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Liver: And Other Stories Paperback – 4 Jun 2009

3.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (4 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140290575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140290578
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Peculiar, subtle, affecting and humane... It is a vertiginous, swooping vision that can lay London out like a body... It is all tremendous fun, and sometimes much more than that. Self has always had a blunt brilliance... These stories are busy with stylistic experiment, high-concept in-jokes, verbal impasto and flights of fancy which test the limits of narrative' - Justine Jordan, Guardian 'These tales are highly chthonic' - Nicholas Blincoe, Daily Telegraph 'This is what Self does best: snap-shots of decline and high-concept satires of the 'slapstick of addiction" - Ed King, Daily Telegraph 'Will Self is rightly admired for the sheer energy of his writing, his pyrotechnic wit and wordplay, and his willingness to experiment with genre and narrative... He is undoubtedly one of contemporary literature's showmen' - Peter Parker, Sunday Times 'All of Self's hallmarks are in place here: a prose style that scuds from the slangy to the hypertrophic and back; a keen sense of place; a sharp satirist's eye coldly cast on fashionable London; and a fondness for what might be called the High Concept' - Keith Miller, Times Literary Supplement '...satire so vicious it makes Charlie Brooker look restrained' - John O'Connell, Time Out '...no one can revel in the disease and decay of humanity like Will Self' - Ben East, Metro "Leberknodel" is the best fictional writing on Zurich since Kim Stanley Robinson's story named after the city' - Nicholas Royle, Independent 'As the literary equivalent of Francis Bacon, Will Self continually challenges readers with biological overload... Stepping into Self's world is like opening one of the Wellcome Institute's cabinets of medical curiosities... What counts most throughout is Self's enthralling, muscular and sometimes even joyous use of language. His writing propels one of the greatest arguments for freedom of speech that I can think of; you may not like his subject matter but his obsidian brilliance is incontrovertible, shocking and humane' - Christopher Fowler, Independent

Review

Classic Self...This is what Self does best: snap-shots of decline and high-concept satires of the 'slapstick of addiction'. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've never been a huge fan of short stories, certainly not collections of them. Will Self is, however, an exception to this. The complexity of his prose and his verbal gymnastics have always been easier to consume in smaller chunks, often feeling oppressive over the length of a novel.

"Liver", subtitled 'a fictional organ with a surface anatomy of four lobes' comprises 4 short stories, loosely held together by the idea of the organ and what it means to us as humans. Of course, this being Will Self, this has a lot to do with spiralling addiction, the abasement of the soul and the dirty underbelly of London.

The first story, "Foie Humain", concerns itself with the revolting, alcoholic inhabitants of the Plantation Club, a private members club in Soho of the eighties. They bicker, abuse each other, abuse new comers and gradually drink themselves to death. This is what Will Self does best- the characters are as close to parody as you can get without becoming farce, but they are a gleefully drawn bunch of grotesques. The story is worth reading for their names alone, 'Her Ladyship', 'The Extra', 'His Nibs' and 'The Martian' and it is laugh out loud funny in parts.

The second, "Leberknodel", is a surprisingly sensitive and thoughtful piece about a terminally ill cancer patient on her way to Switzerland to commit assisted suicide. I had the pleasure of hearing Will Self read an extract from this at a literary festival, so when reading it I could hear every word in his rich and distinctive voice.

The third is a straight retelling of the "Prometheus" myth set in the world of advertising, which is effective, if a little obvious.
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Format: Hardcover
4 stories all on a liverish theme in this collection. Will Self has for a while now served up stories that portray our consciousness as a ragged, fleeting entity. Human beings, especially those living in urban connurbations are merely bags of desires, needing instant gratification. Qualities such as beauty, care, love, commitment and meaning has exited stage left long ago.

3 of the stories focus on the familiar Selfland of media London. 'Foie Humain' is set in the Plantation Club (a roman a clef on the notorious Colony room, now shut down) whose denizens perpetuate a filthy gavage like the geese farmers of the Dordogne on their hapless barman.

Prometheus is a modern retelling of the Prometheus myth set in the glib, drug fuelled London advertising scene. Prometheus is a wildly successful copywriter, who can breathe fire into the most sodden of products, but he is chained to the porcelain rock of his toilet while a vulture feeds on his liver every day, followed by regeneration. A nice trope to define much of modern London media life.

Drugs feature in the final story, Birdy Num Num, told from the viewpoint of the hepatitis C virus, another interesting exercise in Self probing new fictional angles but the result is like some of his earlier fictional ideas from his drug phase - an interesting conceit that is underworked in the execution.

Leberknodel (Liver Dumplings) is a novella length story that leaves London and instead treads the less worn fictional terrain of Zurich. Joyce is a retired hospital administrator with cancer who travels to Switzerland with her daughter. Regretting her lack of appreciation of the small trivial things in life, she turns down the lethal dose, and miraculously finds that her cancer has gone into submission.
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Format: Hardcover
An excellent collection (one novella, three short stories) from Self. Felt to me like a return to some of his earlier work - which is no bad thing. Great cover too. Highly recommended whether you're an established fan or a newcomer.
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Format: Hardcover
Having looked forward to, and having ploughed through, Liver this week, I have to say I found it to be a real disappointment. Upon reflection, the fact that when I first laid eyes on it I thought it to be one of the most pleasing, beautifully designed books I'd seen in a long time should have peeked my caution: for, true to the cliche, it's gorgeous exterior masked, for me, a hollow internal organ.

Even more bitter than usual (yes, it was evidently possible) Self's latest collection is a fierce exercise in abjection, riffing off references left, right and centre; but one that runs amok only to do itself harm, as each story whittles itself down to an all too familiar core of nothingness. Yes, Self's bottomless intellect is on fine form, matched depth for depth by his deep, dark humour, but Liver rings hollow to me; all style over content, pomp but little circumstance, once the chiming riffs have echoed past.

The first of Liver's quartet, Foie Humaine, lays out some truly killer lines, and it's thinly veiled pastiche of Francis Bacon's Colony Rooms reminded me at times of Dorian; but never really becomes a genuine story, pulling itself up too sharp on a device that felt tacked on and clumsy.

At the other end of the collection, Birdy Num Num - a drug tale to match Foie Humaine's alcoholic gloom - has its moments, but, again, struggles, becoming too crowded out by its own ideas, and ends up quite trying.

Credit where it's due, Birdy is a brilliant distillation of drug mania, with, as ever, some truly gorgeous lines, but its another tale that feels far too indulgent; an exercise that, for want of some decent editing, ends up serving only itself.
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