Wednesday, 15 January 2014
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being A Prawn Cracker by Will Self
I do love Penguin. Or, rather, Penguin Random House. No, actually, it’s more accurate to say I love Penguin. I love Penguin Classics (even the dubious honour bestowed upon Mr Morrissey’s black cover classic), I love the Great Ideas series, of which I had nearly all before the Purge of 2012 (I kept Hazlitt’s On The Pleasure Of Hating and Russell’s In Praise of Idleness of course), and I love the new Penguin Shorts/Specials to which Self’s parodically titled …Prawn Cracker belongs. Great writing, quickly read, easily stored, lovingly recalled. It doesn’t get much better or easier than that, eh?
BUT… Is it just me, or is it hard to believe that Will Self eats at Pizza Express?
In reaction perhaps to the glut of restaurant reviews, dialling themselves up to 11 with tales of repasts of baby octopus in Pimentón de la Vera paprika smoke chez El Celler de Can Roca, Self took it upon himself to chronicle the eateries of Common Men, disclaiming a lack of olfactory discrimination (due to the excesses of youth) and instead regarding the experiences of eating in such places as KFC among others. The reviews, whilst fantastically well written as is to be expected – sensuous and gluttonous – are often somewhat formulaic, probably a virtue in a regular column (from which these have been collected) but obvious and frown-worthy to someone reading all of them in succession. And, sycophant that I am, I just can’t agree with his claim that Café Nero espresso is the best there is even on the ubiquitous high street. Italian roast is often just… so… acidic and phenolic.
Disagreement aside, and it’s not important that one agrees with an author after all, it’s hard not to enjoy the dry satire, the malevolent wit, the tallying up of square feet of pizzas eaten over a lifetime, even if it shocks to the core that Self might be caught eating somewhere I might eat, that his inner sophisticate wouldn’t naturally shun anything not worthy of his intellect, and that his hard won sobriety still permits the self-abuse (pun unintentional) of junk food. It’s classic Will Self and is a great read. Just perhaps not at lunch time.