Picks and Pans Review: Grey Area
It would be interesting to see the peculiar geography of Will Self's gray matter and what folds and fissures might account for his hyperactive vocabulary, his obsession with phlegm, phalluses and bodily fluids, his compulsive and perversely clever wit. All of the above characterize this collection of nine short stories that gleefully savage contemporary Britain.
In "Chest," a cancerous fog enveloping the countryside does nothing to blur class boundaries: The rich shoot pheasant with the aid of radar and scuba tanks, while the poor wheeze and hack under flimsy masks. "Inclusion" exposes the disastrous secret testing of a new antidepressant (the pills come in paisley and Stuart tartan) that promises to help people fully engage in daily life and the affairs of the world.
And in the title story, an office drone is so numbed by the daily grind, she hardly notices that events have been eerily repeating themselves for weeks. Self's tales are all nightmares. But rarely are bad dreams this wickedly entertaining. (Atlantic Monthly, $21)