Understanding Will Self introduces readers to the satire and expressive ingenuity of a British writer who has garnered an array of awards since the 1991 publication of his first short story collection, The Quantity Theory of Insanity. In this guide to the well-received but largely unstudied writer, M. Hunter Hayes examines the key themes, narrative strategies, and cultural commentaries that characterize Self's work. Through close textual analyses, Hayes guides readers through the alternative universe of Self's writing and maps the interplay between his forays into journalism and fiction.
Marked by their combination of seemingly improbable events and quotidian details, Self's novels, novellas, and short stories examine contemporary English life through a mode of writing that he has aptly termed "dirty magical realism." Hayes shows how recurring characters have evolved through successive works and in relation to their environments. He places Self's writing within its historical and critical contexts and uses each chapter to address either a single work or a group of closely connected works. Hayes's analyses range from well-regarded novels to notable yet uncollected short stories and draw upon secondary critical texts to reassess Self's critical standing.
M. Hunter Hayes teaches English at Texas A&M University–Commerce, where he specializes in twentieth-century and contemporary British literature. He has published several articles on contemporary British fiction and poetry.