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Butt, meets Head
The Butt - Will Self
Member Name: 1st2thebar
The Butt - Will Self
Date: 14/03/12, updated on 19/03/12 (51 review reads)
Advantages: Superb use of language - a bee hive of political material
Disadvantages: Gets congested in places.
Published by Bloomsbury in 2008
Duration: 355 pages
Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing 2008.
Going by the beige colour of the pages adjacent to the spine, this 'paperback' novel either has been handled far more than others in my repertoire, or perhaps it's been in environments that have disagreed with its page complexion. In other words it has prematurely aged. Nevertheless, I regard 'The Butt' written by Will Self as being the most comprehensive novel as far, via the smooth edgings of the narrative. Naturally, Self plays avidly with wordage, that'll make you mop your brow; go 'tutt tutt' with your tongue, and tinker unconsciously with flakes of ear wax. Indeed Self is a connoisseur at mind logistics - his alternative 'new world' analogies runs parallel to our own existence, this could take time to getting use to. Having read 'The Butt' before 'The Book of Dave' - whereby both novels content delivers 'new world' concepts; 'The Butt' required timely deliberation though, just to appreciate the author's irony, satire, and 'semi-conscious' peruses. There's also a volley of undertone jests against the State, post colonialism, political correctness, quangos, bureaucracy, and multiculturalism. 'The Butt' got my full attention - it warranted it.
Derived from the UK smoking ban - Self ignites the novel with a narrative poignant for its time, by using the cigarette butt as if it is the initial atom that caused the big bang. While on holiday, Tom Brodzinski, family man, flicks his 'last' cigarette butt over his balcony and via a nasty twist of gravitational fate, helped on by 'mother nature' the butt's parabola landed on an elderly resident's bald head, inflicting a negligible burn, the unfortunate recipient waves Tom's apologies away, claiming it is nothing - within one day the tide changes, the condition and situation worsens mainly when the authorities hear of the mishap - resulting in a journey of anguish, and despair psychologically. Tom sets out on a futile quest to clear his name, of an attempted murder charge, and while he dances to the authorities tune, the legal snowball gathers pace down the mountain of cultural miscomprehensions, farcical demands, eminent in every office block and governmental building across the western world. The young tribal women, wife of the elderly butt victim, Reginald Lincoln had an entirely different perspective; mainly due to the understanding that the word 'accidental' doesn't exist in her culture. And she isn't the only tribal member who lives via these beliefs. Tribes throughout this un-named land are richly corrupt and their ideologies locked deep inside the judicial system. For Tom to tread on the path to freedom from such absurdity; he has to convey sympathy to the victim beyond the point of call, plus he is to be entrapped within a foreign culture that's disdains of fairness, and ride the storm by vigorously standing by their ritual styled traditions and laws. Tom has an unconventional companion, named Prentice, and his crime? Well, Tom has a hunch.
Big legal cogs grind so slowly - you wonder if they're moving at all. So, days become weeks and weeks become months. Sadly, Tom's family interaction starts off positive and hopeful, albeit when they're forced to separate due to the longevity of Tom's predicament; relationships are strained - then they diminish, and then finally split - Blu-tack usage at Christmas time is no different; it holds up a tangled mess of tinsel to the ceiling; there is a plethora of initial support and as the room heats up the elasticity gets tested until finally the arrangement plummets onto a bald head. Self relates the break-up as a matter of fact announcement; echoing how a MP would robotically read out the names of the Iraq dead in the House of Commons. As does legal folk, which'd generically prefer every morsel soul to abide via an accepted process of order rather than actually trying to help the victims well being. Now there is an idea. Self deploys the facade with frightening precision. Tom's rickety car journey (to freedom he is led to believe) paints a rural picture of the Australian bush and Iraq - Check-points so many kilometers apart - secured by rogue tribesmen, and then empty dusty road ahead, mundane, oppression, blood and filth. For some readers they'll switch-off - however, if you could bare the morose state or lack of activity Self imposed onto his readers, you'll eventually get the gist of what Self is portraying.
After their banal, yet turbulent trip - they were greeted by the same Consul who they left days ago - who'd flown to the location. Cue Self, at his written conversational best: he's in his element. He overdoses on elongated descriptive word and the novel style changes. Behind the dynamism - he ridicules political correctness, authoritarianism with an irony so rare, it was quite unnerving. He cleverly turns on the witticism for a smidgeon - and his satirical droll tone regarding the cigarette ban is absolutely 'smoking'.
A few quips to wet your appetite:
NO IFS, NO BUTTS, STUB IT OUT! - written on oblique bars annulling a stylized cigarette. NO SMOKING - signs inside ashtrays.
'Lurid, discomforting, Kafkaesque: 'The Butt' is vintage Self and handsome proof, should anyone need it, that literary fiction can hold its own against rolling news, pixellated experience and the reality -entertainment industry' - GQ Magazine.
Recommended, if you're a bloke on holiday, who smokes.
Summary: A modern day 'Heart of Darkness' (Joseph Conrad)