cover image Grey Area and Other Stories

Grey Area and Other Stories

Will Self. Atlantic Monthly Press, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-620-6

Once again bringing piercing wit and narrative virtuosity to the short-story form, Self (The Quantity Theory of Insanity) lays into contemporary England. The title story in this sophisticated collection depicts the drab, unchanging world of a corporate office worker and yet seduces readers with precisely described details and perceived nuances of her static daily routine. ``InclusionR'' exposes a cover-up of a disaster in the covert pharmaceutical testing of a new anti-depressant drug used ritualistically by bee-worshipping rain-forest tribesmen. And ``Chest,'' perhaps the best of the lot, skewers British manners and social stratification, as a carcinogenic fog blankets England, forcing country squires to rely on radar and scuba gear to hunt their pheasant while coughing, wheezing victims swap painkillers and respiratory remedies across class boundaries. Self inlays subtle connections among all nine stories and repeatedly delves into themes of egotism, neurosis, charlatanism and conformity, and he does it all in crisp, economical prose enriched with the evocative diction of a confirmed logophile. (Mar.)