Will Self has one of literature's most astonishing imaginations, and in How the Dead Live his talent has come to full flower. It inspired The Washington Post's Jonathan Carroll to write, "Like Celine, Self describes the fall of just about everyone with equal amounts of gusto and ruefulness. It is a difficult act to pull off successfully, but he has managed to do it again and again. . . . In How the Dead Live . . . he has created an altogether believable afterlife that startles, tickles, disturbs".
Lily Bloom is an angry, aging American transplanted to England, now losing her battle with cancer. Attended by nurses and her two daughters -- lumpy Charlotte, a dour, successful businesswoman, and beautiful Natasha, a junkie -- Lily takes us on a surreal, opinionated trip through the stages of a lifetime of lust and rage. From '40s career girl to '50s tippling adulteress to '70s PR flak, Lily has seen America and England through most of a century of riotous and unreal change. And then it's over. Lily catches a cab with her death guide, Aboriginal wizard Phar Lap Jones, and enters the shockingly banal world of the dead: the suburbs. She discovers smoking without consequences and gets another PR job, where none of her coworkers notices that she's not alive. She gets to know her roommates: Rude Boy, her terminally furious son who died in a car accident at age nine; Lithy, a fetus that died before she ever knew it existed; the Fats, huge formless shapes composed of all the weight she's ever gained or lost. As Dan Cryer of Newsday said, "Will Self's literary magic makes Lily Bloom, a plant destined to shrivel rather than flourish, entirely unforgettable. Out of her long, mournful dying, herstrange and tormented life and stranger afterlife, he has fashioned the most poignant, gut-wrenching art". How the Dead Live is Will Self's most remarkable and expansively human book, an important, disturbing vision of our time.