‘Mediocrities everywhere, I absolve you all,” Salieri declared at the end of Peter Shaffer’s play, Amadeus. Salieri, the darling of the Habsburg court in 18th-century Vienna, could not deceive himself.

He knew he was mediocre. Will Self, poor chap, has yet to acquire the gift of self-knowledge and, if his comments this week about George Orwell offer a reliable guide, he will remain in the dark for a good time yet.

Not so strangely I’ve always wanted to be able to write like Orwell and never even once considered trying to write like Will Self.

One I can’t achieve and the other I wouldn’t want to.

Admittedly, I’ve read very little of Self. Perhaps the odd extract that’s appeared in The Guardian and such places (of his “proper” writing that is, not his journalism) and I’ll admit that I didn’t try to wade through more than a few paragraphs. But the immediate thought was, well, shouldn’t you be trying to communicate rather than obfuscate?

8 thoughts on “Snigger”

  1. Will Self is a pompous self-regarding oaf. I once heard him on the radio, discussing a series of apocalyptic sci-fi novels by JG Ballard. One of these (Drowned World, I think) had as its premise something vaguely similar to the current CAGW conjecture: the others were entirely different. He, of course, ignored those totally. No, the quasi-CAGW novel showed the “uncanny prescience” of the artistic imagination (and, by extension, his own) in action…

  2. I always thought Will Self ought to sue Will I Am for appropriating his name. He’s a half-decent wordsmith, though, but he has nothing to write about. The opposite of Orwell, whose prose was turgid and decidedly amateurish, but whose ideas were at least worth reading if you’re a rather dim pre-teen with delusions of being a great intellectual.

    No, seriously, why the fuck is Orwell lauded for writing Adrian-Mole-quality work? Just because he pandered to the prejudices of a certain type?

  3. Orwell wrote elegant, clear, direct prose that punctured the totalitarian ambitions of human pigs bladders with delusions of Natural Aristocracy. No wonder they hate him.

  4. I am not convinced that Salieri was mediocre. I’ve listened to his music and he was also the teacher of outstanding composers.

  5. Bloke in Costa Rica

    The Salieri myth was constructed out of whole cloth by Shaffer and traduces him entirely. Mozart himself held Salieri in high regard. There may have been a rivalry between them (composers of the day not having Arts Council sinecures and this having to produce things that people would pay to hear) but the personal relatinship appears to have been quite friendly and respectful. Salieri’s work was highly regarded in his day and was appointed Imperial Kapellmeister, which was not a position handed out to also-rans.

    As for Will Self, I can offer no opinion other than he always appears to be a crashing bore and his wife is a cretin.

  6. mf and BiCR:

    I agree entirely that Salieri was no mediocrity but ‘Amadeus’ is a piece of theatre and it’s Schaffer’s Salieri who knows he’s a mediocrity.

    Perhaps there’s a playwright preparing the inverse and who will turn a real-life mediocrity into Self, a towering genius for the stage.

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