Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Book of Dave

by Will Self

Available from Grove for the first time, Will Self’s much-celebrated novel, dubbed by Sam Lipsyte “his satiric masterpiece . . . gripping, funny, and pleasurably intricate”

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 512
  • Publication Date January 22, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2926-0
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $18.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date January 22, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4696-0
  • US List Price $18.00

About the Book

One of Will Self’s best-loved novels, newly reissued by Grove, The Book of Dave begins when East End cabdriver Dave Rudman’s wife takes from him his only son. In response, Dave pens a savage jeremiad against the contemporary world that filters his fearful bigotry through religious mania, with a generous dose of the London cabby’s unique knowledge of the sprawling city. Dave buries the book in his ex-wife’s Hampstead backyard, intending it for his son, Carl, when he comes of age. Five hundred years later, Dave’s book is found by the inhabitants of Ham, a primitive archipelago in post-apocalyptic London, where it becomes a sacred text of biblical proportions and the template for a new civilization.

Equal parts dystopian fantasy, religious allegory, detective story, and tribute to the sometimes fraught relations between fathers and sons, The Book of Dave is an ingenious meditation upon the nature of religion and a caustic satire of contemporary life.

Tags Literary

Praise for The Book of Dave

“Self achieves an elaborate vision of vicious superstition and hopeless struggle.”—New Yorker

“Self marries his verbal acrobatics to social critique, gamely taking on corporate culture, family law, London urban sprawl, religion, racial division and the received wisdom of women’s magazines and the pub . . . You’re left with the intoxication of Self’s wordplay and the clarity of his visions.”—Los Angeles Times

“[A] phantasmagoria of savageries . . . Self has upped his ante from Monty Python to Jonathan Swift, and gone straight to brilliant hell.”—Harper’s

“Self seamlessly toggles between the two time periods, giving equal depth to frustrated, sympathetic Dave and to the inhabitants of the post-apocalyptic future.”—Entertainment Weekly

“A compelling argument for the absurdity often inherent in religion and the dangers of elevating any human to a cult figure. But even more profoundly, it’s a meditation on the unfairness, on the contingency, of life . . . Thoroughly bleak, and satisfying in the uncompromising completeness of its vision.”—Boston Globe

“[Self’s] most bodacious, coruscating and savage attack yet on a consumption-addled society whose soul is made of breakable plastic. The novel is also an utterly enthralling and laser-sharp nightmare of our present and future . . . A perversely exhilarating read. The bleak present and hopeless future are illuminated by the furious lyricism of Self’s style. He wields language with the blazing precision and confident brio of a Jedi knight slashing through darkness. It’s a light in the tunnel.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“What’s most memorable here is not the panoramic vistas of these two dispiriting worlds, but their characters’ brief moments of kindness, resonant as heartbeats under the shifting debris.”—Washington Post

“Will Self’s satire is thorough and multilayered, reaching far beyond a simple skewering of the arbitrary nature of the sacred. Alternating between the future Ham and Dave’s London provides plenty of deferred comedy . . . while simultaneously drawing solemn attention to the weight of our own historical footprint.”—Village Voice

“[A] gleaming new puzzlebook . . . Self is endlessly talented, and in crossbreeding a fantasy novel with a scorching satire of contemporary mores, he’s created a beautiful monster of the future that feeds on the neurotic present—and its parents.”—Publishers Weekly

“An extraordinarily brilliant and engaging donnée . . . Not principally a funny book, but a tender and strange one. A society run according to the ideas of London taxi-drivers in more ordinary hands could only have been a satire; Self is a good enough novelist to go on asking questions of that situation, reaching into peculiarly painful crevices of the mind with steady hands.”—Spectator

“Will Self revels in unraveling his hapless cabbie with a brio characteristic of his typically ebullient prose. It complements his breadth as a writer that he can also render this grotesque figure as a tender victim of emasculated paternity.”—Financial Times

Praise for Phone

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“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

“The characters’ stories unfold in abruptly ever-changing settings and viewpoints . . . trending towards entropy until an evolving unification of situations brings everything finally, and satisfyingly, into focus. The final installment of Self’s trilogy is an invigorating and challenging union of politics, history, and literary finesse.”—Booklist (starred review)

“[D]rug-addled psychiatrist Zach Busner, a recurring character in Self’s fiction, is startlingly similar to Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom in his inability to process new forms of eroticism and spirituality as the stability of a world founded in modernist principles crumbles around him . . . The narrative reads and feels like an endless data stream, underscoring Self’s deliberate attempt to bury the reader in an avalanche of information. A sardonic end to Self’s modernist trilogy.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“[T]he hefty stream-of-consciousness conclusion to Self’s ambitious trilogy . . . Self’s densely cerebral prose leaps between narratives, disregarding linear storytelling and paragraph breaks in favor of extended musings that are often intelligent and periodically insightful.”—Publishers Weekly

“Self makes subtle nods to modernist classics such as Ulysses along the way, unironically making Zack a kind of Leopold Bloom, though in his anxieties and preoccupations he could be someone from the pages of Howard Jacobson. A multilayered, multivocal, and long-awaited pleasure for the Self-absorbed.”—Kirkus Reviews

“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)

“Self’s modernist trilogy concludes with typical panache and wit . . . Phone is the final instalment 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)

“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)

“[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)

“[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.”—London Evening Standard

“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 Shark

“Like the work of the great high modernists from the 1920s, like Joyce, Woolf and Eliot, there is a kind of chaotic beauty in Self’s unrestricted writing . . . There is an amazing consistency to his tone and style; he holds the narrative firmly together at all times, however random and complicated the structure of the book may appear . . . An outstanding work of literature that seeks to question and explore the fundamental components of what constitutes “normal” and “abnormal” behavior in our society . . . Go read it now. You’ll be simultaneously entertained, mesmerized, intellectually stimulated, baffled—and laugh your ass off.”—NPR Books

“[Self’s] text is more ocean than land, a strange, fluid, weightless place where present and past, surface and depth constantly converge, where terrors, both literal and psychic, loom . . . It’s a throwback to modernism, a continuation of the experiments of his literary influences, especially James Joyce and J.G. Ballard . . . Fans of experimental fiction will likely devour the book and applaud Self for inventing a dark stream of consciousness all his own.”—Washington Post

“Self writes in a high-modernist, hallucinatory, stream-of-consciousness style, leaping between sentences, time periods, and perspectives. It can be difficult to hang on, but if, like the titular creature, you keep moving through the ‘verbal bouillabaisse,’ the reward is a strange, vivid book.”—New Yorker

“Willfully neglected history, man-made catastrophe, hubris—and, yes, Jaws—all circulate through Will Self’s latest novel, Shark, which is determined to stoke our collective memories of humanity at its worst . . . Reflects a respectable urge to capture the mental and social collapse Self sees as a legacy of the world wars . . . Self wants to grab our heads firmly, turn us toward the mushroom cloud, make us look at the bodies Claude claimed to see within it, and never flatter ourselves that our capacity for self-destruction is distant history or somebody else’s problem . . . One of [Self’s] most compassionate and earnest books.”—New York Times Book Review

“You will be tossed about in the roiling ocean of words that make up the stream-of-consciousness narrative Self favors . . . The riptide force of Self’s postmodern brilliance will suck you in . . . Shark is as trippy and fanciful as falling down a rabbit hole . . . Pushes me out of my comfort zone . . . Persistence pays off because Shark will stir up a reading frenzy.”—Chicago Tribune

“Intellectually dazzling . . . Shark confirms that Self is the most daring and delightful novelist of his generation, a writer whose formidable intellect is mercilessly targeted on the limits of the cerebral as a means of understanding. Yes, he makes you think, but he also insists that you feel.”—Guardian

“A portrait of madness and sanity in the 20th century, tracing the effects of the machine age as well as the information age on people’s stubbornly fallible psyche . . . Yet the apparently anarchic writing is moderated by careful plotting and sympathetic character development . . . For all his newfound seriousness of intent Self remains a superb comic writer . . . An intoxicating experience. Self’s powerful command of language animates the intense prose while his dry wit is given a freer rein than in Umbrella.”—Financial Times

“Self’s sentences move with sharky verve: a playful, allusive, associative flow that traces frantic minds connecting the dots between past and present, ideals and reality. . . . Shark will challenge and disturb, exasperate and entertain. Self’s prose demands real attention, but is never less than sharp, biting and incisive. Prepare to be eaten whole.”—Independent

Shark has no time for pause and no space for blankness, churning up clumps of words and polyrhythmic phrases and sounds at a breakneck pace . . . [Shark is] an attempt to offer unfettered access to the minds of the book’s characters . . . Here is a hunk of modernism that poignantly, beautifully, and, it seems, genuinely render mental states of sanity and insanity while smudging the gradations in between.”—Full Stop

“A maddening, uncompromising, serious, self-indulgent, and beautiful work . . . Comes as close to capturing the frightening bad trip of modern life as any book in recent memory.”—Publishers Weekly (boxed review)

“A truly wonderful novel . . . The language feels urgent and necessary . . . It is an exciting, mesmerizing, wonderfully disturbing book. Go with it, and it’ll suck you under.”—Daily Telegraph

“Highly enjoyable, vividly, even profoundly imagined. Self is creating something rather grand.”—Sunday Times

“Breathtaking and dazzling. An exhilarating tour-de-force . . . immersing the reader in a trippy Odyssey.”—Daily Mail

“A journey of language, of character, of unsettling fragmented narratives, of tricks, twists and turns. Shark will latch on to you and pull you under if you’re not careful—and that’s a good thing.”—Lit Reactor