‘The Nonce Prize’ by Will Self

Danny, a drug dealer with a gentle disposition, is framed for a paedophilic murder. Incarcerated in Wandsworth prison, Danny discovers literature – ‘reading burst through his mental partitions, partitions that the crack had effectively shored up, imprisoning his sentience, his rational capacity, behind psychotically patterned drapes’. When a literary competition for prisoners called The Nonce Prize is announced, he seeks redemption in writingThere are plenty of Self’s characteristic literary fireworks on display here; as well as being a fine piece of satire, this is also an unexpectedly touching story. While Self’s early work demonstrates a lack of interest in character in his preference for ideas and an energetic style, this story suggests a maturing and new subtlety in his writing, for Danny is unusually well-rounded and sympathetic.

Included in Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, Bloomsbury 1998

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