cover image My Idea of Fun: A Cautionary Tale

My Idea of Fun: A Cautionary Tale

Will Self. Atlantic Monthly Press, $21 (309pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-565-0

Employing vivid, jarringly unsavory imagery, richly erudite diction and a persuasive, engaging narrative voice, British novella and short-story writer Self ( Cock & Bull ) explores the elusiveness of reality and self-knowledge, the power of formative relationships and the blight of contemporary materialism in his provocative first novel. Part Faustian allegory, part hallucinatory bildungsroman , the book opens with troubled but strangely appealing narrator Ian Wharton, a successful London marketing executive, facing a small predicament. His newly pregnant young bride knows dangerously little of her husband, a psychiatric oddity whose past includes sadistic mutilation and pleasure killing. Should he enlighten her? While grappling with this dilemma, Wharton looks back at his boyhood with an overly affectionate single mother, his years under the guardianship of the malevolent Mr. Broadhurst (a.k.a. The Fat Controller) and his ostensible deprogramming by psychotherapist Dr. Hieronymous Gyggle. Self again proves a master of the grotesque, rendering every image with febrile intensity and positioning them in support of larger philosophical or psychological arguments. An eclectic vocabulary further enriches this ambitious, impressive narrative by a writer already named one of the Best of the Young British Novelists. (Apr.)