cover image Liver


Will Self, . . Bloomsbury, $26 (276pp) ISBN 978-1-59691-664-7

The reliably diabolical Self delivers four longish stories about decay, debauchery and deliverance, each at least tangentially related to London's Plantation Club. In “Foie Humain,” the Plantation Club is revealed to be a Soho drunkard's institution forever “lost in the foggy forties” and frequented by a crew of brash boozehounds. Among them, Isobel, the daughter of the protagonist of “Leberknödel,” Joyce Beddoes, who, stricken with “nausea, sickly-sour and putrid; a painfully swollen belly and a hot wire in her urethra,” ventures with Isobel to Zurich for an assisted suicide. Self's wry humor takes Joyce on an unexpected adventure as her cancer-ridden liver leads her from Birmingham to Switzerland and into a mess of religious intrigue. The same wit, and a mess of the Plantation's peripheral characters, continues through two more tales, “Prometheus,” about a London advertising executive whose liver is nibbled upon daily by a vulture in exchange for “bigger pitches with bigger spends,” and “Birdy Num Num,” the least exciting of the collection, which follows a gaggle of junkies. Despite the occasional hiccup, Self's parts function quite well together to produce a picture of putrid beauty. (Nov.)