The quirky follow-up to the author/illustrator duo’s PscyhoGeography (2007).
Journalist and novelist Self (The Butt, 2008, etc.), who wrote a weekly column called “PsychoGeography” for the Independent, presents his second collection of those pieces with his friend and illustrator Steadman (Garibaldi’s Biscuits, 2009, etc.), whose pictures do far more than illustrate—they amuse, illuminate, amplify and, at times, almost editorialize on Self’s text. His rendering of an unhappy Self scrunched in a tiny airplane seat alongside two toothy snarling companions is typically boisterous. Self loves to walk, knowing, like some sort of 19th-century Transcendentalist, that truths lie along roads rarely taken—and he often finds them. The collection commences with the longest and strongest piece. “Walking to the World” is a tribute to the author’s longtime idol, the late sci-fi writer J.G. Ballard, whose life Self decided to honor by walking from Ballard’s home in Shepperton to Heathrow Airport, flying to Dubai City, walking from its airport to “The World,” Dubai’s collection of 300-artificial islands designed to look like the countries of the world, where the author planned to walk the length of its Britain. Nothing quite worked out as anticipated, but his keen eye misses little. The other literary snapshots vary in quality and humor and offer some evidence why a collection of so many pieces has its risks—for example, the author uses the word “Brobdingnagian” in at least four different essays and repeats himself in other ways as well. But Self crafts countless striking, buoyant phrases and/or sentences (“Wasps swarm on the lumps of chicken and beef we’ve left for them, then, too obese to sting, they blade-hop back to their subterranean nest in the rockery by the pool”). The author also includes pieces about the homeless of Los Angeles, American crayfish conquering the Thames, Baghdad’s Green Zone and “cardinism,” a kind of sexual relief provided by converting an old castle into a modern home.
A journalistic feast best savored in small bites over several days.