Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Life: a small series of botched actions

The Book of Dave
Will Self

In the future, religious extremists rule. They are not, however, Christian or Muslim, but Davist.

Davists are pretty crazy. They don't blow things up, but they don't have to -- they're the only ones around. They have a monopoly on fanaticism, and if you disagree, you'll be broken on the Wheel. Davists believe, among other things, that moms and dads should be separated and that their children must divide their time equally among them. Under no circumstances should a child live with both parents. That’s just crazy, for Dave has forbidden it.

Who’s Dave, you ask? Not a fisherman or carpenter, not a mystic or son of God. No, Dave is a cabbie. A bitter, misogynistic, racist cabbie.

As The Book of Dave begins, we are taken 500 years into the future, to the Kingdom of Ingerland. This country is currently ruled by the PCO, formerly the Public Carriage Office, London's transit authority. So basically the country is ruled by Septa. No wonder they're in a world of shit.

a modern art masterpiece

In the future, instead of following the Bible or the Koran, people follow The Book of Dave. This tome was discovered after the MadeinChina, the creation that occurred after a flood destroyed the world as we currently know it.

The opening chapter of The Book of Dave introduces us to this future world, and to be fair, it’s a difficult chapter. The language is unfamiliar and the reader must frequently consult the glossary of terms at the end of the book. Their customs and creatures (the villagers breed a kind of weird, talking pig that helps to raise their children and is later slaughtered for its meat and oil) are also unfamiliar, which isn't too surprising since this society only rudimentally compares to our own. However, just as we begin to adjust to this bizarre world, we are returned to our own, where things seem much more understandable.

In our time, we meet Dave Rudman, the aforementioned cabbie who is filled with hatred after his wife leaves him and takes his son, Carl. The loss of his son puts Dave in a tailspin: his anger turns to depression, which soon turns to psychosis. Soon, he begins to type his knowledge of the city and his beliefs on how it should be run – and buries it in his son’s backyard, so that he might receive it when the time is right. Hey, he’s crazy. It probably made sense at the time.

Unfortunately, Carl never finds Dave’s book – the people of Ing do, 500 years in the future. Unfortunately, they take Dave’s bile as canon, and his book becomes the foundation for their way of life, influencing their harsh treatment of women and bizarre way of raising children. Even more bizarre is that their entire lifeview is built on Dave’s book – they believe the universe is viewed out of Dave’s windshield and that they are all his fares, which Dave sees in his rearview mirror.

The Book of Dave is not an easy read, but it is an intelligent one that prompts a lot of philosophical questions. Why do we view some things as sacred and not others? Can we be truly assured of the origin of our "divine" texts? For his part, Will Self has to be a genius. He creates a future world complete with its own religion, language, and cosmology just as he skewers the hypocritical world of today.

In fact, my only cavil with Self isn't with the book at all -- it's with his picture that graces the back cover, posted here. This has to be the most stereotypical author photo ever. Here sits our superintelligent author, pipe in hand, seriously glum expression on his face as though to say: My great intelligence, coupled with the general idiocy of the masses, wearies me. I need a smoke.

Now, check out these other photos of Self. How much better are these? He looks fun. He looks human. I’d much rather see these on the cover. This one is rather endearing. This one is odd, but intriguing. This one makes him seem confused, a beleagured genius. Highly likable. And finally, this one is authorly, but not overdone. Hence, it's the pipe that ruins it for me. HENCEFORTH, LET NO AUTHOR BE PHOTOGRAPHED WITH A PIPE. I have decreed it so.

Clearly, I am an expert in these matters. For this reason, I hereby dub myself the Official Approver of Author Photos. If you are an author and would like me to decide upon the picture that will grace the cover of your latest work, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will make sure you don’t look pompous. Don't be afraid; my rates are rather reasonable.*

In a nutshell: A challenging read, but one that is thought-provoking and brilliant. Makes you wonder who really wrote the texts that we revere as sacred. Ooh! I'm going to write my own. The Book of Bibliolatry. Can't wait for the future!

Bibliolatry Scale: 5 out of 6 stars

*Only if you're rich


Anonymous said...

People talk about the need to reform Islam. Now you can stop talking and start helping.

With the help of our readers we went through the Koran and removed every verse that we believe did not come from Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. We would like to publish Reform Koran in as many languages as possible. If you could help with translation, editing, or distribution of the Reform Koran, please email us at

In Memoriam of Aqsa Parvez.

indigo said...

Here by way of A Life In Books... Isn't that a picture of Vincent D'Onofrio [sp] from The Cell? Loved that movie! I'm going to link to you over at my blog, if you don't mind.

happy new year!!