Shark uncaged

Will Self’s new novel, Shark, is published in the UK today by Penguin. The Daily Telegraph‘s five-star review hails it as “a truly wonderful novel … an exciting, mesmerising, wonderfully disturbing book. Go with it and it’ll suck you under”. The Guardian‘s review says that “Umbrella was about how humanity brilliantly innovates; Shark is about how it constantly devastates … I have every expectation that when this trilogy does conclude, it will be recognised as the most remorseless vivisection and plangent evocation of our sad, silly, solemn and strange last century.”

To read a short extract from Shark, visit the Guardian website here.

‘Jaws without the Shark’

‘A couple of years ago, when I was in the closing stages of working on my last novel, Umbrella, I began casting around for a new subject for the next one. I greatly admire WG Sebald’s The Emigrants, which tells the stories of six refugees from the Nazis without heavy-handedly describing the mechanics of the persecution that the regime visited on Jews, gay people and the politically suspect. Following this pattern, I conceived of writing a novel about some of the more interesting characters I had known during my two decades in the netherworld of drug addiction. I would fictionalise their stories, of course, but more importantly, I would never mention, or otherwise allude to, the reasons why these people lost jobs, experienced relationship-breakdown, moved abroad, and went to hospital or jail. Their addiction would remain a strange sort of absence, deforming the course of their lives but never emerging into the full light of day. My working rubric for the novel was “Jaws without the shark”.

Mapplethorpe beach, Holderness coast

The beach at Mapplethorpe.

The beach at Mapplethorpe.

“This is the extraordinary beach at Mapplethorpe on the Holderness coast of east Yorkshire. I walked the length of the coast from Flamborough Head to Spurn Head in the summer of 2007 as part of the research for my misery memoir Walking to Hollywood. The Holderness coast is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe, losing six feet of its friable loess cliffs every year to the chomping of the waves. My idea was to walk the entire 35-odd miles within six feet of the cliff edge or bottom, thereby taking a route that could never be replicated. All went oddly from the start: I left my maps at Flamborough Head; my boots turned into flesh-eating monsters; and the weather was a weird compounding of bright sun and ghostly sea fret blowing in off the sea.”