Tag Archives: Will Self

The Man Booker Shortlist 2012…

At some point today (apparently within the next hour or so) the judges of this year’s Man Booker Prize will announce their shortlist. Each and every year, which is swiftly becoming a tradition as this blog has a big birthday this week, I like to guess the long list and then the winner of the Man Booker (and indeed the Orange Prize) even if I haven’t read all of the contenders, which we never know pre-long listing, it just seems to be part of the fun of it all and getting more discussions about books going on here, there and everywhere.

Anyway I say which ones I would like to see go through and which ones I think actually will (because I can almost guarantee my choices won’t be the panels) lets remind ourselves of the long listed novels. I have put the ones I have read, or tried to, in italics. There is a link to the only one I have reviewed so far (as I am being sparing with reviews at the mo) or DNF next to them when I couldn’t finish them, in the case of ‘Communion Town’ haven’t finished yet (HFY) as I am currently reading it in chunks a chapter here and there which is working better than a straight read was. So here is the list…

The Man Booker contenders I’ve had a crack at…

The Yips – Nicola Barker (Fourth Estate)
The Teleportation Accident – Ned Beauman (Sceptre) DNF
Philida – Andre Brink (Harvill Secker)
The Garden of Evening Mists – Tan Twan Eng (Myrmidon Books)
Skios – Michael Frayn (Faber)
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce (Doubleday)
Swimming Home – Deborah Levy (And Other Stories)
Bringing Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate)
The Lighthouse – Alison Moore (Salt)
Umbrella – Will Self (Bloomsbury) DNF
Narcopolis – Jeet Thayil (Faber)
Communion Town – Sam Thompson (Fourth Estate) HFY

Overall from what I have managed to read it has been a really interesting list this year and one where three books in particular have stuck out for me. Those are Levy, Barker and Mantel. I would be thrilled to see them in the shortlist and currently I can’t call if I would like Barker or Levy to win the most, Mantel has already won recently so I am sure she wouldn’t mind me thinking this. Joyce’s novel, which initially seems the most commercial of the longlist (along with ‘Skios’ which I liked but wouldn’t short list) is a book which has stuck with me since I have read it and one I keep thinking about, so that is on my list. Oddly, though I didn’t finish it I want Will Self on the longlist too. You see I didn’t dislike the book at all, and I know Will Self takes work to read which is fine by me, it is just a book I needed a lot more time for and one I didn’t want to gulp down and resent because I wasn’t putting enough work in, so that makes my list. Finally, because I can’t suggest a novel that I haven’t read (though I really fancy reading ‘Philida’ when I go back to normal reading in a month or two) I am going to have Thompson as my last choice, though in a way I think its interweaving short stories more than a novel (controversial and why it might not go further), because I am enjoying it, I am admiring the prose and construction of the book and think it’s a book you could return to. So my short list would look like this…

My Man Booker Shortlist

What do I think will actually make the shortlist. Well my hunch is… Barker, Beauman, Brink, Levy, Mantel and Thayil. We will see though. What do you think? Which have you read and what were your thoughts? I will post the proper short list later when it has been announced.

Oh and don’t forget the wonderful new ‘unofficial’ Booker Forum that Trevor from Mookse and Gripes has set up which you can find here. Come and have a natter there too with everyone.

Update: The shortlisted authors are… Tan Twan Eng, Deborah Levy, Hilary Mantel, Alison Moore, Will Self and Jeet Thayil.

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Books for Book Groups…

After my previous post on a few things Book Group orientated and The Riverside Readers I said that I would come back with a post on my personal top Book Group reads as well as discussing my top Book Group tips. Those two things would actually make a bit of a Bible of a post and so I will do the top books today and a few tips and my own experiences for and of Book Groups on Thursday, so hopefully you are all still interested in all things Book Group related. Could I fit the words Book Groups in these previous sentences if I tried?

After seeing Novel Insights wonderful post on her personal top twelve books a group could read in a year I thought I would have a go. This isn’t plagiarism it’s simply joining in, ha. Having been in a few book groups (in fact I am currently in two though one is rather rogue and we only do one every so often when the whim takes us) I realised that I had a list of 38 books that I could choose from. Some of the books haven’t worked (Tales of the Jazz Age – we all had different editions which all featured a different selection of short stories), some have received indifference, some have been disliked and some have been loved, more on those in my list.

Though I haven’t featured the books that were indifferent or went wrong I have included one book which I didn’t care for but caused great discussion and that’s one thing I have noticed from book groups, I might not always like a book but that in itself when lots of people do can make for a great book group read as it causes debate. So what five things do I do in order to make a book group choice now, I may not have always done this in the past mind;

  1. Books you wouldn’t normally read – one of the main points of a book group in my mind – but which are accessible, you don’t want to alienate your other group members.
  2. Books which have been received with strong reviews/thoughts both positive and negative way when they came out, this could cause great debate.
  3. Books that make you think and cause all sorts of discussions with yourself in your own head though you can’t always predict these in advance.
  4. Authors you love and admire who other people might not have tried, though don’t be precious on these as they could get ripped to shreds.
  5. Books that challenge and push you as a reader, if they are going to do this to you they probably will be to others.

Looking back at all the book groups I have been part of in the past which book would I recommend the most? Well after some whittling of the 38 I have read with book groups I came up with the final twelve (like Novel Insights I have chosen a years worth) that I think have caused the greatest discussion in no particular order.

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
  • The Bell – Iris Murdoch
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan (close tie with Atonement to be honest)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • Animal’s People – Indra Sinha
  • Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (the one I didn’t like – discussion was great)
  • The Book of Dave – Will Self
  • Kafka on the Shore – Hariku Murakami

So there it is. You can see the full list of all 38 books now on the “new and improved” Book Group page where you can also see what the next book group read is. You may be wondering why some of the above list are in bold. Well my Gran wants a list of five books, as I mentioned on a previous post, she could put forward for her book group. I am actually going to send her a list of new books she and her group are less likely to have read along with the five above in bold. More book group musings on Thursday when I will be discussing Book Group decorum and what made me sensationally (love the drama of that word) leave a book group I started after two years! Let me know what you think of the final twelve too can you spot any themes in them? Also please do tell me of any great books you have done in a book group in the past.

P.S Sorry no picture on today’s post I am not a big fan of posts with no images, if it drives me to crazy will be the shot of The Riverside Readers again!

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My First Publishers Parcel of the Year

When I came back from my trip yesterday I got very excited as I received a parcel with Vintage stamped all over it. Now it shows how tired I must have been that I didn’t tear it open instantly. However I decide it would be much nicer to open today and also had done my daily blog and wouldn’t have one to write today and I have promised to write daily from now on. I opened it a while ago and look at what I had been sent.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
This bodes well for my reading of classics this year. I have never read any Oscar Wilde, though I did read Will Self’s version ‘Dorian’ a few years ago, so to finally have this to add on to my TBR was a real joy. I have heard this is a really dark tale and I know that the movie is coming out in November this year so must read it before then. Also isn’t the cover absolutely gorgeous, very decadent and Victorian, love it.

In Search of the Missing Eyelash – Karen McLeod
I saw Karen read Julia Darling’s ‘Crocodile Soup’ at the Lavender Library which took place at the Southbank last year and thought she was absolutely fabulous. She is also doing a reading at Polari this month so I am thrilled that this has arrived. It sounds like it is going to be hilarious, a tale of obsession and stalking. I have decided that as I am at the end of Part One of Anna Karenina I shall read this before I start Part Two to give me a little break. I might do that after every part actually as I have never managed to read more than one fiction book at a time so it might give it a try and see how it goes.

Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates
This has only come to my attention in probably the last three or four months as all the book shops are really pushing his whole set of works. Obviously the film is coming out in the next few months which leads me to my only small gripe… they sent me the film tie-in copy and not the delicious Vintage edition. However as film covers go this isn’t a bad one at all. The story of a married couple in suburban America who aspire for greatness and in trying to achieve it obliterate everything, sounds unusual, have seen lots of people on the tube with this.

A great selection of books to head to the top of the never ending TBR.

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Filed under Julia Darling, Karen McLeod, Oscar Wilde, Will Self

New Book Resolutions

First of all Happy New Year!

It’s that time where we both look forward and look back and stock take isn’t it? At the beginning of last year when I start the blog properly one of the internal resolutions that I made in myself was to keep the blog up and not let it run dry. I didn’t do as well at that as I thought I would, I mean I reviewed every book I read but the blogs I had intended to write like ‘why I am obsessed with what everyone else reads on the tube’ and many more never got written but hopefully they will in 2009, I definitely improved toward the end of the year though! I also made some other resolutions on here…

The ones that sadly I failed at were;
- Read a Jodi Piccoult, I have always had something against her books and have absolutely no rational for this, 2008 wasn’t the year that I broke that habit
- The Odyssey, my mum would have been so proud if I had… but nope
- Read harder fiction, well am gunning through Anna Karenina at the moment and Will Self’s ‘The Book of Dave’ wasn’t easy but was extremely rewarding
- Hardy and Trollope, double no
- Revisit old favourites; nope sadly I was focused on getting through my huge TBR
- Give some books a second chance, no I wanted to have a second slog at Lionel Shriver’s ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ but I simply didn’t.

The ones I managed were;
- Read more short stories, I read two collections, maybe three but would have liked to read more
- Read a James Bond
- Read Tess Gerritsen, well I definitely did that actually becoming a big fan, managed to save some for this year though
- Read more non fiction, well with the Mitford Letters, a book on ghost hunting and the fabulous Kate Summerscale I did just that

So what about for 2009? What book resolutions have I got this year? Do I want to take any over that I didn’t manage this year? Well the ones I am setting myself this year are;
- Find a new favourite author I haven’t read before but can’t get enough of
- Classics, I want to read a lot more classics both classic classics and modern classics if that makes sense
- Try stuff I wouldn’t normally, this means joining some more book groups me thinks
- The Man Booker-a-thon, I would really like to give this a go this year especially now I know more publishers
- Possibly re-try a few books like ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ and ‘Company of Liars’ the latter I really wanted to read but it didn’t grab the mood I was in, oh and Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind The Museum
- Not buy as many books; I think this one is unlikely.

I think that’s enough? Is anyone else making any book resolutions this year?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Kate Atkinson, Kate Summerscale, Lionel Shriver, Tess Gerritsen, Will Self

My Man Booker Longlist Guess

I am always a bit fuzzy on the rules with the Man Booker Award and which writers are and arent allowed, I know I should hang my head in shame as an avid reader. Its not like I am ever going to judge them though is it? Mind you wouldn’t that be brilliant? The Longlist is revealed tomorrow and I thought I would have a very uneducated guess at what might be in the final thirteen.

So here are my Man Booker Dozen for you (based on what everyone else is raving about I havent read and some rogue contenders I doubt will be in the longlist but should be)…

1. The Behaviour of Moths – Poppy Adams
2. Enchantress of Florence – Salman Rushdie
3. The Room of Lost Things – Stella Duffy
4. The Story Of Forgetting – Stefan Merrill Block
5. The Outcast – Sadie Jones
6. Alfred & Emily – Doris Lessing
7. The Spare Room – Helen Garner
8. Broken – Daniel Clay
9. A Case of Exploding Mango’s – Mohammed Hanif
10. Sea of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh
11. The Butt – Will Self
12. Girl Meets Boy – Ali Smith
13. Remember Me – Melvyn Bragg

We will see tomorrow… I will be discussing I am sure.

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The Book of Dave – Will Self

I was bought ‘The Book of Dave’ by my friend Michelle as we had a bit of an in joke on all things ‘Dave’ related. When it came to my shortlist of five books for book group I decided to add this one on as I could imagine that Will Self would be a perfect author for book group and this book in particular seemed to be something very different from what we have read up to now. It was chosen.

Will Self is an author that is a bit hit and miss with people, people either love his quirky tales and devour him or people are put off by the fact that he can come across as being too clever or pompous he can also be seen as being dark and this book is quite bleak, well very bleak, but he is an author that if you work at reading you will get so much out of. ‘The Book of Dave’ is set in the recent past and the distant future. The recent past tells the tale of Dave Rudman a London taxi driver and the lead up to his marriage and then onto its break up, a break up that affects him so much he writes a book to his estranged son. A book that is discovered in the distant future and spawned a major religion, in fact everyone lives by ‘The Book of Dave’ or else. Self uses this present to show us just what could happen in the future, and it’s not the prettiest of pictures.

This is by no means a quick or easy read. Firstly Dave is not instantly a hero or a likeable chap, he is normal, extremely flawed and at first I just thought he was a waste of space, my opinion did change as his character did. The alternating chapters between the future and the recent past are made more complicated by two things, firstly is the fact that they are not in chronological order, secondly you need to learn some Mokni. Self has done something which I was originally annoyed by slightly, the lazy reader in me, and then very impressed by… he has created his own future version of cockney based not on rhyming slang but on phonetics. I should add that there is a glossary in the back of the book that helps you, though a note in the front to tell you that would be helpful as I know that lots of people put the book down after finding the Mokni a challenge and not knowing the glossary is there.

The fact that it’s not in chronological order is slightly confusing but many writers use this style in order that by the end everything slots into place and with this book it does, and it has some very clever twists. My only slight problem was all the same names in the distant future, I got totally confused a few times, however with perseverance I was fine in the end. People will either love this book or they will hate it, it’s not for everyone. However if you persevere it’s a very clever story from a very clever author and one that I would recommend as being worth the effort.

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Filed under Book Group, Penguin Books, Review, Will Self

Cock & Bull – Will Self


I have tried Will Self once before when I tried and failed to read Dorian his reworking of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey’ – I didn’t finish that either. However I was in Oxfam and looking for something that looked fun and saw this for 49p and simply couldn’t say no.

Will Self is renowned for having a massive intellect or of being accused of being attention grabbing and indeed with this slightly controversial pair of novellas that create the book. The tales ‘cock’ and ‘bull’ both tell tales of people gaining sexual organs of the opposite sex. In ‘Cock’ Carol is miserable, her marriage is horrific and she has finally realised that Dan is not the man for her. Dan has joined Alcoholics Anonymous yet it doesn’t seem to be working. One night when he is out on the lash Carol finds out she has gained something, something that will change her life and her relationship forever.

In ‘Bull’ we meet John Bull, he is a real mans man; he drinks (not to excess) and plays rugby. One day he wakes up to find something new has appeared on the back of his leg. He goes to the doctor and finds his doctor takes more than just a patient-to-doctor relationship, he gains a new admirer. Both of these tales have extremely comic if slightly eye opening consequences and take us into the minds of people who have just had the shocks of their lives.

People will slate this book as being trash and filth, they will be missing out. These tell how daft, crazy, naughty, dirty and enthralling sex can be. Will Self is refreshing in his no holes barred description of the sexuality have, this is funny not filthy. It’s also very clever and asks the question of would women become more male and vice versa and these questions are answered as the stories go on. This is not your run of the mill novel and I absolutely loved it. Maybe I will give Dorian another go one day?

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Filed under Bloomsbury Publishing, Review, Will Self