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(Umbrella #3)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  178 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Published to rave reviews in the United Kingdom, Phone tells the story of two men: Zack Busner and Jonathan De’Ath. 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 Busner’s ow ...more
Kindle Edition, 624 pages
Published January 9th 2018 by Grove Press (first published May 25th 2017)
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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MJ Nicholls
The final implement in Self’s 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, Self’s evergreen protagonist, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, placing his tackle in the breakfast buffet of a hotel. This blackly comic incident sets the tone for the hilarious, obscene, shocking and r ...more
Paul Fulcher
"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 Self’s experimental novel Umbrella was shortlisted for the 2012 Booker pri
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 o
Simon Robs
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ian Mond
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
With Phone it’s pretty clear that Will Self isn’t trying to engage the reader. It’s a risky strategy but he’s Will Self and frankly, I don’t think he gives a shit. If you’re willing to consume what he’s serving, great, if you’re not, there are a bazillion other books out there you can read.

Or at least that’s what I assume is going on here because I can’t believe anyone would write a novel like Phone (and I assume Umbrella and Shark before it) and think it’s going to be digestible for a general r
Sid Nuncius
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 about…er…well, 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
Lili  Marcus
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
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 Phone—at 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 Self—author 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 undifferen
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 De’Ath, 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 r ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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. I ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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!!! ...more
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 Busner’s own mind is fraying: Alzheimer’s is shredding his memory and his newest possession is a shiny smartphone given to
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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
Líam P
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am wary about reviewing Phone by attempting to parody or copy or... crudely facsimile its style. Though if you've ever had a song going around and around annaround your head after hearing repetitive commercial radio... repetitive commercial'll likely also feel encouraged to use Will Self's version of modernist writing for your own... ends!

"Phone" is the third of Self's 'unintended' modernist trilogy, taking in "Umbrella" and "Shark". They are not easy reads. All three are, in essen
Mar 06, 2018 rated it liked it
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, essent
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 digi ...more
James Murphy
Mar 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the 3d novel in a trilogy begun with Umbrella and followed by Shark. It continues the story of Zack Busner and the De'Ath family. Busner, first met while treating catatonia during WWI and who later treats PTSD-suffering WWII veterans with LSD, is now in the early stages of dementia and mental breakdown. His grandson Ben gives him a smartphone in hopes it'll help slow his mental decline. What he actually does is uncover the secrets of Jonathan De'Ath. These novels need the De'Ath family. ...more
May 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tim Atkinson
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 nov ...more
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 21st-century, fiction
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 qui
Daren Kearl
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. Self’s stream-of-co ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 an ...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
Kinan Faham
Dec 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think this novel and style of writing requires a level of commitment that is more involved than a "before going to bed" reading.
I gave up after 20 pages because the plot was jumping all over the place and did not have a linear progression. I may revisit Phone in the future after reading some of Self's more accessible books.

Ironically, while trying to read this book, I had a sense that I was viewing social media posts curated by an algorithm that dictates content collected from random people a
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hadn’t 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 Celine’s 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 I’d exactly recommend it to people, but I enjoyed it immensely.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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The Mookse and th...: 2017 Goldsmiths Prize shortlist - Phone 46 50 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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