Top positive review
31 of 35 people found this helpful
Funny, rude, disturbing, rude...and funny
on 31 August 2004
The book starts with the preparations for the central character, Simon Dyke's, latest exhibition. Dyke is a young London artist who lives in a world of rubbish drugs, socialising in shallow artistic circles, with life punctuated by meaningless and tawdry acts of copulation, the latter being described in really unpleasant and almost medically graphic language. We assume at the start of the book that we are dealing with a regular London, populated by human beings. After a night of low grade cocaine, slightly better Es and the inevitable unthinking intercourse, followed by lurid dreams where he and his girlfriend are chimps violently mating, Dykes awakes to find that he really is a chimp...and London is now populated with chimps. He is hospitalised at Charing Cross and his condition becomes the clinical case for the consultant in neurology and an eminant psycho-physiologist - both of course chimps. There Dykes mental breakdown and belief that he is human are investigated.
Once you get over the opening of the book - which will put you off enjoying sex for a goodish while - and move into the London of the chimps, the humour really kicks in. Really the joke is no deeper than a PG Tips commercial - the juxtaposition of putting chimpanzees in human clothing in a human world - but it is superbly realized. You'll come to love the terms 'pant-hoot', 'knuckle-walk' and 'go bipedal'. The way Self handles this anthropomorphising of chimps, and primatomorphising of humans, is just genius. The chimps are civilised in all ways, but their chimpness is retained and manifested is hilarious ways; sub-adults (teenage youths) are still sullen and insolent, the eminent professor will arrive home to his Group and discuss his day at the office whilst all around is vigorous inter-generational incestuous mating and casual displays of swollen anuses (perhaps the unpleasant human sexual behaviour at the start of the book was intended to contrast with the innocent and functional mating of the chimps, to show what dark shadows we humans throw on what is essentially the same act).
When Professor Busner visits Charing Cross to meet Dr Bowen to see the patient for the first time, there are primal displays of professional respect for the visiting clinician amongst the hospital staff, namely barking, horripilating and kicking of inanimate objects, immediately followed by regular discussion of the case...it's laugh-out-loud funny. When travelling by train, first class, Busner is infuriated by the use of mobile phones and so decides it's time for a 'display' as Alpha to get them to put the phones away.
The sub-plots are nicely developed and neatly resolved. This is my first Self book, but will definitely not be my last.