Walking to Hollywood

Will Self, Grove, $24.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1972-8
Set in England and Hollywood, Self's latest (after The Butt) is a rollicking and clever ramble through contemporary culture filtered through a twisted imagination. The protagonist, much like the author, is a neurotic British writer named Will Self who has a penchant for walking everywhere. These outings give him an idea for a project: a walking tour from LAX to Hollywood, during which he will investigate the forces that have diminished film as a relevant art form. Drawing on cinematic tropes and cultural riffs with frequent nods toward the bizarre and the perverse, Self's reveries and encounters include an Incredible Hulk–style street rampage, a rap group laying down Aurelian beats in Latin, and an abduction by Scientologists. Through his mind's camera, Self is alternately played by two lesser-known British actors, and his circumambulation of the L.A. area features an all-star Hollywood cast, with Ellen DeGeneres, Orson Welles, and Robert De Niro all having screen/page time. This gonzo dash through the obstacle course of the mind—encountering paranoia, obsession, and amnesia—paired with a whacky high/low cultural treasure hunt won't be to every reader's taste, but it is assuredly a wild ride punctuated by razor wit and brazen erudition. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2011
Release date: 05/01/2011
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