REVIEW: The Quiddity Of Will Self (Review by Andrew Cattanach)

by |May 7, 2012

Gather round, I’ve a story to tell. A tale of a new world of fiction, one with no boundaries or limitations, where thought is captured from the crisp morning air and shoved in the sweeping paper waves for curious discourse. If you enjoy a book that makes you reconsider the paradigms of fiction, the oddity of imagination and the brilliance of original thought, look no further than author Sam Mills’ debut adult work The Quiddity Of Will Self.

The book opens with a corpse when Richard Smith, an unassuming North Londoner and rapidly failing writer, discovers the body of his neighbour Sylvie who appears all of a sudden to bear a striking resemblance to the charismatic acclaimed author of which this novel bears part of it’s name, Will Self. Richard spots clues linking the crime scene, along with Sylvie herself, to a secret society of worshippers devoted to Self, of which Sylvie is, or rather now was, a member.

It gets weirder.

As he searches for the truth behind these strange happenings he is drawn into the WSC (Will Self Club, a relatively disappointing name for the cult) and also into elements of Will Self’s work. Self aficionados will recognise settings and characters from some of his most famous works, effortlessly interwoven with the characters in Quiddity. Richard is determined to find the truth behind the strange happenings.

Please pardon the simple vernacular when reviewing such a dense literary piece, but from here it simply gets weirder.

While our hero Richard continues his investigation we are occasionally given glimpses into Will Self’s study, where the ghost of Sylvie drifts outside his window in an attempt to fulfil her lifetime (and apparently afterlifetime) wish of being included as a character in Self’s next novel.

And yet, weirder still.

What follows is passages from Richard’s diary as he discovers more details of the strange organisation and trouble it brings him. All this before we are thrust into the future, and find ourselves in the year 2049 and learn that Self died in 2045, having finally won the Booker at the age of 82. More details emerge of Self’s career and the interwoven world of the WSC.

While this is an incredibly original, highly ambitious novel, part five undoubtedly brings the most joy, with Mills opening up her boundaries even more with a stunning and brilliantly funny entry of self-referential fiction, handling the sticky task masterfully while casting a light on the WSC and her own role within it’s shadowy world of etymological pursuits.

Within the pages of The Quiddity Of Will Self lies a true gem of contemporary literature. It encompasses so many elements of the very best writing, from the transgressive to the absurd, suspenseful to the comedic. This is a must for any reader who craves to be challenged by a novel, and will in turn find themselves infinitely rewarded.

Like finding a fifty-dollar note in your back pocket on a hungover Sunday morning, The Quiddity Of Will Self is a wonderful, ambitious and surprising novel. A breath of fresh air sure to be one of the most talked about books of 2012 and absolute must for any book club looking to add some spice into their reading by embracing the weird, and finding the wonderful.

Guest Reviewer: Booktopia’s Andrew Cattanach

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

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