Will Self, writer in residence at BBC Radio 4

20 January 2013

I see that Will Self is being lined up as a “writer in residence” at BBC Radio Four. I think this is very good news. Self is an excellent writer and while obviously of the left, is not doctrinaire or predictable in his views. He has wit, he is well-read and very clever. Good luck to him. I commissioned Will to do an essay every week for the Today programme back when I was editor (1998-2003). They were invariably funny, provocative and beautifully expressed; he takes such a pleasure in using our language.

But I alternated Will with Freddy Forsyth, who I fancied was a similarly iconoclastic voice, but from the Right. The essays came to an end because the top brass couldn’t abide Freddy, banging on about the EU or immigration or taxes every other week. I was asked by managers to end his slot countless times. In the end I got so weary of the battle that, shamefully, I gave in and Freddy was dropped, with Will as collateral damage. I notice that this time around there is no attempt to balance Will’s views. I suspect the notion of balance did not remotely occur.

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  • Paul

    The trouble with listening to Will Self is that one needs a dictionary to hand to understand the deliberately obscure words He inserts in order to make His rants sound more intellectual. Frankly I prefer to listen to Owen Jones and I can’t stand Jones myself.
    Expect more polemics on the usual subjects lefties love to drone on about – climate change, banksters, give us all more welfare, multiculturalism is brilliant, right wingers eat babies etc, etc.

  • David Ossitt

    Rod writes.

    “I gave in and Freddy was dropped, with Will as collateral
    damage. I notice that this time around there is no attempt to balance Will’s
    views. I suspect the notion of balance did not remotely occur.”

    But that is now par for the course, balance has; with truth
    and honesty, gone out of the door and all we get now is Common Purpose bulshit.

  • Michael Turner

    Will , Self Opiniated if you ask me. If I had a voice like that I would use it little.

  • edlancey

    “not doctrinaire or predictable in his views.”

    I have to disagree, he’s entirely predictable. I was going to say you can read him like a book, but I doubt anyone has ever actually finished one of his.

  • Michael Turner

    I used to listen to Will Self with interest, he always seemed to have a strong opinion on issues that I thought were important.
    Now I am old enough and wise enough to fully analyse comment. I have changed my mind completely. He now comes accross to me more often than not, as a rebel without a cause. delivering his message in such a boring monotone I find myself turning him off.
    He seems to scour the dustbins looking for something to moan about. Grumpy old man would be an appropriate label.

  • DougS

    “….Self is an excellent writer…………. He has wit, he is well-read and
    very clever…..”

    What have you been smoking?

  • humeanbeing

    Liddle v Self, 2002

    When I read Houellebecq’s second novel, Atomised, full of evangelism I
    rang Will Self to tell him how good it was. “Oh, Rod,” drawled the man,
    “It’s exactly the sort of book middle-brow people like you think is
    highbrow.” One-nil to Mr Self.

    (‘A blasphemy trial out of the 17th century’, The Guardian, Wednesday 29 May 2002)

    • humeanbeing

      Houellebecq on Forsyth (from the same piece):

      There is even a paragraph of bile about Freddie Forsyth (“that half-wit”).

      • humeanbeing

        When Self first broke through as a writer in the 90s he was often compared to Martin Amis. The comparison is just: they are both better journalists than they are novelists.

        • humeanbeing

          To give Rod his due, his collection of linked short stories, Too Beautiful for You, stands with the best of his work. I hope he writes more fiction, but for the moment I understand he has a non-fiction title, Selfish Generation, out next month…

  • David Barnett

    Bring back Freddy!

  • Colonel Mustard

    He is obnoxious and about as predictable as predictable gets, including his “edgy” non-predictability. So he can write skilfully. Hitler was a skilful orator.

    Very good choice for the BBC though and will fit in well with their “edgy” (yawn) predictability.

  • biggestaspidistra

    Was the post advertised? Were many interviewed? Or did the BBC just tap one of their own on the shoulder. So reassuring the BBC did not feel the need to widen the field, take a risk, include the rest of the UK in its selection. Pretty much defines ‘jobs for the boys’.

    Rod, has the BBC kidnapped someone close to you? Otherwise, why all this pro BBC baloney?

  • Patricia

    I listened to Will on his R4 slot a couple of weeks ago when he spoke of people’s right to die with dignity and was impressed by his reasoning and tact especially regarding the Christian viewpoint of euthanasia. He seemed keen not to cause offence to anyone. I shall be listening again with interest and hope his other essays will be equally balanced.

  • CB

    According to Mrs Will Self, this isn’t actually true. Why it appeared in the Guardian is therefore a mystery to me, as Mrs S is Guardian journo.

  • SirMortimerPosh

    Will Self is a pompous twit intent on making sure that even old fashioned graduates like me have to go and look up at least two words after he has broadcast or written two thousand words. Using abstruse language is not a sign of being clever or intellectually wonderful.

  • Bob Thomas

    Previously I would have likely agreed with Rob that although he is a ‘man of the left’ Will Self is generally speaking ‘not doctrinaire or predictable in his views’. But his recent appearance on Question Time, dismissing opponents of gay marriage as homophobes and opponents of mass immigration as racists, was just about as ‘doctrinaire and predictable’ as it is possible to be.

    • Vindice

      yep, that was horrible viewing for me. Hero-worshipped him from afar as a teenager; was still in awe of him throughout my 20s. Long after my politics had irreconsilably diverged from his I would still seek out anything he wrote or said on any subject. And then I saw his last appearance on Question Time. It was intensely sad.

      I once met Will Self after a Question Time recording in Bristol. He rolled me a cigarette and humoured me a while. He had been on the panel and I in the audience because of it. (Of course I wouldn’t make it through the QT audience selection process now.) I had been on the Pilger and had asked a ridiculous question about Ariel Sharon and war crimes. I would like to think no footage me asking that question survives. I am haunted by it. My second most embarrassing memory.

    • Baron

      the man’s talented (the Umbrella’s unreadable though) and ambitious, why should anyone with such attributes piss against the wind of the pseudo-liberal progressive clique that dominates our culture? He is smart not to, lends a cushy job with the agitprop centre he couldn’t dream of getting if he objected to gay marriage, immigration.

  • Tim

    How wearyingly predictable.

    Look forward to lots more of all people on the right are racist homophobes with the radio four team scratching their chins with reverent respect.

  • Sarah

    Spot the difference:
    1) Spectator picture of Will Self’s book launch.
    2) Spectator picture of Pippa Middleton’s book launch.

    Scroll for answer:

    Book appears in Spectator picture of Will Self’s book launch.
    Teeny tiny corner of book appears in Spectator picture of Pippa Middleton.

    I think that’s what’s known in the media trade as lack of balance.

    • rodliddle

      The Xanax didn’t work, did it? Have you tried horse tranquilizers?

    • Hexhamgeezer

      The Spec did her a favour. Have you seen the cover? When God invented the word vapid he had something like that in mind.

      Unfortunately i believe the contents don’t focus on her body which is 99.9% of the reason she is given media time.

    • Eddie

      Errrr…maybe it’s because Pippa Puddledump is a parasite who only got a (ghost written) book deal because her big sis is jiggy with princey.
      Whereas, Will Self is a writer (however dull some of us find him). (Compare his feature to that on Hillary Mantel p’raps, love, in order to try and be a bit more well-balanced yerself eh?)
      So, no sexim at all – just fabricated pity partness feminustsiness and manhating selfpitying paranoia.

      • Sarah

        Makes you wonder why they had an article about her book launch really if that’s the case.

        Love Sarah xx

  • Hexhamgeezer

    An increasingly tired neo-com bigot. No wonder he’s got a gig with his chums at the Beeb.

  • Forest Fan

    Got no problem with Will Self. However; I have a massive problem with BBC bias to the left.

  • LEngland

    ‘ – banging on – ‘ ? Does this constitute the balance you talk about ?
    The balancing opprobrium for Self ? Where is it ?

  • FrankS

    Self has the scornful disdain for ordinary English people as a sneering teenage radical. And he has a way with words. Just the chap for the Beeb!

  • Vindice

    oh Rod, you’re being very nice about him here but only a couple of days ago you referred to him as “the entire bourgeois bien-pensant left will self”. Something about him immolating?

    • rodliddle

      very droll

  • andre_michel

    I used to enjoy very much the alternating Self/Forsyth pieces and I missed them when they stopped. I didn’t know it was you who commissioned them; congratulations.

  • Noa

    Will Self is a well known and much loved icon of the Left.

    His views will be given due deference and repeated as gospel in reverential, hushed tones around the dimmer tables of Hampstead.

    Which is why, after switching the radio off, I shall be keeping a copy of Richard North’s ‘The Right-wing Guide to Nearly Everything’ on hand to read, whenever his plangent, grating tones infest my personal airwaves.

    • Eddie

      Yep – and like most such people, he grew up in a privileged and monied household, in a house worth more than most entire families earn in a lifetime…

      • Noa

        Ah, the middle class Marxist. t’s the inalienable right of any mouthy, preening halfwit to proclaim his socialist credentials. For a brilliantly funny example here’s Comrade Kevin Spart’s eulogy to the new wunderkind Owen Jones.

        Brother Self will be looking fearfully over his shoulder as this precocious tweeter comes up behind him

      • Eddie

        Let me post this again:

        Hilarious! It seems these lefties love Hamas too – an organisation whose manifesto that, if translated into German, would be almost identical to that coming out of Berlin in 1936. Something about killing all Jews, grinding up their bones into dust and dumping it at sea. Peace be with you, comrade.

        So it seems Owen Jones’s parents were a university professor (£50k+ per year plus mega-pension and unsackability), and a civil servant (which can mean anything, but for senior staff gives unsackable status too, another huge pension paid for by the real working class – ie small business owners who actually take risks to create jobs in this country).

        Owen Jones is middle class through and through, like his spawners. He may be an uncultured hypocrite – well, many university professors are – they’ve just joined the degree factory gravy train, being selfish and greedy opportunists. But really, would this country be a worse place if we sacked most university professors and civil servants?

        It really shows just how desperate the leftwing loonies are that they see a snivelling sneak like Owen Jones as a role model!

        At least the useful idiots of the 60s and 70s have Che and Castro.

        Now they have someone who looks like a failed Norwegian rent boy who’s been turned by his Arab punters.

  • In2minds

    “I suspect the notion of balance did not remotely occur” – The BBC
    at its best, again!

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