The Quantity Theory of Insanity: Reissued

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Which dictionary do you work with? And is it true that you used to keep a file of baroque words and inkhorn terms for future use? No, it isn't true about the file of baroque words. I am a bit of a sesquipedalian, but the only means by which I augment my word lode is to note the definitions either side of the one I'm looking for.

I wouldn't know what to do with an inkhorn, unless it came attached to a blotting-paper unicorn.

The Quantity Theory of Insanity: Reissued

Thomas De Quincey says: "If a man who tends oxen should take opium, he will dream of oxen. While a life of excess may provide you with some experiences that it requires wisdom to interpret, the getting of wisdom itself is quite another affair. Can you give us five examples of perfidy for the 21st century that mankind hasn't thought of yet? I don't know about "thinking" per se, an awful lot of things have been at least conceived of, but I don't think these five have been done quite yet: having sexual intercourse with your own, underage, clone; enslaving super-intelligent cockroaches; bifurcating the feet of infants to turn them into two, huge, prehensile toes; open-cast mining for verbiage; and opening a themed genocide restaurant.

Fairly hazy.

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I wasn't a school-type person really. I made at least one lifelong friend. I went to the chip shop during break time and had a wally and chips. What became of all your cartoons? Some cartoons are reprinted in my first collection of journalism, Junk Mail , some others appear in my collection of architectural pieces, Sore Sites.

I have a few copies of the collection of my New Statesman strips "Slump", published in book form in the mid-Eighties. I was never that good a cartoonist, it took me about five years to learn to draw with any kind of perspective. They should reissue The Penguin John Glashan rather than my doodles. Is it possible, do you think, to write a Great English Novel, in the way that American authors think it's possible to write a Great American Novel? Any recent examples? I do think the notion of "great" national novels belongs in some way to ascendant and imperial cultures, hence the swagger and confidence of the post-war, 20th-century American novel.

However, the judgement of posterity is warped and fickle. I remain a great fan of Julie. There's no one whose extempore journalism is more likely to strike sparks off the dull knife of my own intellect. I think she's a remarkably smart woman, who has put great time, energy and ingenuity into uncultivating herself. One of the great English eccentrics.

Some of my earlier work adumbrates the experience of extreme states of mind brought on by narcosis, but all of it was written when I was straight. I have now been drug and alcohol free for pushing two years, and I feel no urge to stop playing the plastic piano. Any chance of a follow-up? If so, who would you team up with this time? He did the music for the South Bank Show documentary on my work in If you woke one morning to find that you had lost your literary powers, what other profession would you turn to?

You seem to have a bit of a fetish about dead people who aren't really dead. It was the subject of your first short story and your last novel. Did somebody close to you die when you were at an impressionable age? My mother died of cancer when I was 27 years old, and my father died of cancer in I think you're always at an impressionable age when your parents die. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here.

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Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. More filters. Sort order. Aug 08, Anthony Vacca rated it liked it. The Quantity Theory of Insanity is a fun sextet of loosely interconnected stories that tackle several of the themes - madness, medical misbehavior, time, boredom sadly, this freshman feel at fiction doesn't include Self's flair for violence and sexual depravity - which will go on to be the bread and butter of his later works.

Most of these stories operate as Ballardian "what ifs? What The Quantity Theory of Insanity is a fun sextet of loosely interconnected stories that tackle several of the themes - madness, medical misbehavior, time, boredom sadly, this freshman feel at fiction doesn't include Self's flair for violence and sexual depravity - which will go on to be the bread and butter of his later works. What if there is a tribe in South America peopled with the most boring wretches in the world? What if there is a theory that propounds the notion that insanity is a quantifiable element with its own laws about how it is distributed throughout any given group of people?

What if there is a mental institute in which the distinctions between patient and physician are nonexistent? While a completely enjoyable read, with all of the author's alliterative and verbose writing quirks that you'll either pleasure in or sniffle at, most of these stories take a beat too long in lifting off from slow set-ups. But even so these inventive meshings of science fiction, horror, and satire make for a great place to start for any first-time Self reader. View all 6 comments. Dec 16, Jacob rated it it was ok Shelves: short-fiction , August Will Self is His stories are somewhat hit-or-miss.

Trust me, " Foie Humain " is pretty good and worth several rereads. This collection? Oh, it's definitely getting culled. Who wants it? Although Liver was more miss than hit, The Quantity Theory of Insanity is somewhat more balanced--but still unsatisfying. You never come to Crouch End except to take the cat to the vet, you don't even like Crouch End.

Will Self's work is very dry and cerebral, and sometimes it works for me--but sometimes it doesn't. This was one of those times. I like stumbling across good short stories, but not when they're hidden among a bunch of tedious and mediocre ones. Guess I'll stick with " Foie Humain.

View 2 comments. Feb 28, Kevin Simons rated it did not like it. This book is a waste of time, even if you're bored out of your mind and have no life whatsoever.


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Whenever I read a blurb that says a book is hilarious I know I can count on it to be unbearable. There's a story about running into his deceased mother, who is happily alive after death in the London suburbs. It's the kind of throwaway metaphor anyone with half a brain has made a hundred times at a bar: death is the London suburbs. But then we move on, because we have things to do and we know writing This book is a waste of time, even if you're bored out of your mind and have no life whatsoever. But then we move on, because we have things to do and we know writing a story that drags this metaphor along to nowhere will waste our time even worse than it wastes the reader's time.

Each story is like that, a marginally cute or clever idea that bumbles along pretentiously, preciously, annoyingly, unendingly But, hey, what do I know? Plenty of reviewers, eager to pump up a "talent" they've been sold on, tell us it's great, so it must be, right? Will Self got kicked off Tony Blair's press plane for shooting smack in the bathroom. Just don't use your own brains to evaluate this piece of dogshit and you'll like it just fine. Jan 24, Simon Robs rated it liked it. Ditto: another reread, this time some prequel aspects of Self's arch character Dr. Zack Busner, whose lifetime work is summarized in "Umbrella" - "Shark" - "Phone" trilogy and encapsulates the author's obsessive preoccupation with mental illness and the behaviors of its inhabitants.

The titular story "TQToI" rests comfortably in the nexus of all Self's world of the not quite right as central theme of requisite madness in proportion to numbers in any given set or grouping. It's a well thought out Ditto: another reread, this time some prequel aspects of Self's arch character Dr. It's a well thought out mind experiment employing algebraic methodology and adducing contingency sets for conferring outcomes in game theory postulates.

The Self world is a caldron of bubbling confusion and few arbiters to sort the mess so usually it's left unintended with an eye to observation. As such there's lots of 'whingeing' going on - while that may unnerve it never fails of bathos fueled inanity as quid pro quo epiphanic rest of a dharma bum. Despite being a huge fan of satire, the works of Will Self have somehow managed to pass me by until now.

On a whim, I picked this up from a charity shop and I must declare that it's the best 50p I've ever spent! This edition of short stories are weird and wonderful, full of jaded wit and offbeat goodness. My favourite story was Ward Despite being a huge fan of satire, the works of Will Self have somehow managed to pass me by until now. My favourite story was Ward 9 which has both depressing and brilliantly sarcastic moments in it. If you like writers like Martin Amis, you'll get on very well with Will Self. Dec 01, Jan rated it really liked it. Just a feast of a short story collection -- it takes place in that cozy little intersection between the dark alleys of modern neurosis and the cobbled boulevards of the smug academic world.

In the titular story, Self starts with a campus farce much like David Lodge's, taking it in a darker and I would say more incisive direction. The narrator finds his disappeared mentor by deciphering the "code" written in men's bathroom stalls, moves on to working for an agribusiness magnate who would like to Just a feast of a short story collection -- it takes place in that cozy little intersection between the dark alleys of modern neurosis and the cobbled boulevards of the smug academic world. The narrator finds his disappeared mentor by deciphering the "code" written in men's bathroom stalls, moves on to working for an agribusiness magnate who would like to prove that men and cows can coexist as equals, and of course uses a small hippy commune to run a first experiment in proving the titular theory.

It only gets stranger from there, and in each story in the collection, the line between mental health professionals and their patients becomes increasingly blurry, before metastasizing and encircling all of England. In addition, I was delighted to find tropes from much of Self's later work riddling these stories, and anyone who's ever delighted in getting from point A to point B in a particularly clever fashion will love "Waiting.

Nov 27, Mellissa rated it liked it. Self has a very dry wit and I'm sure a lot of it went right over my head. I found some of his passages to be rather tedious, also. I did however get a few good chuckles, and very much liked how the stories were interconnected. Sep 25, Graham Wilhauk rated it liked it Shelves: read-in-september I don't know whether to give this book a 2. Though the good stories were really good, so I will give it a 3 stars for now. Avoid at all costs. Other than that, this is a decent dose of bizarre storytelling and pretentiousness that I am kind of a sucker for!

I am giving this one a 3 out of 5 stars. A really thought provoking and incredibly well written collection of short stories by Will Self. The first one imagines that, when we die, we simply move to a different part of London, whereas "Ward 9" focuses on an Art Therapist who begins to work in a hospital where the distinction between doctor and patient becomes a little blurred. On the downside A really thought provoking and incredibly well written collection of short stories by Will Self.

On the downside I found the satirical "Understanding the Ur-Bororo" a little slow and the monologue of "Mono Cellular" a little dense and, at times, unclear which detracted from my enjoyment.


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  • Finally "Quantity Theory of Insanity" is a typical Self work, based around an interesting, but unlikely theory - that people believe that the amount of insanity in a society is fixed. Therefore, as some people suffer mental illness, others suffer less to keep the overall level the same. The story follows the original hypothesis of the theory, the research and the aftermath as the theory is abused by a number of different self-serving individuals.

    Interesting, enjoyable and the type of short story that you think about days after reading. Overall, four out of five. Well worth a read, but not Self's best work. Feb 28, Peter D. Mathews rated it it was amazing Shelves: 20th-century , british , british-reading-list , short-stories. Reading Self from the start, in sequence, is not a bad strategy - after all, his fiction is littered with intratextual references, recurring characters, and little in-jokes that build from one book to the next.

    Self is a polarizing writer whose reputation usually precedes him. He tends to be either loved or The Quantity Theory of Insanity is Will Self's first book, and although I had previously read Cock and Bull before I picked up this text, I felt as though I was starting over with his oeuvre. He tends to be either loved or hated as a consequence, which is unfortunate, because authors should not be judged solely on the emotional reactions they provoke.

    You see, Self is clever and witty and erudite in a way that only the English seem to be able to pull off. Self is not merely showing off here: his satire has real teeth, and is grounded in a fierce intellect that attempts to be revolutionary even as it acknowledges such precursors as Kafka and Chekhov. My experience of reading the first story in here, "The North London Book of the Dead," is a perfect example of the unsettling yet amusing nature of Self's texts. What appears at first to be a tragic tale of how a man loses his mother to cancer gradually transforms itself into minor pathos.

    The dead don't go away altogether, the narrator discovers, they merely move to a different part of London. I was, by turns, confused and then amused as I realized the true purpose of the metaphor that Self was creating. This biting caricature of the dullness of English life is replicated in other stories, such as "Understanding the Ur-Bororo.

    What Janner discovers, however, is that the romance surrounding the tribe derives purely from their obscurity. In reality, they are the most boring people in the world, whose culture shows a remarkable indifference to sex and whose conversations consist of bland observations about the weather. Janner marries one of the tribe and, in a brilliant satirical twist, brings her back to England, where she fits right in. The stories in The Quantity Theory of Insanity thus typically explore one of two themes: the unexciting, self-limiting way in which humanity tends to live life, as exemplified by the two stories mentioned already as well as the book's closer, "Waiting," and Self's exploration of madness, rationality, and power.

    It is in this book, for instance, that we first meet Self's most important recurring character, the experimental psychiatrist Dr. Zack Busner, together with his notorious mentor Alkan a not-too-subtle but utterly enjoyable caricature of Jacques Lacan. The first is that I didn't like the story "Mono-Cellular," a testament to the occasional tendency of English fiction writers to overreach their abilities I'm looking at you, A.

    The second is that this book at times felt strangely dated, in the same way that reading literary and critical theory from the same period feels dated. I get a similar feeling when I read Self's other books, too, as if he is still trying to push the boundaries of s postmodernism without realizing that the rest of the world has moved on. Getting it in the Head. An English Guide to Birdwatching. The Great Below, The. Maddy Paxman. Short Stories.

    Nicholas Hancock. Keith Ridgway. The Art of Failing. Anthony McGowan. Nigel Barley. My First Colouring Book.

    Lloyd Jones. Before You Wake: Three Horrors. Adam Nevill. The Nerve. Melvyn Bragg. The Love Of Looking. Scopophilia Publishing. John Fuller. Lessons in Humility. Barry Dickins. Household Worms. Stanley Donwood. Martin Rowson. Keith Roberts. The Harrowed Path. John DW MacDonald. Priest's Hole. The Auditoury Project. Tunbridge Wells Writers. Behind Many Doors.

    The Quantity Theory of Insanity Reissued by Will Self | Fruugo

    Phil Carradice. A Solitary Confinement. Robin Sheppard. Will Self.

    The Butt. The Book of Dave. Walking to Hollywood. Will Self's Collected Fiction. Cock and Bull. Great Apes. How the Dead Live. The Sweet Smell of Psychosis.

    The Quantity Theory Of Insanity - Reissued Paperback

    Feeding Frenzy. Grey Area. My Idea of Fun. Dr Mukti and Other Tales of Woe. Psycho Too. Patrick Marmion. How to write a great review. The review must be at least 50 characters long. The title should be at least 4 characters long.

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