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The Book of Dave


The Book of Dave Cover

ISBN13: 9781596913844
ISBN10: 1596913843
Condition: Standard
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jabiz, July 7, 2011 (view all comments by jabiz)
As is the case with most dystopian novels, I began feeling lost and confused. I immediately regretted having strayed from my literally routine of handpicking each book I read. The novel begins in a bizarre futuristic English landscape where the characters speak in a muddled language called Mokni, an invented dialect of English derived from Cockney, taxi-drivers' and Dave's own usages, text-messaging, and vocabulary peculiar to the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

It took about a hundred pages and a trip back to the twentieth century for me to finally find my footing in the language. But once I did, I began to see the beauty of what Self was doing- Using a sharp and critical satirical prose, he carefully crafts an intricate novel of amazing depth. There is not much more to say- there is never a point where The Book of Dave is not extremely well written. The stories from the past, present and future seamlessly intertwine to create a biting mirror reflecting the hypocrisy and absurdity of religious dogma. I will end the review here, by saying that this is a novel that is worth your time. Before I end this post, I did want to make some comments about the thoughts that were alighted because of this text.

While I often expose an aggressive atheism, I like to think that I tote a robust and healthy spiritualism. I am a seeker and enjoy contemplating spiritual matters. Never one to shy away from discussions about the purpose of life, morality, or the human condition, I am always looking for conversations about topics steeped in mysticism and exploration.

What has always turned me off religious discussions is the certainty of truth. The reliance (faith) on dogma and holy books. The prescriptive rules and hoop jumping of organized salvation is not for me. Let me wallow in a Walt Whitman poem, or Rumi, or Bukowski, till I see a light that guides me through the darkness. Your “book” may be the outline that leads you to peace, but it lost me when it demanded that I should have dominion over all the creatures of the earth, or when it took it upon itself to classify certain forms of sexuality as abominations.

Be kind. Love your enemies. Show compassion. Treat others as I would like to be treated. These are ideas I can get behind, and honestly the holy books hold no monopoly on these ideas.

What does any of this have to do with The Book of Dave? Throughout the novel, Self creates a world that illuminates the childishness of relying on scripture as self-evident truth that should be followed to the tee.

I often found myself shaking my head at the idiocy of the men of Ham as they were misguided by the madness of Dave Rudman. Dave unleashes a rant at the zeitgeist of a psychotic breakdown, that becomes The Book for the future denizens of Hampstead. I couldn’t help to think how much of the material from our holy books could have been written by, if not madmen, than surely by the non-evolved minds of a tribe of desert nomads two thousand years ago. The realization that so much of our world is dictated by interpretations of random thoughts of ghosts from the past would be ludicrous if it were not so sad

Whether you are religious or not, this is a thought provoking novel that will leave you questioning how much of the holy books were meant to be questioned and how much was meant to be lived. What do you think? Do we still need such a prescriptive guideline to direct our morality? Be kind. Love your enemies. Show compassion. Treat others as you would like to be treated. We haven’t even gotten that right yet. Isn’t that enough? Maybe once we can learn to be openminded and loving we can begin to worry whether or not women are less than men because they came from a man who was made from mud in the image of a loving/vengeful god.
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Elizabeth Walton, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Elizabeth Walton)
A linguistic tour-de-force set in a not-so-distant post-apocalyptic future where the misogynistic rantings of a disgruntled London cabbie have become holy writ to a society that survived the madeinchina. Large sections of the book are written in what is basically text-messaged cockney dialect, but don't let that deter you: this book made me laugh, and more importantly, it made me think. And one thing I think is that Will Self is one of the best novelists on either side of the pond.
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Product Details

A Novel
Self, Will
Bloomsbury USA
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The Book of Dave Used Trade Paper
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Product details 512 pages Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - English 9781596913844 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , When East End cabdriver Dave Rudman's wife takes from him his only son, Dave pens a gripping text--a compilation about everything from the environment, Arabs, and American tourists to sex, Prozac, and cabby lore--that captures all of his frustrations and anxieties about his contemporary world. Dave buries the book in his ex-wife's Hampstead backyard, intending it for his son, Carl, when he comes of age.

Five hundred years later, Dave's book is found by the inhabitants of Ham, a primitive archipelago in post-apocalyptic London, where it becomes a sacred text of biblical proportions and the template for a new civilization. Only one islander, Symum, remains incredulous. But, after he is imprisoned for heresy, his son Carl must journey through the Forbidden Zone and into the terrifying heart of New London to find the only thing that will reveal the truth once and for all: a second Book of Dave that repudiates the first.

The Book of Dave is a profound meditation upon the nature of religion and a caustic satire of contemporary life. Will Self is the acclaimed author of such books as The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Great Apes, and How the Dead Live. He won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year. Will Self lives in London. When cabdriver Dave Rudman's wife of five years deserts him for another man, taking their only child with her, he is thrown into a tailspin of doubt and discontent. Fearing his son will never know his father, Dave pens a gripping text--part memoir, part deranged philosophical treatise, and part handbook of the Knowledge learned by all London cab drivers. Meant for the boy when he comes of age, the book captures the frustration and anxiety of modern life. Five hundred years later, the Book of Dave is discovered by the inhabitants on the island of Ham, where it becomes a sacred text of biblical proportion, and its author is revered as a mighty prophet. The first 90 pages of this book read like a cross between 'Jabberwocky' and A Clockwork Orange. It's a devilishly catchy argot and once readers sink into it, they will find themselves wondering if the characters are traveling norf or souf . . . Like Martin Amis, with whom he's often compared, Self marries his verbal acrobatics to social critique, gamely taking on corporate culture, family law, London urban sprawl, religion, racial division and the received wisdom of women's magazines and the pub . . . You're left with the intoxication of Self's wordplay and the clarity of his visions.--Regina Marler, Los Angeles Times Fans of Self's previous edgy satires won't be disappointed with The Book of Dave, his latest riff on the strange complexities of the modern world. Balancing stories of pained intimacies between fathers and sons, it also brilliantly caricatures the fervor of literal-minded religious fundamentalism . . . Blisteringly astute.--Geoffrey Bateman, Rocky Mountain News

In this tale of an embittered taxi-driver whose psychotic rantings become the creed of a blighted people hundreds of years after his death, Self unleashes his apparently boundless misanthropy on modern London, the origins of religion, and the postapocalyptic future. Dave Rudman, driven mad by divorce and ill-prescribed antidepressants, thinks he is God and writes a vitriolic screed, which he has printed on metal plates and buries in a garden. Discovered by the survivors of a catastrophic flood and adopted as a gospel, it demands the complete separation of mothers and fathers (children to spend exactly half the week with each). Switching between a narrative of Dave's unlucky life and the phonetically rendered 'Mokni' speech of his wretched followers, Self achieves an elaborate vision of vicious superstition and hopeless struggle, but his insights never quite repay the effort of engaging with his stylistic pyrotechnics.--The New Yorker

In The Book of Dave, his satiric masterpiece thus far, Self proves again that with talent like his, it's never the what, but the how . . . Though his invention (often via inversion) of a future language owes an obvious debt to Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker, Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange, and Orwell, Self spins his own brilliantly macaronic web between Now and Later . . . Self's inventiveness and control are dazzling . . . Self's novel achieves depth not by skewering organized religion, though it does so quite adroitly, but by exploring the many grids of modern despair, how we find ourselves cast adrift, and how, much like Dave, whose loneliness is unabated by the 'hateful company of his own kind, ' we fester unseen . . . A gripping, funny, and pleasurably intricate novel.--Sam Lipsyte, Bookforum

This searing satire maps the unraveling of London cabbie Dave Rudman's life--and the resulting Book of Dave he prints on metal pages and buries in his former backyard after his ex-wife cuts off visitations with his son. Meanwhile, sometime in the twenty-sixth century or beyond (dating of the period is pegged to 'the purported discovery of The Book of Dave'), England has entered a second Dark Age; the country, now called Ing, is broken apart by rising seas and spiritually bankrupted by the twisted teachings of Dave, which mix mad misogynistic dictates with the legendary knowledge of London streets ('the runs and the points') that the city's cabdrivers must internalize. On the former heights of Hampstead, now known as the isle of Ham, villagers live side by side with the gentle motos--walruslike creatures who talk like lisping human children, products of twenty-first-century genetic engineering. As present-day Rudman slowly reclaims his life, the future sons of Ham seek out Dave's rumored second book--the one recanting his earlier ravings and giving mummies and daddies permission to love each other again. But as Dave's ex prophetically muses, 'everyday life was made up of a series of small botched actions, which, although instantly forgotten, nonetheless ruined everything.' This is as rousing an indictment of organized religion--and especially fundamentalism--as readers are likely to encounter in the post-9/11 canon.--Frank Sennett, Booklist (starred review) Self, the provocative British raconteur who used the Tibetan Book of the Dead to map London is taking another literary shot across his home city's bow. In his gleaming new puzzlebook, Self creates a dystopian future London, ruled by a cynosure of priests, lawyers and the monarchy. He invents Arpee, the musical language they speak that is based on a sacred text--The Book of Dave--which also serves, satirically, as the society's moral and legal foundation. And who is this deity named Dave? An embittered London cabbie from the distant past--the year 2000. As the book opens, the kingdom of Ingerland is ruled by the elite and ruthless PCO. (Self is riffing on the Public Carriage Office, London's transit authority.) People live according to The Book of Dave, which was recovered after a great flood wiped out London in the MadeinChina era. Flashing back more than 500 years, cabbie Dave Rudman types out his idiosyncratic, misogynist, bile-tinged fantasies while in a fit of antidepressant-induced psychosis and battling over the custody of his child, Carl. His screed becomes both a blueprint for a harsh childrearing climate (mummies and daddies living apart, with the kids splitting time between them) and a full-blown cosmology. As Self moves between eras, he divides the book between Dave's story and the story of the great Flying (slang in the future for 'heresy'). The latter involves the appearance of the Geezer (prophet) on the island of Ham (Hampshire) in 508 A.D. (after the 'purported discovery of the Book of Dave'), who claims to have found a second Book of Dave annulling the 'tiresome strictures' of the first. He is imprisoned by the PCO and mangled beyond recognition, but, 14 years later, his son, Carl Devush, travels from Ham to New London, determined to create a less cruel world that responds to the 'mummyself' within. Self's invention of a future language (including dialect Mokni, which combines cabby slang, cockney and the Esperanto of graffiti--and, yes, a dictionary is provided) is wickedly brilliant, with surprising moments of childlike purity punctuating the lexicon's crude surface (a 'fuckoffgaff' is a 'lawyerly place, ' while 'wooly' means sheep). Self is endlessly talented, and in crossbreeding a fantasy novel with a scorching satire of contemporary mores, he's created a beautiful monster of the future that feeds on the neurotic present--and its parents.--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Synopsis" by , Five centuries after Dave Rudman wrote a gripping text--part memoir, part deranged philosophical treatise, and part handbook meant for his son when he came of age--it is discovered by the inhabitants on the island of Ham, where it becomes a sacred text of biblical proportion, and its author is revered as a mighty prophet.
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