Thursday, 11 June 2009

Email to a pal re Martin Amis's The Information

How you going with The Information? It disappointed me in the end. FAR. TOO. LONG. No one now can hold a candle to him adjectivally, his similes are stunning etc As a stylist he is a nonpareil. Absolutely brilliant. But fuck me, 500 pages about this prick who hates his mate for being successful? With a few easy-to anticipate twists and a bit of existential anxiety thrown in – done very well, I must say, but it seemed tacked on to give the penny-plain story some…intellectual gravity? The usual stuff about West London shitholes all present and correct from London Fields. 500 pages! That’s a grand a page just for the advance. He goes for a Lear bit towards the end along the lines of what is the meaning of thunder. It was, I think, supposed to come across as the ultimate WHY but seems more like a whiney teen spliffhead in the park. I had a lot of good chuckles at it, though, his talent for escalating a humorous idea is great – mind you, some of the running jokes don’t come off – but the whole thing is about him, him, him; the world, the universe in fact, as seen by an extremely clever, wealthy writer who’s done a lot of drugs, been around a lot and is starting, to use Byron’s youthful phrase, ‘to grow tired of the sun’. Correction, not about the world but the world’s effect on him. There’s nothing wrong with this at all but the great novelists – trades descriptions act: he is referred to as such, or was before The Eagleton Incident – can take us over whole societies; this, however, is kind of close-up work at Tolstoyan length, with some galactic physics chucked in. On the other hand, apart from where it sags, you enjoy hanging out with this writer because every sentence, every word is considered, tasted and pushed to its limit on occasion – though sometimes not considered enough in my opinion: he has a fetish for those irritating DeLillo-ish sentences. Parody: ‘He got back behind the wheel, the wheel of the Micra. He knew the world hated him now. He knew it. He knew that. He knew.’
Know what I mean? Great impact now and again but it becomes a peccadillo you have to tolerate. The real thing about that book is that you end up thinking, fella, it CAN’T be *that* bad being you, can it? (he says both characters are based on him). As my mate Ryder said when Cobain topped himself: ‘Depression? Try being broke for months, walking to work every day and living on baked beans…’
I think the reason he got SO into 9/11 was that SOMETHING BIG AND IMPORTANT HAD FINALLY HAPPENED in his lifetime that he could write about. Bit more than the Stones at Earl’s Court and the Cold War that never really delivered. His old man had communism and world war two; all he’d had was sex, drugs and Nabokov. I still think my diagnosis of his prose as being ‘like Kingsley on skunk’ is accurate.
But still, RESPECK, as they say in the streets. He’s worth a million Hornbys and Parsonses. True, I am an unpublished novelist but you don’t have to be a carpenter to criticise a chair – hey, that could be a payoff line from Subterranean Homesick Blues…



Ayrdale said...

Lovely turn of phrase there Sir.

A pleasure to read.

Mark Brentano said...

"His old man had communism and world war two; all he’d had was sex, drugs and Nabokov."
Spot on Dickie. Imagine Kingsley doing Subterranean Homesick Blues. I'd pay for that. "You don't need to be a fucking sommelier/To tell a merlot from a cabernet/na na na na na na na na etc etc