Books Read

Under the influence of Martin Amis


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Just finished reading The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis. Can’t help but finding myself feeling like I have the mindset of a nineteen year old boy, quite an intellectual one though, so I don’t mind really. What I am struck by is how intricate and well-performed Amis’s way of describing thoughts is. The recognition factor is high and it occurs to me that one year of “adulthood” may not make me less of a teenager, or perhaps my memories from that time cling to me like cum to condom (as Martin Amis would have written, because I never would… right?).

This piece is particularly amusing and intriguing. Here Charles is contemplating over adolescence after he has just been turned down by, well, Rachel, and he is feeling flustered. “Intense Consciousness of Being” as described by Amis has never been delivered better, I believe, or it must be so for that feeling that I usually call “feeling alien” is on point in this section of lines:

“Don’t I ever do anything else but take soulful walks down the Bayswater Road, I thought, as I walked soulfully down the Bayswater Road. Very well: “..” Intense Consciousness of Being; pathetic fallacy plus omnipresent dog vú, cosmic angst, metaphysical fear, a feeling both claustrophobic and agoraphobic, the teenager’s religion. The Rev. Northrop Frye fetchingly terms it ‘queasy apocalyptic foreboding’. An Angus Wilson character terms it ‘adolescent egotism’, thereby driving me almost to suicide last Christmas. Is that all it fucking is, I thought. For the question that interested me about this feeling was not ‘What is it?’ so much as ‘Does it matter? Is it worth anything?’ Because if there isn’t a grain of genuine humility there, it’s the electrodes for me. Does it simply get weaker and weaker, like one’s sense of uniqueness? Or do some of us hang on to it?”

My enormous fondness for Donna Tartt is based mainly on her expertise in letting the reader into someone else’s mind, wholly and fully. Amis does the same thing with Charles and sometimes I couldn’t make head nor tail of it…and it occurs to me now that… yeeeees of course that is how it is! Hah! See the point of me feeling so confused after this book is because that is the mind of a teenager! It goes up and down, here and there in that Charles-brain. Or perhaps I’m simply a dumbfounded human who has not understood this book at all? No, I prefer the former rather than the latter.

Oh Amis, you genius.

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