Looking for a good idea

My Idea of Fun

There's something wrong with Ian Wharton. His idea of fun is a bit, well... let's just say it's probably not the same as yours. He's a bit unstable and pretty introverted; but then you might be too, if you could conjure up an internal, eidetic universe and fly through it at will, peeking into the dorms at Roedean and stealing watches from people's pockets, all in the blink of an eye. And The Fat Controller isn't helping matters, teaching him the secrets of the universe and how to cure his spots with alchemy, while killing theatre-goers with a curare-tipped hypodermic. So when Dr Gyggle steps in with some empiricism-as-therapy, Ian thinks it's for the best; but the little devil at the controls of his brain hopes that things will get far, far worse.

Forget everything you've heard about Self's verbosity and pretentiousness: when he gets to work he crackles and flexes with energy, and you can see the muscles rippling under the surface. He's thrilling and relentless, and can turn a quirky, back-of-the-bookshop theme into something with the emotional weight of a legal blockbuster.

So why is this outing so unsatisfying?

My Idea of Fun is subtitled "A Cautionary Tale", but is Self paying attention? He's cut free of what's typically sneered at as "conventional morality": no fault in itself, but Self lazily fills the gap with the modern, meaty, bloody equivalent of good-guy-duels-with-bad-guy, which is to say guy-butchers-guy. It's no exaggeration to say that, when the narrator offhandedly mentions that he once tore off a tramp's head on an empty tube train and fucked the stump of the neck (I might as well let you in on that one: it happens two pages in and sets the tone for much of the novel) he's both defining and succumbing to a recurring theme in literary circles, work which shocks above all else.

Self-as-author and Ian-as-narrator both seem to follow parallel courses along a universal myth of "amoral aesthetic leading to oblivion": first we move through excess, then disgust, then blandness and finally to something utterly, inexplicably boring in its blatant attempts to provoke. What a writer, though: how supple, how lithe.... A shame all he's doing is prancing round at the gym.