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The Quantity Theory of Insanity (Vintage…

The Quantity Theory of Insanity (Vintage Contemporaries) (original 1991; edition 1996)

by Will Self

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698713,611 (3.62)10
Title:The Quantity Theory of Insanity (Vintage Contemporaries)
Authors:Will Self
Info:Vintage (1996), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library

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The quantity theory of insanity by Will Self (1991)


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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Self knows a lot of big, old, underrated and little-used words and seems intent on using them. This collection of six short stories invites you to sample Self's rare intellect, but does so like an invitation to the gallery at the back of an auditorium for a lecture you've heard a lot about but soon realise have little hope of understanding.

Like the narrator of 'Waiting', you start well, rapt even by the wordplay, wit and intelligence, but soon Self has lost you, the rest of the book an "increasingly involved, turgid and difficult" display. Like Stein's lecture, "the sheer weight of detail eroded my attention... I began to tune out."

The copy of the book I own has a big fat stain on the back cover, a thick brown ring of coffee-tainted water. I concur that the book probably makes for a better coaster than an insight into anything Self might have to offer. Beyond the first two tales you might consider putting it to stain avoidance duties and consider yourself done with the business of reading.

If I had the option to give this 1-and-a-half stars, I'd do it. I didn't hate it, but I didn't exactly like it either. I wouldn't recommend it, unless I wanted to put someone off reading Self for life. On the other hand, if I ever read any other books by him and find they raise the bar, I might suggest reading this to really put his brilliance into perspective. 'He can sink this low, yet rise to such incredible heights... Do you see?" ( )
  PaulBaldowski | Jan 24, 2015 |
This is a collection of six short stories set mainly in Britain, in more or less contemporary times, and united by the theme of insanity. They range from the very good ("The Quantity Theory of Insanity", "Understanding the Ur-Bororo", "Ward 9"), the fairly good ("Waiting"), the mediocre ("The North London Book of the Dead"), to the truly awful ("Monocellular").
Ward 9, a reference to Chekhov's Ward 6, follows a somewhat similar plot, but in a modern hospital. For those who have read Chekhov's work, the ending might not come as such a surprise, and for those who haven't the turn of events will be unexpected. Also somewhat like Chekhov's short stories, there is a theme of the medical / academic world here, with three of these stories likely to be appreciated especially by those to whom this world is familiar.
This was my first time reading Will Self, and I was quite impressed by some of these stories, they had me reading with intent interest, not only for the plots, but for the abstract ideas behind them. Though I was disappointed with 2 of the stories, if he has written whole novels as good as the good short stories then I would be glad to read a lot more from this author. ( )
  P_S_Patrick | Jan 6, 2013 |
If The Quantity Theory of Insanity is proven & turns out to have some basis in fact, your best defence against insanity is to carry this book at all times, it will counteract any bedlam you find yourself in. It's a mad dark satire that disturbs at the same time as it makes you laugh.http://parrishlantern.blogspot.com/2010/08/there-is-only-so-much-insanity-in-world.html ( )
  parrishlantern | Jul 13, 2012 |
These stories seemed like episodes of 'The Twilight Zone'. I REALLY loved the 'Ward 9' story!! I'd give that one a 9 and the other stories a 7. But as usual with British books, the Britishisms probably hindered my enjoyment of the book since I didn't understand a lot of it. Will Self's writing reminds me of a ton of other writers (from what I've read): Valdimir Nabokov, Chuck Palahniuk, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, T.C. Boyle, Stephen Fry's Making History ( )
  booklove2 | Dec 31, 2010 |
This is a collection of short stories, loosely connected together, exploring ideas of mental health and psychotherapy with diversions into anthropology.

The exceptions to the main theme are the stories, 'The North London Book of the Dead', which I'm guessing Self later expanded into the novel 'How the Dead Live', and the deeply bizarre 'Mono-Cellular'.

In places, reminiscent of J.G.Ballard's books, Self is at home describing the plastic tea-stirrer, fluorescent strip lighting & vinyl flooring of the institutional environment and London's urban landscape. His work is dark and fantastic, despite being based in such apparently ordinary settings.

I normally like Will Self's writing, so I was surprised to find this book heavier-going than I was expecting, but there were many memorable moments, and it ended on a high with the pre-millennial 'Waiting'.

Also I can't finish this review without mentioning the 'Ur-Bororo', an unremittingly boring Amazonian tribe that their neighbours have long since given up trying to engage in tribal warfare, whose word for 'now' literally translates as 'waste of time'. Masters of small talk. ( )
  rcorfield | Jun 1, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Will Selfprimary authorall editionscalculated
Woolley, JanetCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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However far you may travel in this world, you will still occupy the same volume of space.

Traditional Ur-Bororo saying
For K.S.A.S who knows the stranger truth behind these fictions
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I suppose that the form my bereavement took after my mother died was fairly conventional.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679750940, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:38 -0400)

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