Book Review: 2012 Short Listed: Will Self’s Umbrella (Review #6)

Rating: 2
A Novel b
y Will Self
2012 / 416 Pages

How do you write a blog about a book that:

1.  You have not finished and don’t want to finish?
2.  You did not like?

Well, that is what I am going to attempt to do in this blog.

Will Self has written a very difficult book for the reader.  In fact he states that he does not write for the reader and he does not care if he wins the Man Booker prize for his book Umbrella.

Umbrella is a very tedious book about a psychiatrist, Zach, who works in a mental institution and discovers a population of individuals that have been in a coma in the institution for some 50 years. Zach focuses his attention on one of the patients,  Audrey Dearth.  The book then weaves the story of her life into Zach’s more current story.  What happens? Who really knows?  I did not feel like plodding through the maze to figure it out and the Cliff Notes version of Umbrella has not yet been released!

I will compare Will Self’s style of writing to that of William Faulker.  I attempted to read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying earlier in the year and it, too, is sitting abandoned only half read buried beneath books I really want to read.  The problem with both books is that they are a mystery or a puzzle for the reader to decipher.  Neither author introduces a character.  They just jump in and allow a character to start narrating the book and the reader has to figure out who, what, where, when and why.  If you pay attention very closely, you may figure out 100 pages in what happened on page 12.  At least with Faulkner, the book was divided up into chapters so the reader at least knew the characters may be changing.  Will Self will change the point of view and setting mid sentence.

Apparently someone once said to Faulkner, “Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they’ve read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?” Faulkner replied, “Read it four times.”  And this is my problem with both Faulkner and Will Self.  Who wants to read their books more than once?  Or should I say who has time to even finish their books?

This fact really frustrates me as I would like to  finish a book by at least one of these to Wills, but in my busy schedule, trying to decipher a stream of consciousness book just is not my definition of enjoyment.  I don’t like a story to be fed to me bite by bite, but I just don’t have enough time to really put forth the effort needed to find my way through the endless maze of jumbled words and put them in the correct order to understand the book.  This book truly seems as if the words were loose on the page and all tumbled out onto the floor and were haphazardly swept back into the book without rhyme or reason.

So, I am assuming that Will Self has written some fantastic masterpiece that one day, just as books written by Faulkner, will be considered a classic.  However, it is lost on me.  Umbrella will be “shelved” on my Goodreads  abandoned shelf – unless; of course, it wins the Booker and makes it through the first round of the Tournament of Books.  Dear God, please don’t let this one win the Booker or the Rooster!


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