Novelist, journalist, sometime bad boy and frequent literary provocateur Will Self is hard to miss in England. He's 6-feet-5, for starters; what's more, he's terrifically prolific, publishing literary works of fiction and nonfiction almost every year. His latest is "Umbrella," a 397-page novel story told in a single stream-of-consciousness paragraph.
"Life is not in the simple past. Life is all happening now," Self told NPR this weekend. "Stream of consciousness and continuous present are, to my way of thinking, very powerful techniques."
The novel wears its modernist influences on its sleeve; the title is taken from the James Joyce phrase "A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella."
Although some consider the book challenging, it was the first of Self's works to be shortlisted for England's prestigious Man Booker Prize. Some are calling it a masterpiece.
In 1993, Granta Magazine listed Self among the 20 best young British novelists, based largely on the strength of his 1991 debut, "The Quantity Theory of Insanity." Since then, he's written wickedly funny, stylish and sometimes impenetrable novels, and occasionally gotten intro trouble. As a journalist in 1997, he was covering Prime Minister John Major and got caught snorting heroin on Major's campaign jet. He lost the job but gained notoriety.
Self has both fans and detractors. He is viewed, Canada's National Post quotes him as saying, as “a kind of Marmite person — ‘You either love him or you hate him.’ ”
Join us here Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 10 a.m. Pacific for a live video chat with Will Self about his new novel "Umbrella" and his long and varied writing career.
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