In a disturbing fictional memoir mixing hallucinatory travelogue with satire, British writer Self (Liver, 2009, etc.) riffs excessively on friendship, art, cinema, proportion and death while hiking across California and England.
The author’s perverse, intellectually acute, darkly playful vision is both a delight and an overload in this latest literary ramble, a sprawling monologue illustrated with grey photos and broken into three parts. “Very Little” introduces Self’s childhood friend Sherman Oaks, a dwarf who becomes an artist of international stature, famed for monumental sculptures modeled on his own body. Next comes “Walking to Hollywood,” a blur of episodic mania in which a post-therapeutic but still psychotic Self, observing that the movies have died, sets off to track down the killer. Walking to London airport and then from LAX, played by actors Pete Postlethwaite and David Thewlis and filmed by a crew of Jeffs, he meets other figures played by actors and enters cinematic scenarios such as CGI action. The third section, “Spurn Head,” a melancholy ode to decay and amnesia, and an homage to W.G Sebald, traces Self’s walk along 40 miles of Yorkshire coast famed for its erosion and chosen because it mirrors his own imagined cerebral decline from early-onset Alzheimer’s. Despite humor, it’s a desolate journey along the edge of things falling apart.
An onslaught of invention, wit, mental-health consideration and caustic, often self-indulgent commentary—exhilarating and exhausting.