‘Scale’ by Will Self

“Some people lose their sense of proportion; I’ve lost my sense of scale.” So begins Self’s hallucinogenic, 15,000-word tale of a morphine addict, a divorcee living in Beaconsfield in a cramped bungalow next to the Bekonscot Model Village. As the narrator descends in breakdown, he muses on motorway culture, failed fatherhood and his attempt to write a crime novel called Murder on the Median Strip. Burroughs and Ballard are clearly strong influences, as well as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll and Claude Lévi-Strauss in his play on size and scale. Self has stated that “my scale shtick goes right back to childhood scale”, when “I assiduously collected trolls, doll’s house furniture and tiny books such as Langenscheidt dictionaries – little things that I would arrange into tableau.” Self blends all these elements in the melting pot of his warped genius to form something wonderfully peculiar.

First published in abridged form in Granta 43: Best of Young British Novelists 2, 1993, and available to subscribers to read online here; collected in Grey Area, Bloomsbury, 1994; also published as a standalone Penguin 60, Penguin, 1995

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