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This joyfully venomous novella, whose title invokes the excellent Burt Lancaster/Tony Curtis film Sweet Smell of Success (1957), is ostensibly intended to satirize the sorts of tabloid hack journalists who had enjoyed themselves so thoroughly at the expense of Martin Amis, Will Self's literary godfather, several years ago.  But, perhaps just because I'm not British, there did not seem to be anything presslike about the characters; instead it seemed just a vicious, but worthwhile, savaging of the sort of amoral, ambisexual, drug-addled, sensation-chasers who are all too common in every walk of life and line of work these days.

Richard Hermes is an entirely minor features writer who has become caught up in the vortex of young journalists who revolve around Bell, a constant media presence known for bedding any man or woman he sets his eye on, sort of Larry King crossed with a satyr.  Richard recognizes the emptiness of the lives the group leads, and still has a sufficient remnant of decency to be repelled by the acts of needless cruelty that they thrive on, however, he's fallen in lust with Ursula Bently, an icy blonde beauty, who hangs with this crowd, but whom he compares to "a diamond found in a gutter behind a Chinese takeaway."

Richard pays court to the intermittently receptive Ursula, and descends deeper and deeper into a paranoid cocaine-induced haze, in which everyone around him seems to resemble Bell.  He harbors the improbable hope that Ursula is redeemable and that the two of them can break out of Bell's gravitational pull to live happily ever after.  But in the end, even as he plans to get away from the City and Bell, to return home for the Christmas holiday, Richard finally gets his chance to bed down Ursula, though the experience proves less than heavenly.

If the book is intended to say something specific about the press, it escaped me entirely.  No one actually seems to perform any kind of work in the book, it's all clubbing, drugging, drinking, and scrumping.  But taken simply as a cautionary tale, a warning that by being with these people you become one of them and sink into the abyss, it worked well enough.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

Websites:

Will Self Links:
    -Will Self : The Unofficial Website (Spike Magazine)
    -FEATURED AUTHOR : Will Self (NY Times Book Review)
    -Will Self (Anachron City)
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of  The Sweet Smell of Psychosis
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of Great Apes
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys
    -EXCERPT : First Chapter of  How the Dead Live
    -EXCERPT : from How the Dead Live
    -AUDIO EXCERPT : Will Self reads from How the Dead Live (Salon)
    -AUDIO ESSAY : Introduction to the Book of Revelations (Will Self, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Chris The Saviour (Will Self, The Observer)
    -INTERVIEW : An Interview with Martin Amis (Will Self, Mississippi Review)
    -REVIEW : of Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden (Will Self, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of The Annotated Alice: the definitive edition  (Will Self, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW : of The Game of War: the life and death of Guy Debord by Andrew Hussey and The Map is Not the Territory by Alan Woods and Ralph Rumney  (Will Self, New Statesman)
    -INTERVIEW : S E L F   d e s t r u c t i o n : Chris Mitchell finds out why Will Self doesn't give a monkeys (Spike, 5/97)
    -INTERVIEW : Dead Man Talking : Chris Hall has a lively conversation with Will Self (Spike, 10/00)
    -INTERVIEW : Pre-Millennial Tension : Robert Clarke hears why Will Self has become an uncertain satirist (Spike, 4/98)
    -INTERVIEW : My media :  Will Self  (Nicola Norton, June 11, 2001, The Guardian)
    -INTERVIEW : with Will Self (Penguin uk)
    -INTERVIEW : Addicted to transmogrification :  Will Self tells Nicholas Wroe why he owes his career to Alice in Wonderland (Nicholas Wroe, Guardian uk,  June 2, 2001)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW : with Will Self (Laura Miller, Salon)
    -ESSAY : Self indulgent : 'It was horribly vulgar for me to fall for Will Self,  like saying your favourite film is Casablanca or your favourite Opal Fruit is strawberry' (Julie Burchill, Guardian uk,  June 17, 2000)
    -PROFILE : Living Will : The last time he toured the United States, British author Will Self was so drugged-out he ended up in the hospital. Now, he's back with a new book and a newfound dedication to sobriety. Self talks about life, death, smack, and his eighth novel, How the Dead Live. (Chris Wright, November 2000, Boston Phoenix)
    -PROFILE : Media Circus : Self promotion  Shooting up in funny places and other British literary hi-jinx (Dominic Patten, July 16, 1997, Salon)
    -ARCHIVES : Will Self (Guardian Unlimited)
    -ARCHIVES : Will Self (Salon)
    -REVIEW : of The Sweet Smell of Psychosis (Laura Miller, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Sweet Smell of Psychosis (Katherine Guckenberger, Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of The Sweet Smell of Psychosis (Norah Vincent, Voice Literary Supplement)
    -REVIEW : of Cock & Bull (1993) (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of My Idea of Fun: A Cautionary Tale (1994) (George Stade, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Quantity Theory of Insanity (1995) (David Bowman, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Quantity Theory of Insanity (Rick "Ojo" McGrath, Book Court)
    -REVIEW : of Grey Area: And Other Stories (1996) (Scott Bradfield, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Grey Area (Boston Phoenix)
    -REVIEW : of Grey Area (Brad Tyer, Hot Wired)
    -REVIEW: of Grey Area (Rick McGrath)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (1997) (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (1997) (Gary Krist, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes by Will Self (Carmen Callil, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (ANDREW O'HEHIR, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Jayne Margetts, Between the Lines)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Rick McGrath, Book Court)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Charles Wyrick, Book Page)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (James Diers , City Pages)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (HENRY KISOR, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Juana Ponce de León, LS literary Supplement)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Robert A. Stribley, Creative Loafing)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Kari Watson, FFWD)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Leonard Gill, Memphis Flyer)
    -REVIEW : of Great Apes (Sam Leith, The Observer)
    -REVIEW : of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys (1999) (Jonathan Lethem, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys  (Greg Burkman, The Seattle Times)
    -REVIEW : of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys  (Robert Clarke, Spike)
    -REVIEW : of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys by Will Self (Martin Cropper, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Tough Toys (DAVID HARSANYI, The Associated Press)
    -REVIEW : of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys ( Liesl Schillinger, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys  (Neil Pendock, Sunday Times of South Africa)
    -REVIEW : of Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys  (PHILIP GUICHARD , The Stranger)
   -REVIEW: of Tough, Tough Toys (Rick McGrath)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (TOM SHONE, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self  (Stephen Moss, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (Robert Hanks, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (John Freeman , City Pages)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (Nan Goldberg, NY Post)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (Todd Dills, Columbia Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (ANDRE MAYER, EYE )
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (CAMERON WOODHEAD, The Age)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self ( Josh London, American Spectator )
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (Michael Swindle , Denver Post)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (Ben Winters, New City Chicago)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (Merritt, Moseley, The Forward)
    -REVIEW : of How the Dead Live by Will Self (Amanda Thompson, Scene One)
    -REVIEW : of Feeding Frenzy by Will Self (Zulfikar Abbany, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of Dorian: An Imitation by Will Self (J.Y. Yeh, Village Voice)

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