Monday, March 13, 2006
I often find myself juggling several books at once without a problem. Every once in a while I attempt too many and as my reach extends my grasp they all come tumbling down. After sweeping up the mixed metaphors, I reshelve some of the them and return the rest to the library and attempt to focus on one book.
The book that caused the most recent collapse is Martin Amis's Experience which I found while browsing at The Book End. I picked it up glanced at it for a bit and then moved it from fiction to its proper spot on the memoir shelf near a copy of Traci Lords: Underneath it All. I made another lap around the store. I picked it up again (the Amis not the Lords book as I had paged through it on a previous visit) and read some more. Five mintues later and two dollars fewer I was on my way. It was a steal.
I have read more about Amis then of him and it seems the Brits or at least the press and critics have a love/hate relationship with him, enfant terrible being the most frequently used sobriquet. His novel Night Train is the only one of his that I have read and with pleasure. A dark take on the detective novel. A genre so well known for its happy endings. I seem to have lost or misplaced an autographed copy of London Fields in one of my many moves. (I have never read his father Kingsley Amis most known I suppose for Lucky Jim. Amis père, as Christopher Hitchens has noted, was a forerunner in the humorous literary campus novel so prevalent today.)
Experience is difficult to categorize strictly as autobiography since the memoir addresses becoming a writer, growing up the son of a writer, the disappearance and death of a cousin, becoming a father, failing romances, marriage, literary contemporaries, losing his teeth, and the death of his father. Plus it has lots of footnotes which I love. I would compare it to Speak, Memory by Nabokov, a stated influence and clearly a favorite of his . Martin Amis has clearly dealt with lot of pain and caused no undue amount as well and all without losing his sense of humor or knowing who he is.
Naturally about half way through this book I checked out Lucky Jim from the library. Time to start juggling again.