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3.2 out of 5 stars
3.2 out of 5 stars
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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.
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on 6 March 2015
Dazzling prose: a panoply of erudite and exotic words that get the reader scurrying for the dictionary in search of new stimuli - eidectic, anyone? Engaging and witty, Self manages to entertain and string a clever plot at the same time. Bravo.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 August 2011
How I hated this, from the beginning to the end, I hated and disdained it. I forced myself to read it, because I had promised a friend who had called it anti-literature and I wanted to understand where he was coming from. It is degrading and horrible, featuring a man in the grip of insanity. Was The Fat Controller (a figure who follows him from childhood in various guises and `teaches' him how to encompass wickedness and obscenity), a manifestation of his insanity? It is notable that we only begin to know Ian as Ian when he starts seeing the psychiatrist, Gyggle.

Having a limitless vocabulary never served a writer worse. I don't want to give the idea that reading this bilge would be of benefit to anyone. I've read some shocking and desperately nasty books in my time, but this one caps the lot. Descriptions of dog torture, random murder and necrophilia. There is no defence for a book which makes you want to throw up. Okay, I understand, writing about something is not the same as doing it, but writing in order to disgust and alienate? What's the point? And this from a TV pundit and critical commentator?
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on 4 February 2013
I have a lot of respect for Will Self and his views on TV shows such as Question Time (he's also a Professor of modern culture or something)...and I wanted to delve into a bit of not so run-of-the-mill fiction, so thought one of his novels would be perfect. I gave it a shot, I'm not too squeamish (or so I thought. I did enjoy reading Trainspotting for example), but I just didn't manage past the first few chapters.

Consider me shocked - it may be good literature, so I'm sorry I didn't manage it, but the level of sexual violence,depravity, and quite confusing narrative meant I chucked it out (in the bin, not the charity shop lest some old dear comes across it!) sorry!
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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.
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on 18 July 2004
Will Self's debut novel is a strange and phantasmagorical tale from the perspective of a man with an eidetic memory, whose very will and imagination can shape and bend the world, whose 'idea of fun' is to inflict physical and sexual violence on other human beings. Growing up under the guidance of the mysterious 'Fat Controller', Ian, the central character, leads a disturbed (and disturbing) life which stumbles towards self-knowledge. 'My Idea of Fun' is dense with ideas, which are explored with Self's typical wit, irony and incision, and is particularly impressive as a debut. There are those who will dislike the frank and graphic way Self deals with sex and violence, themes that recur in most of his work, and those who will be disappointed by the almost unfinished nature of his plotting, which at times is very bizarre and often quite disturbing. Self unabashedly sets out to shock placid, middle-class sensibilities and 'My Idea' certainly does that. If you can set the shock value aside, there are insights aplenty to be had into the human condition and the nature of our destructive urges (which, apparently only our placid sensibilities hold in check). 'My Idea' will challenge even the most open-minded reader in a variety of ways, and so fulfils one of the basic purposes of art - but whilst it is an easy book to appreciate, it is a difficult book to enjoy.
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I tried very hard to wade through this miasmic novel but failed after reaching 50% of the way through this cataclysmically boring book which does its best to use words found only in the more encyclopaedic dictionaries
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on 15 November 2013
I count myself a fan of Will Self, but this was just too much for me. I actually disliked reading it, to the extent that I couldn't really think about the issues it raised. It's basically describing madness from the inside, and does the job so well that the reader is completely disoriented and left with no point of reference. However I could only feel revulsion for the main character, so it didn't give me any insight into the issues it explored.
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on 12 July 2013
Seems like the majority do not like this book and I am one with them.If I could give it no stars I would.I have read everything from classics to horror and if it is well written cam enjoy .To say it is demanding is vast understatement.I quit very early and am glad I did so.
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on 16 November 2014
What a strange book. I tried reading it once and felt I was getting lost by the second half. Second time round... I felt for the Ian Wharton character throughout the first half and was totally engrossed in the story, but by about two thirds of the way through I'm struggling again...although did indeed finish the book this time. Ian's alter-ego (for that is how I interpret the character) is the Fat Controller, a character who has no sense of morality and acts out his every violent perverted whim of his (or Ian's). It's no surprise to me a lot of reviews say this book is too distasteful...it is undoubtedly distasteful in spades, although I think if we see it as all being in Ian's head it seems less so somehow.

By the second half, Ian is taken in by Dr Gyggle I am finding the characters difficult to keep up with -especially as we are introduced to several mentally unstable drug addicts whose own speech is understandably rambling, sometimes nonsensical. I'd would have rather focused on Ian and the sinister Fat Controller more.

All this having been said, the first attempt at this book stayed with me, and indeed kept calling me back. I glad I read the whole book, and indeed may read it again in the future. I will definitely be reading other Will Self as there just isn't anything else like it.
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