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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction

Feeding Frenzy

Will Self

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To purchase Feeding Frenzy

Title: Feeding Frenzy
Author: Will Self
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (2001)
Length: 387 pages
Availability: Feeding Frenzy - UK
  • Written between 1995-2001

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining collection, with some very odd bits

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Observer . 11/11/2001 Zulfikar Abbany
Sydney Morning Herald . 4/1/2003 Don Anderson
TLS . 2/8/2002 Eric Korn

  From the Reviews:
  • "But this, his third collection of journalism and other writing, shows his enfant terriblism to be intact. (...) The selection in Feeding Frenzy is vast. Essays taken from art catalogues sit comfortably next to travel pieces and a notable interview with Salman Rushdie (...) Self often writes non-fiction as though it were fiction, topping off what we know as reality with the cream of his surreality." - Zulfikar Abbany, The Observer

  • "Will Self's collection of non-fiction, Feeding Frenzy, is worth perusing if for nothing else than the "restaurant reviews" from the Observer where he succeeded John Lanchester in the chair, or trough as the case may be, utterly reinventing the genre." - Don Anderson, Sydney Morning Herald

  • "Self is rarely as Gonzoid as he is sometimes taken to be, though it is a mode he can sing in without straining his throat. (...) Now literal-mindedness is one of Will Self's skills -- he is one of the rare writers-and-performers who listens to what he is saying -- and he may yet turn to scatography. He could make it pretty gripping too. I wait for his next with enthusiasm, not unmixed with horror." - Eric Korn, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Feeding Frenzy collects much of Will Self's "journalism and occasional writings" from between 1995 and 2001. Mostly newspaper and magazine articles (including a few that weren't published), these are short pieces -- but there are a lot of them: 129.
       The pieces were written for a surprising range of periodicals (and radio programmes). Most were for some of the big UK dailies -- The Times, The Independent, Evening Standard -- and the New Statesman, but Self also wrote for Granta, Elle, and even (often) Building Design. The biggest contingent, not surprisingly, is from The Observer: Self's restaurant "reviews" from when he was the restaurant critic there, 1995-7.
       Missing -- except for a few paragraphs in the introduction -- is any mention of the notorious Self-event that led to his sacking from The Observer, his ill-advised heroin fix on John Major's election jet. And overall Feeding Frenzy is a curious record of the moment (or moments) of this fin-de-siècle, nicely capturing some details but also oblivious to much. These are many, often very disparate slices of the new (or recent) Britain, and the odd focus on restaurants and, to a lesser extent, architecture make for an unusually refracted view.
       Still, its the constant return to the restaurants that makes for some cohesion -- and much of the entertainment. Self's eatery-critiques are not your typical gastronomical guides. He does have a creative approach, and often tells a good tale. Descriptions focus as much on what leads him to a dining establishment, and who is with him -- and incidentals such as decor (and architecture) -- as on the food. Food isn't quite the least of it, but it's hard to get much sense of whether any of these places are worth visiting from these reviews. Still, they are fairly entertaining, and one has to like Self's approach -- and he rounds things off nicely with his final review, a twofer where he takes in both a King's Road McDonald's as well as the fancier (three-star) La Tante Claire.
       Architecture and commentary on buildings also crop up fairly often (generally in articles for Building Design), as Self considers everything from Wittgenstein's architectural foray to hospital designs.
       Drugs figure quite less than expected, though William Burroughs still interests Self. And there are at least a few glimpses of decadence (often also involving the Grouch Club), notably in the good pieces on Oasis (or rather than brothers Gallagher).
       A few book reviews are included -- including some Burroughs-texts -- and it's a shame there aren't more. Self offers fine considerations of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and the Tarantino screenplay, Natural Born Killers, for example, and is often in best form in his book reviews. Similarly, he does a nice job with a few TV reviews (of anything from Friends to reality TV) and examining, for example, the film version of Trainspotting.
       There's also some sensible art-commentary considering the pop art of the day. And there are fun attacks on Self-detested figures, notably Tony Blair and the royals. (Among the subtler jokes: in the Index Blair is found as "Our Leader (II)". Who is "Our Leader (I)" ? Richard Branson.)
       Self writes sharply and well. The columns are quick, varied, often far-reaching (wending their way around the ostensible subject). Still: much of this is only journalism, short newspaper columns. And while the restaurant reviews are fine at this length, some of the other subjects deserve (or even need) to be fleshed out more.
       It's a fun collection, just right for dipping-into (but perhaps a bit much to read at one go). But Self is capable of more -- specifically: more substantial stuff -- and readers are left longing for that.

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Feeding Frenzy: Reviews: Will Self: Other books by Will Self under review: Books reviewed in Feeding Frenzy under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • The collection of essays, Alasdair Gray, with an Introduction by Self
  • Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       British author Will Self was born in 1961. He has written numerous acclaimed works of fiction, as well as a great deal of non-fiction.

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© 2002-2010 the complete review

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