The FT said Phone is “A novel of grand ideas, powered by a ravenous curiosity about the role of the technological revolution in our private and public woes, Phone nonetheless bristles with anxiety about the abuse of ‘intelligence’ — in medicine, in warfare, in software, in love … [Self’s] hurricane of eloquence blows in terrific passages of satire, comedy, even suspense — not to mention his pitch-perfect ear for the jargons and lingoes of modernity.”
The Financial Times: “… 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. Shark drives remorselessly on; it takes us with it.”
The Mail on Sunday: “Self is on a mission to revive modernist fiction and newcomers will find the text, excised of paragraphs and most punctuation, tough at first. But it is unmatched for vibrancy and sensation, and befits the novel’s raw, disturbing subjects – the traumatised lives that orbit Dr Busner’s therapeutic community.”
Mark Lawson in the News Statesman: “In an era when publishers and reading groups exert so much pressure towards the soft read, Self … is saving the life of the hard read that rewards the attention demanded.” Review here.
Sam Leith in the Observer: “Self shares JG Ballard’s interest in the psychopathology of everyday life, and in the insistent strange juxtapositions between apparently discrete things. But where Ballard most often works at the level of symbol and image, and is almost militantly uninterested in the inner lives of his characters, Self’s rhymes and correlations bubble in the language itself, and his whole method is concerned with inwardness.” Review here.
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.
Also, there’s a review of Umbrella at the NPR, which hails it as a “modernist masterpiece”, and an interview with Will here (which includes a reading from Umbrella by Will), and also a review in the Washington Post too.
Grove has just published Umbrella in the States, and early reviews have been as effusive as they were in the UK last year.
The Boston Globe: “The result is page after page of gorgeously musical prose. Self’s sentences bounce and weave, and like poetry, they refract. The result is mesmerizing.”
For the full review, go here.
The Economist: “An entertaining and enthralling book … [Self] has managed to write an experimental novel that is also a compassionate and thrilling book—and one that, despite its difficulty, deserves to be read.”
For the full review, go here.
The Spectator: “Umbrella is a magnificent celebration of modernist prose, an epic account of the first world war, a frightening investigation into the pathology of mental illness, and the first true occasion when Self’s ambition and talent have produced something of real cultural significance.”
New Statesman: “Umbrella is as much a novel about the historical slump of modernist fiction – and its potential reanimation – as it is about the fates of encephalics … Self has knowing fun with timing his historical shifts to the rhythms of technology; a shop window in 1918 becomes a 1970s television spewing game-show prizes … a complexly textured, conceptually forbidding thesis about the modern, its art and their discontents. This being Self, though, there is also a great deal of humour, much of it to do with the dismal, drugged, inhuman pass to which Busner’s patients have come after decades in their psychiatric ‘jail within a jail’.”
‘An ambitiously conceived and brilliantly executed novel in the high modernist tradition of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf … Its scope is dazzling … The switches between perspective and chronology are demanding (there are no chapters), but Self handles them with bravura skill, setting up imagery and phrases that echo suggestively between different episodes … Umbrella is an immense achievement.’ (Full review here.)
‘Though hard work is certainly demanded from the reader, it is always rewarded. Through the polyphonic, epoch-hopping torrent, we gradually construct a coherent and beguiling narrative. As the title-defining epigraph from Joyce alerts us – “A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella” – fraternity is an urgent concern.’ (Full review here.)
The Independent has given Walking to Hollywood five stars in its paperbacks of 2011:
“The three essays collected in Walking to Hollywood are non-fictional travelogues that spiral slowly into abstraction, similar in many ways to the ‘psychogeography’ columns on which Will Self collaborated with Ralph Steadman.
“But here the tone is markedly different, the author’s usual Technicolor exuberance tempered by a monochrome melancholy. It is significant that Steadman’s illustrations have been displaced by the sort of black-and-white photographs beloved of WG Sebald; Self’s writing seems to have taken a darker turn under the German writer’s saturnine influence. Not that this book entirely lacks the old scatological mischief. Sebald, after all, is unlikely to have described car exhausts as ‘turbofarts’.”
The Sunday Times: “In Very Little, the first in this triptych of wacky tales rooted in autobiographical reality but twisted through gonzo distortions, Self recalls an outrageously funny friend (a dwarf, with whose sister he had embarrassing teenage sex at a party). The Hollywood in the title story is a nightmare of video games and scientology where Self morphs into a female porn star and the Incredible Hulk. The last tale is a grey affair about coastal erosion, after which Self explains that the three have been themed around obsessionality, psychosis and dementia respectively. The effect is hallucinogenic, paranoid and gruellingly clever.”