Sanity quants

"However far you may travel in this world,
you will still occupy the same volume of space.

Traditional Ur-Bororo saying."

It's been in the making for quite a long time, but I finally finished The Quantity Theory of Insanity by Will Self. It is a bizarre book with an underpinning of radically absurd wit. Imagine a combination of The Sixth Sense, Six feet under and The Flying Circus and you get the beginning of it - literally (I am talking about the first story)! The book's format is a collection of six apparently unrelated short stories: The North London Book of the Dead, Ward 9, Understanding the Ur-Bororo, The Quantity Theory of Insanity, Mono-Cellular and finally Waiting. But on closer inspection, you'll notice that each story is cleverly linked with others by means of some peripheral character. For a good review & summary, check this - I personally just loved the Ur-Bororo story. Oh, and Waiting with the permanent suspension between immanence & imminence!

Which leads me to a quick parenthetical note: I do not want to boast my vocabulary, but it doesn't happen often in non-technical literature that I have to use the dictionary. Not so in this case! Maybe that has something to do with the fact that Self occasionally uses technical jargon, particularly when the subject matter is anthropology, or psychiatry, as in the namesake story where he actually develops said quantity theory, complete with footnotes and bibliography ("Hurst, P., 'Nailbiting in Bournemouth versus Bed-Wetting in Poole: Action and Amelioration', Journal of Psychology, March, 1976") And it comes across incredibly ... credibly! It's just too bad that the frequently quoted British Journal of Ephemera (BJE) does not appear to exist in this world - I'd be an avid reader!

The quantity theory itself is obviously true (please abstain from applying Popper to this one): There is only a limited amount of sanity in any given social grouping. Hence a decay in the mental health of one member actually increases other members' sanity. Read it to believe it - and have a swell time in the process!!

P.S. The uncharacteristically high density of exclamation marks in this post correlates closely with how much I like the book.

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