It’s been a rough couple of weeks. And why, I ask myself, did I knowingly introduce Martin Amis into the nightmare?
I can only blame it on the drugs.
Martin Amis, in case he hasn’t crossed international boundaries of name recognition, is a novelist. He would hate me for this status locator (but that’s fine): he’s the son of an earlier, famous British novelist, Kingsley Amis.
Amis Senior had some memorable titles in his stable, including Lucky Jim. It took me a long time – about two thirds of my life so far – to get around to reading that and I can’t say it was time well spent. For me.
Amis Junior is one of those authors that certain people criticise a lot. Partly because he’s been successful. Partly because he sounds like an irritating person (and spent a lot on his teeth – so un-British). Partly because he’s a conspicuous member of the ‘male-critics-review-male-writers-aren’t-we-all-wonderful’ club.
Sorry. Blame the drugs. No, blame me. Thanks.
Anyway, I’ve always known I would hate his work without reading a word.
But that’s not a fair stance to take, is it? And even if I’m well aware that life’s not fair, there’s no reason I should collude in the injustice.
A couple of years back a friend argued that I should read at least one and then I could venture an informed opinion. And he (yes, he) suggested that if I only read one it should be Money.
This friend, who’s German and bald, plays music with a fellow bald German. The same evening he issued his challenge re Amis, he asked for ideas on a name to get the duo noticed.
The friend has a sense of humour, chirpily takes responsibility for a stray bomb that dropped nearby during World War II.
Wine was drunk and chicken eaten. It was all jolly convivial.
‘Two Bald Krauts,’ I said.
My flash of brilliance didn’t even elicit a response.
I tried to say, ‘do you want to be noticed, or not?’ but he just wasn’t hearing.
Money has been on my Kindle for well over a year and I haven’t even looked at it.
My Kindle is the place I keep books I don’t really want to read.
A few days ago, the only reading matter I had to hand after finishing an effortlessly wonderful Anne Tyler novel in paperback, was on my Kindle.
That narrowed it down. Was it going to be Thomas Aquinas? Dark Night of the Soul? A dictionary or two? An ancient copy of a daily newspaper?
Glum, resigned, downcast – and, recovering from the work of a skilled sawbones, learning to navigate with crutches in brief sessions out of bed – I started it.
Glum, I persevered.
Glum became despondent. Irritated.
OK. The writing’s pretty good, I’ll grant you.
I just don’t like what it says. And the way it says it. And how it goes on.
I soon got the hang of the story and where it was going. Understood the protagonist. Was immersed in the life of an exaggerated caricature of a man, which said nothing new to me, just exasperated me.
I’d had enough. But the wretched e-device told me I’d barely notched up 30%.
I plodded on, interrupted by cups of tea, insertion of intravenous drips, pulse readings and bloodlettings. I became impatient. Flipped through e-page after e-page. Inducing nausea. I presume it was the flipping – could have been the book.
I reached the bit where* the protagonist meets Martin Amis!
*[I don’t care if this spoils it for you – the whole thing spoilt a very long and already trying day for me]
OK. I get it. Chinese-rings-trick kinda writing.
Featuring famous novelist M Amis.
As written by famous novelist M Amis.
Oh, for heavens’ sake.
And yes, it all pans out how I thought it would when I’d endured less than 30%.
It made me so miserable.
And I wasted how much time on this?
OK. So I should just accept it. It was a rubbish experience. Time to move on, yes?
Thing is, I wasn’t very well. And by the time I’d finished it I felt sick at heart and in body.
As if I’d been swimming in warm, greasy dishwater sloshing with soggy food scraps.
It’s taken a while to sluice the muck out of my head.
And so yesterday I picked up an extremely slim volume of poetry to help clean it out.
Poet Wendy Cope is an alumna of my old college. She writes poems that some people – the kind of people who sneer at anything common folks understand (the kind of people who like Martin Amis novels) – find too funny, touching, human. Accessible.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of hi-falutin’poetry, when the time is right, but wouldn’t you be intrigued by a book of poems entitled Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis?
I was. And when I read a few of the short verses in the collection, it felt like I’d brushed my brain with fresh minty brainpaste. Swilled it round with the brainwash of normality. Rid myself of the lingering odour of a blocked drain outside a cheap restaurant.
Did I say I didn’t like the book? Perhaps you guessed?
What a relief. Now I can tell people I don’t like Martin Amis. Even when I’m off my head on morphine.