It was Richard Pryor who gave us that rapid, vehement battle cry: “Money, Money, Money!!!” It was Time Magazine who recommended Money by Martin Amis as one of the one-hundred greatest novels of the last century. Put your money on Richard Pryor.
I enjoy reading Martin Amis. He’s a good writer with a lot of erudition behind his work. He often uses his craftsman-like writing skills to extend, manipulate, experiment with fiction, and that is good. Perhaps when Money was first published, this cutesy schtick was popular but now it just seems silly and unbelievably trite. Still, coming out at the beginning of the Reagan era, I suppose it’s understandable if the editors of Time were as delusional about Money as they were about Reaganomics. But John Self is no Gordon Gekko. He is, however, at best a cartoonish version of Patrick Melrose.
Money is a overly self conscious novel with trite and true observations on the American way of life, film making, money making, and 42nd street massage parlors. I can think of dozens of other novels, from Bukowski to Powell, that do a better job of the satire and are immensely more enjoyable to read than Amis’s Money. Time should hang its head in shame and I wouldn’t be surprise if the magazine is given a plug somewhere is the book; oh, not directly but in that third-grade roman à clef manner so prevalent in schlock fiction … maybe Self was reading Minute Magazine flying to New York on the Shiraz?
You might get the idea of the novel best simply by observing some of the names used by the author to obscure any notion of being reality based: first, the introspective drunken hero is called John Self; the narcissistic aging movie stage is called Lorne Guyland; a couple of movie backers are Buck Specie and Sterling Dun; he drives a Fiasco in England but tools around in an Aristocrat when visiting New York. I could go on and on but this sort of stuff is not as impressive as it was in the 17th century and Martin Amis is no William Wycherley.
If you want to read Money, you’re in good company, but you should consider reading Zola’s L’Argent first.
Martin Amis, whose father is the esteemed author Kingsley Amis, tends to write about the absurdity of the modern era. His novels are often caricatures of life and as such, Money might have some value. His other works include:
The Rachel Papers (1973)
Dead Babies (1975)
Other People (1981)
London Fields (1989)
Time’s Arrow: Or the Nature of the Offence (1991)
The Information (1995)
Night Train (1997)
Yellow Dog (2003)
House of Meetings (2006)
The Pregnant Widow (2010)
Lionel Asbo: State of England (2012)
The Zone Of Interest (TBC)
Einstein’s Monsters (1987)
Two Stories (1994)
God’s Dice (1995)
Heavy Water and Other Stories (1998)
Amis Omnibus (omnibus) (1999)
The Fiction of Martin Amis (2000)
Vintage Amis (2004)
Saturn 3 (1980)
Invasion of the Space Invaders (1982)
The Moronic Inferno: And Other Visits to America (1986)
Visiting Mrs Nabokov: And Other Excursions (1993)
The War Against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 (2001)
Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million (2002, about Joseph Stalin and Russian history)
The Second Plane (2008)