Video Interview: Will Self on his challenging new novel ‘Umbrella’

Will Self joined us from the office of his London publisher, Bloomsbury, to talk about his challenging new novel “Umbrella.” It was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize.

Just released in the U.S. by Grove/Atlantic, “Umbrella” is told in stream-of-consciousness form, following in the footsteps of high modernists such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. While some have called it a masterpiece, its style has put off some readers, who find it too difficult. Does that mean that writing in styles made famous by Joyce and Woolf is somehow still avant-garde, nearly a century later?

Self answers this and other questions, and tells us a little more about his book, which follows the internal thoughts of a young woman in pre-World War I London who is disabled by a bout of encephalitis lethargica -- a swelling of the brain that affected millions, causing death in some cases and a sort of walking coma in others. There is also her psychiatrist, who reaches through to her, and how he thinks about that afterward.


Self also tells us that he believes American readers are more flexible and adventurous than those in England, where he likes to go in London and about his work as a journalist, which includes writing about eating in fast food restaurants.


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