Friday, 30 March 2012

Money by Martin Amis, and "the new unpleasantness"

Despite everything I am about to say, I did like Martin Amis's Money. In fact, I liked it very much. I read very little contemporary classics (which should be kept in mind if you read this), so in that respect it was an interesting experience.

It was, however, awful. I've no idea why I liked it as much as I did. The main character, John Self, can be added to a long list of unpleasant, grim, grotty sorts - an anti-hero, or a Byronic Hero - arrogant, self-destructive, cynical, and moody. I feel like I'm supposed to appreciate his honesty, as though he, John Self is, at the very least, displaying self-knowledge, which somehow he feels ought to be applauded. Showing no delusions, perhaps, but actually showing nothing more than absolute arrogance. "I want sympathy," he says, "even though I find it so very hard to behave sympathetically." He abuses women and he abuses himself, and leads a very ugly life because of it. I have no sympathy, but I feel like I ought to because, "hey, at least he's honest!" 

I've come to be wary of people who behave in this manner and are completely honest about it. Sounds hard of me, but I've known a few people like this, who solicit sympathy with grotesque monologues on what they have done to themselves. Honesty is good, but so is respect for your listener. Oddly, I don't want to hear of a man attempting to rape a woman. I see no merit in this kind of bravado.

But thank God it was well-written. It was good. It was like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book supposed to reflect the post modern condition, but for me reflecting nothing but a car crash. And I couldn't look away. This is not my life, and these are not my experiences. This did not reflect my mental state, my attitudes, or any sub-conscious doubts in my mind. I sat reading it in the garden next to the fountain, with Trotwood babbling next to me, enjoying the early days of spring, and yes, I enjoyed it. It was intriguing. It is fascinating to read something that bears no resemblance whatsoever to any part of my life. But at the same time it was awful. 

I have a few more of Martin Amis on my list, and I may add yet more. Classics aren't "nice", they're not bland, they don't tell lovely, heart-warming tales, and I feel like my rejection of Money is implying that they do. They can be grim, upsetting, and intensely irritating. Amis did not invent the Byronic Hero (the clue's in the name!). But Money? Money was a lot nastier. I would, however, read more.


  1. Hmmm... I've read London Fields by Amis, and I was both underwhelmed and kind of put off by him (I wrote an essay in which I called him a misogynist because of it, which should pretty much tell you everything about what I think of him!) But I do think he's seriously into nasty characters rather than nice ones, which, to be honest, I'm not so much into!

  2. Fantastic review! Money sounds fascinating but grotesque. I suspect I would react to it in much the same way as you did.



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