Sunday, 3 January 2010

Just Finished: The Book of Dave by Will Self

It's half 4 in the morning and I've given up trying to get back to sleep. I've been tossing and turning all night, terrified of the horrors that are bound to be lurking in my inbox. A decision has been made: I'm never taking time off near Christmas again. It's not worth the stress.

I may even go to the gym! Yes...yes let's do that. Eeek.

But first, a few words on a book I've just finished; The Book of Dave by Will Self. In brief, it's comprised of two stories, set maybe 500 years apart. The first follows London cabbie Dave Rudman's life as he spirals out of control. During a mental breakdown, he writes a book in which he records his views on the world he lives in and buries it. It's meant for his son, but is found instead 500 years later after London has flooded and society crumbled. In the future, it's become a holy book, and is now the basis of a new religion (interesting, as Dave was not a nice bloke, being as bigoted as he was psychotic).

The story set in the future follows the people of Ham and shows how Dave's book has been interpreted and his views enforced. For example, Dave's anger at the fairer sex after Michelle's actions, and his struggle to maintain access to his son leads to the forced separation of males and females and children splitting their time between the two. It's also written in 'mockni' and comes complete with a glossary to explain what they're talking about. Some of the mockni words are better than others - I liked 'the headlight' for the sun and especially the adjective dävine - divine. Others were a bit more tenuous and perhaps a little strained. And I didn't really understand where the motos (pig-human crossbreeds?) came from, but that's probably me missing something.

It's a good read; quite slow moving to begin with, but this just means that by the time you're halfway through you have a cast of fully-formed characters you can sympathise with or understand. It's an odd feeling to switch from Dave's story (depression, psychosis, alienation) to the future which is a lot more fantastical. And maybe it went on a bit too long - but this could well be due to the fact I haven't been on a train in two weeks (that's where I do my best reading, you see).

I loved Dave's description of contemporary London - there's a line that I wanted to put in about Shoreditch, where the City of London becomes the 'real East End' but I can't find it now. N works in Shoreditch you see, and has in the past pointed out a similar thing - a road where the glassy financial centre gives way to the east end - and bins make their first appearances outside of the Square Mile.

Well, it's so early this probably doesn't even make any sense and is very unlikely to grab me my first follower, but never mind - it has been written, and so it shall be posted.

Off to gym...and back to reality :(


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