Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


by Will Self

“Will Self’s brilliant new novel is an epic anti-tweet . . . the third part of a defiant, self-consciously modernist trilogy. . . staggeringly ambitious, frighteningly intelligent, ludicrous, and brilliant. . . .” —Daily Telegraph (UK)

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 624
  • Publication Date January 22, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2921-5
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $18.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 624
  • Publication Date January 09, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2537-8
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $27.00

About the Book

Published to rave reviews in the United Kingdom, Phone tells the story of two men: Zack Busner and Jonathan De’Ath. Busner is a psychiatrist who has made his name through his unorthodox treatment of psychological damage, such as giving the controversial drug L-DOPA to patients ravaged by encephalitis, or administering LSD to World War II PTSD-sufferers. But now Busner’s own mind is fraying: Alzheimer’s is shredding his memory and his newest possession is a shiny smartphone given to him by his introverted grandson Ben. Meanwhile, Jonathan De’Ath, aka “the Butcher,” is an MI6 man who remains a mystery even to those closest to him, be it his washed-up old university lecturer father, his jumbling-bumbling mother, his hippy-dippy brothers, his spooky colleagues or multitudinous lovers.

All of De’Ath’s acquaintances apply the “Butcher” epithet to him, and perhaps there is only one person who thinks of him with tenderness, a man he keeps top secret, encrypted in the databanks of his steely mind: Colonel Gawain Thomas, husband, father, highly trained tank commander, and Jonathan De’Ath’s long-time lover. As Busner’s mind totters and Jonathan and Gawain’s affair teeters, they come to face the interconnectedness of all lives, online and off, while an irritating phone continues to ring. . . . ring. . . . ring. . . .

Tags Literary


“The British author Will Self may not be the last modernist at work but at the moment he’s the most fascinating of the tradition’s torch bearers. Phone is the final volume in a trilogy that traces the arc of technology and consciousness across the last century. It’s also a thrilling narrative of great historical sweep.”—Christian Lorentzen, New York

“True to its title, this is not a quiet book. It’s insistent, untidy, and enormously personal . . . Even more so than its two predecessors, Phone is worth the struggle. The book is, in addition to all its stylistic pyrotechnics, a magnificent portrait of fragility, the best thing Will Self has ever written.”—Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly

“An energetic ride that offers a lot of fun and erudition.”—Barnes and Noble Review

“Self’s new novel, Phone, concludes this spellbinding experimental trilogy . . . A stunning polemic against modern communication.”—Run Spot Run

“Will Self’s brilliant new novel is an epic anti-tweet . . . the third part of a defiant, self-consciously modernist trilogy. . . staggeringly ambitious, frighteningly intelligent, ludicrous, and brilliant. . . Reading the hundreds of unbroken pages of Phone demands a physical commitment, the literary equivalent of mountaineering. But after all that, the summit brings a kind of elation.” —Daily Telegraph (UK)

“There are marvels in store . . . Self’s technique matches high seriousness with, at times, positively childish joking—which is quite in keeping with the dissonance and incongruity that he seeks to restore to his literary account of the psyche . . . Phone is a fervid associative swirl . . . But what’s oddest of all is that the core of this third part of his trilogy, overlaid as it is by the mass of his thematic preoccupations, is that most un-Selfian of things: a love story.” —Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“[A] great trilogy . . . Eccentrically punctuated, with no paragraphs, [Phone] is a series of fast-paced, laugh-out-loud witty, disgusting and frequently well-observed scenes. [Self] has a sharp ear for dialogue, and woven in and out of the surreal narrative are some of the wisest reflections on the folly of war (in this case the Gulf War) that you are likely to read outside the pages of Tolstoy. In our depressingly middlebrow intellectual climate, it is refreshing that at least one novelist is raising the bar.” —A.N. Wilson, London Evening Standard

“Self’s modernist trilogy concludes with typical panache and wit . . . Phone is the final installment in what has shown itself to be one of the most ambitious and important literary projects of the 21st century . . . It’ll take you a couple of weeks to read all three novels properly. But I can’t think of a better way to spend your time. Self’s message is a perennially important one, brilliantly expressed: only connect.” —Guardian (UK)

“Will Self’s Phone will be one of the most significant literary works of our century . . . books that reflect and refract the hideousness of our times and that attempt to move the novel beyond the Robinson Crusoe paradigm of an Enlightened man and his singular thoughts. Over and above the intellectual sprezzatura of the work, there is, at its heart, an emotional core, a profound sense of grief.” —New Statesman (UK)

“[Phone] delivers a hurricane of satire and suspense . . . A novel of grand ideas, powered by a ravenous curiosity about the role of the technological revolution in our private and public woes . . . For all his modernist manoeuvres, Self keeps to a fairly orthodox strategy. William S Burroughs, meet John le Carré.” —Financial Times (UK)

“Looks a forbidding read, but after a few pages it’s like slipping into a warm, fragrantly scented bath . . . Self’s modernist stream-of-consciousness style, a kaleidoscopic tour-de-force of cultural references and wordplay, becomes addictive and compelling. Not to be missed.” —Daily Mail (UK)

“Self seems to have fixed his eyes once again on the far-distant horizon of literary immortality and raised himself to his full and proper height . . . [Self has] achieved the status of a true classic. He now writes books that no one else could possibly write and which everyone admires . . . Phone reads like a techno-thriller written by Virginia Woolf . . . Like a lot of great books—Ulysses, Moby-DickPhone was probably even more fun to write than it is to read . . . Enthralling and exasperating in equal measure, Self’s corpus resembles not the little figurines of English so-called literary fiction but the big flash foreign models—the Cocteaus, the Houellebecqs, the Célines, the absolute shockers . . . You’d have to be pretty bloody-minded and blinkered not to recognise that the books are radically funny raucous romps, understandable and enjoyable by just about anyone and everyone.” —Prospect Magazine (UK)

Praise for Will Self:

“A defiant satirist with a peculiar mastery of the vocabulary of modern neurosis. . . His lush, scrupulously exact prose can vault from the poignant to the grotesque to the ridiculous with vertiginous ease.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Self is too talented a writer to ignore.” —Entertainment Weekly

“[Self’s] is an inventive prose of vigorous verbs, high-tech terms, odd juxtapositions and a manic sensibility eager to wallow where others fear to tread.” —Newsday


Just goes to show, whatever they may say there’s not much wrong with my memory—it’s only that I have to . . . sort of . . . download things . . . . . . ! . . . . . . ! while in the meantime there’s all this other . . . data—such a lot of it, it pours in, more and more—and the more there is, the more it reminds you . . . . . . ! . . . . . . ! you’re alone in here—while out there it’s a Snowden aviary of a dining area, full of trilling laughter and cheeping chatter, out of which emerges this pleasing Scouse whine: Don’t wanna jib youse, but shall we cummere fer oor tea t’night? . . . . . . ! . . . . . . ! Above them not Lennon’s only sky but only fire-resistant tiles—always a lot of fire-resistant tiles in hotels, even expensive ones . . . . . . ! . . . . . . ! But why—why does that old codger have a sweatshirt with Jack Jones written on it? Is it part of a series—an entire fashion line featuring seventies union leaders? If so, where’re Vic Feather and Clive Sinclair? . . . . . . ! . . . . . . ! This is where their winter of discontent ended – in a summer city-break, complete with Hilton Honours points. There they are: queuing up in front of a wooden bench piled high with croissants and those muff-things, while their seriously overweight wives saw at the greasy meat on their plates with serrated knives—a mortuary sound . . . . . . ! . . . . . . ! Hang on to the phone—that’s the thing to do. It’s all in the phone: my itinerary, my train times, my medical information—the whole lot. Hang on to the phone—feel the smoothness of its bevelled screen . . . . . . ! . . . . . . ! Place your thumb in the soft depression of its belly-button—turn it over-and-over . . . a five-hundred-quid worry bead—and all I worry about is losing the bloody thing . . . . . . !