Self & I by Matthew De Abaitua review – my Withnail days with Will Self

When a graduate moved into the cottage where Self was living, he was instructed on everything from writing to eating oysters to the consumption of drugs

In 1995 Will Self interviewed Martin Amis for Esquire, at a time when Amis was making headlines for receiving a £500,000 advance for his novel The Information. “It’s an awful thing,” he told Self, “to be treated phenomenally rather than in a literary way.” But for as long as I can remember Will Self has been more phenomenon than mere author: columnist, gameshow contestant, Question Time panellist, Newsnight talking head. In Sam Mills’s 2012 novel, The Quiddity of Will Self, a man is asked if he has read any of Self’s books. “No, I haven’t,” he replies, “I’ve just – well, read about him, seen him on telly … ”

Unlike Amis, it sometimes appears that Self prefers being treated more as ...