Sunday, January 10, 2016

Money by Martin Amis (65 down 35 to go)

"It seems that, whatever I do here in this world I’m in, I just get more and more money…" ~ John Self

This is the first time I’ve read Money or Martin Amis, though I have read Lucky Jim by Martin Amis’ father Kingsley Amis. Father and son have a similar style: satirical, first person narrative, with the main character actually speaking to the reader at times. Money is also reminiscent of Lucky Jim as a contrast of the main characters. Lucky Jim is a hapless fellow, but as the name implies, everything turns out splendidly in the end. Whereas John Self, the main character in Money, leads a charmed life, money seems to rain down upon him, but it all goes bad in the end. There is another major difference. I liked Lucky Jim – but Money – not so much. In fact, the best thing I can say about it, is I finally get to use a 2 STAR Rating.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m not a doctor, but I think John Self has attention deficit disorder (ADD), making his first-person narrative rather difficult to follow. Think stream of consciousness by someone who is ADD. John Self also indulges in nearly every vice known to man. He is alcoholic, chain smoking, junk food eating, occasional drug using, womanizing, pornography addicted, self-gratifying, wise cracking, hot headed, violent, and a spendthrift.

But believe it or not, he’s sort of likeable. I think it is because he is brutally honest with himself and the reader about his abundant flaws. He even thinks about trying to change, but life is moving rather fast and he never makes a serious effort. The novel centers around a movie John is to direct – his first, though he is a highly successful director of television commercials. He lives in London, but is half-American, and of course falls into association with people in the movie industry. It takes place in the early 1980s and switches between London, New York, and Hollywood. The movie, originally called Good Money is changed to Bad Money, but things never get very far. Most of the time is spent placating the fussy stars and their ridiculous demands for the script. They each have a perception of their own persona, and want their roles to reflect it, even though it is entirely contrary to the plot. John Self also encounters writer Martin Amis, and employs him to rewrite the script.

The plot of the film, is hedonism – as is the plot of the novel – if you haven’t guessed.

I suppose it might also be an exposé of the film industry. Amis did direct a film and there seems to be some parallels he may have been alluding to in Money. But I think it would still be an exposé of the hedonism of the film industry.

I can imagine, if a person has been involved in the industry, Money might seem a brilliant and biting satire, but for me, the subject was just too esoteric. Ordinarily, I enjoying learning about a world outside my own experience, but I don’t really feel like I learned much of about the film industry for having read Money.

Money contains some pretty coarse language and adult themes. Definitely rated R. The narrator, John Self, is not at all delicate.

Money is subtitled A Suicide Note. Don’t take it too literally, but don’t dismiss it entirely either. That almost sounds like a tease, like I’m trying to get you to read this novel that I didn’t really like. I can’t go quite so far as to recommend against it. Although I didn’t really care for it, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to give it try.

Excerpts (all by the main character John Self):

It really takes it out of you, not knowing anything. You’re given comedy and miss all the jokes. Every hour, you get weaker. Sometimes, as I sit alone in my flat in London and stare at the window, I think how dismal it is, how hard, how heavy, to watch the rain and not know why it falls.

It seems that, whatever I do here in this world I’m in, I just get more and more money…And more stress.

Selina says I’m not capable of true love. It isn’t true. I truly love money. Truly I do. Oh, money, I love you. You’re so democratic: you’ve got no favourites. You even things out for me and my kind.

References to other great novels:

A friend of John’s tries to get him to improve his mind and gives him Animal Farm1984, and Catcher in the Rye.

And a bit later, an associate mentions that he liked The Sound and the Fury, but John did not realize he was talking about a novel.

John is watching television coverage of the royal wedding of Charles and Diana, and he notices one of their gifts is a first edition of Little Women.



  1. I always wanted to read this one. Martin Amis writes himself as a character, huh? It sounds like a metafictional work. I wrote one of my essays for my masters degree on literary works that contain authors as characters, so it's always interesting when I find a new work which features this technique.

    1. Yeah, it was not just a one liner either. He was a fairly major character. At one point the main character is asking Amis about writing, and says something like...wasn't your father a writer too. Clever! Your masters paper sounds interesting. I've run across this technique a few times. I'm pretty sure Vonnegut injects himself into Slaughterhouse Five. The only other one I can think of is Clive Cussler always injects himself. I'm certain I've forgotten some.

    2. In my paper, I focused on Philip Roth's novel, Operation Shylock, which features a "fictional" Roth not just as a side character, but the protagonist.

      Borges is a character in a lot of his fiction. Marquez appears as a character in 100 Years of Solitude if I remember correctly.

  2. I really appreciate candor in reviews, and you do me a huge favor in your fine, objective commentary; yes, I can save my money by avoiding Money. Ah, there are so many books and such a small amount of time AND money. Thanks!


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