Posted on 21st May 2012

By Gareth Watts

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The Quiddity of Will Self

Sam Mills

It seems somehow inevitable that Sam Mills’s The Quiddity of Will Self will polarise its readers. Some will bemoan an example of literature eating itself, while others will delight in the dining experience and gain succour from Selfian synonyms as they gobble, gorge and gormandise their way through this darkly comic intertextual feast.

In trying to investigate the death of his beautiful neighbour, Sylvie, protagonist Richard becomes embroiled in an absurd world of masked orgies and Will Self worship which threaten to consume him too. Perhaps it is telling of our celebrity-fixated age that it is in its outrageous intercourse with the satirist and Shooting Stars panellist that the novel is most engaging. The ‘great Will himself’ is subjected to licentious levels of libidinous and linguistic attention. Rarely a page goes by without a self (or Self)-referential epithet which provides an intrusive—though not unwelcome—layer of commentary (‘Literature has always been powered forward by these kind of interruptions of sex and violence’).

Although rarely allowing you to lose a constant awareness of being engaged in an act of reading, somehow this experience of literary doublethink still resonates beyond its 387 pages and poses a genuine critique of celebrity worship and the dangers of (small and big ‘s’) self obsession. A hugely enjoyable novel of rare energy and ambition.

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