Andre Mayer turns in a good piece on Self for Canadian magazine Eye Weekly:
“It has always been interesting to me to create a completely alternative set of worlds for my fiction to take place in,” Self admits in a phone interview from his home in London. “It’s so much more interesting to write about something that is both real and seemingly unreal. It places the reader in a state of questioning about reality itself.”
Too true. Self’s version of the great beyond — like his myriad spins on life — is by turns ridiculous and banal. The afterlife is governed by the shadowy Deathocracy, which, as you’d expect, is an agency of do-nothing buffoons. Meanwhile, Dulston’s deceased inhabitants still hold jobs. They go about their normal daily functions — eating, smoking, shagging — despite the fact that all their senses are impaired, which seems to be Self’s way of saying that modern life has gotten cruelly perfunctory. It’s inspired satire from a writer who is notoriously acidic, but Self insists the message behind How the Dead Live has been largely misread.
“I’ve read review after review about how this is a book that proposes that when you die in London, you move to a strange, crepuscular suburb called Dulston,” Self says, quick to dispel the novel’s alleged universality: “This isn’t what the book says at all. This book is about what happens to Lily Bloom when she dies. This is her death, and the levels of reality that are contained within the book are connected to her psyche.”