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Umbrella by Will Self - the Booker-shortlisted prequel to his eagerly awaited new novel Shark
Will Self is the author of many novels and books of non-fiction, including How the Dead Live, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year 2002 and The Butt, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction 2008. He lives in South London.
In these culturally straitened times few writers would have the artistic effrontery to offer us a novel as daring, exuberant and richly dense as Umbrella. Will Self has carried the Modernist challenge into the twenty-first century, and worked a wonder * John Banville * Umbrella is his best book yet ... It makes new for today the lessons taught by the morals of Catch 22, Slaughterhouse Five, The Tin Drum, also Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold * Alasdair Gray * Umbrella is old-school modernism. It isn't supposed to be a breeze. But it is, to use the literary critical term of art, kind of amazing ... I think this may be Will Self's best book -- Sam Leith * Observer * This is by far Will Self's best novel; clever, intense, ambitious and risky. It is a novel so arch that it bends over backwards, joining together its own extremities of kindness and indifference, with and banality, of forgetting and remembering, love and loathing, first page, last page -- Tom Adair * Scotsman * An astonishing achievement, a novel of exhilarating linguistic invention and high moral seriousness. Certainly, he deserves to win the prize; but more significantly, this is a novel which will be read and re-read, as much for its emotional weight as its technical virtuosity ... With this book he reveals himself as the most determinedly and delightfully literary novelist of his generation -- Stuart Kelly * Scotland on Sunday * There are echoes of Joyce and Eliot, but also of Flaubert ... there is also a great deal of humour -- Brian Dillon * New Statesman * One cannot help recalling Joyce ... 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 ... Self's ambition and talent have produced something of real cultural significance ... Umbrella must be recognised as, above all, a virtuoso triumph of emotional and creative intelligence -- Stig Abell, * Spectator * Extraordinary -- Sheena Joughin * Sunday Telegraph *
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Self's sweeping experimental new novel (after Walking to Hollywood) creaks under the weight of chaotic complexity. At its core lies a fractured matrix only partially resembling a coherent story. For more than 50 years, octogenarian Audrey Death aka De'Ath, Deeth, Deerth has languished in North London's Friern Mental Hospital, suffering from encephalitis lethargica-a brain-damaging sleeping sickness she contracted in 1918 that renders patients either "whirled into a twisted immobility, or else unwound spastic, hypotonic." In 1971, whiz-bang psychiatrist Zachary Busner attempts to revive her and other "enkies" by plying them with L-Dopa (an anti-Parkinson's drug). A fleeting reawakening reveals jarring glimpses into Audrey's past (a hardscrabble childhood in Edwardian England; a job at a WWI munitions factory; a raunchy love affair with a married man), with alternating flashbacks to the lives of her brothers Stan (a gunner in the war) and Bert (a puffed-up civil servant), and jumps forward to Busner in 2010 reminiscing about his past (a failed marriage; adultery; his mixed career). Lacking chapter breaks, paragraph separations (mostly), and hopping between these four characters' stream-of-consciousness points of view, the already puzzling tome can be difficult to follow, let alone grasp. But with snippets of dialects, stylistic flourishes, and inventive phrases loose with meaning, for those who grab hold and hang on, the experience falls just shy of brilliant. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.