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The Butt [Hardcover]

Will Self
2.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 April 2008
Tom Brodzinski is a man who takes his own good intentions for granted. But when he finally decides to give up smoking, a moment's inattention to detail becomes his undoing. Flipping the butt of his final cigarette off the balcony of the holiday apartment he's renting with his family, Tom is appalled when it lands on the head of one his fellow countrymen, Reggie Lincoln. The elderly Lincoln is badly burnt, and since the cigarette butt passed through public space before hitting him, the local authorities are obliged to regard Tom's action as an assault, despite his benign intentions. Worse is to follow: Lincoln is married to a native from one of the rigorous, mystical tribes of the desert interior, and their customary law is incorporated into the civil statute. In order to make reparations to Mrs Lincoln's people, Tom will have to leave his family behind, and carry the appropriate goods and chattels deep into the arid heart of this strange, island continent. Any of this might be bearable, were it not for Tom's companion, forced on him by his enigmatic lawyer, the mixed-race Jethro Swai-Phillips. Brian Prentice, like Tom, has to make reparations and although there is a taboo that prevents either man from knowing the exact detail of the other's offence, Tom's almost 100% certain that he's a child-abuser. As they drive into the desert and encounter a violent counter-insurgency war that Tom has allowed himself to remain in ignorance of, the relationship between the two men becomes one of complicit guilt as well as seething mistrust. Refusing facile moral certitudes, Will Self's latest novel is set in a distorted world, in a country that is part Australia, part Iraq, part Greeneland and part the heart of a distinctively modern darkness.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition edition (7 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074759175X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747591757
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 771,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

PRAISE FOR 'THE BOOK OF DAVE' 'Extraordinary brilliant and engaging ... tender and strange' Philip Hensher, Spectator 'Dazzling and hilarious' Time Out 'His most imaginative, most dazzling and most moving book yet' Rick Moody, Esquire

Book Description

Will Self's uncomfortable and disturbing allegory of the liberal West in the post-9/11 era

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Irredeemable 5 Jun 2010
By Twig
Format:Paperback
I quite liked Self's earlier books. The Quantity Theory of Insanity was amusing, Great Apes was internally consistent. This book however places him in the camp with so many British authors who have a large vocabulary but nothing to say.

I'm unsure what I hated most about it - the ridiculous plot, the bizarre speech patterns of the protagonists, the unconvincing attempts to tie up the loose ends, or just the over-riding smugness of the authorial voice.

I was lured into buying the book by a 3 for 2 offer and the reviews on the paperback written by his media mates. It is not 'wonderfully ingenious' or 'raucously imaginative'. It is neither 'Swiftian' nor 'Kafkaesque'.

Satire, such as a Modest Proposal, works because we understand the mindset of those being lampooned. In contrast, the Butt comes over as the ramblings of a middle-Englander out of his depth in nasty old foreignland. It slots in with the tranche of recent films (Taken, Babel and Transsiberian)which, though they have their moments, labour under the sub-text that if you leave the comfort of your nice Western life, bad things will happen and you will have only yourself to blame. It reminded me of an extended Christmas round-robin diatribe - 'and you'll never guess what happened to us next...'

The butt that Tom Brodzinski flicked off his balcony was the last cigarette he ever smoked. The Butt will be the last Will Self book I shall ever read. I already feel healthier.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Abysmal 25 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback
There really nothing much to say other than the title. I was given this book as a gift and felt I owed it to the person giving me the book to read it in its entirety. I would have happily given up half way through for all of the reasons other people have given. There is no plot, the use of language does not make up, in any part, for all the other failings of the novel, and it really does fail in every other area. The overall impression of the book is that it is pointless, it doesn't say anything, the long rambling descriptions of the supposedly fictional cultures are simply boring with nothing of interest to note....avoid this book at all costs.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Painful 20 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback
It says on the cover that The Butt won an award for comedy writing. I can only assume it had zero competition that year. I couldn't even spot a single joke, no matter how objective I tried to be.

Aside from the absence of comedy, I found this novel very frustrating and painful to read. The protagonist was unlikeable and garnered no empathy from me, and the rest of the characters were monochromatically horrible. The setting was imaginative but not successfully interesting, and each new plot point (of which there were very, very few) brought with it a fresh wave of irritation and disbelief. This last point, however, is something I'm sure Will Self intended, been as though he's clearly trying to emulate some of Kafka's writing. All I can say to this is: Kafka's stories are generally intriguing and compelling, whereas Self's are boring, unconvincing and, as I've said, just plain irritating.

Self's style can basically be boiled down to: I have a thesaurus and know how to use it. His plot can also be boiled down to: I have a thesauras and want an tenuous excuse to use it. The middle 100 pages of this novel could have been scrapped. They say nothing that drives the story forwards or engages the reader (at least this reader), in any shape, way or form.

I can't see how this novel got published on its own merits. It just seemed to be a self-indulgent thing, written with no care or consideration for an actual audience. I've not read any of Self's other books, but based on this I would go so far as to say that he doesn't even seem to understand the basics of writing a novel. He can spin a sentence (something he's more that a little aware of, I'm afraid), but that's where his ability ends. The message the novel carries might have been profound and intelligent if it wasn't losts amongst the utter tripe that made up the other 99% of this book.

I would only recommend buying this book if you're looking for one to tear to a thousand pieces.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Absurd 20 May 2008
Format:Hardcover
The language of this novel is richly textured and full of masterful metaphor. One example of many is: "Adams chose his words as fastidiously as a spinster selecting Scrabble tiles". Enjoyment of the masterful use of language was where the pleasure of this book ended for me, however. This is the kind of book that I think readers will either love or hate. The enigmatic and intriguing opening, where we are introduced to the bizarre culture of the country where the novel is set, sees the central character facing criminal charges for thoughtlessly flicking his cigarette butt onto an old man's head. For me, the book became less and less intriguing as absurdity was piled onto absurdity as the plot continued. One bizarre example is the towns in the desert where insurance policies are sold to multiple parties with conditions that the last of the policyholders to die collects the entire payout. Rampant killing ensues but the practice continues as it is supposedly beneficial to the economy.

The novel is largely allegorical in nature, but allegory is powerful when it is subtle. There is nothing subtle about demonstrating the arbitrary nature of culture by having natives in the desert wearing Austrian national costume to serve a psychologically disturbed anthropologist who has saved their tribe by inventing a culture for them when they had none. I can see how the imaginative nature of this story might appeal to some, but others will find the absurdity to be a bit too much.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard to believe this ever got published
I thought 'Umbrella' was the worst Will Self book I'd ever read and then 'My Idea of Fun' until I bought this in Kindle form. Read more
Published 1 month ago by fergal moran
2.0 out of 5 stars He must really be obnoxious!
Trying to be a mixture of JG Ballard and Jonathan Swift this book is really quite unpleasant. It is the way in which it is knowingly unpleasant which is particularly off-putting so... Read more
Published 20 months ago by J. Sweetman
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull
This is a ridiculously dull and boring book. The first 30 pages or so were great, but once the cigarette butt was flicked the book almost put me into a coma.
Published 22 months ago by DanielDaniel
3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Quite Make It
A clever book, which loses its way, and becomes tedious.

I wasn't sure whether the end made me sad or indifferent, but the ideas and language of this book are certainly... Read more
Published on 3 July 2011 by Troy Beal
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear, oh dear
The Butt's entire narrative lacks cogency and comprehensibility. By the end of this novel, I was exhausted and I felt as if I had been robbed of hours of my valuable time. Read more
Published on 10 April 2010 by L. Cameron
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing to say the least
What a piece of indulgence. Self has obviously run out of steam - I used to be such a fan but this? Read more
Published on 28 Jan 2010 by T. J. Buchan
2.0 out of 5 stars Quite disappointed
The Book Of Dave easily floats in my top ten. Liver and the good Doctor show a fascinating author but this lastest offering was vergeing on poor. Read more
Published on 20 Dec 2009 by Warwick Holt
3.0 out of 5 stars BAFFLEMENT
-I got the impression that WS simply couldn't get Tom Brodzinski out of the mess he'd got him into. Read more
Published on 10 Sep 2009 by E. M. Watt
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was looking forward to this book after really enjoying the Book of Dave and Great Apes. I have to say I was very disappointed. Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2009 by A Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Post Iraq multi-cultarism
Most books by Will Self start to unravel about 3/4 of the way in, as the brilliantly original premises can no longer sustain the narrative and all the jokes have been used up. Read more
Published on 5 Aug 2009 by Keith D. Brown
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