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Shark Hardcover – November 4, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“Like the work of the great high modernists from the 1920s, like Joyce, Woolf and Eliot, there is a kind of chaotic beauty in Self’s unrestricted writing. . . . There is an amazing consistency to his tone and style; he holds the narrative firmly together at all times, however random and complicated the structure of the book may appear. . . . An outstanding work of literature that seeks to question and explore the fundamental components of what constitutes "normal" and "abnormal" behavior in our society. . . . Go read it now. You'll be simultaneously entertained, mesmerized, intellectually stimulated, baffled — and laugh your ass off.”—NPR Books

“[Self’s] text is more ocean than land, a strange, fluid, weightless place where present and past, surface and depth constantly converge, where terrors, both literal and psychic, loom. . . . It’s a throwback to modernism, a continuation of the experiments of his literary influences, especially James Joyce and J.G. Ballard. . . . Fans of experimental fiction will likely devour the book and applaud Self for inventing a dark stream of consciousness all his own.”—Washington Post

“Self writes in a high-modernist, hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness style, leaping between sentences, time periods, and perspectives. It can be difficult to hang on, but if, like the titular creature, you keep moving through the ‘verbal bouillabaisse,’ the reward is a strange, vivid book.”—New Yorker

“Willfully neglected history, man-made catastrophe, hubris—and, yes, Jaws—all circulate through Will Self’s latest novel, Shark, which is determined to stoke our collective memories of humanity at its worst. . . . reflects a respectable urge to capture the mental and social collapse Self sees as a legacy of the world wars . . . Self wants to grab our heads firmly, turn us toward the mushroom cloud, make us look at the bodies Claude claimed to see within it, and never flatter ourselves that our capacity for self-destruction is distant history or somebody else’s problem. . . . one of [Self’s] most compassionate and earnest books.”—New York Times Book Review

“You will be tossed about in the roiling ocean of words that make up the stream-of-consciousness narrative Self favors . . . the riptide force of Self’s postmodern brilliance will suck you in. . . . Shark is as trippy and fanciful as falling down a rabbit hole . . . pushes me out of my comfort zone. . . Persistence pays off because Shark will stir up a reading frenzy.”—Chicago Tribune

"Intellectually dazzling . . . Shark confirms that Self is the most daring and delightful novelist of his generation, a writer whose formidably intellect is mercilessly targeted on the limits of the cerebral as a means of understanding. Yes, he makes you think, but he also insists that you feel."—Guardian

“A portrait of madness and sanity in the 20th century, tracing the effects of the machine age as well as the information age on people’s stubbornly fallible psyche. . . . Yet the apparently anarchic writing is moderated by careful plotting and sympathetic character development. . . . for all his newfound seriousness of intent Self remains a superb comic writer. . . . An intoxicating experience. Self’s powerful command of language animates the intense prose while his dry wit is given a freer rein than in Umbrella.”—Financial Times

“Self's sentences move with sharky verve: a playful, allusive, associative flow that traces frantic minds connecting the dots between past and present, ideals and reality. . . . Shark will challenge and disturb, exasperate and entertain. Self's prose demands real attention, but is never less than sharp, biting and incisive. Prepare to be eaten whole.”—Independent

Shark has no time for pause and no space for blankness, churning up clumps of words and polyrhythmic phrases and sounds at a breakneck pace. . . . [Shark is] an attempt to offer unfettered access to the minds of the book’s characters. . . . here is a hunk of modernism that poignantly, beautifully, and, it seems, genuinely render mental states of sanity and insanity while smudging the gradations in between.”—Full Stop

"A maddening, uncompromising, serious, self-indulgent, and beautiful work . . . comes as close to capturing the frightening bad trip of modern life as any book in recent memory."—Publishers Weekly (boxed review)

"A truly wonderful novel . . . the language feels urgent and necessary . . . It is an exciting, mesmerizing, wonderfully disturbing book. Go with it, and it'll suck you under."—Daily Telegraph

"Highly enjoyable, vividly, even profoundly imagined. Self is creating something rather grand."—Sunday Times

"Breathtaking and dazzling. An exhilarating tour-de-force ... immersing the reader in a trippy Odyssey.”—Daily Mail

“A journey of language, of character, of unsettling fragmented narratives, of tricks, twists and turns. Shark will latch on to you and pull you under if you're not careful—and that's a good thing.”—Lit Reactor

About the Author

Will Self is the author of six short-story collections, a book of novellas, eight novels, and six collections of journalism. His work has won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction. His latest novel, Umbrella, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (November 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802123104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802123107
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Hamby on November 16, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Self delivers the genre-defying sequel/prequel to Umbrella. Self goes back to his dazzling and confounding world one year earlier. Exploring with a wry poking wit the travails of the mind those who work with it. Or work with others' minds. Self can be almost vicious and still be funny as he skewers and spoofs his way through his parallel world with unabashed weirdness and a style of writing that is all his own. A style that is definitely not or everyone.

Self seems quite determined to elevate or at least evolve in his use of prose as a means to narrate his tale. And is downright aggressive in this exercise. The result can be off putting and at the least difficult to match gears with. But once in tandem, the story unfolds and embraces at the same time. Causing this reader to laugh, cringe and wince at the same time.
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This book follows up "Umbrella," which should probably be read first, so I am writing essentially the same review for both books. Not everybody will like these books, as they are not page-turners. But if you love a literary challenge, on the order of, say, "Finnegan's Wake," you are in for a treat. Self doesn't bother with literary conveniences such as chapters, or, in "Shark," even paragraphs.Sentences go back and forth between present observations and the babble inside the minds of the characters, the most important of whom are mental patients on powerful drugs. And in the middle of any sentence, one may jump from one person's mind to another, without warning or notice. Somewhat similar to techniques mastered by Pynchon, but compared to this book, Gravity's Rainbow is like Cat in the Hat. If you get through it, you will feel satisfied--in the way you might take pride in completing a 25,000-piece jigsaw puzzle depicting a psychedelic pattern. You may also emerge with some new insights about war, mental illness, psychedelics, and life in general. I'm glad I made it to the end, but my head is exhausted and I'm ready to relax with a nice, relatively linear Jo Nesbo mystery.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michel Short on December 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
"Shark" (2014) is the colorful and sparkling sequel to "Umbrella" authored by British journalist/columnist novelist Will Self. It was quite a unique experience to become acquainted with Self's authorship. Self is known for writing in "parallel universe"; a sort of alternative fiction. This doesn't fit the usual genre definition of being science fiction, horror-core, supernatural, or of the vampire underworld. "Shark" is a spoof on modern psychology/psychiatry. I would almost compare Self's writing style to Dr. Seuss... notice, I said "almost". Self is a one of a kind highly original author.

Dr. Zack Busner, a prominent British psychiatrist was the founder/operator of the "Concept House" a therapeutic residential treatment center for patients with SMI (serious mental illness), located in a London suburb. Busner may have been interested in the scientific study of "memory recall", for he stopped taking notes during analytic sessions, and his recall improved tremendously. Meetings were held Friday mornings, and Dr. Busner acknowledged his accuracy of defining doctor created disease, though he had flashbacks relating to the death of his parents; killed by a shockwave, bodies still intact, and buried in a "decent Liberal Jewish Cemetery".

The only mention of the marriage ceremony of Zack and Miriam was about a wedding gift received. Miriam had been a single mother of two boys who were studying at an un-named residential school. Miriam had planned an exciting holiday break at the "Ritz" for her and Zack, but was unable to get Roger, "a selfish beast" to babysit the boys. Roger, a Concept House resident, decided to attend a Love Feast at the Krishna Consciousness Society, as an observer only.
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