Sunday, February 26, 2012

Will Self Asks Whether to Live Alone or Together

"Flytopia" is the second short story I've delved into from the Will Self collection called The Undivided Self. And what a pleasure.

The story opens with Jonathan Priestly, "an indexer by profession," playing pool against himself in a bar. His girlfriend, Joy, has been visiting the city for several days away from their country town.

Jonathan's house is oddly filled with all kinds of flies and bugs. Sometimes they are worse than others. But after his pool-playing evening, he wakes up, stumbles into the kitchen, looks down into the sink, and finds a group of silverfish lining up to spell the words "welcome to flytopia" to him.

They continue to communicate with him by forming large packs to spell sentences, and they note that flytopia is a place where humans and insects live in harmony. Occasionally, the bugs misspell words and need to be reminded to rearrange themselves to be grammatically correct.

The flies begin the attempt at harmony by asking Jonathan to remove the fly-paper he has laid out. He is contemplating such a concession when he notices his bed has been spotlessly made. Mites flow off the pillows to make the bed even more perfect. Later, various kinds of bugs clean his toilet, give him a facial, and cleanse his entire body. Their next request is whether they can have the entire second bedroom to themselves.

Jonathan eventually decides to give them the second bedroom. He also begins to feed them meat, and when they ask him for "more meat," he replies that he'll think about it. Suddenly, Joy's cab pulls up out front. Jonathan is so happy in his new living situation that he is revolted by the sound of her voice. She asks him for a fiver for the cab and he tells her there might be a pile of change in the spare bedroom. She enters the room, Jonathan hears the "oppressive, giant, fluttering hum, as she is engulfed, then he rises and and goes out to pay the cab."

Pretty sicko, but still a very interesting and quirky take on the eternal conflict for people on whether to live alone in harmony with themselves and nature or to have other humans in their intimate spaces.

****1/2 out of ***** stars

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