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Author: Will Self (His first published novel)
Duration: 384 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
To claim Will Self threw the 'kitchen sink' and 'garden shed' at this novel is an understatement. It is his first novel and I suppose you wouldn't expect anything less from the likes of an enthused Will Self. 'My Idea Of Fun' is a book conveying how a personal gift can be taken too the extraordinary and re-tuned, to a result. Not that you'll get a result in Self's first novel; more perhaps tinkered with, until distraction. The word 'result' sounds far too scientific, final and informal for the black humour genre, critics and the well-read have sectioned this book under. The book is as dark as Edgar Allan Poe in places, that unleashes an egotistical polyglot fanatic known as (Will Self), on-stage with a photographic gift metaphor; nevertheless, its analogy is worthy in content for those who've the stamina of an intellectual thorough-bred.
Published in 1994 - Self's intention was to grab the reader's interest on the outset. The old faithful 'shock method' - identifying his idea of fun was decapitating a commuter, and doing further unmentionables. Self's early novels perusing on the subjects of the grotesque and taboo - broadening the horizons of psychic analogies and our relationship with dehumanisation in which capitalism thrives under. The media fuels this premise - embroidering celebrity, glamour and advertising entwined together as if a barb-wire nest; one slip and your mince-meat. Self depicts a truth claiming no-one is far from the slums of temptation - following these roads will only lead to a cul-de-sac; whereby in the darken corners, drug addicts worship their pimps - a one dimensional premise our capitalistic world sows.
The book is written in the third person by the main character, Ian Wharton - a product of an over-sexed Mother in Brighton whose faith was her swelling clitoris, and her consistent testing of her caravan's side-ways suspension. Assuming if she did abscond elsewhere she'll know the caravans springs would be able to cope on all types of terrains. Pathetically she loves too much. Crushingly so, partners' belt off at the first sign of the lingering hug - within days they take a deep breathe and re-enact the 'Steve Mcqueen, Great Escape' scene - Ian soaks up the brunt of her neediness. Softened to outside manipulation - his dreams stroke hallucinations take on surreal offerings as they roll into one. Leaving Self's audience to participate in whether these grotesque manifestations took place, or not. Ian's musings rallied around events whilst a youngster, his Pa - a mere sperm donor cajoled in the agency system - sneaked off into other white linen boudoirs when 'yawning' endorsed his responsibilities. A Father figure came in the bear shape of Mr. Broadhurst - (Wharton calls him the 'Fat Controller') resided and hovered over Ian's life; likened to a dark shadow of mystic obesity, his presence encroached on pulling Ian's strings; it all started innocently initially but delved well beyond anything Ian preferred to have not endeavoured. Wharton's special gift of an extensive photographic memory was the harbour of Mr. Broadhurst's fascination and mystical craft. As puberty engorged young Ian's genitalia acorns - sweeping away his adolescence in a tsunami of testosterone; a naïve pact was formed with the 'Fat Controller.' Ian was informed that with every copulating thrust, his gift will diminish, furthermore, making his erection brittle, unceremoniously dissolving, as if the arms of Venus De Milo.
Not to be confused with the real Ian Wharton, who is a London creative.
Wharton flourishes into adult-hood - embarking on big successes - and quickly ascends to the dizzy heights of marketing - confident, exudes brilliance, and there flickers a demonic charm, in a star shaped twinkle of his eye. The 'Fat Controller' although gone in entity, his residue mass ponders in Ian's outer shadow of his eye. His bulbous mass swinging his feet, as if resting in a hammock. At intervals the 'Fat Controller' playing out his personality traits creating a concomitant personality disorder according to Wharton's shrink, Dr. Hieronymus Gyggle. In breaking the mystical pact - he subscribes Wharton to sow his oats flirt with the concept of love and clasp to his areola the garlic clove of marriage vows and procreation. Corporate ladders disdain in such frivolous material and duly Wharton's non-saintly pornographic visions wooed the females with his gift, the 'Fat Controller' morphs into Samuel Rockcliffe a marketing guru - robust, odiously correct - Self's ability to complex characterisations by re-invention and then creating scenarios that change shapes and twists into a myriad of psychological premises, is admirable. As the unlikely alliance occurs between Rockcliffe & Gyggle (resembles a Law firm) entrenches thoughts of despicable acts Wharton believes he may've done. Speaking in the third person the book cleverly reaches out to the reader like no other book has, by asking questions in text directly back to us the reader. By which the author is signifying multiple personalities that have not been triggered via a character in the book; it is very evident in Self's novels and novellas.
Samuel Rockcliffe is Ian's mentor in marketing and advertising a manipulation lecturer; then you see the world of media in a stark raw psychotic light resembling Brett Eason's American Psycho.' They're clones of Ian Wharton, all wide-eyed - muttering to themselves - referring to themselves in the third person. Ian had come along way from the safe-haven shores of a trailer site - loved and adored - to the drug fuelled, schizophrenic world of marketing in the capital. During the read, I found myself detached from the main character of Ian Wharton, my apathy was coerced by the direction Self had fortified within it's narrative - it was purposeful - desensitised - garnished with a wit that conveyed realism and is one of the best novels I've read that identifies the plight of autism and mental health. Great read, if you've the patience.©1st2thebar 2011