By Rob McGibbon
The front door opens slowly and Will Self glares at me with an oddly surprised, contorted look. My cheerful greeting gets an indecipherable mumble and an automaton handshake. Clearly, the big man with the big words for dark, sheerface fiction and admired journalism doesn’t waste his vocab on piffling pleasantries. "Sorry. Is this a bad time?" "How can it be? Indeed, this is the allocated time." Bloody hell!
If getting a "Hello" needs medieval dentistry, the interview will require a colonic via a rusty Victorian drainpipe.
I follow the rainbow weave carpet to Self’s top-floor study, a box of no more than 11ft by 10ft. A nice enough room, except for a shocking infestation afflicting every conceivable surface: mini yellow Post-it notes. My guess, there are 2,000- plus, mostly in ordered infantry lines or erratic placings on shelf edges, fireplace, cupboard door — there’s even an orphan curled on the window pane. Scribbled upon each piece are thoughts, quotes, descriptions, micro sketches. These fragments of creativity all cling in cryogenic suspension waiting to be plucked free and given literary life by their gangly 6ft 5in master.
Self was infamously sacked by The Observer in 1997 for snorting heroin on John Major’s campaign jet. He has been happily clean for six years, but clearly these days he’s a crazed wall-collage junkie who mainlines Post-it notes by the kilo.
Now 44, Self lives in a four-storey house in Stockwell, south London, with his second wife, Independent columnist Deborah Orr and their two children. He has two more kids from his first marriage. We talk at his desk — a wooden work–top slab. He has a slow, gurgling phlegm delivery in a tone that is just short of abject boredom. He’s intense, fascinating and, obviously, some key stationery short of a fully stocked Rymans.
Read the full interview in this week’s Press Gazette.