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pretentious rubbish or genius

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Aug 2012 00:19:26 BDT
ron yeats says:
The language of the reviewers - Ripple is taut, shrewd and clear, in the manner of George Orwell; L Monks' head is a junk shop of long words, which spews out phrases that sound like they must mean something but don't. What exactly is 'a fractured time digressive, symphonic epic' or a ' socio-hstoric corollary?' This is the linguistic equivalent of an exhibit consisting of a pile of bricks in an art gallery.

Ripple asks if Mr Self's book would have been published, let alone bought for a large amount of money, had it been submitted under the name Will Telf, and the answer is, Of course not. It would have been returned with a short letter, advising him to forget fiction. His novels continue to be published because publishing requires 'literary' stars, even if no one buys their books. I also doubt his stature as a journalist: he has never written or said anything original, but he is a master at saying not much in impenetrable language.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Sep 2012 14:39:40 BDT
Cliff Fiscal says:
An excellent analysis. Couldn't agree more. Thank you for saving me the effort of having to say it.

Posted on 14 Sep 2012 21:52:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Sep 2012 06:25:16 BDT
ArtsEater says:
Pretentious rubbish or genius? It's genius! I honestly think that 'Umbrella' will be one of only a handful of novels published in recent years that will be talked about and referred to as a shining light of early 21st century literature for years to come. It's that bl**dy good.

I don't pretend to have understood every single word of it, but the same can be said of my reading of 'Ulysses'. I found parts of it were impenetrable, but I didn't go out and attack it for being 'nonsense' or accuse Joyce of being 'up himself'. I just accepted that I lacked the skills and knowledge to fully appreciate his masterpiece. But the sections I did understand were as vivid and touching as the best Picassos - so a lot of Joyce's novel has consequently stayed with me for years. And the same can and will be said of 'Umbrella'. Large sections of it are so fantastic that I was left awestruck. Yet there are other parts I just failed to comprehend. But I just accepted that I was like a young child learning his/her first language: in a sentence of 5 words I might understand words 1, 2 and 4 and can therefore get at the overall meaning of what is being said. I can live with that. I didn't go out and attack Self for writing 'unreadable nonsense' and accuse him of being 'pretentious' as some Amazon 'reviewers' have done. They are behaving in a very similar way to Joyce's (many) critics when `Ulysses' was first published a few years after the Great War. For example, here's an excerpt of a review of 'Ulysses' from the New York Times (28 May, 1922):

"A few intuitive, sensitive visionaries may understand and comprehend 'Ulysses', James Joyce's new and mammoth volume, without going through a course of training or instruction, but the average intelligent reader will glean little or nothing from it - even from careful perusal, one might properly say study, of it - save bewilderment and a sense of disgust. It should be companioned with a key and a glossary like the Berlitz books. Then the attentive and diligent reader would eventually get some comprehension of Mr. Joyce's message."

Replace 'Joyce' with 'Self' and 'Ulysses' with 'Umbrella' and you have a lot of the negative reviews of Self's latest novel which populate Amazon.

Self has obviously hit a nerve and for that alone he wins my deep admiration. He's woken us all up out of the slumber we've been having from reading safe, conventional, linear (and often boringly predictable) narratives. Like Joyce, he is a genius. Pure and simple. And 'Umbrella' is his masterpiece. And just as `Ulysses' has well-and-truly survived the test of time so will 'Umbrella'.

Posted on 21 Sep 2012 21:34:01 BDT
Umbrella is a one-off masterpiece that, admittedly, requires a certain concentrated effort to get into. But to say the author has never said or written anything original is itself plain rubbish! Anyone who has heard Will Self speak on Question Time for instance, or read or heard his recent interviews with the Guardian, Channel 4 and RTE, would recognise him as an articulate, authentic voice attached to a strongly vocal social conscience and artistic sensibility. Umbrella is one of the most stimulating pieces of writing I have had the pleasure to read in a long time. Thank You.

Posted on 9 Oct 2012 09:08:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Oct 2012 09:08:54 BDT
People will not even be talking about Umbrella this time next year let alone in decades to come.

Ulysses is mentioned but who has actually sat down and read it to the end - not sure anyone has ever claimed to have got to the very end. If any have we are talking a very very small number.

Pretentious rubbish for me and not fit to lace the boots of the lies of Tolstoy, Zola, Orwell etc

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Oct 2012 13:42:14 BDT
It is not helpful to compare different genres which are to a large extent based on taste and personal sensitivities. I don't think there is any value in suggesting that an author in one genre is 'not fit to lace the boots of' those who write in other modes. Although the Booker is a competition of sorts, there is no justification for trying to pit Joyce (or Self) against Tolstoy etc when they are all writing in very different styles and in different times. A literary work stands or falls on the emotional impact it has on the reader - many readers would challenge the arrogant claims made here that no-one has ever finished Ulysses for instance - I know many people who have and lots of we mere mortals have at least read large enough sections of it to be tremendously moved by Joyce's insights into often harrowing human experiences. There is no room for this kind of prejudice in literary discussion. If you don't like it you are perfectly entitled to say so but to call someone's work rubbish is an unacceptable shame.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Oct 2012 16:46:23 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Oct 2012 16:47:27 BDT
ArtsEater says:
Couldn't agree more with you, Roberta. I also know plenty of people who've read 'Ulysses' - and many of them are mere mortals like me and not ivory tower academics. Yes, some hated it or didn't get it, but the ones who ended up loving it (like me) are the ones who got over trying to understand every single word/sentence Joyce wrote and instead relaxed into his sparkling prose; such is the brilliance of his prose that they were happy enough with the large chunks they 'got'. Like me, they came away with the firm belief that Leopold Bloom is one of the most beautifully drawn and well-rounded characters in fiction - ever.

I cannot believe somebody can label 'Ulysses' and/or 'Umbrella' "pretentious rubbish". It beggars belief.

Posted on 28 Oct 2012 04:22:51 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Oct 2012 04:37:04 GMT
My life is not about literature, I thought that Ulysses was filled with invented words if not just plain missprints. But I have pressed the button on the ECT machine, in the 60's and I can say that Will Self's description of this shuffle and redeal is documentary in it's accuracy. Shuffle and redeal the anaesthetists, always junior anaesthetists, called it. The lack of any other remotely helpful treatment and the despair felt by most people working with insane people is described exactly as it was. ECT sometimes did seem to work. I walked away from Psychiatry because of the despair. His description of Audrey, stuck by a tiny irregularity in the floor, is documentary. How does a writer know this? did he see an old film? He uses the language of the time - offensive by our standards and tells us the attitude of the character who is saying the word - offensive, neutral, what ever. I have never heard the word "enkie". It feels as if it was used, even if it is a writer's invention. Streams of consciousness are there - tightly controlled descriptions of characters states of mind. Why is Doll in a sentence about smoking? Because Busner is a doctor and Doll would be short hand in his mind and full of meaning. The form of the book is carefully planned, and not a free flowing stream. What a clever cliff- hanger as Audrey gets her LDopa, what a thrill from the golf of the omni-competent Albert. Novelist's tricks to hold the reader. I am held, and only two thirds through the book - sorry must go, have some reading to do.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Apr 2015 12:02:07 BDT
AMG says:
Sneering, contemptuous champagne socialist, more like.
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Discussion in:  Umbrella forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  9
Initial post:  20 Aug 2012
Latest post:  23 Apr 2015

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Umbrella by Will Self (Hardcover - 16 Aug. 2012)
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