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Phone

(Umbrella #3)

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Meet Jonathan De'Ath, aka 'the Butcher'. The curious thing about the Butcher is that everyone who knows him - his washed-up old university lecturer father, his jumbling-bumbling mother, his hippy-dippy brothers, his so-called friends, his spooky colleagues and his multitudinous lovers - they all apply this epithet to him quite independently, each in ignorance of the ...more
Hardcover, 617 pages
Published May 25th 2017 by Viking
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  158 ratings  ·  43 reviews


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MJ Nicholls
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The final implement in Selfs bludgeoning modernist trilogy, Phone is the longest at 617 pages, told as the others in one breakless paragraph, swimming in and out of two tumultuous narratives that address the impact of technology in relation to various mental afflictions. The first finds Dr. Busner, Selfs evergreen protagonist, in the throes of Alzheimers, placing his tackle in the breakfast buffet of a hotel. This blackly comic incident sets the tone for the hilarious, obscene, shocking and ...more
Paul Fulcher
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017, goldsmiths-2017
"Hang on to the phone - that's the thing to do. It's all in the phone: my itinerary, my train times, my medical information - the whole lot. Hang on to the phone - feel the smoothness of its bevelled screen ..... ....!.... ....! place your thumb in the soft depression of its belly button - turn it over and over .... a five-hundred quid worry bead - and all I worry about is losing the bloody thing .... ....!.... ....!

Will Selfs experimental novel Umbrella was shortlisted for the 2012 Booker prize
...more
Jonathan Pool
Over a ten year period through adolescence into early adulthood, (pop) songs and particularly song lyrics were a consuming interest of mine.
The legacy is that today my thoughts often return to song one liners, prompted by seeing something, hearing a phrase, or in conversation with friends.
Will Self grew up in the UK contemporaneously and his books (those that I've read) are studded with song lyrics as part of the general dialogue. The lyrics are not flagged as such and it's entirely a question
...more
Simon Robs
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you've read the two lead-up novels of Will Self's modern trilogy, and I have, you'll not be intimidated by either the length or style again on display here in what I'm assuming is the omega of this quixotic trek (several novels' worth) of Dr. Zack Busner's as here in "Phone," Self's possible 'self proclaimed' end of the novel, End? 'And' ??

'And'? being the ubiquitous rejoinder to virtually any question posed by others - by [one] of the many deranged characters throughout all Self's fiction.
...more
Ian Mond
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
With Phone its pretty clear that Will Self isnt trying to engage the reader. Its a risky strategy but hes Will Self and frankly, I dont think he gives a shit. If youre willing to consume what hes serving, great, if youre not, there are a bazillion other books out there you can read.

Or at least thats what I assume is going on here because I cant believe anyone would write a novel like Phone (and I assume Umbrella and Shark before it) and think its going to be digestible for a general readership.
...more
Sid Nuncius
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Phone. It is long, rather rambling and disjointed and full of distinctive style, all of which I would expect to combine to make me very grumpy, but it's very well done and I was surprised to find myself pleasurably immersed in it.

Phone is by turns funny, touching and full of sharp social observation. It's abouterwell, aspects of modern life, really. There are interweaving strands and we jump between stories and time periods. There is never any indication of the jumps, which happen in
...more
Lili  Marcus
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I feel weird and conflicted on making review for this one. It felt like I didn't really like the book, it didn't fully grabbed my heart yet after reading it, all 600+ pages of it, I can't say, I wasted my time because I didn't.

I haven't read any of Will Self's works and was even disappointed when I discovered this is the third in the series. But clearly, I read it anyway. Maybe it's the writing. Will Self is undeniably and undoubtedly a great writer.

Do you like theatrical plays?

Why am I asking
...more
Alan
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fondlers fond of malware squares
Recommended to Alan by: Previous work
Don't pick up this Phoneat least, don't pick it up, even if it's ringing (and what would that even sound like?), if you are just beginning your exploration of Selfauthor Will Self, that is. This massive novel, thicker than any phone book I ever saw, is very much an endpoint rather than a beginning, the culmination of a trilogy begun in Umbrella (which, I must confess, I have not yet encountered) and continued in Shark, which I read back in 2015.

Like Shark, Phone consists of a single
...more
Siobhan
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Phone is the witty and fast paced new novel from Will Self, a side-eyed look at the modern worlds of intelligence, warfare, and technology. The main focus is on Jonathan DeAth, a spy known as The Butcher to all who and know him, and his secret longterm lover, tank commander Gawain Thomas. The other thread of the narrative follows the recurring Self character Zach Busner, an aging psychiatrist, and his family, particularly his daughter-in-law Camilla and autistic grandson Ben. Self creates a riot ...more
Jonathan
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
What a great book! I haven't read a lot by Will Self so far, but after this I will be dipping into his backlist. Don't be put off by the fact that it is written as a single paragraph as this builds an incredible momentum and makes it difficult to put down. There are four main characters, all of which are central to the narrative and become drawn together towards the end. Plot-wise it is a bit difficult to explain, as it is more about following the characters' experiences. Needless to say, phones ...more
Jason
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The massive "modernist trilogy" that Will Self has engendered this decade at an awe-inspiring clip began masterfully with UMBRELLA and has managed to somehow improve with each of the subsequent two books, terminating in PHONE, which is truly one of most astonishing novels I have ever read. If UMBRELLA possessed a liability it was that its partial focus on post-encephalitic patients emerging from their protracted stupors set it on ground already exhaustively mined by Oliver Sachs in AWAKENINGS. ...more
James
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own-hardback
If Umbrella was a fascinating attempt to master a new stream-of-conciousness form of novel, and Shark was the pretty successful culmination of that. Then Phone was always going to be on the other side of that curve. Beautifully written, but ultimately feeling like the most self-indulgent of the three novels, this is the story of a much older Zack Busner, and Jonathan De'ath - the descendent of the De'ath patient in Umbrella - both characters tied to a phone (somewhat tenuously). Zack is starting ...more
Maureen Mathews
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Completely brilliant!!! THE novel for our times. 'Umbrella', 'Shark' and 'Phone', whilst not a series, or even sequels, are all linked, and read well in that order. They are challenging reads, made easier in audiobook, but are well worth the effort. SOOO GOOD!!!
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Phone by Will Self is a stream-of-conscious tome about two men, Alzheimer's, technology, disassociation, war, and affairs.

Zack Busner "is a psychiatrist who has made his name through his unorthodox treatment of psychological damage, such as giving the controversial drug L-DOPA to patients ravaged by encephalitis, or administering LSD to World War II PTSD-sufferers. But now Busners own mind is fraying: Alzheimers is shredding his memory and his newest possession is a shiny smartphone given to
...more
Daveportivo
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
A fantastic end to a daunting, but fascinating trilogy. It's fitting that this series centred on mind, memory and the technology that seeks to liberate/evolve us should end by touching on the zeitgeist: our singularity obsessed digital age. Umbrella remains my favourite of the trilogy, but Phone was a joy to read and left me with a lot of thinking to do, oddly enough, about thinking itself.
Adrian Farrel
I quite enjoyed The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Will Self's 1991 collection of stories that dwell on the human mind and its ability to handle and manipulate reality. The stories were disturbing, depressing, satirical, and worth several re-readings. So I was quite enthusiastic about "Phone" since its cover claimed that it would consider some of the same topics.

True, the book sat on my shelf untouched for a while, but it's 617 pages long, and a tome of that weight needs a bit of space before you
...more
Elizabeth
Initially I was drawn to this by its simplistic cover and title; its actually the third in a trilogy which I didn't realise it but a quick google suggested that not having read the previous books wouldn't be a massive issue; having finished it I'd agree in that you get quite a lot of character introduction and backstory in this book, perhaps people who've read the previous two may get more out of it but I didn't feel like I was missing out.

The layout is like nothing I've ever read before,
...more
Remi
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Disintegration is the focal point of Phone. The erosion of communication, relationships, and mental acuteness all waylaid by a constant barrage of information that seemingly causes one to lose footing on what reality is. Over the course of the "Umbrella" trilogy, Will Self guides us through the collective insanity that has clouded the world in the wake of Wars and technological progress and how its effected that floppy analog in our heads and caused us mass psychosis as it were, of becoming ...more
MisterHobgoblin
May 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Look, I really did try to like Phone. I loved Umbrella, and Shark was on just the right side of OK. But Phone seems to be the same book told all over again, just without the plot. I gave up at a quarter of the way through.

Phone opens with Zack Busner, former psychiatrist, wandering around a hotel in Manchester with his undercarriage out. It seems he has dementia. The narrative a third person stream of consciousness devoid of paragraphing slips from the present situation into long (and I mean
...more
Tim Atkinson
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Where to start? Where to end? I might as well begin at the conclusion and follow Self's infuriating detours through linear time. At one point I thought I was actually reading the first in this trilogy, Umbrella, again. There are passages that are taken almost verbatim from that tome. So not only does Self wilfully destroy any sense of linearity in this particular 'story', he does it too with his own trilogy. Fitting for what he himself describes as the 'end of the novel'. But the end of this ...more
Peter
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 21st-century
Once again Self connects the personal, and what we are used to calling mental illness, and/or neurodiversity, and/or flat out dementia, with the public and political, especially the insanity of war (this time the second war in Iraq), but also the wider technological mediation and dissolution of self. What's nuts, in short, is all of us, and the way we organize ourselves, or rather, separate and dehumanize ourselves, though we try, and somehow sometimes partially successfully, to connect.
It's
...more
MetroBookChat
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Coming after the Booker-shortlisted Umbrella and its sequel Shark, this novel one single surging paragraph is the final part of a brain-blitzing 1,500- page riff on war, technology and consciousness (and very much else besides). The previous instalments intercut episodes from both world wars with the fractured thoughts of Zack Busner, a north London psychiatrist; this time, with Zack elderly and needing treatment himself, the sub-thread concerns the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Selfs ...more
Daren Kearl
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
If Phone has an overall theme I think it's masculinity - homosexuality; being a lad; fighting in the army or on a computer console; relationships to each other and women. It doesn't really matter, however, what the theme is because the true delight is the prose and Self's constant word play. The narrative is a constant stream without any pause for 616 pages containing multiple male characters first person perspectives and even characters putting themselves inside other characters (both literally ...more
Ian  Cann
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
And breathe out....Blimey if this book isn't actual genius it's damnably close, like a gorilla who's just missed out on last orders by three minutes. A masterful rambling, not not quite rambling stream of consciousness modernist catch up with Dr Zachary Busner and Jonathan D'Eath from the forerunners in this trilogy, Umbrella and Shark, the topic and viewpoint can change in the middle of the title is reflective of the role of phones and communication in the novel.

The whole trilogy is a stonking
...more
James
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I haven't read Shark or Umbrella. So I am unsure that if I had read those first I would have read Phone differently. Without chapters or paragraphs, Phone's stream-of-consciousness moves through characters using italics and parentheses and objects (most notably a Mars bar) within the plot. Self's style can be difficult to become used to, and at times he left me wondering why he insists on using such an extensive vocabulary. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Phone and from now on will read ...more
Ben
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I hadnt read the first two in the series when I pulled this off the library shelf. It unfolds as one continuous, delirious sprawl in a way that reminded me a bit of Celines Death on Credit.

Self has a rare talent for pushing highfalutin language and juvenile humor to the extreme simultaneously. He always makes the reader work for a payoff that is, without fail, definitely worth it.

Not sure Id exactly recommend it to people, but I enjoyed it immensely.
...more
Anne
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really want to like this as I love Self's journalism and I enjoyed Umbrella... but I just couldn't warm to it. Too rambling for me, too disorganised and I found I didn't care what happened. I rarely give up on a book but I gave up on this one.

I was given a copy of the book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.
Paul
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I don't really know why I persevered with this trilogy of books, but certainly this was the most disappointing of the lot. I do really enjoy a good piece of modernist writing, but this felt like 600 pages of self-indulgent twaddle. None of the characters showed any true human traits, a bunch of two-dimensional ciphers and by the end I had lost all interest in what happened to any of them.
Jon
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good finale to a great trilogy. With the exception of the final 100 pages where some of the dexterity of the narrative seems to collapse and the narrator becomes rather more expository, it is a properly fantastic bit of writing. It is also probably the most emotionally engaging of Will Self's novels.
Dan
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well for much of the way I had been frustrated and estimating a two- or three-star rating but persisted in homage or gratitude to Self for mind-expansion unlocked by his prior work, and then those last 50 pages - ...those last 50 pages... - like nothing else and as burning beautiful as anything you could read, though only to those whove endured the pilgrimage to get there. ...more
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The Mookse and th...: 2017 Goldsmiths Prize shortlist - Phone 49 48 Nov 07, 2017 11:46AM  

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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.

Other books in the series

Umbrella (3 books)
  • Umbrella
  • Shark

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