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Great Apes

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  2,248 ratings  ·  147 reviews
Some people lose their sense of proportion, others their sense of scale, but Simon Dykes, a middle-aged, successful London painter, has lost his sense of perspective in a most disturbing fashion. After a night of routine, pedestrian dabauchery, traipsing from toilet to toilet, and imbibing a host of narcotics on the way, Simon wakes up cuddled in his girlfriend's loving ar ...more
Paperback, 493 pages
Published 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published 1997)
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Anthony Vacca
Great Apes is no small achievement. For one, it takes what most would guffaw away as a cheap gimmick good enough for a barroom joke (or a sequence of five movies, two television series, and two separate remakes with one spawning its very own sequel) but certainly not enough of a creative impetus to carry the heft of a four-hundred page novel atop its shoulders, right? Wrong. Self’s satiric gusto knows no boundaries in Great Apes, which stars a troubled mope of an artist, Simon Dykes, who after a ...more
I read this book mainly because of that awful picture on the cover, which was also strangely intriguing, and because I'd heard good things about Will Self. I found myself frustrated not twenty pages in, however, by both the language (which was ridiculously over-written) and the gimmicky nature of the plot (a bunch of apes act like people, basically), both of which stood in for any meaningful plot.

I'm giving this book one star, then, because it didn't make me feel anything at all. Yes, I underst
MJ Nicholls
We asked three pupils in Class 2B at Roswell High what they would do if they woke up as an ape:

Daniel sez:

“I wish I was an ape in the evenings. If I was an ape in the evenings I would hang around the school gates spooking the teachers. I would knuckle-walk up to that sandal-wearing nonce Mr Almott and slap him so hard around the gums he’d need a new set of teeth to learn basic Esperanto. In the evenings I would sip tea on a tyre suspended from a tree and go “Hoo-haa!” while masturbating so hard
Okay, this one gets a point for concept and one for some nice prose, when the author isn't trying to beat you over the head with how clever he is and introduce you to a new twenty dollar word with each paragraph. However, the ape dialogue, which is a mixture of English with simian grunts and barks, is just plain annoying. There's only so many "Wraaf"s and "Hoo'Graaa"s I can stand. Incest and genitalia-displaying may well be an important part of chimpanzee culture, but I just can't get on board w ...more
Read the STOP SMILING interview with author Will Self.

The Stop Smiling Interview with Will Self

By Sally Vincent

(This interview originally appeared in the STOP SMILING Photography Issue)

The first time I laid eyes on Will Self, he was monologuing about flying buttresses to a startled and ever-increasing audience of slack-jawed strangers, seemingly dumbstruck by his magniloquence. It was as though he couldn’t help himself. As though all this passion about architecture had been buildin
May 10, 2008 tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers of Stewart Home's bks
Shelves: literature
I 1st read mention of Will Self in a text by Stewart Home. Home insulted Self as being something along the lines of a rich Oxford junkie who doesn't deserve his reputation as an underground writer. Since I'd never heard of Self before, he had no reputation w/ me at all. Knowing Stewart's tendency to publically degrade anyone who he perceives as competition, I didn't take the negativity as representative of any substantial critical take. After all, it seems that Home's usual intention is to disco ...more
Bought a second copy from the bargain bin at Hasting's. My first reading was courtesy of a girlfriend with a library card - I strongly advise that, whenever possible, hook up with somebody who has a valid library card.

The first copy I owned, cash-in-hand, was from a bookstore that also had the 12" single of R.E.M.'s "Wendell Gee". But somebody had drawn on the cover with a crayon.

There wasn’t even time to sign/Goodbye to Wendell Gee/
So HoooRAHAaaH'ooo as the wind blows/H'ooHOOOraHAHA as the wi
I didn't finish this book because it was far too much hard work. Even with an Oxbridge degree (though not in literature), I pretty much found myself opening a dictionary every couple of pages. And the new words used didn't really enrich or enliven the story - or my own vocab. I very much get the impression that the author is very much Self by name... This novel makes me think he writes for self-agrandisement rather than for creativity and the enjoyment of others.
Ryszard Karpiński
Absolutely amazing.
It's shocking when you're realize that EVERYTHING is relative and if we take something as absolute, it's not because we're not subjective. it's because we "humbly" perceive our subjectivity as superior hence we can say it's objectivity just because we can; there is nobody to question that.
This book questions that and that's why it's so striking and deeply disturbing.
Sexually driven and obsessed like everything of Self. Great read.
Very funny, and much more erotic than I was prepared for (so be comfortable with chimp porn if you're going to read this). It may sound trite (and possibly is lifted from the back cover of the book), but this novel did make me think about what it means to be human. And I was pleased and surprised when I didn't get the ending I hoped for.

Plus I only had to look up definitions for, like, ten words, max.
Brent Legault
Sep 14, 2013 Brent Legault rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the low-browed, the uni-browed
This book, if book is what you must call it, stank up my life for ten days or two weeks while I dodged all of the chimpshit Self decided to fling at me, the innocent reader. Chimpshit. That's all it was. Four hundred pages of chimpshit.

Oh. I'm sorry. Did I forget to mention that I thought this novel to be nothing but chimpshit? Pure and fruity chimpshit?
one line joke in 404 pages. The reader may get a minor positive feeling when the figure out some of the made-up words 'chimpunity' = humanity. There are major or minor levels of shock and disgust depending on your personal threshold for grossness when the 'apes' do the things you may have seen monkeys do at the zoo as part of acceptable everyday culture. And then there is the redundancy of having these two tricks expended and repeated to pad out the story. I am not sure why I forced myself to co ...more
Tom Schulte
The best critique of footnotes came from the actor John Barrymore (or Noel Coward or I don't know who) who likened footnotes to something "rushing down the stairs every time the doorbell rings on one's wedding night." Well, encountering a twenty-five-cent word the same way with definition not obvious context is like having to leave the honeymoon suite to go to Western Union to send money to bail out a misbehaving friend. Self can't get past himself to do that often and so often he used a shoe ho ...more
Jun 19, 2007 Leah rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: apes
I started this book thinking it was going to be an interesting read, but had to stop reading it about 150 pages in before I threw it through my wall. He kept talking about apes "displaying" themselves to eachother, it was so repetitive and it really started to grate on me after a while. I think the 150 pages I gave it was a decent attempt so I feel I can give it it's 1 star. Wow I think this is the first bad review I have done!
What if the roles of humans and chimps were reversed in the evolutionary scheme? Clever gimmick— too gimmicky, in fact, to sustain a novel-length treatment. The various repetitive tics and conceits involved in portraying a chimpanzee-run world become tiresome quickly and actual plot is pretty thin on the ground. The book ought to be about 200 pages shorter; and while brevity wouldn’t have made the story any less unremittingly unpleasant to read, it would at least have saved me some of the time I ...more
Richard Watson
to be honest I still have not finished this book yet.
When I started to read it my person life went tits up...things evened out and I picked up the book again and my personal life went tits up, I stopped reading it, things got better, started again and things went tits up!

The book is cursed. I mentioned my problems with The Great Apes to a friend of mine, Paul Lee, and the exact same patten happened with him!!
This is a fun satire. A little slow but not to the point of exasperation. I really enjoyed reading it although the ending was a little bit of a let-down.

This author certainly isn't afraid of repetition - repetition of the same words and phrases over and over. If I see the word ischial or brachiating one more time ...
Neil Breeze
Whilst Self's writing style might be a little over-the-top for some tastes, the story he tells is unique in both its satirical humour and the way his 'flipped reality' is portrayed with significant thought and depth.

The characters are surprisingly fun and memorable with personalities that are distinctly human yet portrayed in the well-researched and clever 'great ape' package.

I wasn't overly keen on the ending, yet it was surprising in that the expected 'twist' did not happen the way one might a
I'm pulling the bookmark out of this one. I've given it a good go and made it to page 228 out of 493. It's clever and all but just not for me. Even in my 'broken foot, have lots of time to devote to reading' state, I'm not choosing to read this over playing a game on a tablet. I've got better books to read. I may have audibly groaned when I return to this book after finishing an exceptionally good one yesterday that I put Great Apes aside to start. I might read the last chapter to see how it tur ...more
Dan Phillips
Years ago, I read Self's My Idea of Fun and thought it was waaaay too clever and self(!)- aware for my tastes, so I've been avoiding him ever since -- with the exception of this book, whose premise is just too intriguing to ignore. Basically, the setup is that chimpanzees and humans have switched places in terms of evolutionary dominance, and per Great Apes' fake forward, this is an ambitious novel FROM that alternate history narrated, weirdly enough, by a human being.

Or at least that's how it s
S Pat
I almost quite reading it... it took me quite some time to get into the novel. It occurred at roughly the same time we arrive into a fully realized world where chimps rule and humans are the lab tested animals.

Simon Dykes is renown artist and after a alcohol, drug and sex fueled night he wakes up in a where humanity is no longer -- rather, it's a chimpunity. Chimps drive the Volvo's and drugs are tested on human.; lil' chimps visit humans in the zoo and wear human masks at halloween. When I firs
Matti Karjalainen
Taiteilija Simon Dykes herää huumeisen ja viinanhuuruisen illan jälkeen vuoteestaan ja tajuaa muuttuneensa simpanssiksi. Hermoromahdushan siitä seuraa, eikä tilannetta yhtään helpota se, että sairaalasta herättyään tilanne ei ole muuttunut miksikään, vaan Simon löytää itsensä keskeltä apinoiden kansoittamaa planeettaa. Muistikuvat ihmisyydestä ovat kuitenkin vahvoja, ja yhdessä vaikeisiin tapauksiin erikoistuneen apinalääkäri Busnerin kanssa ryhdytään selvittämään mistä oikein mahtaa olla kyse.

I've been putting off reviewing this for a while, so I'm just going to bite the bullet and get it over with. This may be a quickie.

I fully expected to love Great Apes . It's completely absurd, filled with drugs, violence, and wild monkey sex (as in, literally involving monkeys). There are some hysterical, laugh-out-loud funny bits and some perverse, cringe-worthy sections. Unfortunately, there are also some fucking boring parts. After a while, I thought the metaphor and satire became strained,
This is a Will Self book. His vocabulary is incredible, but more striking is the way he uses it: his writing will evoke a visceral response. In addition to the provocative metaphorical associations one expects in a "clever" author, everything in Will Self's work has a texture and a smell.

If you are squeamish, this book is not for you. It is a book where all the characters are chimpanzees. Their society and form of communication involves sign language and hooting vocalizations, but also things ch
Will Self is catapulting his way to the top of my favorite authors list. There aren't many other writers doing things quite as original and subversive as he is, and even though Great Apes was written a decade ago, it's still head and shoulders above most other things I've read recently. A brief tracing of the plot (because the less you know about the book, the more fun it is to discover): Simon Dykes, a hedonistic artist, awakes after a night of partying to discover himself living in a world pop ...more
I absolutely loved Will Self's _How the Dead Live_ so when I saw this book during a scouring of a used bookstore for something to read on the upcoming airplane ride, I grabbed it.

I'm glad I read the book, but I can't say I love it. I liked what Self was doing with the whole upside down world, but it felt too long (even though that was necessary) and there was just a lot of gratuitous (human) sex.

The novel tells how a talented artist named Simon wakes up one morning after a night of debauchery to
Instead of the thud of a simple inversion where a world of chimps occupy the place of humans (and this is acknowledged with the wink of the simian preface with references to the trite and banal series of movies "Planet of the Humans"), Self retains almost all the attributes of chimps - rigid physical hierarchy, sign languge (figures of speech are carefully changed from "that is to say" to "that is to sign), grooming habits, polygamous coupling, etc - while the near-extinct humans retain theirs, ...more
Nick Jones
I've never read Will Self before, though I've seen him on television and remember him being thrown off the Tory battlebus in John Major's day for shooting up heroin. Great Apes is very satirical, but I'm not completely sure what was being satirised other than the Arts, Academia and the Human Race, though, thinking about it, perhaps that's enough.

There are some very funny things in it, a personal favourite being an argument with a philosopher which is won by literally beating him into submission,
Interesting concept, ornamentally written, but took way too long to go anywhere interesting. Spent too much time expositing about chimp social structures and adding chimp sounds to the dialogue and describing chimps fucking to keep me involved. "Chimpunity" and the surname "Ellchimp" and all that shit were a bit too winky wink for me as well. Kinda Bret Easton Ellis does Planet of the Apes or the Twilight Zone. My own fault for hyping up, I don't like this kind of writing.
Cristian Nitoiu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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William Self is an English novelist, reviewer and columnist. He received his education at University College School, Christ's College Finchley, and Exeter College, Oxford. He is married to journalist Deborah Orr.

Self is known for his satirical, grotesque and fantastic novels and short stories set in seemingly parallel universes.
More about Will Self...
The Book of Dave: A Revelation of the Recent Past and the Distant Future How the Dead Live The Quantity Theory of Insanity My Idea of Fun Cock & Bull

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“As my voice died away I became conscious of the voice of another woman two tables away. I couldn't hear what she was saying to her set-faced male companion, but the tone was the same as my own, the exact same plangent composite of need and recrimination. I stared at them. Their faces said it all: his awful detachment, her hideous yearning. And as I looked around the cafe at couple after couple, eaching confronting one another over the marble table tops, I had the beginnings of an intimation.

Perhaps all this awful mismatching, this emotional grating, these Mexican stand-offs of trust and commitment, were somehow in the air. It wasn't down to individuals: me and him, Grace and John, those two over there... It was a contagion that was getting to all of us; a germ of insecurity that had lodged in all our breasts and was now fissioning frantically, creating a domino effect as relationship after relationship collapsed in a rubble of mistrust and acrimony.”
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