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The Undivided Self: Selected Stories Hardcover – October 26, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Drawing on selections from Self’s five prior short story collections, this volume presents the writer’s 16 most well known stories as well as a previously unpublished one. Readers should be prepared for the onslaught as the author unleashes the full force of his signature style, a manic, precisely worded, and sometimes shocking assault on all the things Self despises. Like fellow Brit Martin Amis, Self sees too clearly and then proceeds to revel in all that is horrible about modern life. Whether it’s the interminable monologues of the fusty anthropologist who spends years studying a tribe whose most discerning feature is that they are boring, in “Understanding the Ur-Bororo,” or the rise and precipitous fall of the drug-dealing brothers who operate in London’s West End in “The Rock of Crack as Big as the Ritz” and “The Nonce Prize,” Self never tires of serving up all that is most depressing about human nature, and he does so in language possessed of such ghastly clarity that there is no escape from his diabolical worldview. As Rick Moody warns in the introduction: “Those who come in search of the traditional humanist epiphany are likely to get a kick in the ass for their trouble.” --Joanne Wilkinson


“The perfect introduction to the gamut of Self's darkly comic, verbally dexterous shorter prose. Turning outrageously apt metaphors as few others can, Self could build a career on wit alone. As this outstanding collection amply shows, however, he delivers much more.” ―Library Journal

“A welcome showcase of short (or shortish) fiction by quirky comic master Self. Each story is a pleasure. A powerful argument against selflessness, a treat for fans and a grand introduction for those new to the author's curious view of the universe.” ―Kirkus (starred review)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (October 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596912979
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596912977
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,669,128 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most electric images I have of this collection by Will Self is his almost overpowering manipulation of the English language. With many good authors, embedded within large sections of pedestrian, functional writing, I'll find a sentence or paragraph which is so deft and rich that I stop and reread just for the pleasure of the contruction or word use; I was amazed to find that Mr. Self is able to provoke this same reaction nearly non-stop. The risk with such a rich diet is over-indulgence - and no doubt there are readers out there who will find it so. Unfortunately, the 'look inside' feature does not really showcase Mr. Self's style well, though it does intimate the attention one needs to bring to bear when reading these stories. It may be enough to signal whether this kind of writing suits or not.

To me, this highly textured, visceral style of writing alone made every story worth reading, though that doesn't mean every story grabbed me in the same way. Mr. Self's stories seem designed to evoke a reflection of contemporary life, and he uses realism, magical realism, surrealism, and absurdism as it suits him to try and bring it off, as well as a patrician sense of satire. I found him most appealing at his most outlandish, although there were also times when his straightforward narratives swept me along as well. There are also selections I found relatively uninteresting. Like many short-story collections, I thought the overall affectiveness was mixed.

Still, I would definitely recommend the book, or the author in general, especially to those readers who feel much contemporary literature, while well-written, has a sameness about it. As Rick Moody hints at in the introduction, Mr. Self's writing is more like a kick in the pants.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
but his name didn't register with me, I guess. It certainly does now. A master of time and text, inventive and insane simultaneously.
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