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IN BRIEF

Fiction

July 25, 1993|DICK RORABACK

COCK & BULL by Will Self (Atlantic Monthly Press: $20; 310 pp.) Let's not beat around the bush. "Cock & Bull" is about a woman who sprouts a penis and a man who grows a vagina. Hers is in the normal place, more or less. His is behind his left knee. There you have it. There they have it.

She is Carol, "pretty in the mean-featured English provincial way." She is married to Dan, a London design consultant given to major quantities of lager, "the WD-40 of the soul." So dim is Dan that when they make love he doesn't even notice what she has come to think of as a "gristly frond."

He, Bull, the one with the thingamajig (their stories are separate), is a cabaret critic and an amateur rugby player--alas: there are no secrets in the scrum. Bull, thinking he's pulled a muscle he never knew he had (he's right), consults a doctor. The doctor wants to keep it under wraps, literally; he sees a chance to make medical history. Instead, he falls in love with Bull, or at least with Bull's left leg--which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be a virgin. Along the way there is another doctor who is "nothing if not not conscientious"; a publican with hate tattooed on one hand, indifference on the other; something about a French funambulist and seven live eels, "one of which was in flames."

Even more intriguing, if you can believe it, is Will Self's literate seduction of the English language. Self bends words to his will; tweaks, gilds and prods them until they holler Aunt . Bill Buckley with a potty mouth. Funny man. Funny book.

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