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Journey into madness
on 22 March 2010
Ian Wharton is delusional. He believes he has extraordinary powers, and that a character from his childhood, The Fat Controller, has taken over his mind. Wharton aspires to nothing more than to lead a normal life, emotionally and sexually. The Fat Controller wants him to commit the most gruesome crimes. Indeed, he expects Wharton to murder his own pregnant wife. It can all be explained. Wharton's nemesis might be no more than an old family relation, an eccentric now safely packed away in a retirement home. But since the story is told from Wharton's point of view - and to make things worse, not always in the first person - there is no telling where reason merges into madness.
Will Self's portrayal of insanity is overwhelming. His style of writing is explosive. But the reader might as well be warned about a few things. First, madness is more boring than it sounds. Obsession is by definition repetitive, and My Idea Of Fun is too long in parts. Second, Will Self is either less good at, or not interested in, doing normality. Example, from an office scene: 'There are no such things as strangers, only prospects we haven't converted, yet.' Business people don't talk like that, not informally. And does everyone have to be a sexually tormented freak? Perhaps the point is that there is no such thing as normality, that we are all insane to a degree. If so, it is made neither subtly nor convincingly. Third, the novel's ending is predictably cryptic, with at least three plausible interpretations. There is a point to this, of course, but some readers do like to have closure. This book is only fun if you're prepared to go a little cuckoo over it.