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I'm not sure if this is...
on 17 July 2011
Even the more negative reviews on here seem to be gushing with praise for Self's writing style, but in all honesty, I didn't see it particularly manifest in this book. True, the sheer volume of interesting vocabulary thrown at the reader is in a sense rewarding, but robbed of its magniloquence, the novel is structurally and stylistically fairly pedestrian, especially compared to Self's other writing. All too often, the voice we hear is not so much that of a taboo-defying prodigy, but of a self-consciously intellectual enfant terrible, with philosophers clumsily barging their way through the prose like wrecking balls, and some episodes (such as the infamous dog-mutilation scene) present seemingly in the service of naked provocation.
Of course, 'My Idea Of Fun' has its moments. Mr Broadhurst/The Fat Controller/Samuel Northcliffe is a gruesomely compelling character, something like the devil as imagined by David Lynch, and his relationship with our narrator Ian is a gloriously warped take on master-student dynamics and the trope of the superhero learning to utilise his powers. The first half of the book then, is genuinely enjoyable. Unfortunately, by the second act the abundant mean-spiritedness shows no signs of abating and the novel descends into an uncomfortable blend of sneering misanthropy and nightmarish surrealism, with any philosophical or social point being mired beneath the stifling cynicism of it all (In the end, Self's shocking revelation seems to be that the excessive materialism in modern society robs us of empathy <gasp!>). An impressive, and occasionally very funny exercise in style and taste it may be, but the novel is so detached from any sense of humanity that the reader cannot help but be left with a distinctly unpleasant aftertaste. I'd recommend 'The Book of Dave' instead, which manages to be funnier, cleverer and scarier, and much more more human than this well-written but unsettling little curiosity.