Friday, June 15, 2012

Martin Amis: Money


I don't know why I put off getting acquainted with Martin Amis for so long.  It's probably because subconsciously I've always dreaded the things I'm sure he'd say about my own fiction if he ever came across it.  Oh well.  There's no law that says you have to be friends with everyone you admire.  I seriously doubt Bill Watterson and I would have anything to talk about, and if I ever met Lovecraft, I'd probably stick the miserable little bat-faced creep's head in the nearest toilet.  Anyway, I'm a hundred and fifty pages deep into Money, and I'm now officially a convert.

So far, my impression of Money is that Martin was stabbing yuppie culture in the gut years before Brett Easton Ellis came on the scene.  Then again, that might not be an entirely valid comparison.  The main character John Self lives the shallow, vacuous life of a TV commercial director, and his thoughts revolve primarily around moving from one fix to another.  Whether it's booze, dope, sex, porn, or fast food, his life is deeply embedded in the matrix of pleasure consumerism.  These are the obvious parallels between him and Ellis's LA lifestyle zombies.  However, yuppies tend to be heavily preoccupied with image, whereas John doesn't seem terribly concerned with the fact that he's overweight, unhealthy, and probably looks like crap.  He actually seems vaguely aware that something important is missing from his life, and his consumption appears to be less of a display of wealth than a means of keeping the emptiness at bay through cheap tactile sensation.  And the frightening thing is that I can relate.  I've never done coke with a bunch of producers at a $200-a-plate bistro, but I have gone out for bad food when I was depressed.

There's a scene where a character who's made millions in the addiction industry explains to John the appeal of fast food:

People just can't hack going out anymore.  They're all addicted to staying at home.  Hence the shit-food bonanza.  Swallow your chemicals, swallow them fast, and get back inside.  Or take the junk back with you.  Stay off the streets.  Stay inside.  With pornography...

Intelligent people have always known that money is more or less the root of all evil.  What Martin figured out is that the current incarnation of money is the most efficient means for the average citizen to avoid coming face-to-face with his own humanity, if only for a few minutes.

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