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Liver: A Fictional Organ With a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  495 ratings  ·  69 reviews
These remarkable new pieces from Will Self each feature the largest of our internal organs: the liver, in varying states of disease and decay. In 'Foie Humane' we go inside a Soho drinking club, the denizens of which live in a highly stylised yet emotionally dead state of excess. 'Prometheus' tells the story of a dazzlingly successful advertising copywriter who can sell an ...more
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Viking
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Start your review of Liver: A Fictional Organ With a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes
November 2009

In "Foie Humaine," it's always a Tuesday afternoon at the Plantation Club, the most cunt-filled private pub in London, and proprietor Val Carmichael (the cunt) is drowning the barman's liver in vodka--and he might succeed, if his own (liver, that is) doesn't fail him first. Elsewhere, in "Leberknödel," a woman with terminal liver cancer goes to Zurich to end her own life--only to mysteriously (miraculously?) recover after changing her mind. An advertisor in "Prometheus" re-enacts an
Dec 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
I'd read a couple of Self's short stories before, I forget which ones, and been impressed by their inventiveness. But here it seems to me that Self is a great writer without much of a story to tell. On the cover of the edition I read is a quote from a review by the Independent that states: "What counts most is Self's enthralling, muscular and joyous use of language", and I would agree with that main sentiment, but to the extent that I think that there's really not much point to this beyond the o ...more
MJ Nicholls
I found this collection rather showy and stilted, I'm afraid.


Update 20/7/11

I read this book on a hot bus, a startlingly hot bus, listening to hissy Beatles via a fat man's headphones. I really love the brutal satire of late 70's gay demi-mondes spoofed here, though, especially on this reading:
L. Chamberlain
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
Though I keep going back to this author, I really have to wonder about his state of mind. The most mundane of objects are described in gross corporeal terms. In Foie Humain, a carpet is the color of "middle-aged shit," while in Leberknodel water rivulets 'bleed' across the airplane window and the rivet heads are described as a "pimple...surrounded by a ring of infective rust."

Self's writing has a way of creeping up on you as an accretion of disgust. At precisely the moment you start recoiling f
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
Dual U.K. and U.S. citizen Will Self wrote three stories and a novella interconnected by both characters and the titular metabolic organ.

The first story, "Foie Humane" (italics his) applies an "Outer Limits" twist to an otherwise scatological series of (er-hur-hur-hee) vintnerettes featuring the drunken denizens of The Plantation Club.

The second story (the novella), "Leberknodel" (italics his), is a remix of elements from his much-praised novel, How the Dead Live - an old woman wrestles with i
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
This was my least favorite Will Self book, but for a guy who normally writes books as well he does, that doens't mean a lot. These were longish stories, 4 that filled an entire book, and one of them, the boring one, was way longer than the others. Still an awesome book though.
Jun 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is my 100th book review!

The last time I read a book by Will Self, I didn't like it. I actually gave it 1 out of 5 stars. But somehow, I find myself reaching for another book by Will Self, and decided to give him another chance. And this chance was rather interesting and intriguing, as a matter of fact.

So, instead of a novel, I picked up Liver: A Fictional Organ with a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes. This is more a short-story/novella collection than a novel. It contains four tales, and each
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
The media around Will Self's fiction suggests that he is carving out is own niche in the market. This is the second Self book I've read along with the Book of Dave, and I agree: he does offer something different to anything else mainstream.

Liver is effectively four mutually exclusive stories that are "connected" by the largest organ in the body (the stories themselves have immaterial crossover). Disease & addiction feature.

Of the four lobes, the second is the most accessible, where an aging c
Eric Hines
Self is an interesting writer. I think he's honestly interested in the existential questions this collection centers on, but there's a lot missing. For one thing, Self, while capable of some really good writing, is typically a poor craftsman. He just seems to lose interest in his stories, characters and, especially, his conceits.[return][return]Self has said in the past that he's really a novelist of ideas, but he's not even willing to carry through with serious effort on those, either, as far a ...more
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
not a happy book. but then again, most people don't realise they even have a liver until it's in distress.
this is the sort of book you won't realize is a novel until the very end.

everything is connected.
Andrew Perryman
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Don't bother waiting for the superstructure behind it - it's the parts that are brilliant, not the sum of its parts. Self does decay better than anyone else - his use of metaphor is sublime, and you are driven by curiosity
Nov 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to say I didn't really LIKE this book, but I also didn't DISLIKE it. The four stories told in this collection center on a rather morbid topic, that being disease of the liver. On top of that, Will Self's writing is merciless... some of the reviews on the cover describe it as "feral in pace," "stylistic experiment," "furious energy, an idiosyncratic intellect and ornate, often strong language." The stories are interesting and they do evoke sadness, disgust, but also in some ways a sort of ...more
Octavia Cade
A collection of four marginally related novellas, each dealing in some way with the liver. For all the different approaches, though, the tone throughout tends to be one of alcoholism and excess in the modern world, junkies and grubby grotesqueries. Not a particularly pleasant read, and not that interesting either to be honest - it's just so enormously overwrought that wading through all that desperate prose soon becomes plain tedious. With one exception: "Leberknodel". In this, the second of the ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Will Self explores darkness and the grotesque with an inventiveness that warrants admiration
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Bring your dictionary, taste for good literature, and some moving truths.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Could not read this. English was convoluted and could not follow a story line (if there was one).
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: cab-sav
9CD set talking book. 2 stories worked for me, 2 not. May be worth revisiting in 5 years.
Garry Nixon
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do NOT read these related stories if you have a rotten hangover. In fact, complete sobriety is recommended whilst reading. It's great fun, despite that, and the Plantation Club episodes are a masterclass in how NOT to name-drop.
Mike Steven
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of Will Self and can't believed I've left it so long since I've read one of his books. This is a collection of three connected short stories and a related novella. They all share the loose theme of the human liver and some characters also appear in the different tales which provides a sense of unity to the otherwise different stories.

The first story tells of the inhabitants of an 'exclusive' drinking club in Soho where the characters drink far too much and use the word 'cunt' liber
Simon Bailey
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: magic-realism, cult
Liver is made up of four shortish stories, linked by the organ of the title, by their mostly London situ, and by the odd reoccurring character. The first is a waspish story of alcoholic decay, which with a surreal twist in the tail, seems to depict the whole human race as a bloated, self absorbed, cirrhotic organ. In the second, after a last moment decision not to go through with an assisted suicide, impending death from liver cancer becomes a means to liberation from an ageing mother's pent up ...more
Oct 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
If you want realism, friend, look elsewhere.
This book follows Self's fascination with the the way our minds invade the direct meaning of reality as we might expect it to be conveyed by our senses; so that a character's experience of the opera morphs into her memories of going to shows with her deceased husband and then into the surreal world of her dream as she drops off in a seamless progression.

There are brutal but humourous puns throughout which advertise the author's disdainful disregard fo
Steve Rauscher
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Will Self is a weird and grotesque author who cites William S. Burroughs as one of his major influences. Of course I'm going to read his stuff.

Before jumping into this particular collection of short stories, however, all I had read by Self was his novel My Idea of Fun. It certainly hit on several weird and grotesque notes, but as a story underneath a mask of blood and hypersexuality, it left me wanting a lot.

Liver did a lot to push me back toward reading more Will Self moving forward.

A collectio
Lunar Lunacy
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love it. Disgusting, witty, awful portrayals of human life. Now I know who to turn to when I'm feeling morbid and misanthropic. I liked the first story the best, and it felt the most crafted of the four. Self spends a lot of time defining the scenery in graphic detail, through his lens of everything-is-awful.

I get the feeling that Self at his best is what Chuck Palahniuk wishes he was, or is trying to capture but never quite seems to. I did have to utilise the Oxford Dictionary of English (Kind
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In theory the short-story format should suit Self's style down to the ground - his writing is so densely descriptive that in the past I've struggled to plough my way through his longer novels.

'Liver' doesn't disappoint in this regard, the punchy narratives let Self get on with what he does best, namely bending the English language into the most alarming and disgusting shapes. He's simply a joy to read and more creative than the vast majority out there. The longest of the four stories ("Leberknöd
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Four short stories by Will Self, loosely connected by the theme of 'liver', and by various characters' connections with a shady member's club in Soho, the Plantation Club.
I am a huge fan of Will Self and this book did not disappoint. I loved his descriptions of the sneering, disreputable, alcoholic regulars of the Plantation Club in the first story. The decay of the club itself over the years echoes the decay of the bodies of the regulars.
The longest story, Leberknödel, concerns a terminally i
Chris Hencken
Jan 31, 2013 rated it liked it
A collection of four loosely connected tragedies - short satirical stories featurIng apparently doomed characters. The ideas seem interesting at first, but none of them have the legs to make any of the stories interesting all the way through. Found most of the characters distractingly irritating, too. The second story, Leberknoedel, at least has a character, Joyce, who you can feel sympathy and admiration for, and her relationship with her hilariously feckless daughter is nicely portrayed. Self ...more
Stephen Brown
Nov 12, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who took Latin in college.
Recommended to Stephen by: The publishers.
This is not reading for the faint-of-heart. Will Self drags us to the Plantation Club: Soho's gay version of Dante's Inferno. The level of hell that we visit is something out of the Twilight Zone. The stories are cocktails for an erudite audience served with a twist lemon rouee. Linguistically delightful tales are better enjoyed if you have been to the Roman Mass lately or stumbled around the Parthenon. Leberknodel is a walk-about in Zurich with suicide on your mind. Check out Prometheus and wh ...more
Dec 05, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
The first story was amazing. AMAZING. The second one would be marginally interesting as a 2min. story on NPR that you hear while taking a dump, but fell to tedious pieces as a 130pp. novella. I would rather eat my liver (and have it not regenerate) than suffer through the rest of the book. What assclown editor greenlighted that 3rd mythological story, and what cemetery is their talent buried in so I can go visit it and piss on its grave?

Yet another (cough cough Martin Amis cough cough) flashy, b
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Having been fascinated by previous novels by Self, I turned to Liver expecting more intellectual fireworks. As for the fireworks, I was not disappointed; but I felt there just wasn't enough of substance, not enough of a 'message' to make it all worth while. The book contains four very loosely linked portraits of contemporary England, much of it written in the demotic language of pre-recession London. The liver is the connecting 'theme' -- its destruction by alcohol, HIV and cancer, and in one ta ...more
Rohan Candesartan
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Yo I read this all up on some beach and it was hot but I was so wrapped up in this shizzle I got sunburn for the first time. I thought I was unable to burn because of my skin colour.

The book is well funny especially since everyone in it is like a real person but Self is like, yo, people are disgusting.

I would have given this bad boy a five out of five and shizzle but the whole first story is based on a lie! Self should have holla'd at a doctor because chronic alcoholic steatohepatitis leads to c
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Favourite and least favourite story in this? 2 6 Oct 14, 2012 10:02AM  

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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.

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