Will Self

The author on his upcoming reading of Fleck with Alasdair Gray

comments

This article is from 2011.

Will Self

Photography | Jerry Bauer

Will Self takes part in three events this August, including the world premiere public reading of Alasdair Gray’s take on the Faust myth. Here, Self discusses the Glasgow legend

I’ve known Alasdair Gray for a long time now, nearly 20 years. We had the same publisher in England and he came to one of my events in Glasgow, probably in about 1982 or ‘83. We did some other events together around that time and struck up a friendship. I see him most times when I go to Glasgow, and I spend a fair bit of time in Scotland because my wife is a Scot.

Alasdair just asked me to join him in the performance of Fleck. The piece is a retelling of the Faust story and Alasdair seems keen that the Faust figure should be a middle-class Englishman rather than a working-class Scot. That’s OK. I’m honoured. I think I have the lead. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve done a lot of public events and readings over the years and when I started out I used to do stand-up and still do a bit every now and then. I’ve done two or three of my own books as talking books, so it’s not anything that particularly intimidates me. I think it’ll be a laugh.

It’s an odd piece, but then everything Alasdair does is pretty odd. It’s got all those elements you’d expect from him, including quite a bit of erotic interest, girls in various states of undress, a series of cheerfully embraced stereotypings and high-flown metaphysics. It’s simultaneously deeply heartfelt and quite sophisticated and kind of blindingly naive. To say that that’s his charm would be slightly damning with faint praise, but I mean charm on a stratospheric level.

Alasdair’s somebody who sees the fabulist quality in everyday life. You only have to go to Lanark to discover that he’s someone who sees the magical within the ordinary. He’s a passionate and unaffected Scots nationalist, a passionate and unaffected socialist. And he’s not a utopian – he’s believes everything is on earth right now. It just needs to be accessed in the right way. All of those things are wholly admirable.
He’s a naïve rather sentimental artist – it comes straight from the heart. He was formed in a crucible-like way, like Lanark itself which was a construction of Scots self-esteem under Thatcher in the early 1980s. That was the defining political era of his life, not that he wasn’t an artist and writer before that. Alasdair’s one of the handful of really important Scots writers in English of the post-war period.

Will Self, 28 Aug, 3.30pm (on WG Sebald), 8pm (the Folio Society Event), £10 (£8); Alasdair Gray’s Fleck, 29 Aug, 8pm, £15 (£12).

This article is from 2011.

Alasdair Gray's Fleck

After a sell-yer-granny-for-a-ticket debut at Edinburgh International Book Festival last year, Alasdair Gray's modern adaptation of Faust gets another outing courtesy of Margins Book and Music Festival, with an equally starry cast including Alan Bissett, Allan Wilson, Zoe Strachan, Louise Welsh, Chiew Siah-Tei, Rodge…

Will Self

The estimable Mr Self takes a dip into inventive memoir with Walking to Hollywood, a three-pronged story which explores his love of traipsing down the lanes that most people bypass. He calls those places the ‘interzones’. So, he strides into Toronto from the city’s airport, strolls around LA and stomps about the Yorkshire…

Will Self on W G Sebald

Will Self discusses the work of W G Sebald, a writer whose style earned him comparisons with Calvino, Kafka and Thomas Bernhard among others. Sebald wandered around his home in East Anglia and used his meanderings – alongside grainy reproductions of his own photographs – as the starting point for books which became highly…

Elsewhere on the web

Comments

Post a comment