Title: The Book of Dave
Author: Will Self
Page Count/Review Word Count: 498
I had to read The Book of Dave as part of my London in Literature course when I was studying creative writing at Roehampton University. It was a good book, and a great introduction to a new style of writing that I’d never really come across before, a sort of gonzo–futurism where Self is able to use the passage of time as a catalyst for a rethought approach to life, society and religion.
Effectively, the Book of Dave is a written document by a London cab driver with high rage levels and a mental illness, which was taken out of context and used to form a new religion, with hilarious (and tragic) consequences. Interestingly, the people of the future have adopted some of the cabby’s dialectical patterns, and so the novel can be hard to read from time to time. It comes with a glossary, so you can clarify anything that you don’t understand, and for me, it’s reminiscent of reading Irvine Welsh – you have to concentrate, but that’s part of its charm.
Not everyone has had similar reactions, though – a lot of my fellow students ended up abandoning the book before the end, which is forgiveable when you consider how many pages it has, and how tough it can be to work your way through it. Still, it’s the sort of book that’s worth persevering with, because there’s more to it than meets the eye – at its heart, it’s a clever commentary on both the way that our society operates today, and the way that religion has historically influenced us, as a species.
In many ways, it’s a post-apocalyptic novel – the story veers between the present and the distant future, after a series of great floods reduced civilisation to ruins. Interestingly, the plot seems almost sparse – it comes second to the linguistic innovation that Self displays in his language, and in the way that he illustrates the misunderstandings that took place to develop the ramblings of a mentally ill taxi driver and to turn it into a religion.
Hey, we’ve seen religions that have based their dogma on even crazier stuff, so why not? But the funny thing is, whilst the religion that Self depicts isn’t exactly the most pleasant of religions, it doesn’t really feel as though he’s trying to make a statement – it’s more like he’s just taken things to their logicial conclusion and presented them to you in an unbiased way.
So would I recommend this book? Yes, but only to certain types of people – if you have an open mind, and if you like to ask questions, and if you like to read alternative literature then you’re sure to enjoy it. But if not, then I wouldn’t recommend it because you just won’t enjoy it – you’ll struggle, and the book will take its toll. Sometimes it’s worth just soldiering on!