UMBRELLA

Will Self

“A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella.” —James Joyce, Ulysses

Radical and uncompromising, Umbrella is a tour de force from one of England’s most acclaimed contemporary writers, and Self ’s most ambitious novel to date.

It is 1971, and Zachary Busner is a maverick psychiatrist who has just begun working at a mental hospital in suburban north London. As he tours the hospital’s wards, Busner notes that some of the patients are exhibiting a very peculiar type of physical tic: rapid, precise movements that they repeat over and over.

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“A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella.” —James Joyce, Ulysses

Radical and uncompromising, Umbrella is a tour de force from one of England’s most acclaimed contemporary writers, and Self ’s most ambitious novel to date.

It is 1971, and Zachary Busner is a maverick psychiatrist who has just begun working at a mental hospital in suburban north London. As he tours the hospital’s wards, Busner notes that some of the patients are exhibiting a very peculiar type of physical tic: rapid, precise movements that they repeat over and over. These patients do not react to outside stimuli and are trapped inside an internal world. The patient that most draws Busner’s interest is a certain Audrey Dearth, an elderly woman born in the slums of West London in 1890, who is completely withdrawn and catatonically tics with her hands, turning handles and spinning wheels in the air. Busner’s investigations into the condition of Audrey and the other patients alternate with sections told from Audrey’s point of view, a stream of memories of a bustling bygone Edwardian London where horse-drawn carts roamed the streets. In internal monologue, Audrey recounts her childhood, her work as a clerk in an umbrella shop, her time as a factory munitionette during World War I, and the very different fates of her two brothers. Busner’s attempts to break through to Audrey and the other patients lead to unexpected results, and, in Audrey’s case, discoveries about her family’s role in her illness that are shocking and tragic.

Written with incredible flair and craft, Umbrella is a rich work peppered with Self ’s trademark wit, dark humor, and stylistic idiosyncrasies.

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  • Grove Press
  • Hardcover
  • January 2013
  • 448 Pages
  • 9780802120724

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$25.00

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About Will Self

Will Self is the author of six short-story collections, a book of novellas, eight novels, and six collections of journalism. His work has won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction. His latest novel, Umbrella, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Praise

“Will Self belongs in the company of Nabokov, Pynchon, William Gaddis, and Don DeLillo.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Joycean in its rhythm and style…this is not an easy read, but it is a major and unforgettable one. . . . the prolific maverick Self may have written his best book yet and may gain well-merited recognition.”Booklist (starred review)

“As the highbrow panel dropped the previous year’s demands for “readability” in favor of complexity and the sheer pleasures of innovative prose, it looks for a while as though it could have been Self’s year. As it is, perhaps Umbrella would have been too radical a choice for a prize that, as the country’s biggest, cannot help but be a little conservative.”Guardian

“Brainy and outlandish, though still in the mainstream of modernist fiction, this book captures a number of eccentric voices and sends the reader running to the dictionary. . . . Self plunges the reader into the twisted conscious minds of both Audrey and Zach. . . . The novel disdains such literary conventions as chapters and just plunges us into the inner worlds of its characters. . . . There’s a lyrical, rhapsodic element that continually pulls one into and through the narrative.”Kirkus Reviews