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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys
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on 7 November 2000
This was my first foray into Self's fictional work after previously reading his newspaper columns. The stories in this collection span quite a diverse range of subjects (insect/human equality, strange words from the mouths of babes, the drug find of all our dreams). That said, there is a recurrent theme of cars and their symbolic nature, as in the title piece and the story entitled "Design Faults in the Volvo 760". The descriptive prose in these and the concept of "man-machine symbiosis" are reminiscent of, and may even be a nod in the direction of, JG Ballard's "Crash". All in all, rather a curate's egg.
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on 13 December 1998
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. And succeeding chronologically "Design Faults in the Volvo 760" also involves the strange psychological role of a man's car.
But in my opinion altogether more interesting than these is the closing tale of the collection, "The Nonce Prize". A sequel to The Rock of Crack as Big as the Ritz", the story of two London crack dealers, "The Nonce Prize" tells the tale of one of these men, who is wrongly convicted of convicted of child rape and murder, and of the subsequent realisation of his previously un-tapped literary abilities. While in prison, inspired and encouraged by his writing teacher, he reaches the runner-up stages of a prison writing prize with a short story about, ironically, two London crack dealers. There appears to be the possibility that Self is here writing about himself; the story of the crack dealers, the only un-pretentious and honest story of the competition, loses the prize to a pornographic work of a paedophile, due to the mistaken belief of the judge that that this work showed great powers of empathy, when in reality it was merely a representation of it's author's foul and depraved mind. The junkie's story loses through being faithful to his inspirational teacher in writing about what he knows, and through phonetic transcription of non-standard English; essentially through his honesty.
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on 20 October 2001
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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on 24 September 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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on 9 November 1999
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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on 28 February 2016
Brilliant as always!
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on 28 June 2006
A wonderful journey into the dark, ironic and downright bizarre depths of society as it appears in the mind of the ingenious Will Self.
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on 27 May 2000
This short story book is very varied from drug-dealing to silent babies back to drug-dealing and then to jail. Every story is wity with a normally funny strange ending, but all in all this book is good old entertaiment. A good holiday book!
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