" A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella."—James Joyce, Ulysses
Radical and uncompromising, Umbrella is a tour de force from one of England’s most acclaimed contemporary writers, and Self’s most ambitious novel to date. Moving between Edwardian London and a suburban mental hospital in 1971, Umbrella exposes the twentieth century’s technological searchlight as refracted through the dark glass of a long term mental institution. While making his first tours of the hospital at which he has just begun working, maverick psychiatrist Zachary Busner notices that many of the patients exhibit a strange physical tic: rapid, precise movements that they repeat over and over. One of these patients is Audrey Dearth, an elderly woman born in the slums of West London in 1890. Audrey’s memories of a bygone Edwardian London, her lovers, involvement with early feminist and socialist movements, and, in particular, her time working in an umbrella shop, alternate with Busner’s attempts to treat her condition and bring light to her clouded world. Busner’s investigations into Audrey’s illness lead to discoveries about her family that are shocking and tragic.
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Will Self is the author of six short-story collections, a book of novellas, eight novels, and six collections of journalism. He lives in London.
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Book Description Grove Press, 2013. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella."--James Joyce, Ulysses Umbrella , the latest novel by the cuttingly intelligent Will Self, arcs between pre-World-War-I London and a mental hospital in 1971. The title refers to a recurring motif in the book, which appears most notably in the sections that take place at the mental hospital, where the nurses call for an "umbrella" when they need to inject a patient with a sedative. The book challenges the institutional treatment of the mentally ill from the Victorian asylums to the "care in the community" that is the touchstone of contemporary mental health care. Umbrella is a complex narrative peppered with Self's wit, dark humor, and stylistic idiosyncrasies. The work is written as a single uninterrupted stream of narrative, without any chapter breaks and with paragraph breaks only rarely. The book is told in the third person, but includes italicized lines in many sentences that relay the characters' thoughts or speech. The setting shifts between a coherently advancing central plot in one timeframe and flashbacks/memories of earlier periods in some of the characters' lives, which initially makes for a (deliberately) disconcerting reading experience. However, as the reader becomes more familiar with this narrative strategy, the changes in narrative perspective become second nature. This shift in narration, far from alienating the reader, keeps the book's narrative in constant flux, and makes the work gripping and engaging. The book's protagonist is ZACHARY BUSNER, known to Will's fans from his appearances in Great Apes , The Quantity Theory of Insanity , and other books. Busner works as a psychiatrist at a mental hospital in London's northern suburb of Friern Barnet. The time period in which the book is set is not immediately apparent, but it can be worked out as 1971. Busner is a complex character: hardened by his career, indifferent to his wife, and rather self-absorbed, he nonetheless takes his duties as a psychiatrist very seriously and attempts to analyze and determine the underlying pathologies of his patients. As he tours the ward of the hospital at which he has recently begun working, he notes a group of patients who exhibit a very peculiar type of physical tic: extremely quick but very precise movements, that seem to be very controlled in nature. These patients are extremely mentally unconscious--they do not react to outside stimuli and are trapped inside an internal world. Their atypical symptoms arouse his interest. One such patient is Audrey Death (variously De'ath, Dearth), who is an elderly woman, born in 1890 in Fulham, in south-west London. Through a narrative that slips into Audrey's mind and recounts her memories in the present tense, the reader learns that Audrey is one of five children; her father SAM is a gambler and small-time businessman, and her mother MARY JANE, a housewife--both are native Londoners, and much of their speech is written in a Cockney dialect. Audrey lives with her sister ADELINE, and her brothers, including STANLEY and ALBERT, the latter of whom is extremely intelligent, and is given patronage by a gentleman, who, it is suggested, is interested in Albert not only for reasons of philanthropy. Lines of Cockney songs mix with descriptions of a bygone London, where horse-drawn buses roamed the streets, and costermongers dotted every corner, selling food, household goods, and so on. The vivid, bustling, lively London of Audrey's memories contrasts absolutely with the clinical, institutional mental hospital in the central narrative. It quickly becomes clear to the reader that Busner himself seems to hear voices in his head, or at least become fixated on certain phrases, snatches of songs or poetry, which echo in his mind. His closest associate at the hospital is a nurse of Kenyan origin, called Mboya--he is calm, knowledgeable, and hardworking. Busner and Mboya investig. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0802120725
Book Description Grove. 1 Cloth(s), 2012. hard. Book Condition: New. (Shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize) Will Self's stunning stream-of-consciousness novel opens with an epigram from James Joyce: "A brother is as easily forgotten as an umbrella." From there it moves seamlessly between Edwardian London and a suburban mental hospital in 1971, between the story of young Audrey Death and the psychiatrist observing her a half-century later, weaving a dense tapestry of consciousness and life as refracted through the dark glass of a long-term mental institution. "A work of throwback modernism . an erudite yet barking mad novel about barking madness. You give yourself over to Umbrella in flashes, as if it were a radio station you're unable to tune in that you suspect is playing the most beautiful song you will ever hear. This novel locks into moments of ungodly beauty and radiant moral sympathy . [as it offers] a bitter critique of how society has viewed (and cared for) those with mental illnesses. It's about myriad other things too: class, the changing nature of British society, trench warfare in World War I, how technology can be counted on to upend everything. At heart it's a novel about seeing. Mr. Self often enough writes with such vividness it's as if he is the first person to see anything at all."—NYTimes 397. Bookseller Inventory # 52528
Book Description Grove Press, 2013. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0802120725
Book Description Grove Press, 2013. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110802120725