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Radical and uncompromising, Umbrella is a tour de force from one of England’s most acclaimed contemporary writers, and Self’s most ambitious novel to date. Moving between Edwardian London and a suburban mental hospital in 1971, Umbrella exposes the twentieth century’s technological searchlight as refracted through the dark glass of a long term mental institution. While making his first tours of the hospital at which he has just begun working, maverick psychiatrist Zachary Busner notices that many of the patients exhibit a strange physical tic: rapid, precise movements that they repeat over and over. One of these patients is Audrey Dearth, an elderly woman born in the slums of West London in 1890. Audrey’s memories of a bygone Edwardian London, her lovers, involvement with early feminist and socialist movements, and, in particular, her time working in an umbrella shop, alternate with Busner’s attempts to treat her condition and bring light to her clouded world. Busner’s investigations into Audrey’s illness lead to discoveries about her family that are shocking and tragic.
Equal parts dystopian fantasy, religious allegory, detective story, and tribute to the sometimes fraught relations between fathers and sons, The Book of Dave is an ingenious meditation upon the nature of religion and a caustic satire of contemporary life.
Nonetheless convinced that he is still a human, Simon is confined to the emergency psychiatric ward of Charing Cross Hospital, where he becomes the patient of Dr. Zack Busner, clinical psychologist, medical doctor, anti-psychiatrist, and former television personalityan expert at the height of his reign as alpha male. As Busner attempts to convince him that everyone who is fully sentient in this world are chimpanzees,” Simon struggles with the horrifying delusion that he is really a human trapped in a chimp’s body.
Written with the same brilliant satiric wit that has distinguised Self’s earlier fiction, Great Apes is a hilarious, often disturbing, and absolutely original take on man’s place in the evolutionary chain. In a strange and twisted tale that recalls Jonathan Swift and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Will Self’s comic genius is impossible to ignore.
Cock: A Novelette” is the story of a woman who grows a fully functional penis. Bull: A Farce” is the story of a man who acquires a vagina and all its companion parts. There are, however, complications. Cock & Bull, the book that introduced an enfant terrible of English letters to an American audience, has quickly become a classic of blistering satire.
Lily Bloom is an aging American transplanted to England who has lost her battle with cancer and lies wasting away at the Royal Ear Hospital. As her two daughterslumpy Charlotte, who runs a hugely successful chain of stationery stores called Waste of Paper, and beautiful Natasha, a junkiebuzz around her and the nurses pump her full of morphine, Lily slides in and out of the present, taking us on a surreal, opinionated trip through the stages of a lifetime of lust and rage. A career girl in the 1940s, a sexed-up, tippling adulteress in the 1950s and 60s, a divorced PR flak in the 1970s and 80s, Lily presents us with a portrait of America and England over sixty years of riotous and unreal change.
And then it’s over: Lily catches a cab with the aboriginal wizard Phar Lap Jones, her guide to the shockingly banal world of the dead. It’s a world that is surreal but familiar, where she again works in PR and rediscovers how great smoking is, where her cohabitants include Rude Boy, the son who died at age nine and now swears a blue streak, and three eyeless, murmuring wraiths, the Fatscomposed of the pounds, literally the whole selves, she lost and gained over her lifetime. As Lily settles into her nonexistence, the most difficult challenge for this staunchly difficult woman is how to understand that she’s dead, and how to leave the rest behind.
How the Dead Live is an unforgettable portrait of the human condition, the struggle with life and with death. It’s a novel that will disturb and provoke, the work, in the words of one British reviewer, of a novelist writing at the height of his powers.”
Self’s world is a no-funhouse of warped mirrors. A man is seduced into a misanthropically charged symbiosis with the insects infesting his cottagehe has entered Flytopia.” In A Story for Europe,” a two-year-old English child utters his first, halting words . . . in business German. In Caring, Sharing,” status-conscious New Yorkers navigate the perils of dating along with their very literal inner children.” In The Rock of Crack as Big as the Ritz,” a black Londoner discovers an enormous rock of crack cocaine underpinning his houseand quickly turns it into an efficient little empire. In the title story a psychoanalyst strips away all the sangfroid of his professionalism to find beneath . . . precisely nothing. And in the short novella The Nonce Prize,” a man framed for a sex crime he didn’t commit finds that his only way out is to win a short-story competition. Sharp, funny, and packed with verbal fireworks, Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys confirms yet again Will Self’s stature as one of the most accomplished and original writers of his generation.
When Will reconnects with his childhood friend, the world suddenly seems disproportionate. Sherman Oaks, scarcely three feet tall at forty-five, and his ironically sized sculpturesreplicas of his body varying from the gargantuan to the minisculespark in Will a flurry of obsessive-compulsive thoughts and a nagging desire to experience the world by foot. Ignoring his therapist and nemesis Zack Busner, Self travels to Hollywood on a mission to discover whoor whatkilled the movies. Convinced that everyone from his agent, friends, and bums on the street are portrayed by famous actors, Self goes undercover into the dangerous world of celebrity culture. He circumambulates the metropolitan area in hallucinating and wild episodes, eventually arriving on the English cliffs of East Yorkshire where he comes face to face with one of Jonathan Swift’s immortal Struldbruggs. A satirical novel of otherworldly proportion and literary brilliance, Walking to Hollywood is a fantastical and unforgettable trip through the unreality of our culture.
The introduction, 'Journey Through Britain' is a new extended essay by Self, accompanied by Steadman's inimitable images. It tells of how Self journeyed to Dubai, that Götterdammerung of the contemporary built environment, in order to walk the length of the artificial Britain-shaped island, in the offshore luxury housing development known as 'The World'.
Ranging from Istanbul to Los Angeles and from the crumbling coastline of East Yorkshire to the adamantine heads of Easter Island, Will Self's engaging and disturbing vision is once again perfectly counter-pointed by Ralph Steadman's edgy and dazzling artwork.
These are stories that delve into the modern psyche with unsettling and darkly satiric results. Inclusion®” tells the story of a doctor who is illegally testing a new antidepressant made from bee excrement. A Short History of the English Novel” brings us face to face with a pompous publisher who is greeted at every turn by countless rejected authors. In The End of the Relationship” a woman who has been left by her boyfriend provokeslike some emotional Typhoid Mary”that same reaction among all the couples she goes to for comfort. The narrator of Between the Conceits” declares without hesitation that London is controlled by only eight individuals, and, thankfully, he is one of them. Self’s world in these pieces is both curiously familiar and hauntingly strange.
Published to critical acclaim in England, Grey Area is a dazzling collection by one of the most talented and original writers of his generation.