Saturday, April 22, 2006

Zugwanged

My new best friend and rocket ship co-pilot, Frank Neary of the Land of Ireland speaks of his great love of Money (the book, not the legal tender) in comments on foot of a reference here t'other day to the Clive James chat with Martin Amis in the highly recommended Talking in the Library series. The comment thread prompted the following labyrinth of thoughts:
I have Money around here somewhere but still haven't got around to reading it. I really liked London Fields when I read it as a callow undergraduate in Galway and there is much to enjoy in the Moronic Inferno collection of essays, especially on the porn industry. (I may be getting my wires crossed, but he definitely writes about his visit to the San Fernando valley somewhere.) I picked up his collection of criticism, The War Against Cliché about the same time as I picked up the Hitchens collection, Unacknowledged Legislators, [this book is a typically handsome volume from the Verso imprint, by the way] both of which are great reading, even though the Hitch's politics are now somewhere to the distant right of his brother's. Who'd have believed that would happen a mere six years ago? I'm bound to say I may be unique among Irish bloggers in having seen Saturn 3, the sci-fi film written by Amis and starring the bizarre triumvirate of Farrah Fawcett, Harvey Keitel and Kirk Douglas. I'm happy to be proved wrong by fellow sufferers. Amis was also hired as a writer on Mars Attacks. Fuck knows why. When I was a gruesome adolescent I read the Riverside Villas Murder by Amis pére, the tale of a gruesome adolescent who gets seduced by an attractive, bored 30-something housewife, which I really, really liked. Can't quite remember why...
Another book I quite liked as a wretched teen was Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming. Bond is a classic role model for the pathetic, sensitive youth with his cruel, sardonic edge, sexual success and ability to smoke copious, impractical amounts of cigarettes. The less said about the first two characteristics the better, but I managed to put in plenty of spadework on the third. I believe the works of Ayn Rand have a similar effect on the young, expressing, as they do, the world in an especially adolescent, ego-centric way. As any developmental psychologist will tell you (he suspects without knowing. Ed.), maturing is the process of developing in ever increasing circles from the near-solipsism of an infant's estate to the full comprehension of one's fellow beings as real live humans with their very own thoughts and feelings. Not to mention civil rights. Tobias Wolff's Old School has all the dope in this regard.
Any old hoo, in the snot-green days of my tender boyhood there lay about the house another James Bond paperback, Colonel Sun by Robert Markham. But as this one was written after Fleming's death by someone presuming to take up the 007 torch with what I considered, taking typical teenage umbrage, to be appalling cheek, I disdained to browse its contents with the gun-metal coldness of Bond himself. Imagine my surprise to find out many moons later that Markham was none other than the bould Kingsley Amis. Of course, I've searched high and low for the book since, but it reveals not its hiding place in the old homestead. At any rate, it wasn't off the ground Amis jnr picked his penchant for unusual writing projects. Speaking of nomes de plume, Kingsley's buddy, Phillip Larkin, of whom Fergal Crehan of the Tuppenceworthies blogged with his typical perspicacity recently, was no stranger to the pseudonym either. In fact and quite coincidently, I picked up only today in a city-centre bookshop Larkin's collected novels including the posthumous Trouble at Willow Gables which he wrote enmasked by the sapphic-frisson intensifying soubriquet, Brunette Coleman. I quite like this spot-the-pun review by a Mr. Jon Swan over at amazon.co.uk:
Hardened readers of spanking novels will find much to enjoy and bemoan in Larkin's Trouble at Willow Gables. Have no doubts, the former poet laureate is one of us. All the signs are there. He's good on uniforms, of course. But, more importantly, he can't help gravitating towards the buttocks of his schoolgirls. The heroine of his fantasy, typically, is a slightly plump girl with a big bottom. She enjoys her food. She is beaten with a cane by the Head Mistress. In the book's best scene she gets lost in a wood at night, tears her tight trousers at the seat, and is forced to face the morning with her bare bum hanging out. Lovely. Another girl rides bareback with no knickers. [...] His essay on schoolgirl fiction at the end of the book is illuminating. It gives all the basic elements. It should be required reading for all those hacks thinking of writing a schoolgirl spanking novel.
So there you go. If you're thinking of putting pen to paper in that noble enterprise, this information can't have come a minute too soon.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Frank said...

c,

my typo. Zugwanged should have been zugzwanged, but both versions are in use as a Yahoo search will show.

4/23/2006 12:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Frank said...

p.s. Copernicus,

Is that your 'lost modern title' revision? :-)

4/23/2006 02:27:00 AM  
Blogger Copernicus said...

I quite liked the chess reference and thought it suited the post's movement through various and connected bits of pop culture trivia.

And I blame you for getting it wrong. I'm no revisionist!

4/23/2006 03:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Copernicus

Shoot me with my eyes open. I can take it. I also liked The Information, and its message that humour is the way to REALLY fuck somebody up.

4/23/2006 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Stellanova said...

I adored London Fields when I read it first, aged 18. I remember staying up until about two in the morning to finish it, and was left kind of stunned by the whole thing. It's one of those books that I'm almost scared to read now in case I don't like it any more. I read Money around the same time; it's fantastic, although be warned - its narrator is in such a revoltingly sickly state for the entire book that you feel slightly hungover just reading the book.

I don't really like most of Martin A's early stuff though, including The Rachel Papers (although the bit where his brother puts his clap medicine up on the mantlepiece with a note is very funny). And his last few books have been a bit crap. But his late '80s stuff is amazing.

Also, I've read Trouble at Willow Gables and it's actually much more boring than it looks!

4/23/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Copernicus said...

You heard it here first folks. Schoolgirl Spanking Novel a Bore, Yawns Stellanova!

Money is really starting to sound like something I should read. So I'll get right on it once this pesky trying to become a barrister shit is out of the way.

Will we never be set free?

4/23/2006 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Fergal Crehan said...

Money is in my own opinion Amis's best, better even than London fields. Although as a friend said to me after commencing reading it on my recommendation, "it's a bit debauched, isn't it?". Actually, you'll feel like you need to shower after reading it, but the scummyness is kind of thrilling

4/24/2006 03:33:00 AM  
Blogger Hugh Green said...

Any Yellow Dog fans out there? Money is my own personal favourite, but Yellow Dog certainly wasn't the favourite-uncle-having-a-wank extravaganza that some reviewer described it as. Amis is nothing like my favourite uncle.

4/24/2006 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Copernicus said...

The book that left me with the most wretched, scummy, I-cannot-shower-enough-after-reading-this feeling ever was High-Rise by JG Ballard. I actually couldn't even look at the cover without feeling nauseous about humanity as a whole so I had to hide it away.

4/24/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

Money is genius, I don't think Amis has ever been better.

I also think Brett Easton Ellis may have stolen the idea of using yourself as a character in your own book from Money. I loved the book, even if it's the literary equivalent of watching The Office, in that you're almost reading through your fingers and cringing.

It's also the kind of book you want to smoke and drink your way

4/26/2006 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Sinéad said...

'through.'
(don't know why that got lopped off).

4/26/2006 07:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool design! Useful information. Go on! »

2/02/2007 02:18:00 PM  

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