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The Book of Dave: A Novel Paperback – October 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Self, the provocative British raconteur who used the Tibetan Book of the Dead to map London (How the Dead Live, 2000) is taking another literary shot across his home city's bow. In his gleaming new puzzlebook, Self creates a dystopian future London, ruled by a cynosure of priests, lawyers and the monarchy. He invents Arpee, the musical language they speak that is based on a sacred text—The Book of Dave—which also serves, satirically, as the society's moral and legal foundation. And who is this deity named Dave? An embittered London cabbie from the distant past—the year 2000.As the book opens, the kingdom of Ingerland is ruled by the elite and ruthless PCO. (Self is riffing on the Public Carriage Office, London's transit authority.) People live according to The Book of Dave, which was recovered after a great flood wiped out London in the MadeinChina era. Flashing back more than 500 years, cabbie Dave Rudman types out his idiosyncratic, misogynist, bile-tinged fantasies while in a fit of antidepressant-induced psychosis and battling over the custody of his child, Carl. His screed becomes both a blueprint for a harsh childrearing climate (mummies and daddies living apart, with the kids splitting time between them) and a full-blown cosmology. As Self moves between eras, he divides the book between Dave's story and the story of the great Flying (slang in the future for "heresy"). The latter involves the appearance of the Geezer (prophet) on the island of Ham (Hampshire) in 508 A.D. (after the "purported discovery of the Book of Dave"), who claims to have found a second Book of Dave annulling the "tiresome strictures" of the first. He is imprisoned by the PCO and mangled beyond recognition, but, 14 years later, his son, Carl Dévúsh, travels from Ham to New London, determined to create a less cruel world that responds to the "mummyself" within. Self's invention of a future language (including dialect Mokni, which combines cabby slang, cockney and the Esperanto of graffiti—and, yes, a dictionary is provided) is wickedly brilliant, with surprising moments of childlike purity punctuating the lexicon's crude surface (a "fuckoffgaff" is a "lawyerly place," while "wooly" means sheep). Self is endlessly talented, and in crossbreeding a fantasy novel with a scorching satire of contemporary mores, he's created a beautiful monster of the future that feeds on the neurotic present—and its parents. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

In this tale of an embittered taxi-driver whose psychotic rantings become the creed of a blighted people hundreds of years after his death, Self unleashes his apparently boundless misanthropy on modern London, the origins of religion, and the postapocalyptic future. Dave Rudman, driven mad by divorce and ill-prescribed antidepressants, thinks he is God and writes a vitriolic screed, which he has printed on metal plates and buries in a garden. Discovered by the survivors of a catastrophic flood and adopted as a gospel, it demands the complete separation of mothers and fathers (children to spend exactly half the week with each). Switching between a narrative of Dave's unlucky life and the phonetically rendered "Mokni" speech of his wretched followers, Self achieves an elaborate vision of vicious superstition and hopeless struggle, but his insights never quite repay the effort of engaging with his stylistic pyrotechnics.
Copyright © 2006 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913844
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #771,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderfullly mind-bending book that works on so many levels it would definitely reward a second reading. Its premise is pretty strange: in a post-apocalyptic England, turned into an achipelago by global warming, a brutal and backward society is ruled by a religion based on a holy text of "revealed truth," The Book of Dave. Fast-rewind to the present and it soon becomes clear that The Book is the psychotic rantings of a London cabbie of the same name, engraved on stainless steel plates and buried in his estranged wife's garden. The purpose of this insanity is to pass to his son "The Knowledge" of London streets, routes and points of interest that cabbies need to memorize to get their license. Intewoven with this is Dave's worldview, venomously warped by rage at the ex-wife, longing for his "Lost Boy," and the side-effects of a stew of mis-prescribed drugs.

The first chapter of Will Self's book, set in 522 AD (After Dave) was almost incomprehensible, even though I lived and studied in England for years and I am quite conversant with cockney and London lore. It is worth persevering, however. Slowly the realization dawns that many of the strange vocabulary and practices relate to taxis and their drivers. The ubiquitous holy (or "davine") greeting, rendered in horrible texting abbreviation, is "Ware2, guv?" Anyone who ever hailed a cab in London knows that these are the first words out of the driver's mouth. In the dystopian future these are words that connect one to Dave's sacred world. Priests are "Drivers," prayer is "intercom," wise and exalted people are addressed as "rearview," souls are "fares," heretics are "fliers.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By DC Holm on December 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The novel is long and complicated. It necessitates consulting with a glossary of invented words and a dictionary. Prepare for an aggressively dark narrative of misogyny, religious repression, domestic violence.

There is enough portrayal of cruelty and bigotry, mental illness and torture to evoke intense revulsion and disgust, a hallmark of this British writer's fiction.

The Book of Dave is sometimes as off-putting as Self's five previous novels but arrives at a pinnacle of accomplishment.

The plot is sturdy and the prose is voluptuous. The emotional range he hones is symphonic, retaining the initial simple notes of rage of the character.

Dave Rudman, a balding London taxi driver undergoing a nasty divorce, holds a lot of rage. His wife, Michelle, wrings him over a custody battle over their son, Carl.

He expresses his rants and buries them.

His denied fatherhood is a mortal blow, unsoothed by the "Fathers First" support group Dave attends.

Alternating with these chapters is a narrative that unfolds hundreds of years later. A flood has devastated London and its surrounding areas. The most vital relic from the antediluvian world? The "Book of Dave," exhumed long ago and worshiped as a bible with Dave as its god.

On one outer island, Hams, residents live a primitive farming life. Their theocracy is organized around their deity's ordained sacred scriptures: 21st-century cabbie lore and child-custody laws.

In daily prayers, the Hamsters pay fervent thanks to Dave. They chant the names of extinct London streets from obsolete cab-driving routes.

Men must live apart from women. Women are routinely abused and forced to do most of the work.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. Walton on June 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm a speed reader. When I encountered this book, I found myself forced to slow WAY down, even to read out loud, so I could understand the dialect in which the dystopian sections are written (kind of like a text-messaged cockney). As a Mormon, I found the treatment of revealed religion had a special resonance with me--the buried plates were such a clever twist. Overall, I felt like I left this book knowing more about the human condition than when I started, and I was also thoroughly entertained. I highly recommend The Book of Dave.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jabiz Raisdana on July 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
As is the case with most dystopian novels, I began feeling lost and confused. I immediately regretted having strayed from my literally routine of handpicking each book I read. The novel begins in a bizarre futuristic English landscape where the characters speak in a muddled language called Mokni, an invented dialect of English derived from Cockney, taxi-drivers' and Dave's own usages, text-messaging, and vocabulary peculiar to the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

It took about a hundred pages and a trip back to the twentieth century for me to finally find my footing in the language. But once I did, I began to see the beauty of what Self was doing- Using a sharp and critical satirical prose, he carefully crafts an intricate novel of amazing depth. There is not much more to say- there is never a point where The Book of Dave is not extremely well written. The stories from the past, present and future seamlessly intertwine to create a biting mirror reflecting the hypocrisy and absurdity of religious dogma. I will end the review here, by saying that this is a novel that is worth your time. Before I end this post, I did want to make some comments about the thoughts that were alighted because of this text.

While I often expose an aggressive atheism, I like to think that I tote a robust and healthy spiritualism. I am a seeker and enjoy contemplating spiritual matters. Never one to shy away from discussions about the purpose of life, morality, or the human condition, I am always looking for conversations about topics steeped in mysticism and exploration.

What has always turned me off religious discussions is the certainty of truth. The reliance (faith) on dogma and holy books. The prescriptive rules and hoop jumping of organized salvation is not for me.
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