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Cock & Bull Paperback – March 29, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 29, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679750924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679750925
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,199,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two bitingly erudite and absurdist novellas describe characters who suddenly sprout the genitalia of the opposite sex.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

If David Lodge were to collaborate with Monty Python, the results might resemble this wickedly playful, gender-bending pair of novellas. The first, Cock: A Novelette, concerns Carol, a passive young woman trapped in an unsatisfying marriage, who starts developing a penis. Personality changes soon follow, leading to unpleasant consequences for Dan, her loutish husband. Bull: A Farce , meanwhile, involves a typical Englishman, archetypally named John Bull, who wakes up one day to discover a "wound" on his leg that turns out be a vagina. The doctor who examines him develops a more-than-professional interest in his new genitalia, and the two begin a confused affair. While gender complications play an obvious role in these satiric tales, Self's real target is "the horror that shadows each and every aspect of the ordinary." Recommended for public libraries.
- Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free P.L., Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Justin Herman on April 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This happened to be the 3rd book of Will Self's that I read, the first being Great Apes and second being The Sweet Smell of Psychosis. The athletic story line in this collection of two novellas were pleasantly charming. Here I am sitting in a dreadry Romantic American Literature Class but reading about a guy who suddenly grows a vagina beind his left knee. That brings us into the subject matter. First we have 'Cock: A Novelette'. In it this woman, over a period of time, grows a fully functional male penis. In 'Bull: A Farce', a rugby player is bestowed by fate with a fully functional femine genitalia network, so to speak. There are, however, complications to both of these. Cock and Bull is a good read for postmodernists or anyone who thinks that books are dull. Be warned, however, the writing stlye is complex and hard to understand if you are not equipt for the task. Very good book though, over all.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sirin on November 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
These two novellas, written at great speed during a holiday in Morocco, when Self was, as he proclaimed himself 'high on marijuana' have the brio and freshness of stories rolled out with swift, merciless satire.

The concept is similar in both stories - exploring the murky waters of human sexual identity, but the pace differs. In 'Cock' a woman trapped in a moribund marriage to a bloke whose idea of sexual seduction is to ask if he can 'climb on board' gradually finds the grisly stub of her clitoris growing and expanding into a fully fledged penis, which takes over her personality giving it freakish impulses.

In 'Bull', the metamorphosis is more sudden. Like Gregor Samsa, Bull, a slightly dimwitted, naive rugby player who implausibly writes an arts column for a listings magazine wakes up one morning to find a vagina has sprouted in the crook of his knee. Strange things happen to him as he tries to come to grips with this, and the curious attentions of his doctor Alan Margoulies...

This is not Self's best work. It pitches well, but the stories are too frenzied and overwrought to have the subtleties and satirical power of his greatest stories. But there is still plenty of humour, and like all Self's writing, his prose holds up an ugly and uncomfortable mirror to ourselves, and our modes of living.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JohnPainter on May 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
At a time when the term "intellectual" has practically become a pejorative expression in the vernacular of our language, Will Self ignores the trend followed by so many contemporary writers which seems to call for a dumbing-down of literature to serve the demands of mass appeal. In fact, he seems rather committed to the (perhaps Quixotic?) cause of trying to reverse this trend through his particularly cerebral style of wordsmithing which, I don't feel at all ashamed to admit, occasionally sends me to the dictionary. No doubt, for many readers this factor alone will prove a substantial enough burden to turn them away from the wealth of linguistic generosity offered in Self's books, but that's their loss. In fact, whereas I'm sure that some may find Self's highly erudite vocabulary to be a kind of roadblock, one could just as easily make the case that this author's particularly acrobatic brand of dark humor and wicked irony would be nearly impossible to achieve except for its being performed beneath the tent of such fine wordplay.

"Cock and Bull" employs just such qualities in its wryly hilarious portrayal of, and eventual reversal of, individual and societal gender roles (and all the bizarre, yet often unexamined attitudes which usually go along with them). But Self doesn't merely scratch away at the various superficialities inherent to human sexual relations. He cuts deeper into the subcutaneous flesh of human nature by lampooning the absurdities contained in our subcultures, and exposing circumstances which may cause otherwise "normal" (even boring) people to slip into "outsider" identities.

Suffice to say, if a highly entertaining excoriation of these complex matters intrigues you then Self's particular brand of savvy narrative style may also appeal to you, as it certainly does to me; and if that's the case then "Cock and Bull" will prove a great introduction to his writing.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David G. Phillips on March 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
A definite oddity of a book that explores how and why men and women are infinitely different. One woman grows fully functional male genitalia and conversely a male is disfigured with female genitals in the back of his knee. What's most interesting about the books is the emotional metamorphosis, not necessarily the physical one that these two independent people experience.
I liked the idea of the book, however I found the vocabulary to be grandiloquent at times. Reading this book with a dictionary nearby was a necessity for me. This isn't necessarily a weakness, however I found that the book should have been a little more decipherable for being such a small novelette. The story itself was grand; the vocabulary just confused and overshadowed the narrative. I liked the book, and I recommend it, just be prepared to sit with a dictionary while reading.
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By Self Fan on October 22, 2013
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, Self is a funny William Vollman. If you read the first few chapters you won't put it down. My only complaint would be the obscure words. I found myself using my Iphone to look up words constantly and I could often not make sense of why the word was used in the sentence. Somebody mentioned he was high when the wrote this -- maybe that's it, or maybe it's my inability to decipher. The satire could have been a bit more pronounced for my taste, but I also appreciate the poetic subtlety. Despite some of the word choices, Self is a masterful stylist and funny. I highly recommend giving this a read.

If you like this, also check out Michel Houellebecq.

It's nice to see provocative literary fiction being published amidst all the commercial trash fiction.
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