MY IDEA OF FUN by Will Self


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 The first novel from Self (the novella, Cock and Bull, 1993), a British writer of considerable ingenuity and perversity. A dinner-party question (``What's your idea of fun?'') and Ian Wharton's shocking mental response occasion the memoir of a deranged (or perhaps superhuman) man in the moments before he aborts his wife's baby. Wharton grows up in the Sussex town of Saltdean with an overprotective, social-climbing mother and the specter of an absent, bad-penny father. He discovers that he has an eidetic memory: His brain involuntarily freezes images for permanent retention, and he can ``enter'' the frozen images--a bit like a virtual-reality experience. A stout, imposing older man named Broadhurst, who likes to be called The Fat Controller and is also eidetic, adopts Ian as a pupil and eventually becomes an oppressive Svengali. Strange, psychedelic set pieces accumulate, culminating in Ian's recognition that The Fat Controller is godlike. After some icily perverse, mind-bending episodes (readers will remember an eidetic scene during sex involving Ian's first love and the boorish interruption of The Fat Controller), the novel abandons the tension of its effectively freaky narrative and becomes a fancy-pants writing exercise in sick fantasia. The grotesque sequences are cool, but strangely imitative of William S. Burroughs's iconography: junkies, cartoon sex and violence, evil doctors, capacious realms of the subconscious. In the second half, Ian gets an education and goes to work for a successful marketing agency, during which time he is routinely analyzed by another controlling force: a junkie-ward psychiatrist named Hieronymus Gyggle. With some slapdash juxtapositions of drug-addict mentality and business-marketing philosophy, the novel concludes, likely leaving readers with an expanded vocabulary (``ataraxy,'' ``saccade,'' ``intercrural,'' ``strabismus'') but also grasping for meaning.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-87113-565-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994


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