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The Information- Martin Amis

 
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Posted August 12, 2016 by

The Information – Martin Amis – 1995

The Information

Reviewed by: Anna van Gelderen        Date: 13 October 2002

Be warned: this book is not everybody’s cup of tea. An appreciation of black, irreverent humour is absolutely essential if you want to enjoy this novel and it is no wonder that a lot of people find it infuriating and outrageous. Everybody does seem to agree, however, that it is very well-written.

First of all let me tell you what the book is about. Protagonist Richard Tull is a pretentious, but sensationally unsuccesful novelist – plus a chainsmoker and an alcholic with a harrowing midlife crisis. His novels are so unreadable that nobody makes it past page 10 without developing at least one mysterious ailment. So when the bland, improbably inoffensive novels of his dim friend Gwyn hit the bestseller lists and Gwyn gets the celebrity, wealth and trophy wife that go with bestseller-dom, something snaps in Richard. He now has only one goal left in life: fucking up Gwyn. Contemplating the several ways he can go about doing this, Richard runs into Steve, a screwed-up, sadistic drug dealer and, as it happens, not only his only fan but also the only reader able to make it past the first dozen or so pages. Of course, this is a set-up for disaster, but of the comic not the tragic kind.

So, all this sounds like fun. And it is, several passages are downright laugh-out-loud funny, especially if you read them in context. For instance:

“Unprecedently overweight, Richard was still pretty slim compared to the Texan couple with whom he had rode down to the mezzanine: a couple so fat they had you reread the installers’ guarantee that the elevator could carry eighteen people.” Or this description of Richard with a massive hangover: “Now, wearing woollen jacket, and bowtie, and two nicotine patches, and chewing (or sucking) nicotine gum, and smoking a cigarette, and feeling like something in a ten-gallon bag behind a nuclear power plant, humbly awaiting its next dreadful atomic declension, Richard lounged on a lounger.”

I love these passages.

But the book is also dark and pessimistic. The London that provides most of its background is a crowded city full of filth and violence. Neither Richard nor Gwyn is likeable. The publishing world is a scream. And human is life is nothing, absolutely nothing from a cosmic point of view, as the author keeps pointing out. The low-life characters such as Steve, 13, and Darko are unconvincing and superfluous. But is the book depressing? Not to me; the exuberant wit, the great writing and the incisive original thinking save it from itself. Not a masterpiece, not even the best Amis (“Money” is better), but definitely a great deal more worthwhile than most bestsellers.

As David Hughes put it so exactly right in the Mail on Sunday:

‘In no Amis novel are you meant to feel at ease… It’s the over the top images, the neatly incorrect attitudes, his language’s unstinting originality, the jokes that have us in paroxysms of outrage and bliss, which make this enraged farce a treat.’

The Information
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