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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > July 2017 > Only disconnect

Only disconnect

Will Self ’s charming, slapstick techno-thriller guns for literary immortality, finds Ian Sansom

Phone by Will Self (Viking, £18.99)

“Modern authorship,” according to William Hazlitt in his Lectures on the Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth, “is become a species of stenography: we continue even to read by proxy. We skim the cream of prose without any trouble; we get at the quintessence of poetry without loss of time. The staple commodity, the coarse, heavy, dirty, unwieldy bullion of books is driven out of the market of learning, and the intercourse of the literary world is carried on, and the credit of the great capitalists sustained by the flimsy circulating medium of magazines.” Hazlitt was writing a long time ago, and of course we’re all proxy cream-skimmers now, but if you’re in the mood for the coarse, the heavy, the dirty and unwieldy— if you’re a true seeker after the bullion, then go straight to Will Self. He’s like Goethe’s dog: he eats glass and shits diamonds.

Self has been a central-marginal figure in English literary and cultural life for more than a quarter of a century. For all his insistent high-and-mightiness, he has in that time done more than his fair share of low-maintenance dictation, knocking out opinion pieces and articles on everything from Peperami and Pizza Express for the New States- man, to puff-pieces for in-flight magazines and musings on the meaning of love for these fine pages. He is endlessly popping up on good, bad—though never indifferent—television. (Go to YouTube and warm your cockles watching Self merrily mocking and lambasting the left, right and centre on Question Time, Newsnight and Channel 4 News, a six foot five giant, a Gulliver—or at least a Bernard Bresslaw lookalike—pissing all over the niceties and nonentities of cultural programming and current affairs.)

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In Prospect’s July issue: Steve Richards, Rachel Sylvester and Shiv Malik—as well as Chris Hanretty and Julian Glover—cover the fallout from the recent general election. Richards looks at how the assumptions of centrist politics were upended and how Labour managed to stun the nation—a point that Chris Hanretty explores in more detail, explaining how Corbyn turned the tide for social democracy. Sylvester questions how Theresa May managed to squander her majority—Julian Glover says it wasn’t just May’s failure, the ideas were flawed, too. Shiv Malik explores the remarkable surge in the youth vote and says parties can no longer ignore their concerns. Also in this issue: Dexter Dias argues that to understand terrorism we need to better understand human nature, Paul Wallace looks at the state of the state and asks whether the government is capable of fulfilling large scale changes to the way the state works and Sam Tanenhaus profiles Mike Pence—should we be worried about him becoming the next president?
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