(Current fiction & past quality fiction)
When Bloomsbury first published “Umbrella” by Will Self last August in the United Kingdom, The Guardian dove enthusiastically off the deep end with this: “In prose uninterrupted by chapters or line breaks, a twisted version of the 20th century is woven and unpicked again. It is a postmodern vivisection of Modernism, analyzing the dream and the machine, war as the old lie and a new liberation, and rituals sacred, profane and banal . . . a linguistically adept, emotionally subtle and ethically complex novel.”—The Guardian
And quite naturally, The New Yorker jumped on the bait extracted by the U.S. publisher with this in January: “A hefty, challenging stream-of-consciousness story whose engagement with modernist themes and techniques is announced in its epigraph from Joyce’s Ulysses.”— The New Yorker
“Umbrella” (Grove Press) by Will Self is every bit of the above, with apologies to Joyce, promoted like this:
"A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella."—James Joyce, “Ulysses.” “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 20th 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.”
Not familiar with Will Self?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: William Woodard "Will" Self (born 26 September 1961) is an English author, journalist and television personality. He is perhaps best known for being caught taking heroin on John Major's campaign plane whilst covering the 1997 general election for The Observer.
Self is the author of nine novels, five collections of shorter fiction, three novellas and five collections of non-fiction writing, of which his novel Umbrella was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His work has been translated into 22 languages. His fiction is known for being satirical, grotesque, and fantastical, and is predominantly set within London. His fiction often deals with such themes as mental illness, illegal drugs and psychiatry.
Fiction by Will Self
Cock and Bull (1992)
My Idea of Fun (1993)
Great Apes (1997)
How the Dead Live (2000)
Dorian, an Imitation (2002)
The Book of Dave (2006)
The Butt (2008)
Walking to Hollywood (2010)
Having written about and around mental awkwardness in a couple of novels, Examiner found himself right at home in what Judith Shulevitz called for The New York Times “disordered time and disjointed spasms.” Shulevitz is the author of “The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time.” The obvious comment about it all being in the eyes of the beholder is herewith overlooked. Read the book; enjoy the other side of what passes for life.