Read How the Dead Live by Will Self Online


Will Self has one of literature's most astonishing imaginations, and in How the Dead Live his talent has come to full flower. Lily Bloom is an angry, aging American transplanted to England, now losing her battle with cancer. Attended by nurses and her two daughters -- lumpy Charlotte, a dour, successful businesswoman, and beautiful Natasha, a junkie -- Lily takes us on a sWill Self has one of literature's most astonishing imaginations, and in How the Dead Live his talent has come to full flower. Lily Bloom is an angry, aging American transplanted to England, now losing her battle with cancer. Attended by nurses and her two daughters -- lumpy Charlotte, a dour, successful businesswoman, and beautiful Natasha, a junkie -- Lily takes us on a surreal, opinionated trip through the stages of a lifetime of lust and rage. From '40s career girl to '50s tippling adulteress to '70s PR flak, Lily has seen America and England through most of a century of riotous and unreal change. And then it's over. Lily catches a cab with her death guide, Aboriginal wizard Phar Lap Jones, and enters the shockingly banal world of the dead: the suburbs. She discovers smoking without consequences and gets another PR job, where none of her coworkers notices that she's not alive. She gets to know her roommates: Rude Boy, her terminally furious son who died in a car accident at age nine; Lithy, a fetus that died before she ever knew it existed; the Fats, huge formless shapes composed of all the weight she's ever gained or lost. How the Dead Live is Will Self's most remarkable and expansively human book, an important, disturbing vision of our time....

Title : How the Dead Live
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780802138484
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 404 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

How the Dead Live Reviews

  • Anthony Vacca
    2019-02-06 20:26

    How do the dead live? Well, they don't go to heaven where the angels fly, and they don't go to the lake of fire and fry on the 4th of July. What they do do is move to a different suburb or a different part of the city, living and working alongside the living for the rest of eternity. This horrifyingly mundane vision of the afterlife plays as the central conceit of Will Self's superlative-sputtering third novel, allowing its narrator, Lily Bloom, to die agonizingly from cancer and then stick around for a decade of stewing in her own rage and disappointment. And Lilly has a lot that disappoints her: her two letdown daughters, two failed marriages, a cold American upbringing, her own slow and inescapable weight gain, her feelings of being shafted out of the sexual revolution of the 60's, the vapidity of English society, her own Jewish heritage, her failures as a pocket pen designer, hell, the whole fucking WORLD disappoints Lily! So the afterlife is equally disappointing, even with its byzantine bureaucratic structure, and her aborigine spirit guide, Phar Lap Jones; and the ghost of her foul-mouthed 9 year-old son; and the pop standard singing spirit of the fossilized fetus she never knew was pocketed away in her womb; and the gibbering ghosts of all the fat she has ever lost but gained back; and even the occasional tired tries at discorporated banging with a fellow lingering dead. So when Lily is not railing and spitting acid abouthow much life and now death sucks, she stalks her two daughters, one, a pudgy snob who has married an equally snobby but ultra-successful owner of a chain of office supply stores; the other, the wonderfully selfish and anemic femme fatale, Natasha. Natasha serves as an inverted analog of (recently (when written) and permanently clean) Will Self's own years of drug abuse; and for those who think Will Self is just a druggie writer, well, portraying yourself as a scabby, thieving junkie isn't exactly a flattering self-estimation). The two sisters' lifestyles serve as an open season for Self to satirize the increasingly consumerism-obsessed culture of 1990's London, as well serves as the fulcrum for a harrowing and ominous series of deaths, births, and rebirths.How the Dead Live is a tour de force not only in sustained voice (Lily's profane, pessimistic view of the world is both hilarious and relentless, but not necessarily always correct in its observations), but also in satiric invention and existential brooding. Heartbreaking, hilarious and horrifying, How the Dead Live is my favorite Self I've read so far. You're fucking up by not reading Will Self. Quit fucking up. Read How the Dead Live.

  • William1
    2019-02-05 19:05

    Some thoughts on Will Self’s How The Dead Live. The first 280 or so pages deliver the constant narrative pleasure of some illicit drug. One is constantly buoyed along by the wonderful storytelling. His model, or one of them, is clearly Louis-Ferdinand Céline.American Lily Bloom, twice-married, now a widow living in London, is dying of cancer--and then stone dead of it. We are there at her long deathbed scene after which she finds herself non-living in a London of the astral plane in her subtle body. We share her last days and the decade or so of her afterlife. She begins to smoke again since it can't possibly harm her. Lily non-lives in a London where only the dead know the little out of the way places, in this case Dulston, somewhere near Dalston, a complete neighborhood of the dead. This arbitrarily imagined world makes a kind of crazy sense, so vividly is it rendered, so consistent is its patterning and rules of order. The dead meet in groups at the community center to learn how to become dead. It's a 12-step program. The afterlife it turns out is as problematic and bureaucratic as life itself. It's also intolerably banal. Lily is led in her death odyssey by dead Australian aborigine, Phar Lap Jones. She is able to visit the living, non-living as she does in the midst of them. She visits Natalia her junkie daughter--a very sad story Self mistakenly thinks he can make funny--and her materialist daughter Charlene who with her husband owns a chain of stores called Waste of Paper. Once dead Lily is free to witness the comings and goings of these two daughters. Natalia, or Natty, is one of the saddest portraits of a junky I have ever read, William Burroughs’s tales not excepted. Natty has turned herself into a walking talking blight on humanity. She is a raving lunatic beauty, a complete waste of human flesh. She is a whore living with her pimp for junk. Lily is never enlightened by her own passing. She is deep in what the Buddhists term samsara: the endless cycle of birth and suffering and death and rebirth. Enlightenment? She's too pissed off for that. She must alas be reborn continually until she sees the light, which in her case may be several hundreds lives off. About page 280 or so I must admit I began to feel rather brutalized. Self's word play is as relentless as the tone, though it never rises to the subtle sometimes italicized level of another model, Martin Amis.However, there can be no question of the author's mastery. In the first 280 pages there are long brainy sections that simply sing and these can be terribly funny as well. The storytelling in this part is gripping and vivid. However, a novel of ideas this is not. How The Dead Live, like Money, is a voice novel in which tone becomes everything and overrides form. Sometimes, too, there's the madcap sensibility of Samuel Beckett. If you're looking for deft modulation of tone this is not the novel for you. It's a no-holds-barred all out rant against the unfairness of life and death. Here we feel the influence of the anarchist Céline most sharply.I was perplexed by the italicized "Christmas 2001" sections. These sections really become tedious until one discovers, at the very end, what they mean. Self does not sufficiently adumbrate. I was absolutely lost reading them. Note: being somewhat lost or rather lost is part of the fun of fiction. But I was entirely lost in these sections, which made them seem to me like pointless padding. Poor editing me thinks.In closing, let me say again that there are long patches of beautiful writing here and many funny bits. But the book is at least 75 pages too long. A judicious editing the novel certainly deserved and did not appear to get. I recommend it nevertheless. Read it, stay with it if you can, but be prepared to bleed.

  • Shovelmonkey1
    2019-02-01 20:32

    I always run at Will Self books a bit like one of those annoying small yappie dogs that bounces up and down like they're on an invisible bit of elastic... well the ones that aren't now ensconced in expensive handbags anyway.I do this because my brain always tells me that I love Will Self... stupid brain. Why do you always forget? I like the idea of liking Will Self and I generally like most of the premises for his twisted tales (of course there is always the exception to the rule, this exception being )and he appears on all the pseudo intellectual TV shows that I know I should like/watch/revere but then it all goes a bit wrong from here with the actual reading of the book.How the Dead Live just didn't stretch it's legs for me. Lily, the aforementioned living dead of the title is not a very engaging woman - she's had a tough life. The afterlife is proving to be just as tough because really, rather disappointingly, the afterlife is just life with all the colour drained out of it and all the same morons and issues you surrounded yourself with when you were alive are still there. Imagine living in a really dull home video of your own life but shot in sepia on 8mm. This then slowly repeats itself throughout eternity. Well, this is more of less how the dead live. Or Will Self's vision of it anyway. Add to this that all the bits of yourself you shed during life come back to haunt you in a very visual way... all the kilos of fat shed lurch around behind you like a sulky child and if you're a lady ghost apparently tiny ghostly abortions will swirl around your head tethered there like some sort of unpleasant foetal helium filled balloon. So you're dead but not gone and with the added benefit of an aboriginal spirit guide and the understanding that your end of days is kind of like a final salary pension in reverse.Right.... I wanted to love this and a tiny bit of my not-quite-so-dead-inside soul did love it. Some of the ideas are clever, Self throws in a broad melange of cultural and cross-cultural references and is suitably off the wall but the characterisation just did not grab me. I can also surmise that when Will Self dies I do not want to go wherever he believes he is going (which based on this book, might actually be nowhere but a bedsit in Peckham).

  • MacDara Conroy
    2019-01-29 19:22

    I thought they were kidding, but you really do need a thesaurus to read Will Self's writing. There's a great story in here somewhere, but it's lost amid his self-conscious effort to show you just how smart he is.

  • Angus McKeogh
    2019-02-15 13:08

    Definitely not my favorite Self novel. He usually has a certain understated brilliance that exudes from his work; however, I found this one terribly difficult to get into and then once it hit its stride it was rather prosaic and dull. Interesting premise that unfortunately has been done in a better manner by some other authors. Luckily Self still has two other older works that sound phenomenal. This wasn’t among my favorites.

  • Becky
    2019-01-26 19:16

    Wow. That was horrible. Visceral, cruel, obnoxious. But somehow utterly compelling, hilarious and life affirming. My previous contact with Will Self was from TV, and I guess I expected something more Amis like, and less enthralling. How the Dead Live is about Lily Bloom - a chronicle of her late life, her death, and her afterlife. Her major accomplishments in a rather average life are her two daughters, who's lives she follows from death as they spiral in and out of control. The story is gripping enough alone, but it's raised above that by the detail, the witticisms, the spots of satire. It's absolutely devastating witnessing Lily come to terms with the limits of her life, and even more limiting death, and things don't really improve from there. But by being so bleak, it helps to highlight the little things we should be thankful for, the fact that boring isn't always a disaster for humanity, and that time wasted on things that matter little, tends to come back to haunt you.

  • V C
    2019-02-05 18:33

    You're always going to have at least an unusual plot line setting or protagonist in a Self novel and this is no exception. You're told the story of Lily Bloom as she sees it in life death and rebirth. I often feel with Will Self that there is something brilliant he is working at but he just misses pulling it off flawlessly. That isn't to say he isn't worth reading. He definitely is and his use of language even when he stumbles a bit is beautiful. I couldn't put out of my mind how much this is based on his mother's (and in turn his) life. I think that made it a bit more poignant to me and perhaps made it easier to like Lily flaws and all. However I think that there is something about Lily and her story that doesn't make her entirely unlike-able while managing to portray her as a true person. This departure from the usual habit authors have of making Mary Jane characters that people can automatically identify with really drives home what this book is about in part. If anyone ever comes very close to death with enough time to reflect upon their true natures and their life's path(s) it all becomes a bit obvious we are all unlike-able in some way.Self might be a bit off putting to some people but all his books have stuck with me. It is worth the effort to overcome any discomfiture you feel from any of his real or perceived pretensions. For those of us who never noticed it his novels are an incredible treat.

  • Nate D
    2019-02-10 14:30

    A vast ichor-black death exhalation across the latter 20th century. Self's patter, his puns and asides and alliteration and word transformations and endless allusions to everything from lit to pop songs, sets up a deceptive burble behind which his unyielding cynicism dances. In fact though, moreso than the Dantean story of the dull disappointment of life bleeding into the dull disappointment of death (and beyond all locked in an endless cycle of drudge, it seems), this patter, this banter, seems to be Self's animating force. About a third of it falls flat, maybe a third or more sails right past me unremarked, and a third or so hits the mark -- but the sheer constancy of the voice and conversation gives it all a cohesion where it doesn't really matter which of the three is happening at any given moment. Self's voice is probably one of his major assets, but it also wore on me somewhat over 400 pages. But when the story does launch into its best bits, it's totally gripping and highly unique, a dire portrait of bitter, universal regret.I'll definitely be checking more Self in the future.

  • Lou Robinson
    2019-02-08 14:28

    I think I'm a bit stupid for Will Self novels. I really liked the underlying concepts of the book, but this was a hard slog for me. The passages from Christmas 2001 in italics, I didn't really understand until at least two thirds of the way through. It felt like it was about 100 pages too long, I found myself skipping through the last few chapters as it didn't seem to be adding anything new to the story. But overall, the idea was an interesting and disturbing one, I'll never pass Dalston without thinking "Dulston" again.

  • Vonnie
    2019-01-22 20:23

    I love Will Self I really do, but this was absolutely unreadable. Phar Lap Jones irritated the shit out of me with his constant, "Yeh hey" and similar exclamations which were so distracting that I had to re-read the same page four or five times. I gave it two shots then consigned this book to the can.

  • WndyJW
    2019-02-21 13:11

    I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. I didn't have to force myself to finish it, but I was eager to be done because I didn't like spending time with Lilly Bloom, alive or dead. The story is told by Lilly Bloom who is dying, then dead from breast cancer. Will Self said that the story is based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead and as a Buddhist I find the story believable. Lilly dies of cancer and after death is ushered into her life as a dead person by Phar Lap Jones, an Aborigine from Australia who wears cowboy boots, jeans, mirror sun glasses and a big white Stetson. She is accompanied in death by Lithy, the lithopedion, a calcified foetus that fell out of her uterus upon her death and now sings pop songs from the 70s, 80, and 90s, Rude Boy, her son who was hit by a car and age 9 and now runs around swearing at people and waving his penis, and the Fats, the eyeless, blobs of fat that consist of all the weight she gained and lost in her life who chant, "old and fat, old and fat" at Lilly.The laws of Karma are in action here. Lilly's attachments to her daughters, her guilt over her son's death, her obsession with sex, and her anger at her husbands keep her stuck in a London she does not like. Phar Lap tries a few times to let Lilly know that she could be free off this cycle if she wanted to be, but Lilly is too attached. The addictions and negative emotions that distracted her in life (her Karmic seeds) follow her in death and ultimately bloom because she will not let go of them.Will Self is a gifted wordsmith. His stream of consciousness style is engaging, intelligent, witty, and flows very smoothly. He created a London of the dead that felt like an alternate London, complete with knowable, quite original characters. The story rambled this way and that at times as Lilly looks back at her 60 some years revealing to the reader the roots of her attachments, and narrates the lives of her daughters to us. No one was likeable and Karma does not guarantee a happy ending. The Karmic seeds Lilly planted and nurtured are the seeds that blossomed. I think the book is worth reading, but I'm glad I'm done with it.

  • John Dolan
    2019-01-27 14:15

    Self's dark, witty word-play is on full throttle in this phantasmagorical tale of life and death and death in life and life in death and... well, you get the drift. In his usual stream-of-consciousness style, he untangles and re-tangles the story of Lily Bloom and her daughters, assorted calcified fetuses, living fat beings, drugs, alcohol, vitriol, Jewishness, and a nightmarish vision of London in which the afterlife is a demented bureaucracy of Kafkaesque proportions. I struggled to believe in Lily's voice as that of an American female (too butch, too English-idiomatic), but maybe that's a unnecessary quibble for a book in which anything can happen, which it frequently does. And when it does, it's often depressing or surreal, or both. Decidedly not for the average reader who 'just likes a good story'.

  • Mike O'Brien
    2019-02-18 14:04

    Will Self writes great stories. "the book of Dave" is one of my favourite books ever. "How the dead live" is a great story too, detailing the afterlife of one Lilly Bloom, who dies of cancer in her sixties, and continues to eke out an existence in a half hidden, mysterious London Borough. The problem with Will Self is that he gets a bit tough to read with all his clever wordplay, long words and allusions to this, that and the other, so it can be a bit tiring trying to keep up with him. There are a few rewards if you persevere though, and if you read on a kindle, it's easy to look stuff up. I looked up HeLa and was surprised to discover that he hadn't made it up. He had fabricated the idea that it can be used as a wall covering though. The book is an interesting, if difficult journey with some dark comedy and fascinating ideas. It doesn't actually take you anywhere though. I think that I would rather die than live in line Lilly Bloom.

  • Victoria
    2019-02-11 15:24

    Wow! I had never read Will Self before and this was certainly a mammoth of an induction! This book should come with a warning - "Not for the faint hearted". There are some gruesome concepts to grapple with and some very direct language, which won't be to everyone's taste, but I found I liked the bravery of this novel and the creativity blew me away. I'd been getting slightly bored with some of the predictable plots and writing of the books I've been reading recently, but this one kept me on my toes all the way through. My criticisms are that, although it was a dance of a story, I wasn't sure whether there was a meaning or a purpose to it all, and the ending left me confused. But I know that I will definitely be reading Will Self again. He's a challenge and not afraid to be different, and I like that!

  • Tuck
    2019-02-14 19:19

    recommended by a real scotsman!if will self wrote a blockbuster like john grisham, some sort if insipid, edge of your seat court room morality play (who SAID usa diplomats can't be torturers too and who SAID usaid was there to only hand out sacks of corn and abstinence tracts?) the dead would always win, everybody would need a pocket dictionary and publishers would have grown some sort or warty integrity growth somewhere embarrassing. that said, Will Self probably won't be churning the blockbuster out anytime too soon. But if he did....

  • Sarah
    2019-02-03 16:05

    This is the best WS novel (I did NOT like "Great Apes", for the record). He has a lavish and polished writing style, the pace and deep tone of this book are irresistable. It has been 5 years since I read this book and the imagery still floats in my mind. It is a novel that blends the worlds of the living and the dead - in a way that I had never experienced before in book or film. Follows "Lily Blooms'" afterlife after she dies from cancer.

  • Katie Grainger
    2019-01-25 14:20

    I found it really hard to get into How the Dead Live, I just struggled from the outset and as I progressed through the pages it didn't seem to get any better. I just couldn't gel with the book, despite having a hard time with this the book is very well written and there are interesting elements within it. Unfortunately this was just not a book that I enjoyed- there was just something about it I didn't get and this stopped my enjoyment.

  • Leo Robertson
    2019-01-26 20:15

    Not his best, by any stretch. The first 180 or so pages were amazing, where it might well have stopped and been named "How the Living Die." The whole book is undeniably well-written: unfortunately, Will was kicking the gear while he wrote this, and his delirious mind needed a focus. I'm glad he's over it, but I didn't need to read his ravings.

  • Gareth Lewis
    2019-02-14 20:06

    Eerily accurate. I grew up just down the road from Crouch End, and can confirm that now the Oxfam shops are selectively stocked and every pub has pork belly on the menu, it is indeed choc-full of the living dead.

  • Paul Greer
    2019-02-02 17:04

    All misgivings of Self being a mini-Ballard were quashed with this deeply creepy exploration of the nature and effects of addiction.

  • Elisabeth Hagspiel
    2019-02-08 13:32

    WOW!!!! I'll never, never want to gain or loose weight!!!

  • Peter
    2019-02-10 19:07

    'Grant me the stupidity to deny there's anything I cannot change, the temerity to neglect the things I can, and the ignorance to be incapable of distinguishing between the two''''How the Dead Live'' is narrated by Lily Bloom, an American lying in a hospital in London, dying of cancer. Mind you, narration is probably putting it rather mildly because as she describes her lonely, isolated life in London with a philandering husband and two daughters,now grown up, one of whom Natasha is a drug addict with designs on her mother's prescription drugs; and on the cancer that is slowly eating her up it reads more like a sermon given by some Evangelist preacher.Roughly a third of the way through the novel Lily finally succumbs to the cancer and dies from then on she takes the reader on a tour of the afterlife. Self's vision of the afterlife in London does not seem to differ greatly from real life. The dead take jobs and deal with petty bureaucrats and bureaucracy, housed in sub-standard accommodation before being moved out of the city to some even duller commuter town. An afterlife where the dead still eat, drink and smoke out of habit rather than any need of sustenance. This seems both a somewhat disquieting but also amusing look on life, and of course death. In particular I loved the 12-step programme and the 12 traditions for the ''Personally Dead'' but was repulsed by the thought of having to spend the afterlife living with moving, talking lumps of fat gained and lost throughout life. For me, the early part of the book feels like a long winded lead up to a joke out; where the punch line is death and there is a real lack of characterisation despite Lily revealing a glimpse of her early life in America. I also found some of the imagery used both repetitive and at times pointless. It was if Self had been given a list of words by his editor and had been told that he had to use them all at some point or other otherwise the book would not be published. It had the effect of making the text turgid rather than flowing but then perhaps that was the whole idea and I just missed it. On the flip side I wouldn't say that I totally dislike it. At times I found it intriguing and compelling but I didn't enjoy half as much as The Book of Dave, the previous Will Self book that I have read. Like that book this seems to be a back-handed swipe at organised religion and beliefs but this one fails to really hit the mark.

  • Chloe
    2019-02-20 21:05

    After promising gallows humour ("artworks formerly known as prints") and a metaphysical reimagining of the division between our mortal coil and the deathly plain, the loathing and nihilism ultimately go nowhere. Hideous imagery serves no higher purpose than evoking disgust, and word-for-word repetition undermines, instead of furthering, the literary device of rebirth.

  • Elsa Ridley
    2019-01-26 17:21

    It was such a quick read but sadly I didn't really like it. Never read anything by this author before, maybe I was caught off-guard. Would definetly read it again if I ever get the chance to read more of this author's work in the future. The main character was funny tho, but I'm still freaked out by that lithopedion character. Actually, I'm not sure I would ever read it again...

  • Craig
    2019-01-22 21:27

    Mr. Toad (of the Wild Ride fame) climbs into my mind as the dust settles finding me pleased and disarranged. Self is incredibly intelligent and weaves a fun and interesting tale. Subtle in many parts which may leave some hanging yet grafted onto to me quite well.

  • Stephen Reynolds
    2019-01-27 19:32

    A perfect example of just how good Will Self can be when gets the balance right between his love of language and his ability as a storyteller. It's Visceral, it's dark and utterly compelling. The expression 'I need a wee wee' will forever chill me to the core.

  • Fay
    2019-01-26 18:08

    If you can stomach Self's self-regard, he does have a crazy genius that half-justifies it.

  • Phil
    2019-01-31 18:25

    Reading a Will Self novel is a bit like hearing the man give one of his current Radio 4 talks - an annoying drone which seems half-determined to bore you to death, half-anxious to bludgeon you into submission with overwrought wordplay and sententious allusion... until suddenly a flash of brilliance wipes away all the irritation that has gone before, and you begin to think that this man is not only very clever indeed, but also a deep and humane thinker. Rarely can a writer's habitual literary voice so closely have echoed his actual, physical one.I think that the self-conscious cleverness, and wearing of one's intellect on the sleeve of one's artfully-crumpled jacket is, for male novelists of my generation at least, something of a neurotic tic, born perhaps of the rise and fall of grammar school education within a short couple of decades. The concomitant insecurity resultant on a tension between the continued contempt of a moneyed elite towards interlopers on their Oxbridge privileges, and the total incomprehension of the unlettered celebrity culture towards any form of intellectual exertion, has left the middle-class bright white literary boy (women and ethnic minority writers still have something to prove to their own peers and a media hungry for novelty, however unjustified that concept might be) with a great deal of anxiety. He feels he has to impress, and resorts to those techniques which got him recognised at school - puns, seemingly casual scholarship, outrageous attitudes - particularly toward sensitive areas such as race and sex. Will Self has the added burden of having deliberately placed himself in the line of descent of two deceased greats of the previous generation, Anthony Burgess and JG Ballard - both social outsiders in a way that no member of the North London middle-classes could ever be. He has a lot to prove.And now I admit that, for all its - and its author's - faults, I loved this novel. Like I say, the flashes of brilliance, in both perspicacity and style, more than compensated for the rather leaden filler passages full of sixth-form wordplay and nudge-nudge-wink-wink intellectual reference. It is a story not so much about How the Dead Live - although a recent radio talk by the author has cast some light on what he means by this, and also by one of the notions in this book that it's possible for the dead to become 'deader' - but rather about how the living do so. In describing the life of the dead, he points out how like a living death so much of our actual life is, and by extension makes a plea to us to do something about it. His characters are trapped by their habits - his 'dead' protagonist, the appalling Lily Bloom, by nostalgia, regret, bitterness and envy; Lily's daughters Charlotte and Natasha by acquisitiveness and heroin addiction respectively. Lily is an appalling old bat, but Self treats her with humorous respect, and I, for one, found myself liking her. Ditto the cynical, exploitative, but vulnerable Natasha (Charlotte is another thing entirely - I think it's obvious where her creator's sympathies lay there...)And it's a very funny book. New Age notions of shamanistic wisdom get a proper going-over, and the attitudes to death of most world religions are fairly effectively, even subtly, apostrophised. I fear I may have become a born-again Will Self fan.My next review in these parts will probably deal with the downside of white, middle-class, male British English novelwriting in the late 20th/early 21st century. And I will name names.

  • Anthony Panegyres
    2019-02-06 13:32

    Will Self is one of the super intellects of modern literature. The question is whether or not his ostentatious narrative style works. The answer is a difficult one but denying his genius or importance to the world of writing would be a flippant disregard to say the least. In How the Dead Live, Self at times scintillates and at other times batters you about with his famed wit. Lily Bloom, a wonderfully satirical Londoner, passes away from cancer and is met in the hospital by her guide to the dead, an Aborigine named Pharlap Jones. Kostas, the taxi driver and modern day Charon, drives her to a dead neighbourhood situated in Northern London where she meets her long deceased boy, who has transformed into Rudeboy; and a carooning and likeable lithopedion, a foetus she lost unknowingly. How the Dead Live is a story about dying, life, and the afterlife. It examines addiction, family and contemporary culture; always in a dark, sharp and typically Self-like comedic fashion. Lily, for instance, is encouraged to attend Personally Dead Meetings with a twelve-step programme. As a Mother, she constantly observes her living daughters’ progress. The tragic lifestyle of her stunning but heroine-addicted daughter Natasha is conveyed in a beautifully sympathetic manner; which contrasts Lily’s cynical narration of her well-meaning and more conventional Jewish daughter, Charlotte. Lily’s past is unravelled before us, and her daughters’ present keeps the reader engaged, combine all that with Self’s ascerbic observations and you have a compelling read. At times though, Self meanders, and parts seem to virge on overkill. Especially Lily’s comments on recent world events, which sound more like a showy historical timetable rather than being more thoughtfully spaced out and interwoven through the text. Overall, How the Dead Live is a worthwhile read. A little less clobbering in parts, such as the historical info-drops, and Self would have created a masterpiece. As it stands, however, it is still an impressive work that ambitiously deals with family in the modern era, along with its many catastrophes.

  • Paul Gelsthorpe
    2019-01-27 13:18

    This is the latest in a long line of Will Self novel's I've read 'My Idea of Fun', 'Book of Dave' and also the short story collections 'Liver' and 'Walking to Hollywood'.For what it's worth, I think it's one of my favourite yet. Despite the bleakness of the tone, I think it works brilliantly as a black comedy, with some real insight into the human condition with regards to the subject of death.As ever, Self's writing can be dense and somewhat cryptic, but this novel is soon an addictive pursuit and I read it very quickly despite the often abstract subject matter.A continuing theme with Self's writing, the psychological and cultural topography of London is used here to hinge the physical breakdown of the anti-heroine narrator Lily Bloom. Some of her exhortations against subjects as diverse as Jewish stereotypes and combat trousers are frankly hilarious.For me, Will Self is one of the greatest contemporary British writers and always displays an imagination far beyond the realms of many of his contemporaries. A great book if you can cope with some of the bleaker parts.I immediately went to Amazon and ordered his latest novel 'Umbrella' which I look forward to reading in the next few months...