Centre for Creative and Critical Thought


Author Will Self visits Sussex to discuss the unfinished

Will Self's novel, Shark; an engrossing exploration of 20th century bloodshed and memory

Acclaimed author and journalist Will Self discussed his work, his thoughts on insanity and the gloomy future of the novel as part of a new seminar series organised by the University of Sussex’s Centre for Creative and Critical Thought (CCCT).

In conversation last week with Professor Nicholas Royle, director of the CCCT, and in a packed Fulton A lecture theatre, Self revealed how his writing is driven more by “emotion” than an intention to play with the form of the novel.

But his latest work, Shark, which features the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in 1945 (in which hundreds of men were eaten by sharks just after they delivered the bomb that was later dropped on Hiroshima), is a 466-page volume  consisting of a single paragraph that begins and ends mid sentence.

The novel is the second of a trilogy in which Self examines the influence of 20th-century technologies on human existence. The first, Umbrella, was about manufacturing. The third, Phone, yet to be published, takes the theme of telecommunications.

Running through each of the novels is also his fascination with psychiatry, which began during his student days in Oxford.  “We thought we had mental health problems until we invited some schizophrenic patients  to live with us,” he remembered.

With reference to Professor Royle’s novel, Quilt, he discussed aspects of writing in which they both shared an interest, such as telepathy,  ‘the uncanny’ and unfinished sentences.

And in answer to questions from students, he expressed his concerns for the future of the novel. Sophisticated computer games and the cinema were eroding an interest in reading, he said, while digital books were a fundamentally different experience to looking at words on the printed page.

Not to be left behind, however, he admitted that in 2004, when technology stepped up a gear, he took to typing his novels on a manual typewriter – and still does.

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Tuesday, 17 March 2015