Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Something Amis?

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.

10 comments:

  1. But perhaps all his other books had sold out and you were looking at the result of his being a hugely popular author. Poor Ian McEwan. It sounds like his weren't shifting at all...

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  2. I still enjoy his Dad's.

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  3. He lost me with London Fields, which I felt was highly portentous with not a lot to show for it.

    I think there's something adolescent about his work - something flashy, sulky and overwrought; an over-reaching that all too often ends in a sort of bathos.

    In a young writer, when all the tricks were fresh, this didn't look so much like a flaw (though, in my experience, women noted it). But as he's got older, it's looked more and more out of place.

    Like you, I loved his early books but I wonder whether a good part of this enjoyment came because I read them when I was not much more than an adolescent.

    Anyhow, I suspect that the fact that a sixty year-old is still talking about 'chicks', no matter how ironically, is indicative.

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  4. I refute this with Experience, the best book he's written. But yes otherwise Success and Money were his twin peaks. I love/hate all of them.



    PS. I have read Cloud Atlas and loved it. Will Self jumped the shark almost immediately, after the short story 'Scale', which is brilliant.

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  5. I liked Success and Money, but hated London Fields so much I haven't read any of his stuff since.

    I too have read Cloud Atlas and thought it was very good - just my style of book.

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  6. I thought the exact same thing as Willard. His books are actually being purchased, and the others are just sitting on the shelves.

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  7. Yes Willard and Madfolly - a good point! Though I have to say there was no sign of any kind of gap where another Amis might have stood...

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  8. Brit, what did you think of Great Apes? I thought it was incredibly good.

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  9. I've read Cloud Atlas...and borrowed it from someone else who'd also read it.
    Agree with you about Amis...used to read him but he's now strangely unappealing

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