Taking morphine with Martin Amis

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.

Anyway.

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.

And then.

I reached the bit where* the protagonist meets Martin Amis!
Aaargh!
*[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.

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23 Responses to Taking morphine with Martin Amis

  1. ex-dude says:

    This sounds like an awful idea for a novel, badly executed. Unless it’s available in my preferred format – pop-up – this is one less book to read. I hope you are recovering well.

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    • Just my ever so humble opinion. But, as you might just have guessed, I don’t recommend it. Thanks, coping, pain under control so far, Nurse Cratchit cooking up a storm – worst part of all is sleeping on my back. For 6 weeks. Ho hum. Thanks for reading AND commenting!

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  2. EllaDee says:

    Happy to hear you’re recuperating, not so good you spent some time on unenjoyable reading. I’ll be checking out Martin Amis and Money but also Wendy Cope and Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis as they are more likely my cup of tea as well.
    I hate having to work hard at reading a book… currently reading book club selection Far from the Madding Crowd; enjoying it -absorbed, and struggling in turn. I think reading the e-version on my phone isn’t helping. If it was an old, worn paperback in my hand, I’d be more forgiving. I wonder if there’s a copy at the library.
    Did your German friend recommend Amis before or after you made the name suggestion?

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    • HA! I made the suggestion after he ‘recommended’ the book – it wasn’t his retribution!
      I studied Far From the Madding Crowd for O Level Eng Lit at school (they were public exams taken age 15) and as with any book studied under forcible conditions, found it hard going. It took me a long time to try it again and love it. But I adore Thomas Hardy – my favourite is Return of the Native – the heroine Eustacia Vye and the Reddle Man – aaaah! That said, I do wonder if it is a style/type of tale that one enjoys most when feeling adolescent? Are you feeling adolescent? I don’t know, maybe that’s rubbish. I recommend the film with Terence Stamp as Sgt Troy and Julie Christie as Bathsheba – very well done and true to the book IMHO. Shame I can’t lend you my worn paperback – I agree, you’d enjoy it MUCH more. Thanks for reading Elladee. m

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      • EllaDee says:

        Differing response to books is entertaining… my book club is a demonstration of that.
        The library lists only hardcopies of Far from the Madding Crowd so I’ll look for a Penguin tomorrow, and maybe Return of the Native as well. Tess of the d’Urbervilles was my high school reading in senior years age 16-17. As well, Wuthering Heights and Sons & Lovers which I still have copies of, and affection for.
        I think the film version of Far from the Madding Crowd is why it was selected for book club. After I finished reading I watch it.

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  3. Christa says:

    I had a similar experience with a Martin Amis novel, can’t remember which one, but I did enjoy his autobiographical Experience (just noticed, on my alphabetical bookshelf it is nestling next to, er, Money). Anyway, it sounds as if you are coping, post-op, and it is wonderful that the morphine has not affected your writing ability!! Another great blog.

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    • I think the book was one of the worst things about my stay in hospital and I will never ever touch another M Amis again. He’s now up there with Ian McEwan (for different reasons) for me in the ‘don’t even think about it’ warning list. So many inspiring, heartening, mind-broadening, thought-provoking-in-a-good-way things out there to read … And, thanks for the kind words. See you soon, m

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  4. charliebritten says:

    Sorry to hear that you’re laid up, MOH. Afraid I’ve been in the same camp as you regarding Martin Amis, but I haven’t had the courage to tackle one of his tomes. I suppose I ought. I agree with your friend, EllaDee, in that I too hate having to work hard at a book.

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    • Thanks Charlie. ‘I suppose I ought’ – that’s what drove me – Charlie, don’t bother! Life is too short – read things you want to read and trust your instincts! If you miss one gem that way you’ll still read many more that you enjoy along the way.

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  5. Thel says:

    Maybe The Secret Garden would have been a better choice? Or just crochet for a while!

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    • You are so right! And now you’ve said it – hmmm, or The Little Princess? Did you ever read that? No, I think Secret Garden. And the crocheting is underway … Following orders from she who must be obeyed. x

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  6. Hope things are going well with your recuperation. A little bit of poetry always has its uses – I love Strugnell’s Sonnet No. vii in Wendy’s book.

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    • Thanks Ron, doing my exercises and taking the tablets! Might even make the next Jelly you never know … I didn’t know you were a poetry fan. I do like her stuff and also Roger McGough and John Betjeman though all v different all v human.

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  7. mud4fun says:

    Get well soon M.

    Not my sort of book or author anyway so it was never going to trouble me. 🙂

    I’m in the middle of some light reading, ‘Knight of the Air’ by Ezra Bowen. Bought for me by my daughters for Christmas it is about aviation and its development during WW1. While sombre it sounds like it is a better read than a Martin Amis 🙂 It was bought for me mainly because of the lovely illustrations and reference material but has actually proved to be a good read in its own right. My preferred books are fantasy novels though such as David Eddings or Piers Anthony. They allow me to escape to other worlds or times and are very relaxing.

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    • Thanks, I. Am trying!
      I have wondered recently whether to try some other genres – I used to like science fiction (old fashioned kind like Isaac Asimov and John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids and all that) – hearing about Discworld today I thought I might even give Terry Pratchett a try. I like crime fiction because it completely takes me away from myself – I suppose good sci fi & fantasy would do the same thing.

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  8. Thomas Hardy is stuffed full in my Kindle – I snagged every free selection of his that I could find from all over the net! Amis, thankfully, is not… If you need a little magic mushroom sauce to make it more palatable, stop on by, it’s on the menu with my latest post in the oasis! Hope you’re feeling better! ❤❤❤;^)

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    • Hello Aisha and thank you so much for the good wishes. Magic mushroom sauce sounds good, will hop on over to yours now and check it out! 🙂
      I love Thomas Hardy, do you have a favourite? I started writing a book based on the theme of Under the Greenwood Tree updated to now, which I thought was charming and a little less daunting after the emotional upheavals of Tess, Jude, et al.
      I just knew I would hate Amis 😦 but at least now I can say it based on experience. x

      Liked by 1 person

      • What a wonderful idea, writing your updated Greenwood, that sounds really interesting! I swear my favorite of Hardy is whatever one I read next – his powers of perception leave me fascinated, always, what an incredible character! Gore Vidal is my punching bag, I hate his writing and wouldn’t dream of wasting good morphine on him! Dickens was impossible for me, too, but I was glued to the TV for every episode of Masterpiece Theater’s Bleak House, that was five stars awesome. Come to think of it, I believe it was MPT that turned me onto Hardy, too! If you can find and stream MPT bleak house, I totally recommend it for recovery activity. Hugs and magic mushroom sauce!!! ❤❤❤;^)

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        • Yes, I’m with you on Dickens – I’ve bounced off everything I’ve tried except Christmas Carol and and Tale of Two Cities. Early experience of Oliver Twist (Bill Sykes and poor Nancy) set me off with a pre-disposition to dislike! I’ve only read one set of essays by Gore Vidal and wouldn’t bother with more. We lived in the county of Dorset (part of Hardy’s Wessex) for a couple of years – behind our tiny (two up two down) cottage was a watercress bed and behind that was a ruin where reputedly Thomas Hardy’s mistress lived. We could see it from our tiny lead-framed bedroom window. It was a strange and wonderful place, Dorset, brooding hills, long valleys, turquoise sea – and odd things like naked dolls for fertility set in hedgerows and fox’s heads – old rural superstitions still going strong there in the 1990s!

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          • Wow, that’s amazing about the fertility dolls! We have some pretty strange “heathen” stuff that pops up around here in Egypt, too, and makes me wonder how old that is! Hope you’re feeling better these days!
            ❤❤❤:^)

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            • Hi Aisha, I loved your ducky post! Though it is a bit sad it’s also true to life…
              Yes, the dolls in the hedgerows and fruit trees were odd, but I’d guess odd things in your neck of the woods are a lot older than the ones in Dorset – but you never know. I look forward to reading about someof them now and then if the muse strikes you and you have the time.
              I’m doing well, thanks, hope I’ll be able to drive soon – but more important, hope I’ll be able to sleep on at least one of my sides! Sleeping on my back – aaargh! Hope your husband is fully recovered now? Mxx

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks so much, he’s getting along much better too, we sit in the sunshine on the roof and enjoy the pigeons and it’s great for his health in many ways. Oooh, ouch, I remember what that’s like, sleeping on your back all the time, it’s really difficult, I had bursitis in both hips once and it was miserable to sleep, sit and stand. I slept on my back with a pillow under my legs and it helped my back a little. Any little bit of help is good, right?! About the wierd practices, I think they have roots in black magic, to tell you the truth, I was so shocked when one of my in-laws was telling me some of the stuff her mother taught her… O M G! I don’t think I’ll be writing about that stuff, lol!
                Take care and best wishes for better sleep and full good health! ❤❤❤;^)

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