Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys
He’s back—after the relative failure of his second novel, Great Apes (1997)—to his old self, the Will Self of the award-winning The Quantity Theory of Insanity (1995) and the follow-up collection, Grey Area (1996). Admittedly, the master of the outre is a bit more restrained in these eight stories than he was in the paired novellas Cock & Bull (1993) (about two inadvertent sex changes) and the novel My Idea of Fun (1994) (Self’s take on the world according to Margaret Thatcher). If some of the edge is off in this work, it is only better to display the social concerns of a writer who has always been more the Swiftian satirist than the merely scabrous bad boy (and former junkie) of contemporary British Literature.
With not much interest in the plot and character development of conventional storytelling, Self uses situation and language to power his writing. On those rare occasions when the narrative begins to flag, language flares up: an excess here, a bizarre turn of phrase there, a cliche gutted, a sudden swerve from the banal to the fantastic.
Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys begins with a leisurely retelling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz” in which a young man engaged in a little do-it-yourself home improvement discovers that his home rests on an enormous vein of crack cocaine. In “Flytopia,” the mutant offspring of Kafka and Lovecraft,...
(The entire section is 433 words.)