Money – Martin Amis

“Me? I couldn’t blame money. What is this state, seeing the difference between good and bad and choosing bad-or consenting to bad, okaying bad?”

Man, Money was a trip. I can’t recall exactly why Martin Amis’s novel was the next on my reading list, but I’ll attribute it Tavis’s wonderful review of Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

After a few days of scamming the internet for a free e-book download, I finally caved and Kindle’d the novel.

(Mind you, I went through five illegal versions of Money. Never again.)

Money: A Suicide Note tells the story of soon-to-be film director, John Self. Known for his infamous pornographic television commercials, John travels from London to New York City to begin pre-production on his first film, Good Money(US)/Bad Money(UK).

(An obvious nod to cultural connotations concerning, well, money.)

Within a few days, we find out John, who is also our narrator, is not trustworthy. Between meetings with his emotionally distraught stars and anxiety over his promiscuous girlfriend, Selina, in London, John is drunk, womanizing, or committing acts of gross gluttony. Reassured and monetarily supplied by Feilding Goodney, his producer, the director consistently questions his outlandish and lavish lifestyle only to repeat it the following day.

Everything seems to be going as planned until John begins receiving mysterious calls from “Frank the Phone.” The man claims that his life was ruined after one of the director’s casting sessions. Unafraid, John entertains Frank’s complaints and promises to return a call in his next binge.

In the midst of one of his many drunken stupors, John is attacked by Frank, though doesn’t remember until the two speak on the phone again. During the conversation Frank reveals that it wasn’t him that assaulted John, but a woman.

Returning to London before filming, John looks to find out who Selina’s been sleeping with. After a stint of questionably violent sex with Selina, the case is put on hold. With time to spare before production, John visits a place from his past.

Looking back on his childhood, John sits in his former livingroom: Barry Self’s pub. Accompanied by two of his childhood friends/pubworkers, Fat Vince and Fat Paul, our director reflects on the money he owes his father. A debt complied of the money Barry spent on his son’s upbringing. The payment has furthered the schism in their troubled relationship.

Feilding calls John from the States to inform him of the script’s completion. Eager to leave decreasingly sexual romance and troubled with Selina as well as his father’s rude demeanor, the director returns to New York. Seeing that the script is unusable, John has a nervous breakdown. With time running out, actors insecure about their roles, and the return of Frank, John wonders if he can recruit the only other writer he knows to save his film: Martin Amis.

“I feel there is, and this may be something every writer feels in every generation, but that there’s a great convulsion of stupidity happening in the world. People know a little about a lot and don’t put very much effort into accumulating culture. So then perhaps what I’m doing in Money is trying to produce as much literary effect about a landscape in which there is no literature or culture…Money. to me, is the opposite of culture. Money is the first value that gets to you, unless you have culture to stave it off.

Taken from a wonderful interview with Amis and scholar Germaine Greer. Nabokov is frequently cited as one of the author’s heaviest influences. John Self’s suicide note ramblings seem to channel Hubert Hubert’s frantic dialogue in Lolita.

I can’t say that I cared terribly much for Money. Undeniably, Martin Amis is brilliant and painfully hilarious writer, but his “dirty talk” was too excessive for my taste. Unlike the blatant bastard-ness in Bukowski’s writing, Amis cut to my core rather than simply my libido. Perhaps this is a testament to his writing?

Despite my personal opinion, I see the value in Money. John’s constant remembering and forgetting of events is absurdly hilarious. The film director’s dire dialogue is furthered by Amis’s equally dire characters and musings on 1980’s American and British culture.

“As I’ve already mentioned, 1984 and I were getting on famously. A no-frills setup, run without sentiment, snobbery or cultural favouritism, Airstrip One seemed like my kind of town. (I saw myself as an idealistic young corporal in the Thought Police.) In addition, there was the welcome sex-interest and all those rat tortures to look forward to.”- John Self on 1984

Money definitely has a place in many reader’s libraries, just not mine.


2 thoughts on “Money – Martin Amis

  1. Pingback: Time’s 100 Best Novels (And how they apply to you!) « Living with Literature

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