Cover image for Shark
Self, Will, author.
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Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, 2014.

Physical Description:
466 pages ; 24 cm
In 1975, five years after being tricked into going on an ill-advised LSD trip, maverick psychiatrist Dr. Zack Busner realizes the true nature of the events that transpired on that dread-soaked day.
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FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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May 4th, 1970. A week earlier President Nixon has ordered American ground forces into Cambodia to pursue the Vietcong. By the end of the day four students will be shot dead by the National Guards in the grounds of Kent State University. On the other side of the Atlantic, it's a brilliant sunny morning after an April of heavy rain, and at the "Concept House" therapeutic community he has set up in the London suburb of Willesden, maverick psychiatrist Dr Zack Busner has been tricked into joining a decidedly ill advised LSD trip with several of its disturbed residents. Five years later, sitting in a nearby cinema watching Steven Spielberg's Jaws , Busner realizes the true nature of the events that transpired on that dread-soaked day, when a survivor of the worst disaster in the US Navy's history - the sinking of the USS Indianapolis - came face-to-face with the British Royal Air Force observer on the Enola Gay's mission to bomb Hiroshima.

Set a year before the action of his Booker-shortlisted Umbrella , Will Self's new novel Shark continues its exploration of the complex relationship between human psychopathology and human technological progress.

Author Notes

William Woodard "Will" Self was born on September 26, 1961. He is a British author, journalist and political commentator. He wrote ten novels, five collections of short fiction, three novellas and five collections of non-fiction writing. His novel Umbrella was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His subject matter often includes mental illness, illegal drugs and psychiatry.

Self is a regular contributor to publications including Playboy, The Guardian, Harpers, The New York Times and the London Review of Books. He also writes a column for New Statesman, and over the years he has been a columnist for The Observer, The Times and the Evening Standard. His columns for Building Design on the built environment, and for the Independent Magazine on the psychology of place brought him to prominence as a thinker concerned with the politics of urbanism.

Will Self will deliver the closing address at the 2015 Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* This impressive second book in Self's already acclaimed trilogy (following Umbrella, 2012) continues readers' tumultuous journey through the human psyche. Opening with recurring character Zack Busner, the book begins in 1970 in a commune he cofounded to integrate psychiatric patients into society. From there, it winds its way almost seamlessly, without paragraphs or chapter breaks, through the viewpoints of many characters, switching between time and place frequently and without warning. The plot traces circles through the streets of England in WWII, the haunts of junkies in the 1980s, and beyond, returning at times to the commune, where the patients and doctors are tripping on LSD while severely ill resident Claude Evenrude and visitor Michael De'Ath recall their military experiences during the bombing of Hiroshima. As the stories of these and other characters are relayed in spasmodic fits and starts, readers are propelled at a dizzying pace through a tangle of events and contemporary references. This jumbled structure is the platform from which Self explores society's judgments of and effects on sanity and mental health. Self's style pays homage to the modernism of writers such as Joyce and Céline and the black humor of Vonnegut and Heller in this challenging but exceptional read.--Ophoff, Cortney Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

After declaring the novel dead in May in his Guardian article "The Novel Is Dead (This Time It's For Real)," Self returns with a new novel, and it is a maddening, uncompromising, serious, self-indulgent, and beautiful work. The second book in a planned trilogy, following Umbrella (which was shortlisted for the Man Booker), the novel reacquaints us with the unconventional psychiatrist Zack Busner. Busner is the proprietor of the Concept House, a mental health residence in which residents are given free rein. In an unbroken wall of text (no chapters or paragraph breaks), Self describes the many characters of the Concept House, including Lt. Claude Evenrude, who is scarred by what he did over Hiroshima as the target spotter for the Enola Gay, and Michael Lincoln, who watched men die as he floated in the shark-filled Pacific waters after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Their narratives, along with others, converge in a labyrinth of pyschedelic high modern voices ("Michael can see the drinkers' beery guffaws... plain as iron filings round a vulcanite rod"), which, while ceaselessly musical and electric, often feels claustrophobic and disorienting. Bound to exasperate as often as it thrills, Self's novel is a worthy follow-up, and comes as close to capturing the frightening bad trip of modern life as any book in recent memory. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Self's verbose, sometimes opaque narrative fiction (e.g., Great Apes; Umbrella) often leaves the uninitiated reader dazed, and this latest work is no exception. Through shards of paragraphs, staccato-styled sentences, and multiple characters, Self examines the enduring psychological scars of war and humanity's collective fascination with violence. The novel centers on an acid trip undertaken by Dr. Zack Busner, a psychiatrist working in an experimental community whom readers first met in the Man Booker short-listed Umbrella. Unbeknownst to Busner, two of his patients witnessed the destruction of war from two distinct vantage points, one aboard the Enola Gay and the other barely afloat in shark-infested waters after the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Reflecting on the LSD trip during a viewing of Jaws, Busner muses on the psychopathology of violence from the perspective of both aggressor and victim. VERDICT Not unlike the rest of his work, Self's new novel is a sprawling puzzle of fiction that will repel the average reader while rewarding fans of the experimental form. Though not necessary, reading Umbrella first will allow readers to traverse the narrative bridge between the novels. [See Prepub Alert, 6/2/14.]-Joshua Finnell, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.