Book review of 'Psycho Too' by Will Self and Ralph Steadman

Sunday, December 27, 2009


By Will Self

Illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Bloomsbury. 255 pp. $35

"I've never wavered from my conviction that there's something bizarre about all those millions of Londoners who have never seen . . . the point where the River Thames flows into the North Sea," Will Self writes in "Psycho Too," the second collection of his columns from London's Independent newspaper, in which he walks through cities of the world, marveling at the geographic ignorance engendered by a world ruled by planes, trains and automobiles. Ralph Steadman's ghoulish, blotty caricatures embellish Self's florid, snide prose as effectively as they did the work of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson decades ago. Unfortunately, though, these brief, breezy essays don't flourish in book form. Many, like a riff on a trip Steadman once took to Staten Island -- where Mafiosi threatened the famous artist -- succeed neither as satire nor as anything else. The only piece that feels truly fresh is "Walking to the World," in which Self pays tribute to the late master of the fantastical short story, J. G. Ballard, by visiting an artificial, England-shaped island in Dubai. "What was the point of these rambles anyway?" Self wonders, as he passes Dubai's air-conditioned bus shelters in blistering heat. Dispensing half-baked ideology in small bites, he leaves us wondering the same thing.

-- Justin Moyer

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