cover image Shark


Will Self. Grove, $26 (480p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2310-7

After declaring the novel dead in May in his Guardian article “The Novel Is Dead (This Time It’s For Real),” Self returns with a new novel, and it is a maddening, uncompromising, serious, self-indulgent, and beautiful work. The second book in a planned trilogy, following Umbrella (which was shortlisted for the Man Booker), the novel reacquaints us with the unconventional psychiatrist Zack Busner. Busner is the proprietor of the Concept House, a mental health residence in which residents are given free rein. In an unbroken wall of text (no chapters or paragraph breaks), Self describes the many characters of the Concept House, including Lt. Claude Evenrude, who is scarred by what he did over Hiroshima as the target spotter for the Enola Gay, and Michael Lincoln, who watched men die as he floated in the shark-filled Pacific waters after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Their narratives, along with others, converge in a labyrinth of pyschedelic high modern voices (“Michael can see the drinkers’ beery guffaws... plain as iron filings round a vulcanite rod”), which, while ceaselessly musical and electric, often feels claustrophobic and disorienting. Bound to exasperate as often as it thrills, Self’s novel is a worthy follow-up, and comes as close to capturing the frightening bad trip of modern life as any book in recent memory. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Nov.)