novels and short stories

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4th Estate have collaborated with the artist Stanley Donwood, known for his work with the rock group Radiohead, to produce a series of luminous, beautiful, surreal, and contemporary designs for 21 of J.G. Ballard’s works. Donwood is known for the way he playfully manipulates the signs and symbols of modern life, in colour and collage, and his signature style is ideally suited to Ballard’s aesthetic. The new editions, which come complete with a series of illuminating introductions, will welcome a whole new generation of readers to Ballard’s fantastical and prophetic worlds. Extremely impressive.

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Lara Feigel reviews Peter Boxall’s new book about the relevance of the novel in the 21st century

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In his 1925 essay, “Why the Novel Matters”, DH Lawrence celebrated the novel as the “one bright book of life”. According to him, the novelist alone understands that there is as much life in the hand that writes as in the mind that thinks. Where science and philosophy privilege mind over matter, turning man into a “dead man in life”, the novel resurrects the “whole man alive”. Lawrence acknowledged that books do not constitute life, but insisted that they were “tremulations on the ether” that could make the whole man alive tremble into urgent being.

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On the writer’s love of his Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter

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Will Self talks to ShortList Magazine: ‘People are deceived into believing that writing on a computer is faster, but it’s not. Using a typewriter is more disciplined; you don’t have the distraction of thinking, ‘I’ll go online and look up what oven gloves made of fur look like.’ Also, the technology is more durable. But what really drove me to the typewriter was the aesthetics. I don’t like what computers look like now. I’m obviously just old and crusty.’ [Read More]

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Nick Papadimitriou
Tim Dee (The Guardian) reviews ‘deep topographer’ Nick Papadimitriou’s debut work, Scarp

A mostly crap scrap of the neither-here-nor-there London exurbia is the subject of Nick Papadimitriou’s wonder Scarp. Through decades of walks from his council flat just inside the hellish ring of the north circular, he has fallen deeply for the low bumps of the 17-mile north Middlesex/south Hertfordshire escarpment. Here he is almost on common ground and up against the capital’s modern saints of dystopic psychogeography: the master of the meaningful roundabout JG Ballard (Concrete Island), and the leggy pair of Will Self (Walking to Hollywood) and Iain Sinclair (whose M25 – in London Orbital – is the unspoken tarmac hedge to Papadimitriou’s ambition and stride to the north of his scarp). There are a host of others too – a proper ministry of silly walks – but Papadimitriou is his own man.

His methodology might be bonkers but it is very engaging. Years of study and dreaming in the spare bedroom of his flat have given birth to a series of fantastic journeys – trips, more like – through the ages of the scarp and into and out of its living and its dead, its creatures and plants, its buildings and routeways, its residents and its passers-by. The whole shebang is channelled into what Papadimitriou calls “deep topography”. But the loopy incredibility of all this is redeemed by his indomitable playfulness. That he is relaxed about taking his own character along with him on his walks also helps a lot. He is good fun. [Read More]

I have always been fascinated by the daily rituals and routines that govern people’s everyday lives. Daily Routines has compiled a wide and varied selection of such rituals, taken from interviews and biographies of some of the world’s most distinguished writers and thinkers. It makes for fascinating reading – even if browsing the daily routines of others leaves little time for our own.

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