On several levels, novelist Will Self’s memoir, Will, is anything but an easy read ... But if you are looking for a painfully honest exploration of the nightmare of addiction, one that’s offered with a large helping of ironic humor, then you’ll find that Self, if often an unappealing companion, is rarely an uninteresting one ... Writing in the third person, Self is a keen, remarkably unsparing observer of his disastrous early adulthood ... For all his self-absorption and the litany of his self-destructive escapades, Self grows on the reader in odd ways ...
There’s even a certain poignancy ... His manic style evokes both Hunter S. Thompson and Anthony Burgess ... This is a disturbing trip through a benighted world that most people will be fortunate never to experience, something for which they should be profoundly grateful.
Self charges his first-ever memoir with harrowing—and, occasionally, humorous—accounts of drug addiction ... While the author readily name-checks Big Bill Burroughs, his adventures and suffering crackle with absurdity absent from that Beat Generation bible ... Much to his credit, Self shows us everything (emphasis on every), thus defusing any chance of readers romanticizing his buying-and-selling days as an extended hedonistic vacation ... The horrors of withdrawal cannot be understood by the uninitiated, but Self conveys their affect with existential brutality ... A comparison of heroin’s erasure of fear and tension to that of the author as a child, safe in his warm bed, reminds readers that loss plays a profound role here ... Readers of William S. Burroughs and Beat literature, as well as experiential journals from Djuna Barnes, Paul Bowles, and Hunter S. Thompson will find here much to endure and enjoy.
Self’s latest act of perversity is to follow up...acclaimed novels with a drug memoir told in the third person ... Will feels snatched from another age. It recalls the great wave of drug memoirs that came in the 1990s, and particularly Ann Marlowe’s superb, genre-bending How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z. Like that book, Will’s formal structure is central to its impact ... It’s less a stream of consciousness, more like five pools with countless rivulets running between them ... This material is intensely, almost wilfully, familiar, so that reading becomes a battle between the predictability of the subject matter and the darkly angelic prose in which it is expressed. After [the] baleful first chapter, the book is a joy to read, with the final part in particular recalling David Foster Wallace at his best, taking on the 'bogus syncretism of Christianity and sub-Freudian psychotherapy' of AA ... If, as [Self] says early on in the book, 'there’s nothing remotely exciting about heroin addiction', there’s more than mere nostalgic pleasure in this gleefully self-lacerating memoir of drug abuse and rehab.