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Overview

"Liver: A Fictional Organ with a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes" is the seventh collection of short stories by Will Self. The stories in the collection are all connected to the liver and was described by the author as "...a collection of two novellas and two longer short stories, all on a liverish theme. Each story features different people suffering from different forms of liver damage." Time Out was one of the first publications to review it and said...
"This inspired collection of four stories uses the liver as framework and controlling metaphor – there’s a tale for each lobe – but is less interested in the organ as a metabolic regulator than in what happens when it’s damaged beyond repair.
At this point, Self’s gift for (ahem) bilious satire kicks in, its target largely the ‘slapstick of addiction’ – for which the reformed junky has witheringly little time...Self has all the fun you’d expect with this, and the result is satire so vicious it makes Charlie Brooker look restrained."


Stories

Foie Humain

The story plots the lives and some key events of the regulars at The Plantation Club in Blores Court in Londonmarker, a place that bears a resemblance to The Colony Roommarker. These include the acquisition of a bar boy called Hilary, trips to the art exhibitions or plays of the regulars and funerals for some of the regulars. Everybody in the story is either a hard drinker or being groomed to be one. The decay and detritus that builds up within the club over the years parallels the build up and eventual decay in (The Plantation Club landlord) Val Carmichael's Liver.

The Regulars are all profane in their language and are referred to by monikers (such as The Poof, the Dog, The Typist, His Nibs) rather than by their Christian names.

Over the course of time Val becomes weaker and weaker as he continues to drink heavily on a daily basis, till eventually the inevitable happens with the result of Hilary taking his place at the bar as the new proprietor and employing a new bar boy (Stevie) and one of the regulars revealing that they are exactly as their name suggests.

Leberknödel

Joyce Beddoes is a sickly old woman with liver cancer who travels to Switzerlandmarker from her home in Englandmarker to meet with Dr Hohl, to prepare for euthanasia. Travelling with her is her daughter Isobel. In the last few hours before her appointment Joyce mulls over her life.

Upon entering Dr Hohl's flat she relaxes and begins eating truffles and an anti-emetic before he finally presents her with a glass of poison. At this moment, holding the glass, Joyce finds herself thinking about a wasp. She leaves without drinking the poison and abandons her clingy daughter. But where will she go?

The title of this story, Leberknödel, is a Germanmarker dish of Liver Dumplings. The story is also presented in smaller sections; Introitus, Kyrie, Sequentia, offertorium, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei and Communio.

Prometheus

Birdy Num Num

Style

As with much of Self's fiction there is a heavy emphasis on certain elements of the prose.

In each of the stories the city it is set in is described in detail. For example the area of london in which The Plantation club is set in is described from the point of view of an idle wanderer. The intertwining alleys are described along with the masonry, architecture and history of the buildings. This helps to establish not only the surroundings for the story but to also give a strong sense of scale. The regulars at the club, enclosed by the club, by the alley, by the suburb, by the city etc. This idea of scale is also a recurring theme in Self's work perhaps best encapsulated by the short story Scale in the earlier collection Grey Area.

Self also continues his love of words. His previous works has at times been overloaded with obscure and obsolete words and although less prevalent in this collection there are still some examples that may require some looking up. Self is also not afraid to use elements of foreign language in his prose and this is most apparent in "Leberknödel." In the story not only are there lines in Latin from an Aria, elements of the Swiss German spoken by the characters but also the phonic sound of them (mis)speaking English. For example...

"The people who live there are not the best off type, but the city council - the canton, also - are thinking about taking the action.
I think they will be made to move soon.
(Moov zoon.)"


...illustrates both how Self conveys the characters annunciation as well as their grammatical approach to English.

References



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