Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Something Amis

Been snortin' cold water fish oil, and drinkin' whey protein powder. A slight variation on the Pat Travers regime.

And I also finished watching a five-hour movie. If watching socialist international terrorists chain smoke for five hours is your thing, then "Carlos" is a film for you.

I've also been assembling a rather ambitious reading (and rereading) list that should see me through to my sunset years.

A good chunk of the novels on that list include titles from the father and son tandem of Kingsley and Martin Amis.

Kingsley was a souse of legendary proportions, with much of that legend emanating from the man himself. And while the literary stock of the elder Amis appears to have risen over the last decade or so, Amis the Younger is no longer a fashionable read.

I came to both rather late in the game, but the sheer audacity and linguistic showmanship of the Younger's writing from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s rekindled my interest in modern fiction. To be fair, I haven't yet read any of his novels after that point. It would be hard, however, for the Younger to match his dazzling trinity of Money (1984), London Fields (1989), and The Information (1995). You could open up to any page in these novels and find yourself confronted by some of the most exhilarating prose you've ever encountered. His style is unique and unapologetic, yet rarely reads as pretension or goes over the top.

Normally I don't like to see novels adapted to cinema. The former is a literary experience, and the latter is primarily a visual experience. And the imagined visuals that are manufactured as one reads should not be supplanted by another medium. But once I learned that David Cronenberg was attached to the project, I figured if anyone could adapt an "unfilmable" book, it was him. He did it, or at least heroically failed in the attempt, with both Ballard's Crash and Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Sadly, the London Fields project fell through, but is now attached to the extremely capable Michael Winterbottom, who could well have been my second choice.

Father and Son share a number of remarkable narrative abilities, including an extraordinary talent for representing first or third person experiential perspectives on being drunk and the concomitant hangover. Kingsley renders this most memorably in Lucky Jim (1954), the academic satire to end all academic satires. But he does it even better in The Green Man (1969). While Martin nearly matches him in Money, a satire of early 1980s materialism adorned by an ingenious plot, never his strong point, and in London Fields, where much of the narrative unfolds in dive bars such as the "Black Cross" and the "Golgotha". Both of them, of course, had plenty of experience in the field.

"Addictions do come in handy sometimes: at least you have to get out of bed for them."
-John Self

Sometimes, all you wanna do is have your mind erased.


  1. I became disenchanted with the novel as a medium in general. Hey I'll give these Amis lads a go. Youtube isn't blocked a work too...nice time for some CV!

  2. I'm still working through London Fields FE. It's work every page turn. Mechanically speaking, the spine of the book has cracked and now it isn't holding all the pages - I have tried to be careful, I meant to tell you about that. Sometimes we can tape the pages back together...but what about the story? (great CV tune)