cover image The Butt

The Butt

Will Self, . . Bloomsbury, $25 (355pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-555-8

From Self, the British master of the satirical fantasy, comes a loquacious and inventive farce about the demise of civilization. Tom Brodzinski, relaxing on vacation in the postcolonial Feltham Islands, sets off a string of unfortunate events when he flicks a cigarette butt off his hotel balcony. It lands on the scalp of tourist Reginald Lincoln III. Reggie’s happy to laugh it off, but things slide from bad to worse when Reggie is hospitalized and Tom is charged with assault with “a projectile weapon with a toxic payload.” After a chaotic trial, Tom is ordered to pay a restitution of two good hunting “riffles,” a set “coking pots” and $10,000. The catch is that the restitution needs to take place in the tribal heartland. This launches Tom and Brian Prentice, another foreign transgressor (Tom suspects pedophilia), on an expedition of Conradian proportions during which Tom is tormented by Brian’s “rotten, cloacal physicality.” Self (The Book of Dave ; How the Dead Live ; etc.) confirms his reputation for pulling off cleverly modeled literary experiments. This one is at times exhausting, but if you can stick with him, Self successfully presents an ironic and timely metaphor for our post-9/11 Bigger Brother world. (Sept.)