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Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys


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About the Author

Will Self is the author of many novels and books of non-fiction, including Great Apes, The Book of Dave, How the Dead Live, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year 2002, The Butt, winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction 2008, Umbrella, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2012, and Shark. His most recent novel, Phone, was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. He lives in south London.


Although the title piece in this collection of eight stories by the ever-inventive Self (Great Apes, etc.) is uncharacteristically realistic, in many others Self's signature surreality, inventive wordplay and altered states of consciousness conspire to give contemporary English satire a good Swiftian kick. Often Self's imaginative extravagances, with their obvious, satisfying hooks, serve as odd contrasts to the brash, merciless critiques of drug addiction that frame the collection. The opening story, entitled "The Rock of Crack as Big as the Ritz," introduces readers to a pair of London brothers who discover that the foundation of their house is made of crack cocaine and who embark on an infinitely profitable drug-dealing enterprise. Danny, who won't smoke the stuff, puts his addicted younger brother, Tembe, to work for him. The arrogant rise and desperate fall of each brother is fluidly documented as their story continues in "The Nonce Prize," where Danny is framed for a vicious crime of pedophilia. A gritty snapshot of the British prison system unexpectedly gives way to a twisted satire on creative writing courses and literary prizes. Other stories feature terra firma settings with winningly uncanny characters, such as an English toddler who speaks only Gessh„ft Deutsch in "A Story for Europe"; the 12-foot-tall empathic na‹fs wealthy Manhattanites depend on for infantile human comfort in "Caring, Sharing"; or the human-insect housemates in "Flytopia." In the tense title story, about a psychiatrist in mid-burnout driving manically across Great Britain, Self cleverly meshes this character's misanthropic alienation with the skank of a doppelg„nger hitchhiker. But of course Self's cleverness is already familiar to his readers; this collection demonstrates that his prowess with the distinctly nonfantastic can be as gripping as his most disturbing hallucinogenic visions. (May)

The title, taken from a Tonka toys slogan, aptly describes the characters in these eight stories. British novelist Self (Great Apes, LJ 10/1/97) reveals a reality that combines the darker side of human nature with the surreal. A pair of stories, "The Rock of Crack as Big as the Ritz" and "The Nonce Prize," centers around how two crack-dealing brothers face the temptations of their product. In the title story, a drive down the center of the British Isles results in an analyst's analyzing himself through the hitchhiker he picks up, and we learn more about this character in "The Design Faults in the Volvo 760 Turbo: A Manual." "Caring, Sharing" involves two people who find safety in a surrogate relationship. In "Flytopia" a symbiotic relationship between man and insect is formed. The narrative offers a variety of verbal tricks, and the stories highlight alternative visions of tough boys. Recommended for public libraries.ÄJoshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. System, Poughkeepsie, NY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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