Will Self likes taking risks. His last novel, Great Apes, followed the stressed-out life of a psychologist who awakened one morning as a chimpanzee. In his essays Self has stalked prime ministers and fought British rock stars. His work breeds controversy, and his method welcomes experiment. Needless to say anything new by him is noteworthy.
In Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys, Self mixes the plausible with the absurd. Within this collection of short stories you will find a rock of crack cocaine as large as a hotel and meet a lexicographer who has learned to communicate with insects. These new stories turn a fun house mirror on modern circumstance. Their humor is grotesque, ticklish, and daft.
Take A Story for Europe for example. Here, Self plays on the fears and troubles of new parents. Worried that their toddler's linguistic skills aren't developing, Miriam and Daniel Green take their two-year-old to the doctor. A bewildered child development specialist informs the anxiety-taxed couple that their son is not only fine but also fully fluent in business German.
Elsewhere, in the poetically titled Design Faults in the Volvo 760 Turbo: A Manual, Self takes us into the mind of a panicky adulterer. Nervous to the point of trauma, Self's protagonist hallucinates that he is 60 feet tall. Incapable of hiding from his spouse because of his size, the guilty giant pleads with his wife for forgiveness, telling her that the palm-sized woman he has been caught with is nothing but a toy. No, these are not bad jokes or out-takes from The Twilight Zone, these are quintessential Will Self creations. For all their outrageousness, these tales radiate a narrative charm. For every goofy plot turn you'll find an equally well plotted character or adroitly spun metaphor. Whether dealing with nerdy parents or hardened drug addicts, Self nails his subjects with an exacting, invigorating stylistic temper like that of the truly great satirists. Surely Self is one of them if that's not too immodest a proposal.