Category: Will Self

book review – tough, tough, toys for tough, tough boys


If there is a theme that runs through this collection of short stories then it has to be drugs. Will Self is a writer that comes with a reputation and he does not shy away from writing difficult stories that have the potential to shock and disturb.

Anyone in any doubt as to what is in store knows pretty quickly what is coming with the first story about two brothers selling crack. There are the inevitable observations about addiction, desperation and the ugliness of wasting thousands on drugs. But there is also a psychological dimension to it that is drawn out in some of the other stories.

By setting the main character in the role of a shrink the thought process about addiction is seen from a different angle. The drugs are never particularly criticised but just shown to destroy minds and lives and fool those who believe they are in control of them that it is the other way round.

There are also tales that have a ghoulish twist with a man deciding he would rather be with insects than his girlfriend in Flytopia. Her decision to go into the spare room, which has become a breeding room for the flies is fatal. They had only just requested more meat to breed on. Those final paragraphs will stick with you.

Even when there is humour, in the case of the story of the little toddler who is speaking business German, it is done with such darkness it is hard to laugh.

But then again a lot of this is designed to stick with you. There are some phrases that are so well put together you can almost imagine Self laughing to himself with satisfaction. Describing the England fans going home from work to the terraces to see the match referring to terraced houses is one example but there are many throughout the book.

What this collection oozes is confidence. This has been written by a writer that knows they have great ability and the language as a result is rich, where it could have been bland, and the stories are risky where they could have been safe. The result is not always comfortable and it is quite provocative but isn’t this what fiction is meant to do? Surely it is meant to take you into dark places you might avoid and it makes you think and that is always a positive.

Version read – Penguin paperback

book review – tough, tough, toys for tough, tough boys


If there is a theme that runs through this collection of short stories then it has to be drugs. Will Self is a writer that comes with a reputation and he does not shy away from writing difficult stories that have the potential to shock and disturb.

Anyone in any doubt as to what is in store knows pretty quickly what is coming with the first story about two brothers selling crack. There are the inevitable observations about addiction, desperation and the ugliness of wasting thousands on drugs. But there is also a psychological dimension to it that is drawn out in some of the other stories.

By setting the main character in the role of a shrink the thought process about addiction is seen from a different angle. The drugs are never particularly criticised but just shown to destroy minds and lives and fool those who believe they are in control of them that it is the other way round.

There are also tales that have a ghoulish twist with a man deciding he would rather be with insects than his girlfriend in Flytopia. Her decision to go into the spare room, which has become a breeding room for the flies is fatal. They had only just requested more meat to breed on. Those final paragraphs will stick with you.

Even when there is humour, in the case of the story of the little toddler who is speaking business German, it is done with such darkness it is hard to laugh.

But then again a lot of this is designed to stick with you. There are some phrases that are so well put together you can almost imagine Self laughing to himself with satisfaction. Describing the England fans going home from work to the terraces to see the match referring to terraced houses is one example but there are many throughout the book.

What this collection oozes is confidence. This has been written by a writer that knows they have great ability and the language as a result is rich, where it could have been bland, and the stories are risky where they could have been safe. The result is not always comfortable and it is quite provocative but isn’t this what fiction is meant to do? Surely it is meant to take you into dark places you might avoid and it makes you think and that is always a positive.

Version read – Penguin paperback

Lunchtime read: tough, tough toys for tough, tough boys

It seems appropriate that this collection of short stories ends with the characters introduced in the first story reappearing.

The Nonce Prize
This time the roles are reversed and the cool headed Danny has become a crack addict with his cleaned up brother running the business. Things go from bad to worse for Danny as the Jamaican drug boss he double crossed touches down in London wanting revenge. Expecting him to be killed Danny is treated to something much worse being framed by two sex offenders with a dead boy who has been murdered and abused.

Danny is locked up in the nonce wing with the other sex offenders and tries to get moved and is encouraged by the governor to do something with himself. He joins a creative writing class and enters the writing prize but is beaten in the end by someone less talented. he is told to try again next year.

There is of course the usual theme of drugs but there are another couple of observations here that stick with you. There is the feeling that writing can open the mind of those that might have no thoughts previously to be a writer; but equally the critics can be blind to talent and reward those without the gift.

A review will follow soon..

Lunchtime read: tough, tough toys for tough, tough boys

It seems appropriate that this collection of short stories ends with the characters introduced in the first story reappearing.

The Nonce Prize
This time the roles are reversed and the cool headed Danny has become a crack addict with his cleaned up brother running the business. Things go from bad to worse for Danny as the Jamaican drug boss he double crossed touches down in London wanting revenge. Expecting him to be killed Danny is treated to something much worse being framed by two sex offenders with a dead boy who has been murdered and abused.

Danny is locked up in the nonce wing with the other sex offenders and tries to get moved and is encouraged by the governor to do something with himself. He joins a creative writing class and enters the writing prize but is beaten in the end by someone less talented. he is told to try again next year.

There is of course the usual theme of drugs but there are another couple of observations here that stick with you. There is the feeling that writing can open the mind of those that might have no thoughts previously to be a writer; but equally the critics can be blind to talent and reward those without the gift.

A review will follow soon..

Lunchtime read: tough, tough toys for tough, tough boys

Stories about the inner workings of the mind are filtered through the kaleidoscopic influences of drugs, lust and alcohol in Self’s writing. He manages to give a straight forward looking character a hidden chemical fuelled depth that makes it possible to warp perceptions. So you end up with cars the length of a city block, giants and doll sized women and drivers merging into their cars.

Tough, tough toys for tough, tough boys
A drug and drink fuelled Cracker like psychiatrist who specialises in helping the Police work out the motivations of lunatics is driving from Orkney to London. Slumped in his car, which becomes an extension of him, Bill cruises through winding windswept roads. Bill makes the decision to pick up a hitch hiker and in the miles and hours it takes to take the alcoholic loser to Glasgow Bill interrogates the passenger but is never asked anything about himself.

He leaves the hitchhiker and starts wondering more and more about a comment he made about the latter’s passion for getting drunk and sitting on large Tonka toys. He had been explaining to Bill how he sailed down the main street in Glasgow when the psychiatrist interrupted to quote at him the Tonka advertising strap line and this book’s title. That shuts up his passenger and as he drives off after dropping him off Bill muses on the fact that the qualities he frowned on in his passenger are exactly the same he has.

Design Faults in the Volvo 760 Turbo: A Manual
There are some great lines in this about England supporters going home to support the club on their own TV terraces. But it is also pretty confusing trying to work out what is reality and what is exaggerated dream. A simple case of adultery becomes dangerous for the owner of the Volvo after he starts to associate the name of the car with the act of sex with his mistress. He turns to a friend he has who runs a Volvo garage for help. But the friend, who always psychoanalyses the owner of the car rather than the fault in the engine, is about to climb into bed with the Volvo’s owner.

It is a clever twist with the car being the trigger that links the adultery of both husband and wife. But it is shrouded again in that mist of exaggerated imagery that I guess you either love or hate.

Final story to come maybe tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: tough, tough toys for tough, tough boys

Stories about the inner workings of the mind are filtered through the kaleidoscopic influences of drugs, lust and alcohol in Self’s writing. He manages to give a straight forward looking character a hidden chemical fuelled depth that makes it possible to warp perceptions. So you end up with cars the length of a city block, giants and doll sized women and drivers merging into their cars.

Tough, tough toys for tough, tough boys
A drug and drink fuelled Cracker like psychiatrist who specialises in helping the Police work out the motivations of lunatics is driving from Orkney to London. Slumped in his car, which becomes an extension of him, Bill cruises through winding windswept roads. Bill makes the decision to pick up a hitch hiker and in the miles and hours it takes to take the alcoholic loser to Glasgow Bill interrogates the passenger but is never asked anything about himself.

He leaves the hitchhiker and starts wondering more and more about a comment he made about the latter’s passion for getting drunk and sitting on large Tonka toys. He had been explaining to Bill how he sailed down the main street in Glasgow when the psychiatrist interrupted to quote at him the Tonka advertising strap line and this book’s title. That shuts up his passenger and as he drives off after dropping him off Bill muses on the fact that the qualities he frowned on in his passenger are exactly the same he has.

Design Faults in the Volvo 760 Turbo: A Manual
There are some great lines in this about England supporters going home to support the club on their own TV terraces. But it is also pretty confusing trying to work out what is reality and what is exaggerated dream. A simple case of adultery becomes dangerous for the owner of the Volvo after he starts to associate the name of the car with the act of sex with his mistress. He turns to a friend he has who runs a Volvo garage for help. But the friend, who always psychoanalyses the owner of the car rather than the fault in the engine, is about to climb into bed with the Volvo’s owner.

It is a clever twist with the car being the trigger that links the adultery of both husband and wife. But it is shrouded again in that mist of exaggerated imagery that I guess you either love or hate.

Final story to come maybe tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: tough, tough toys for tough, tough boys

Most of the literature you will read is written with an eye on being as realistic as possible. Authors no doubt view the exercise of travelling into a character’s mind as innovative enough. But then there are writers like Self who produce stuff that borders on the fantasy because it seems to have little relation to real life.

The result is that you can be disturbed as logic is warped and the laws of physics bent out of all order but it is a different type of writing and worth reading – although I’m not sure I would opt for this style on a regular basis.

Caring, Sharing
Human beings seem to grow up in farms together and then leave to join the world accompanied by a 14 foot emotos that have a non sexual relationship with them by mother them through life. Frightened of sexual contact, commitment and almost any conversation the humans wander round only managing to sleep on a cocktail of nerve numbing drugs.

The irony is of course that the emoto’s, who are portrayed as non-smoking, non-drinking and non-sexual teddy bear type creatures, have a secret life. They have a level of innocent cynicism (if such a thing can exist) about their owners and look on them with pity.

More tomorrow…