I should clarify that I’m not complaining about it. It’s just that his writing has this very particular quality, where the joy and pleasure he most certainly takes at his own vast vocabulary and witticisms seems to be not at all unselfconscious; as if he’s very much enjoying himself as he writes like that, and he knows it, and he knows that we know it as we read it. Which I suppose makes him something of a literary wanker, albeit a particularly good one.
I WON’T see Benjamin Button because Martin Amis so badly wrecked the whole (kitschy) genre of backwards-aging-characters in Time’s Arrow. And because I hear it’s a piece of poo as well, but that’s beside the point.
Amis worries me. Or rather, sometimes I worry that underneath, secretly, I want to write like him, write something people who know they’re not smart quote at dinner parties to make other people think they are. Some days I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even begin to write like that, because I don’t have his education, or his experiences, or his intellect, or, let’s face it, his famous Dad as a foot in the door. On some days, anyway. I know on good days that I have something profound to say, that I’m not the only one feeling these things, but on bad days the literary devil keeps whispering in my ear that I will probably never manage to express them properly and I sink into a mess of inferiorities, knowing that I’m not Martin Amis, and that to seek to attain anything less is pointless.
But the truth is I just don’t want to be Martin Amis – the truth is I couldn’t get past page three of The Rachel Papers without wanting to hunt him down like a dog. Good film though, but then Dexter Fletcher was an exact mirror of who I thought I was at the time, or at least who I thought I wanted to be. And there you go, you see – the bastard sucked me in. Except it wasn’t Amis, it was Damian Harris, who wrote and directed the film. I remember seeing a review that began ‘despite great source material…’ Bollocks. The film reached inside to my inner teenager – the book just made me reach. But I don’t even want to be his Dad, although it is at least a reasonable ambition, and God bless him for Lucky Jim (I was so him when I was younger). But on most days, even most of the bad ones, I’m 99% certain I don’t want to be Martin Amis. Martin Amis is the literary cheerleader. What I want to be is Thompson, but I don’t have his life, or his balls, or for that matter his constitution.
But that’s what annoys me most about Amis – he wants to be Thompson too, but he just can’t let go of the literary wank crap. You get the feeling with him that despite all the drugs he claims to have taken that he never actually got to the Thompson letting go point, despite telling the TLS set that he did. Yeah, OK, so I never got to the Thompson letting go point either – never said I did – but that’s not the point. The point is… OK, there’s got to be one here somewhere… OK, yeah, that’s it – the point is that both me and Amis want to be Thompson, but neither of our middle class upbringings allow us to let go enough. The difference, however, is I’m not pretending in print that I… oh… whatever, seriously. No, you know what, not whatever. OK, here’s one of the biggest nearly letting go moments in my life, OK – I was in Vegas one time, for NATPE, the big US TV sales market thing, no idea what I was doing there or how to work it or anything, just knew I had to be there because that’s what I’d been told, you know, you gotta be seen to be at these things if you want to make it, and it was my first time in Vegas and yeah, I had the Thompson complex of course, so I stayed in the Circus Circus hotel because that’s the great Fear & Loathing location, except now it’s just seedy and smelly but shit it was only a hundred dollars a night so who cares, and anyway, I’d arranged to meet this major **** off TV executive who I’d known since before he was quite so important but it turned out we both had the same Thompson fixation so we were going to do the Thompson Memorial Drink-fest, you know, the Gun Club and everything, so I turn up at the Bellagio where he was staying (like I said, he was a big FO exec by then), and find out he’s gone to bed early and can’t do the thing after all, but I’m already there and it’s my last night in Vegas so I may as well hang out at the bar, which I do, sitting there alone with a copy of ‘The Campaign Trail’, just the best piece of American political journalism ever and he said history would repeat itself with Bush beating Kerry and no-one believed him until it actually ****ing happened, and I have, like, two hundred dollars and a return ticket to Heathrow to my name, but I’m getting happy on cheap bourbon at the bar and these cute girls keep coming up and talking to me and asking why I’m reading a book alone at the bar and I tell them it’s Thompson and they nod and understand and then by two am I realise they’re talking to me because it’s just me and a bar full of hookers and pimps and Christ they’re cute and I so want them but I don’t have the money or the ability but I buy them drinks and talk to them anyway because at least that way I get to gaze at their cleavages legitimately and let them tell me how they want to be writers too and then I start haggling with two of them for an hour of their time and then their pimp gets involved and it starts to get wild and I run for the entrance and throw myself and my last twenty dollars in a cab and I’m so drunk that I piss my trousers on his back seat but I’m too drunk to care and all I have left in the world now is four dollars twenty and my return ticket and tell me you’ve ever been out on the edge that much relative to your norm Amis and I’ll buy you a large JD and coke and tell you you’re A ****ING LIAR!!!!
Well, Alastair, thanks for getting that off your chest. :-)
I sure wish I had some parts of both Amis and Thompson. I wish I had Amis’ vocabulary — although I would make it a point to not be such an exhibitionist with it. I also wish I had his commitment to keep pounding away at his core ideas (which of course would mean I actually know what my core ideas are).
Thompson? I wish I had his way with the vernacular, and his cahones. I wouldn’t feel the need to spend every moment at the end of a limb, but I’d like to know I’d go out there when it was worth it.
But I do have one thing that Amis doesn’t have, and the late Thompson never had either. A blog! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!
ISSN: 1707-9365 A blog about food, Montreal, and me.
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