Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another update on the Cohabitational Reading Challenge

So RR and I have pushed through to part 3 of Martin Amis' The Information and we're on the home stretch in our Cohabitational Reading Challenge. We had a discussion about it tonight over dinner and we're agreed that, on a sentence-by-sentence basis, the book is a work of genius. We're still waiting to see if Amis is able to pull it all together at the end, to make the complex cosmogony he's established for his characters to fit together; but I must admit that at this point, I've been enjoying myself so much that I don't care how it ends.

To recap thus far: Richard Tull is a failed, shambolic novelist and book reviewer who has published two obscure novels and has written three more that have failed to find a publisher. Meanwhile, his oldest and most obnoxious friend, Gywn Barry, has found success writing bestsellers of questionable merit, and this has driven Richard into a paroxysm of jealousy and self loathing. The first half of the book shows Richard devising various schemes to ruin Gywn's career, but nothing seems to work and Richard begins to mull upon the complex absurdity and unfairness of the universe.

By the time we reach part 3, Richard has finally found a publisher for his latest opus, entitled (ironically enough) Untitled: it gets picked up by a very small boutique publisher in the United States with no budget to even provide him with an advance. This coincides with Richard landing a job following Gywn around America on his latest book tour in order to write a lengthy feature article about him. This is, not surprisingly, a crushing humiliation for our poor protagonist, and Amis revels in showing just how different the receptions are for these two authors' books. There are wonderful descriptions of flying coach versus first class, of hotels, and of how the two authors are treated by interviewers and the general public. 

Throughout, what we find is a treatise on professional avarice and a hilarious (and strangely touching) portrait of the Failed Male of the late 20th century. Amis has mastered an incredible narrative voice for this book, an almost amorphous "I" that watches Richard from a distance and yet can capture him so perfectly, gain access to his every thought so readily. Couple that with an enduring fascination of cosmogony as a way of grasping the midlife crisis, and what you've got is a book about squandered potential and revenge that gets out of control.

I'm definitely looking forward to finishing the book off and seeing if the ending will hold up, so stay tuned for one final post. And of course keep following along on RR's blog as she shares her own thoughts on this book.


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