Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Book of Dave

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The Book of Dave

A Novel

by Will Self

The Book of Dave by Will Self X
The Book of Dave by Will Self
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2006, 416 pages
    Nov 2007, 512 pages


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About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to The Book of Dave

Print Review

Will Self is the author of a number of short-story collections including The Quantity Theory of Insanity (winner of the 1992 Geoffrey Faber award), Grey Area and Tough Tough Toys for Tough Tough Boys. He is also the author of six novels including Cock and Bull, My Idea of Fun, Great Apes, How the Dead Live (shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year 2000) and The Book of Dave. His next book, The Butt, will be published in the UK in April 2008. Together with photographer David Gamble, he produced Perfidious Man, a sideways look at contemporary masculinity. He has also published three collections of journalism, Junk Mail, Sore Sites and Feeding Frenzy. He is a regular broadcaster on UK television and radio and contributes to a plethora of publications. He lives in London with his wife, Deborah Orr, and their four children (two of which are from his earlier marriage to Katherine Chancellor).

Self sees himself as both a moral satirist and a social rebel who is more interested in shocking his middle-class readers than in reforming them. He describes his childhood persona as that of "a quite committed and precocious reader .... In early puberty, I was already reading Turgenev and at 12, 13, 14, 15, I was absolutely overawed by the canon. It really stifled my ability to express myself. I wanted to be an actor until I got to Oxford and was revolted by what thespians were like. I thought 'OK, I'll have to do the writing thing then.'"

Speaking of how his career developed he says, "I couldn't get in through literary journalism ... I was too Caliban-like. Too uncouth. I couldn't do it. And I didn't want to, I wanted to write fiction. I was 27 and I thought, 'If I don't write a book now, I won't ever do it.' I got up at 6am and did an hour or two on 'The Quantity Theory of Insanity' before heading into the office. That collection received what Cocteau has described as a 'terrifying baptism of caresses'. Instantly, overnight, I could call up an editor, pitch a piece and get it accepted. I like maintaining the two careers. The journalism gets me out. Although people who see me primarily as a journalist find the idea that I write fiction intolerably pretentious, while people who see me as a novelist find the idea of journalism rather vulgar."

He currently writes about 1,000 words a day for publication. He says, "I'm afraid if I stop, I'll be overwhelmed. But mostly it's genuinely that I have so many ideas. I think that what blocks so many writers is a platonic view of the text - the need to write an ideal. I've always subscribed to the other view that everything is a version. The best I could do at the time. That comes out of being a working writer. I don't have a private income or a sinecure of any kind. It makes good sense for me not be too precious, and to hope that somewhere between the art and the craft it will out."

Did you know?

  • It takes a central London cab driver an average of 34 months to gain The Knowledge required to drive a licensed London taxi.   Before they can receive their license they must know every street and the route between every street in a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross station (that's about 113 square miles) - and they need to be able to describe the best route to take dependent on the traffic conditions.  In addition they have to know all the points of interest and important landmarks along the route!  Only 1/4 of those who start the course complete their training to become London cab drivers. 
  • In 2000 two researchers at University College London published findings showing that London cab drivers have a larger hippocampus than other people (the hippocampus is the part of the brain associated with navigation in birds and animals).
  • Arguably the most famous winner of Mastermind (a very challenging British quiz show) was Fred Housego, a London cabbie who won in 1980.

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Book of Dave. It originally ran in December 2006 and has been updated for the November 2007 paperback edition.

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