The Quantity Theory of Insanity

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Overview

What if there is only a limited amount of sanity in the world and the real reason people go mad is because somebody has to? What if a mysterious tribe in the Amazon rainforest turn out to be the most boring people on the earth? What if the afterlife is nothing more than a London suburb, where the dead get new flats, new jobs, and their own telephone directory? These are the sort of truths that emerge in this collection of stories by one of ...
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The Quantity Theory of Insanity

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Overview

What if there is only a limited amount of sanity in the world and the real reason people go mad is because somebody has to? What if a mysterious tribe in the Amazon rainforest turn out to be the most boring people on the earth? What if the afterlife is nothing more than a London suburb, where the dead get new flats, new jobs, and their own telephone directory? These are the sort of truths that emerge in this collection of stories by one of England's most gifted writers.

In The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Will Self tips over the banal surfaces of everyday existence to uncover the hideous, the hilarious, and the bizarre. Psychiatry, anthropology, theology—and literature—will never be the same.

Combining a wild imagination, a bizarre sense of humor, and a masterful command of language, Self is the newest young literary star to appear out of England. The six short stories include: a man finds his mother walking up a hill in a distant London suburb, although she died ten months ago and much more. Major review coverage.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With its U.K. publication in 1991, this collection of six morbidly funny stories of Thatcherite Britain secured Self's standing as the enfant terrible of English satirical fiction. As in last year's My Idea of Fun, Self's parodic style here hinges on flat, gullible, slightly ridiculous narrators, who serve both as picaresque vehicles for Self's sardonic critiques of English cultural life and filters for his manic, erudite prose. In the title story, a paranoid social scientist recounts in absurdly pretentious style how he arrived at his celebrated theory that ``there is only a fixed proportion of sanity available in any given society.'' In ``Understanding the Ur-Bororo,'' an anthropologist spends years studying an indigenous tribe in the Amazon basin only to discover that their distinguishing trait is that they are boring. In the rather affecting first story, ``The London Book of the Dead,'' a bereaved narrator finds that his dead mother is living in a remote part of London. Events and names threaded through each tale hold together this uneven collection; steeped in grotesque metaphors, millenialist zeal and preposterous academic theories, it will surely appeal to Self's widening Stateside audience. Often downright misanthropic, it displays the young author's debts to the dissimilar satirical sensibilities of David Lodge and William Burroughs. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
With these six sardonic tales, Self establishes himself as a first-rank satirist. In the title story, the originator of the renowned Quantity Theory of Insanity recounts the events surrounding its discovery and the disputatious history of his "school." In "The North London Book of the Dead," a young man learns what lies beyond death when he spots his deceased mother walking down a suburban London street. "Understanding the Ur-Bororo" concerns an anthropologist's studies of a remote Brazilian tribe whose distinguishing trait is their dullness; indeed, the tribe's name translates as "The People Who You Wouldn't Want To be Cornered by at a Party." Filled with acid wit and fresh, trenchant metaphors, these corrosive stories probe the terror hidden within the trivial. Recommended.-Lawrence Rungren, Bedford Free PL, Mass.
From the Publisher
"If a manic J.G. Ballard and a depressed David Lodge got together, they might produce something like The Quantity Theory of Insanity. But Will Self's world is all his own; it is both exotic and institutionalized, full of dread and dowdiness and entirely unsuspected comedy." --Martin Amis

"The outright excellence of this book cannot be denied. The Quantity Theory of Insanity is of such high caliber that it could strike a new literary rivalry between the U.K. and the United States." --Los Angeles Reader

From Barnes & Noble
Acclaimed for his satirical wit and an imaginative style compared to that of Franz Kafka, British writer Will Self explores in these six short stories the domain where the mundane lurks on the edge of horror, wild absurdity, and unsuspected comedy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802121462
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/4/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 657,137
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Will Self grew up in London, where he lives with his wife and two children. The Quantity Theory of Insanity won the 1993 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the 1992 John llewellyn Rhys Prize. He is also the author of Cock & Bull and My Idea of Fun.
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Table of Contents

The North London Book of the Dead 1
Ward 9 16
Understanding the Ur-Bororo 69
The Quantity Theory of Insanity 95
Mono-Cellular 151
Waiting 173
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