How the Dead Live is a novel by Will Self. It was originali published in 2000.Will Self has one of literature’s most astonishing imaginations, and in How the Dead Live his talent has come to full flower. Lily Bloom is an angry, aging American transplanted to England, now losing her battle with cancer.
Attended by nurses and her two daughters , Lily takes us on a surreal, opinionated trip through the stages of a lifetime of lust and rage. From ’40s career girl to ’50s tippling adulteress to ’70s PR flak, Lily has seen America and England through most of a century of riotous and unreal change. And then it’s over. Lily catches a cab with her death guide, Aboriginal wizard Phar Lap Jones, and enters the shockingly banal world of the dead: the suburbs. She discovers smoking without consequences and gets another PR job, where none of her coworkers notices that she’s not alive. She gets to know her roommates: Rude Boy, her terminally furious son who died in a car accident at age nine; Lithy, a fetus that died before she ever knew it existed; the Fats, huge formless shapes composed of all the weight she’s ever gained or lost.
Despite the bleakness of the tone, I think it works brilliantly as a black comedy, with some real insight into the human condition with regards to the subject of death.
How the Dead Live is Will Self’s most remarkable and expansively human book, an important, disturbing vision of our time.