Thursday, January 18, 2007


Well, here are my initial thoughts about Martin Amis: the man is clearly brilliant, he is sardonic as all get-out, and I think I would most enjoy spending some time with him over a few drinks. Or possibly many drinks.

As I mentioned in the original post, in which I launched my Project Read Through the Alphabet 2007, The Information is a novel about a novel writer. I love that. Here's an example of the hilariously morose cynicism with which it is filled:

"For an hour (it was the new system) he worked on his latest novel, deliberately but provisionally entitled Untitled...In the drawers of his desk or interleaved by now with the bills and summonses on the lower shelves on his bookcases, and even on the floor of the car...lay other novels, all of them firmly entitled Unpublished. And stacked against him in the future, he knew, were yet further novels, successively entitled Unfinished, Unwritten, Unattempted, and, eventually, Unconceived. " -- p. 5

And so we have our writer, Richard Tull, who watches his friend Gwyn meet with fame and success and in what is purported to be a gloriously happy marriage, while Richard himself is no longer getting even marginal critical acclaim and has not only cheated on his wife but is pretty sure she must have cheated on him by now too, just because their marriage (he) is such a wreck. It is said that his first two novels weren't exactly comprehensible, but no one could quite say they were awful either. Now, his lack of agent and publishing prospects certainly seem to be rendering a verdict. And so he slogs through his days hoping to make it to the next drug or other intoxicant offered up by his failing life.

A girl has to wonder how much of this Amis himself has felt! I mean, he certainly is still a darling of the edgy-intellectual-literary world, isn't he? He's also hilarious. But not in a David Sedaris or even a Christopher Moore or Calvin Trillin way. I don't laugh out loud as often on every page as in reading those others, but I laugh good and deep at Martin Amis. He's also brilliant. (This next part is going to sound really snotty so prepare.) I really like reading someone and just thinking, 'Shit, he is so brilliant. He's clearly so much smarter than me. Could I even hold a candle...? Would he still have a drink with me...?' because I really feel (these days?) that finding brilliant people about whom I think, 'Wow, he's decidedly smarter than me' happens less and less often. What's that about? Age? Prozac? As the Bush administration goes, so goes the nation? Too much time spent on Long Island? Or out of public radio?

Whatever. There are even words I swear I've never heard or seen before, and not just the British slang (of which there is also a good amount). Anyway, the plot is meandering along introducing us to some of Richard's bitter jealousy, and that he has hatched a plan to "bring down" Gwyn, although we don't really know what that plan is yet. But mostly so far I'm luxuriating in Amis/Richard's ruminations on his miserable writer life.

"Writers don't lead shapely lives. Shape they give to the lives of others: accountants, maniacs." - p. 48

Remember, that's The Information by Martin Amis. My edition ISBN: 0679735739. You can get it for 75 cents on! I love! And I am definitely starting to love Martin Amis.


chate said...

If you're looking for the comedic Amis, then start with "Money". Written in the early 80's, it deals with an English hack commercial TV director who gets a mysterious gig in America directing a film called "Bad Money". The language is hysterical, so many different voices and dialects, and the tone is blunt and minimalist. If you're looking to understand the overall Amis perspective, first read "The War Against Cliche", his collection of reviews of vintage literature.

linda said...

Hmmm, AM I looking for the comedic Amis? I think I might be. But I've also found him to be rather shrewd and insightful. Anyway, I'm grateful for the tip about Money. That book does seem to get a lot of mention, as I further delve into the Amis mystique.