Views & Reviews Review of the Week

The livers of London

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 25 November 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2730
  1. John Quin, consultant physician, Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton
  1. Jdquin{at}

    Will Self’s short stories feature the liver in varying states of disease and decay. John Quin probes

    The liver is an unjustly neglected source of literary inspiration. Will Self corrects this, appropriating medical jargon to serve up a gamey pâté of metaphors linking the organ to contemporary London life. Here is another moralist updating Hogarth’s gin sodden lanes for our own binge drinking times. Self’s people are like “a hepatocyte in a lobule in a lobe in a liverish city. London, a metropolis that had itself been breaking down cultural toxins and processing rich nutrients for two millennia, yet could only do so by manufacturing hectolitres of bile.”

    Four lobes, hence four stories with a hepatic theme. “Foie Humain” begins the collection, an extension of a gag the broadcaster Jonathan Meades once made about who he would eat were he a cannibal, the answer being a well known corpulent politician. It is a fetid tale centred on the denizens of a Soho drinking club, a rum bunch, who …

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