Monday, May 22, 2023

amis is as good as amile

I'm a busy man, so it's rare for me to explicitly note authorial deaths here that aren't the direct result of my book-blogging activities. Lord knows the relentless (if irregular) schedule of slaughterings of published novelists keeps me busy enough without bothering to note the peaceful passing of those whose death I had no hand in. 

Nonetheless the death of Martin Amis at the age of 73 is a fairly big deal in literary circles, and I did read a few of his novels, so it probably warrants mention here. He has been mentioned here a few times before, as it happens, but mainly in connection either with his father, Kingsley Amis, or his great friend Christopher Hitchens. There is a sharply ironic twist to what I see I once referred to as Amis' "puppyish big-brother adoration" of Hitchens in the fact that he eventually fell victim to the same illness, oesophageal cancer.

The picture above shows the section of my bookshelves devoted to people called Amis, and as you can see alongside the eleven books I own by his father I have three by Martin: Dead Babies, Success and Money

Pretty much any list of Amis' best books will have Money as the top entry - I don't really have enough data to be able to offer an opinion, but it's very good, in a quintessentially 1980s sort of way: drink, drugs, general depravity, lots of authorial smart-arsery and showing-off including inserting himself into the narrative at one point, and indulgence of the author's penchant for jarringly fourth-wall-breaking character names (John Self here; later novels had characters called Keith Talent and Clint Smoker). I actually rather liked Success, partly because (rather like the later Julian Barnes novel Love, etc.) it featured a pair of principal male characters, one hugely flamboyant, one rather more introverted, and had the introverted one end the novel in rather better shape than the flamboyant one, something (no doubt reflecting my own personality type) that I found appealing. As for Dead Babies, his second novel, it's enjoyable enough in a scabrous sort of way, but pretty silly, and features a section which would have been a shoo-in for the literary Bad Sex Award had that existed in 1974. 

For completeness I should add that, while I never read the book, I have seen the 1989 film of Amis' 1973 debut novel The Rachel Papers, which I quite enjoyed, largely because it featured the lovely Ione Skye during the period of a couple of years where she was A Thing.

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