I’m listening to Art Pepper’s jaunty “Smack Up”, which sounds like the alto player has successfully scored, rather than endlessly’waiting for the man’. Pepper’s outlining (or should that be mainlining?) of his first introvenous heroin hit puts Will Self’s attempt on the same thing, in ‘Will’, completely in the shade. Like describing a first acid trip, most attempts to describe drug-related loss of virginity remain boring and, somewhat paradoxically, mundane, but Pepper’a account puts the reader there, both viscerally and emotionally. Self, living up to his nane, appears to have starting to behaved like a junkie before becoming one, taking most of the bag that was meant for him and his rather naive friend, Pete. The tyro lowlife spouts out “Sorry, mate, I think I may have taken a little bit more than my share”, thus demonstrating both his entitlement and his lack of sense of danger. Luckily, the posh nature of his fellow junkies seems to have obviated the possibility of his receiving a well-deserved kicking. ‘Last Exit to the Hampstead Garden Suburb’, anyone?
Self’s nostalgie de la boue memories are predictably self-serving descriptions of student physical and spiritual squalour, Self’s hoped for journey to Celine’s ‘end of the night’. As if. His Oxford Uni band was called ‘The Abusers’, for Christ’s sake. Julie Burchill’s recollections of his no doubt falling-over-himself demonstrations of how to cook up crack cocaine, in her own diaries, seem somehow a symbol of the debasement of working class talent by the up-itself middle classes. Not that Burchill cared a jot, persuing her own vision of self-defilement through booze and food, as well as the rest of the well-rehearsed self-medicating options in the premises of the likes of The Colony Club and The Wag Club.
It’s all so tired, but Will Self can’t seem to leave it alone. Finally (he was pushing out books called ‘Junk Mail’ as far back as the nineties), in 2019, the allure of scag seems to have played itself out. Self’s memoire, in the light of the revelations about his behaviour in the real world of marriage and children, shows that smack and genius are not always co-related. Stick to Burroughs if I were you; there’s nothing to learn here, apart from the continuing incredible self-entitlement of the middle classes, and the down side of their bohemian fantasies.