Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Finding myself with time to kill on Victoria station last night ('person under train in the East Croydon area'), I mooched for a while in the former bookshop known as W.H. Smith, idly scanning the meagre 'General Fiction' shelves. I noticed that Martin Amis - despite this week's BBC TV adaptation of his Money - was represented by only one title, Success (probably his best novel, certainly his shapeliest). What would have irked poor Marty more was that Julian Barnes was represented by 4 titles, Ian McEwan by virtually his entire works, Sebastian Faulks ditto; Salman Rushdie had 4 or 5 titles (oddly not including The Satanic Verses), even Will Self had 4, even David Mitchell (whose Cloud Atlas no one has read) had 3 (plus the new one stacked up elsewhere). How fast and far Martin Amis's reputation - and, by the look of things, sales - have fallen, to the point where I am surely not the only former fan who would never dream of opening a new book of his. I stuck with him up to The Information or thereabouts, and by then it was clear enough that the once brilliant comic novelist had started to take himself far too seriously, that the talented writer was becoming convinced he was a genius, that the dazzling stylist was repeating his old tricks too often, and that each 'loose baggy monster' of a novel was baggier and saggier than the last. A great shame. In his heyday, Amis was one of the most exhilarating of writers, his springy, zestful sentences and paragraphs a joy to read - I've seldom enjoyed any contemporary novels more than those first few of his. Including Success.