Saturday, February 29, 2020

The 100 best novels / No 93 / Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis (1984)

The 100 best novels

writtein English 

No 93

Money: A Suicide Note 

by Martin Amis


Martin Amis’s era-defining ode to excess unleashed one of literature’s greatest modern monsters in self-destructive antihero John Self

Robert McCrum
Monday 29 June 2015 05.45 BST

erhaps more than any other novelist in this series, Martin Amis, who is also an outstanding essayist and critic, has punctuated his career with stern and candid reflections about the fates of writers and the afterlives of books. The only measure of success a writer should worry about, says Amis, is whether you’re still being read in 50 years. There is, he insists, “only one value judgment in literature: time”.

Money, a neo-Rabelaisian comedy, is probably Amis’s best bid for posterity, a zeitgeist book that remains one of the dominant novels of the 1980s. The hero ofMoney, according to its author, is “a semi-literate alcoholic”, John Self, whose appetite for pornography, drugs and fast food marks him out as an Amis favourite. Self’s self-loathing is compulsive: “My clothes are made of monosodium glutamate and hexachlorophene. My food is made of polyester, rayon and lurex. My rug lotions contain vitamins. Do my vitamins feature cleaning agents? I hope so. My brain is gimmicked by a microprocessor the size of a quark, and costing ten pee and running the whole deal. I am made of – junk, I’m just junk.” At the same time, Self glories in his supremacy, especially at the table: “There have been rich meat and bloody wine. There have been brandies, and thick puddings. There has already been some dirty talk. Selina is in high spirits, and as for me, I’m a gurgling wizard of calorific excess.”
Like many figures from the 80s, this ad-man narrator thinks he’s running the show – his life, loves, career, sleazy hedonism and all – but, actually, he’s a victim. Self, who is crisscrossing the Atlantic to make his first feature film, “Good Money” (later, “Bad Money”), becomes progressively mired in an accumulation of complex financial and sexual crises, linked to the corruptions of money, expressed through a series of hilarious set-pieces, which bring him to the edge of breakdown. Here, in a further provocation to English literary practice, the author steps into the narrative as “Martin Amis” and tries to prevent Self’s self-destruction. Thereafter, Money spirals towards its teasing, postmodern conclusion.
Martin Amis
Poster by T.A.

It’s probably wrong to interrogate Self’s brilliant monologue for the satisfactions of traditional English fiction. The narrator is all: “I’ve got to get this stuff out of my system. No, more than that, much more. I’ve got to get my system out of my system. That’s what I’ve got to do.” Money, according to Amis, is a novel of voice, not plot. The meaning of the “suicide note” subtitle emerges as part of the denouement, in a narrative resolution that’s more Nabokov than Dickens, to cite two of the influences presiding over the novel.

The thrill of Money, which is turbo-charged with savage humour from first to last page, is Amis’s prodigal delight in contemporary Anglo-American vernacular. In this novel, and London Fields, and finally The Information, he developed a voice that mesmerised a generation. The loquacious monsters of his fiction remain vivid and indispensable voices in the raucous polyphony of a new age, an essential precursor to the breakthroughs of the imminent new century. These are voices that are never less than wonderfully quotable: “The future could go this way, that way. The future’s futures have never looked so rocky. Don’t put money on it. Take my advice and stick to the present. It’s the real stuff, the only stuff, it’s all there is, the present, the panting present.” Amis has always been the novelist of the here and now.

A note on the text 

Amis has said that Money is “a novel of voice”, and has described writing it, long-hand, in a notebook before translating that voice into typescript. In his Paris Review interview, he said: “The common conception of how novels get written seems to me to be an exact description of writer’s block. In the common view, the writer is at this stage so desperate that he’s sitting around with a list of characters, a list of themes, and a framework for his plot, and ostensibly trying to mesh the three elements. In fact, it’s never like that. What happens is what Nabokov described as a throb. A throb or a glimmer, an act of recognition on the writer’s part. At this stage the writer thinks, here is something I can write a novel about. In the absence of that recognition I don’t know what one would do. It may be that nothing about this idea – or glimmer, or throb – appeals to you other than the fact that it’s your destiny, that it’s your next book. You may even be secretly appalled or awed or turned off by the idea, but it goes beyond that. You’re just reassured that there is another novel for you to write. The idea can be incredibly thin – a situation, a character in a certain place at a certain time. With Money, for example, I had an idea of a big fat guy in New York, trying to make a film. That was all.”
In the same interview, Amis concedes that: “Money was a much more difficult book to write than London Fields because it is essentially a plotless novel. It is what I would call a voice novel. If the voice doesn’t work you’re screwed. Moneywas only one voice, whereas London Fields was four voices.”

When Money was published, the reviews generally recognised a landmark novel, founded on, but engaged in an argument with, the English literary canon partly prefigured in this series. The New York Times wrote: “The plot of Money is in a basic, grand tradition. A guy gets totalled. Maybe he survives in comedy but he’s spectacularly brought down. What makes this book special and important is that it revitalises its tradition. Its transatlantic urban showbiz patter and smart literary patterns could have been just a jaded fast-lane bummer, a depleting ride in John Self’s purple Fiasco – ‘a vintage-style coupe with oodles of dash and heft and twang’. But instead the book’s dash and heft and twang serve a deeper energy, a reimagined naivete that urgently asks a basic, grand question: what on earth are the rest of us supposed to make of the spectacle of a fellow human getting totalled?”
In Britain, the Spectator, not always an Amis fan, said of Money that it was “an epitaph to that decade (the 1980s) much more authentic and searching than The Bonfire of the Vanities or Less Than Zero.”

Three more from Martin Amis

The Rachel Papers (1973); London Fields (1989); Experience (2000).


007 Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
014 Fair by William Thackeray (1848)  

031 Dracula by Bram Stoker  (1897)
035 The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
036 The Golden Bowl by Henry James (1904)
039 The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells (1910)
040 Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (1915)

041 The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)

042 The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)
043 The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)
044 Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Waugham (1915)
045 The Age of Innocence by Edith Warthon (1920)
046 Ulysses by James Joyce (1922)
047 Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis (1922)
048 A Pasage to India by EM Forster (1922)
049 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loss ( 1925)
050 Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

051 The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

052 Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926)

Martin Amis / Eleven Quotes

Martin Amis
Poster by T.A.


by Martin Amis

The 100 best novels / No 93 / Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis (1984)

“Style is not neutral; it gives moral directions.”

― Martin Amis

 “Oh Christ, the exhaustion of not knowing anything. It’s so tiring and hard on the nerves. It really takes it out of you, not knowing anything. You’re given comedy and miss all the jokes. Every hour you get weaker. Sometimes, as I sit alone in my flat in London and stare at the window, I think how dismal it is, how heavy, to watch the rain and not know why it falls.”

― Martin Amis, Money: A Suicide Note

“Life is made of fear. Some people eat fear soup three times a day. Some people eat fear soup all the meals there are. I eat it sometimes. When they bring me fear soup to eat, I try not to eat it, I try to send it back. But sometimes I’m too afraid to and have to eat it anyway.”

― Martin Amis, Other People

 “The universe is a million billion light-years wide, and every inch of it would kill you if you went there. This is the position of the universe with regards to human life.”

― Martin Amis

 “Love is an abstract noun, something nebulous. And yet love turns out to be the only part of us that is solid, as the world turns upside down and the screen goes black.”

― Martin Amis, The Second Plane: 14 Responses to September 11

 “Closure is a greasy little word which, moreover, describes a nonexistent condition. The truth, Venus, is that nobody gets over anything.”

― Martin Amis, House of Meetings

“And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit.”

― Martin Amis, London Fields

 “He awoke at six, as usual. He needed no alarm clock. He was already comprehensively alarmed.”

― Martin Amis, The Information

“Only in art will the lion lie down with the lamb, and the rose grow without thorn.”

― Martin Amis

“When the past is forgotten, the present is unforgettable”

― Martin Amis, Other People

“It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses, in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, as it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay. ”

― Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow

Friday, February 28, 2020

Jennifer Aniston / Now and Jen

imageNow and Jen

In a no-holds-barred interview with Jennifer Aniston, funnywoman Amy Sedaris captures the quirkier side of everyone’s favorite friend.
 SEP 14, 2017
Thanks to her hilarious performances in Office Christmas Party, the Horrible Bosses movies and the cult-favorite Office Space, Jennifer Aniston has earned a reputation as one of Hollywood’s queens of dark comedy. Enter comedian and actress Amy Sedaris for what should have been a straightforward chat with Aniston about her upcoming film project, her latest fragrance (Jennifer Aniston Luxe), and passion for interior design, and things take a slightly twisted turn. Just as she does with the unsuspecting guests on her new show, At Home With Amy Sedaris, premiering this month on truTV, Sedaris deftly steered the talk to bedbugs, seeing ghosts, and the joys of being Greek.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Unusual toothy pterosaur found hidden in the wrong group

Unusual toothy pterosaur found hidden in the wrong group

The prehistoric flying reptile with oddly dark bones belongs to a whole new genus named after House Targaryen in Game of Thrones.


A fossilized creature with oddly dark bones has emerged as the first of its name in a newly described line of toothy pterosaurspaleontologists report in the journal Historical Biology. Dubbed Targaryendraco wiedenrothi, in a nod to the fictional House Targaryen from the blockbuster TV series Game of Thrones, the reptile is the most complete Cretaceous pterosaur known from Germany.

George R.R. Martin / Game of Thrones honoured in new classification of pterosaur

George R.R. Martin

Game of Thrones honoured in new classification of pterosaur

Targaryendraco wiedenrothi has been renamed after House of Targaryen in George RR Martin’s fantasy saga

Alison Flood

George RR Martin is celebrating after a palaeontologist, who named a new genus of pterosaur after the dragons of House Targaryen, agreed with him that dragons should have two, rather than four, legs.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Alma Guillermoprieto / Interview / Esther Allen

Alma Guillermoprieto

by Esther Allen


More than a decade ago now, I came across a book titled Samba, by a woman with a long last name, really a first and last name run together, that I recognized: Guillermo Prieto. I was doing research at the time on nineteenth-century accounts of travel between the Americas, and Prieto was one of those travelers. A leading Mexican poet and political figure, Prieto spent some time in exile in the United States during the brief imperial reign of Maximilian and Carlota (1864-67). Later he wrote an account of his journey, published in 1878 under the resonant pseudonym “Fidel.” One phrase from that book has stayed in my memory. “Travel,” Prieto wrote, “is, in the final analysis, the abandonment of personality.”

Erica Simone / Power of Naked

Erica Simone
Directed by Paul de Luna

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Papillon / Review by Paulina Kael

  • Papillon (1973)



    Review by Pauline Kael

    Solemnity is a crippling disease that strikes moviemakers when they’re on top: a few big hits and they hire Dalton Trumbo and go into their indomitable-spirit-of-man lockstep. Papillon, the most expensive movie of the year, is a thirteen-and-a-half-million-dollar monument to the eternal desire of moviemakers to win awards and impress people. How can you play around and try out ideas on a property like the Henri Charriere best-seller, which probably cost a couple of million to start with, and with stars (Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman) who defi­nitely cost three and a quarter million between them? It would be like juggling with the Elgin Marbles. What should have been an entertaining escape-from-Devil’s Island thriller, with some laughs, some suspense, and some colorful cutthroats and likable thieves, has been treated not as if it were an escape story but as if it were the escape story. The story has become practically abstract, and for much of the time the movie can’t be bothered telling us where Papillon (Steve McQueen) is escaping from or where he hopes to go. The moviemakers have approached the subject of Papillon (a French safecracker who was sentenced to prison for life for killing a pimp and who, thirty-odd years after he broke out, trumped up his adventures into a best-seller about his many escape attempts) as if they were making an important historical biography — about a pope, at the very least.