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The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future Paperback – 1 Mar 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (1 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141014547
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141014548
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Self seamlessly toggles between the two time periods, giving equal depth to frustrated, sympathetic Dave and to the inhabitants of the post-apolcalyptic future. The bastardized Cockney language of 523 A.D. (anno Dave), while sometimes difficult to understand, is one of the book's most puzzling yet satisfying joys. B+."--Gilbert Cruz, "Entertainment Weekly" "The first 90 pages of this book read like a cross between "Jabberwocky" and "A Clockwork Orange." It's a devilishly catchy argot and once readers sink into it, they will find themselves wondering if the characters are traveling norf or souf... .Like Martin Amis, with whom he's often compared, Self marries his verbal acrobatics to social critique, gamely taking on corporate culture, family law, London urban sprawl, religion, racial division and the received wisdom of women's magazines and the pub. ...You're left with the intoxication of Self's wordplay and the clarity of his visions."--Regina Marler, "Los Angeles Times""" "A richer, more engaging enterprise... Whose plot is sturdy enough to support its voluptuous prose. Most significantly, the author has worked hard to increase his emotional repertoire from a three-chord punk chorus of rage, contempt and despair to a more expansive range of sensibility." - Donna Rifkind, "Washington Post" "Fans of Self's previous edgy satires won't be disappointed with The Book of Dave, his latest riff on the strange complexities of the modern world. Balancing stories of pained intimacies between fathers and sons, it also brilliantly caricatures the fervor of literal-minded religious fundamentalism... Blisteringly astute." - Geoffrey Bateman, "Rocky Mountain News""Remarkable... Among his most ambitious and imaginative...The Book of Dave seems to be about the crippling nihilism of a world without transcendent meaning and the tensions and contradictions of the religious personality." - Daniel Sullivan, "Weekly Standard""" "The apocalypse that created the world in Self's new novel somehow incinerated all the Shakespeare and the Tolstoy and the Bible, leaving only the angry scrawlings of a divorced London cabdriver named Dave upon which to build a new culture. Dave's ruined life is worshipped and codified-bitterness as religion. Men and women live apart. Children's weeks are divided into mummytime and daddytime, and young women are known as Opares. The Book of Dave can be hard going. The language Self invents takes off from bangers-and-mash quaintness into near incomprehensibility, with jarring phonetic spellings and a whole goofball nomenclature. The Milky Way is the dashboard; the sun is the foglamp... It sounds as though it could devolve into inanity (in fact, the religion is known as Davinanity), but Self somehow breathes life into it. It's grim and compelling-a world to get lost in. That is, if we're not lost already. BUY IT." - "New York Magazine" "In this tale of an embittered taxi-driver whose psychotic rantings become the creed of a blighted people hundreds of years after his death, Self unleashes his apparently boundless misanthropy on modern London, the origins of religion, and the postapocalyptic future. Dave Rudman, driven mad by divorce and ill-prescribed antidepressants, thinks he is God and writes a vitriolic screed, which he has printed on metal plates and buries in a garden. Discovered by thesurvivors of a catastrophic flood and adopted as a gospel, it demands the complete separation of mothers and fathers (children to spend exactly half the week with each). Switching between a narrative of Dave's unlucky life and the phonetically rendered "Mokni" speech of his wretched followers, Self achieves an elaborate vision of vicious superstition and hopeless struggle, but his insights never quite repay the effort of engaging with his stylistic pyrotechnics." - "New Yorker" "In The Book of Dave, his satiric masterpiece thus far, Self proves again that with talent like his, it's never the what, but the how... Though his invention (often via inversion) of a future language owes an obvious debt to Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, and Orwell, Self spins his own brilliantly macaronic web between Now and Later... Self's inventiveness and control are dazzling... Self's novel achieves depth not by skewering organized religion, though it does so quite adroitly, but by exploring the many grids of modern despair, how we find ourselves cast adrift, and how, much like Dave, whose loneliness is unabated by the 'hateful company of his own kind, ' we fester unseen... A gripping, funny, and pleasurably intricate novel." - Sam Lipsyte, "Bookforum""" "Self satires the strange complexities of the modern world by juxtaposing two stories: the first set in London roughly 500 years in the future and the second involving a modern-day cab driver. The cab driver's written rants about an ex-wife, uncovered in the future London, provide the moral, legal and cultural foundation of the new world order in this blisteringly astute novel." -"Rocky Mountain News"

About the Author

Will Self has earned his reputation through a body of innovative work: there's nobody quite like him writing today. He is the author of four previous novels, four collections of short stories, three novellas and four non-fiction works. As a journalist he has contributed to a plethora of publications over the years; he is also a regular broadcaster on television and radio. He lives in London with his wife and four children.

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Carl Dévúsh, spindle-shanked, bleach-blond, lampburnt, twelve years old, kicked up buff puffs of sand with his bare feet as he scampered along the path from the manor. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wilkolima on 4 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The way "The Book of Dave" was recommended to me, I expected a fictional comedy not a tragedy. And what a tragedy it was... written as the part biography of the present day tragic hero-cum-taxi driver, Dave Rudman, and the narrative of a future dystopian and much dispersed and unrecognisable Britain, the plot and characters are contrived to the extreme to heighten the element of dystopian fantasy on the one hand, and to create as much confusion and frustration in the reader on the other. While the plot understandably needs to flash back and fore between the present and future, it is doubtful that it needs to chunk and shuffle the sequential narrative of the present and the future as much as it does. While the glossary at the back of the book does help with some of the phonetic transcription and vagaries of a supposedly east London dialect, it does not explain every piece of quirky vocabulary, only adding to the reader's frustration. Elements of the plot and characters are left inadequately explored and explained: the existence of the motos on Ham? How did they come into being? Descended from what? When exactly did the world 'madeinchina' flood take place? What the hell happens to Carl and Bom when they walk over the bank to meet their fate?

A novel-ish novel, but too many twists and turns to make it truly enjoyable.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads on 30 Jan. 2009
Format: Paperback
Will Self is an author that is a bit hit and miss with people, people either love his quirky tales and devour him or people are put off by the fact that he can come across as being too clever or pompous he can also be seen as being dark and this book is quite bleak, well very bleak, but he is an author that if you work at reading you will get so much out of. `The Book of Dave' is set in the recent past and the distant future. The recent past tells the tale of Dave Rudman a London taxi driver and the lead up to his marriage and then onto its break up, a break up that affects him so much he writes a book to his estranged son. A book that is discovered in the distant future and spawned a major religion, in fact everyone lives by `The Book of Dave' or else. Self uses this present to show us just what could happen in the future, and it's not the prettiest of pictures.

This is by no means a quick or easy read. Firstly Dave is not instantly a hero or a likeable chap, he is normal, extremely flawed and at first I just thought he was a waste of space, my opinion did change as his character did. The alternating chapters between the future and the recent past are made more complicated by two things, firstly is the fact that they are not in chronological order, secondly you need to learn some Mokni. Self has done something which I was originally annoyed by slightly, the lazy reader in me, and then very impressed by... he has created his own future version of cockney based not on rhyming slang but on phonetics. I should add that there is a glossary in the back of the book that helps you, though a note in the front to tell you that would be helpful as I know that lots of people put the book down after finding the Mokni a challenge and not knowing the glossary is there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keith M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
With this 2006 novel, Will Self once again attempts to marry his (sometimes overambitious) verbal dexterity with his take on a modern London zeitgeist, all dressed up as something of a futurist parable and, for me, he succeeds on pretty much every level. Casting a disturbed London cabbie (Dave Rudman) as a divine metaphor is a pretty funny concept in itself, but then Self brilliantly uses the idea to create parallel narratives (whose interrelationships are revealed gradually), one charting the 'modern day' (early 3rd millennium) experiences of Dave with his marital and parental difficulties, and the other, set some centuries hence (AD - geddit?), in which Dave's 'philosophy' (on parenting, in particular) has been resurrected to form the basis of a future society in which the (morphed) cabbies' Knowledge and PCO (Public Carriage Office) are all pervading - the new religion, as it were.

As with pretty much everything I have read by Self, The Book Of Dave is certainly not an easy read, with its constant time-shifting between its two streams of narrative, and (in Self's future fantasy world) the invention of an entire new language, Mokni, cleverly derived from modern day 'cabbie-speak' - where days are divided into 'tariffs' (corresponding to taxi charging times) and 'changeover' represents the times at which children switch between estranged parents (Self, helpfully, provides an explanatory glossary - a la A Clockwork Orange). Although Self's novel can be read as (and indeed was inspired by) thoughts of how religious doctrines can be manipulated into dictatorial regimes, it is equally a, by turns, cynical, darkly comic and compassionate tale of a modern man's (psychological) struggle with his inner self (no pun intended) and his feelings of love, betrayal and fatherly longing.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Mar. 2007
Format: Paperback
I suspect this is not a book for the masses.

As other reviewers have noted, the novel does have two strands narrated across alternating chapters - one set in the very recent past following Dave the Cabbie and one in the far future, where Dave the Cabbie's demented ramblings have sparked off a new world religion.

I suspect that if one had the patience, there is a work of genius bursting to get out. The references from the future turn up later in the text as deriving from the past. Read across is not always obvious, and one comes to accept eccentricities from the future before realising how far out of context they have become from references in the present.

The phonetically rendered vernacular is irritating, although I rather liked cloakyfings. But as with other texts written in vernacular, the use of it becomes both less frequent and less irritating as the novel progresses. And underneath it all is a brilliantly detailed vision of a future dystopian society.

The plots in the two stories are set out in non-linear style and each has a cast of similarly named characters, makign it quite difficult to follow. However, each plot is engaging in its own way. And whislt the Dave the Taximan story is the most gripping, the far future story is more poignant because of its finality. The Dave the Taximan story offers a rationale for the later events, but one knows, ultimately, where the story will end up. The downside of the interleaved narratives, of course, is that the penultimate chapter has to reach a crescendo, and then the last chapter has to work up to a second one when you really feel as though the story's finished.

The characters themselves are less well drawn in the future narrative than the complex characters of the recent past.
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