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Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys [Paperback]

Will Self
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Jun 2001

Will Self's third collection of short stories takes his readers straight into the distorting hall-of-mirrors that is his fictional world. In one story a Londoner finds his house underpinned by an enormous rock of crack cocaine; in another, a misanthrope learns that flies have feelings.

"It delivers what its title promises ... This guy is a massive talent." Steve Grant, Time Out

"A superb new slice of contemporary Gothic." Independent on Sunday

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (28 Jun 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140268642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140268645
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 828,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Will Self's tabloid-friendly reputation as a connoisseur of proscribed substances should not obscure the fact that he can write many of his contemporaries under the table. Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, is filled with typically Selfish confections: gritty chunks of reality wrapped in a sweet shell of exquisitely funny and intelligent writing. Admittedly, some of the stories here feel a little underdeveloped, as if the author were flexing his literary muscles and showing how easily he can make highbrow style dirty-dance with his lowbrow obsessions, but even the least of them is a bravura performance by an expert wordsmith. Self's obvious pleasure in bringing his extraordinary talents to bear on the seamiest of subjects is irresistible: the description of a crack cocaine rush that closes the first story, for example, is quite possibly more intoxicating than the drug itself.

But the greater part of the book complements that dazzling style with deeper pleasures. As he ranges from the hilarious tale of a remarkable infant who babbles in business German ("Bemess-bemess-bemessungsgrundlage!") to a troubled psychiatrist's journey toward the abyss, Self shows an uncanny knack for mixing realism and absurdity. The closing piece, a short novella about a wrongly convicted sex offender's attempt to win a short-story prize, is the most assured of all. In this author's hands, the barely articulate conversations of career criminals are transformed into poetry, and the struggles of the central character are both moving and wickedly funny:

In prison, in the English winter, the word crepuscular acquires new resonance, new intensity. For here and now is an eternity of forty-watt bulbs, an Empty Quarter of linoleum and a lost world of distempered walls. It's an environment of corridors and walkways, a space that taunts with the idea of progression towards arrival; then delivers only a TV room full of modular plastic chairs and Styrofoam beakers napalmed by fag ends.

In Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys Will Self shows once again that he's someone to be reckoned with. The kind of writer a society needs, he uses his wit as a crowbar to pry open the cracks in our culture. --Simon Leake

About the Author

Will Self read philosophy at Oxford. He is the author of three other collections of short stories, three novellas, four novels (most recently Dorian) and four non-fiction works. As a journalist he has contributed to a plethora of publications over the years. He has a regular column in the Evening Standard and is also a frequent broadcaster on television and radio. Will lives in London with his wife and four children.

'Brilliantly original, Will Self is one of those rare writers whose imaginations change for ever the way we see the world' JG Ballard

‘Examining Mr Self’s case notes, I recommend we up the dosage’ Herald

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 20 Oct 2001
By A Customer
Will Self returns with another dazzling array of stories. He plays on the Swiftian ideas he explored in 'Great Apes', particularly in 'Caring, Sharing', a bizarre and brilliant story about humans being cared for by genetically engineered giants. His writing style is clever, ironic, savage and very amusing. I was entertained and enthralled throughout, though I agree that some of the stories are a lot more accomplished than others. The last one 'The Nonce Prize' was rather a let-down but overall the standard was very high.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasingly clever and contemporary 9 Nov 1999
By A Customer
This is the first of Will Self's books that I have read, his style is sharp, witty and disturbing and the variety of stories on offer in 'Tough. . .etc.' show off the author's considerable range. Yet there is nothing here to really raise the standard, the stories are well turned and polished but there is just something that keeps the stories from really taking flight. The plots seem like throwaway versions of Rohald Dahl, or Franz Kafka, or William Burroughs. Great entertainment, but nothing more.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
For regular readers of Self I don't think there are many surprises to be found in this collection. We find here the usual London-centric black satires, the drugs, the affairs, the shrinks and the insane, and I didn't find on reading it that I could easily place this as the last in a progression of his novels/stories over the last seven years. One could almost call it an in-between book, where Self lets out his best previous stories as yet not included in a collection, along with his recent works, before moving on to his Magnum Opus, but who can tell. There's certainly an element of introspection in the closing short story (dare I say Self-analysis).
"Flytopia", in which Jonathan Priestley, an indexer, finds his cottage overrun with insects who eventually influence him in a most disturbing way, sees a return to the mind-games and macabre of "My Idea of Fun", and in "Caring, Sharing", the most light-hearted and probably the funniest of the collection, rivalled perhaps by "A Story For Europe", Self creates one of his "Great Apes"-esque worlds of humans reduced to their animal nature, but at the same time under the parenting of social etiquette and frigidity. The darkest and most disturbing story in the collection, "Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys"(a reference to the Tonka toys slogan), involves the self-realisation and eventual suicide of a psychoanalyst-turned-psychiatrist. He becomes, in a sense, one with his turbo-charged three litre saloon, before having his truth painfully revealed to him inadvertently by a hitch-hiker, whereupon the machine takes him to his end.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph of Self 24 Sep 2000
There are two distinctive characteristics that make Will Self's writing what it is : his idiosyncratic prose and his outlandish concepts. The language Self uses can be off-putting. The prose is deliberately dense in places, almost as if it is put up as a challenge - Self has publicly derided lazy readers. But his verbosity cannot be dismissed as simple posturing - it is an intrinsic part of his style. The turns of phrase and intricate metaphors he uses in Tough, Tough Toys .. are frequently delightful. In terms of Self's bizarre, surreal concepts, the short story collection allows him to showcase more, if not taking them fully to conclusion. 'Dave Too' and 'A Story For Europe' are possibly the weak links here, with entertaining touches but a sense of incompleteness. The other stories are more forceful. The linked opening and closing stories, 'The Lump of Crack as Big as the Ritz' and 'The Nonce Prize', work strong characters and narrative around the idea of a mythical-sized lump of crack cocaine, while the title story is an intense and desperate tale of macho obsession. For me, it is 'Caring, Sharing' that provides the ultimate example of the vicious satire that gives Self his bite. By their nature, short story collections are often less satisfying than novels, but by the sheer imagination that Self possessess, Tough, Tough Toys.. does not disappoint.
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