Martin Amis’s book, Money, is consistently reviewed positively by readers and critics alike. It is on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Best English Language Novels from 1923 to 2005. It is universally acknowledged to be daring, destructive and utterly brilliant.

Sorry Martin Amis, but Money made me want to chew off my own arm, in want of something that was less painful than reading Money.

Set between New York and London in the 1980s, Money follows the life of hedonistic, money-obsessed John Self, an ad director who was in the midst of pre-production for his first feature length film. Self is larger than life and consumed with the need for more: more junk food, more sex, more cigarettes, alcohol and women, but most of all, more money. A satirical perspective on the consumerist nature of our society (particularly in New York in the 1980s), Amis screams at you from the pages, daring you to be affronted by this depraved universe that he has created in the eyes of John Self.

Something about Money just reeked of American Psycho. While each of the characters are wildly different (one a murderous psycho, the other just a money-driven bore), they were both obsessed with having more and appearing as though they had it all. While I’m uncertain which came first, both Easton Ellis and Amis write in a way that is sanctimonious and smug: ‘look at the excess of their lifestyles. Look how above all this I am’. Just to reinforce this, Amis even writes himself into Money, as an author who lives on the bare minimum, despite being paid thousands to be a writer.

There is no doubt that Amis is a clever writer, with a keen sense of irony and wit, yet I didn’t derive any pleasure from this. Instead of feeling included as a reader, Amis’s writing style makes you feel as though you are as bad as his protagonist, as self-absorbed. And though he does some very smart things with his writing style and his use of motif and symbolism, there was something about certain passages of the book that read as though Amis KNEW how witty he was being. I know that sounds a bit strange, but when an author tries too hard to be clever, or is too self-aware of it, it becomes too noticable as a reader. Martin Amis, great that you know how to combine irony with reflection, but I don’t need to be aware that you’re congratulating yourself, alright?

Furthermore, I didn’t enjoy being a part of John Self’s world. Not only is Money slow to start, but the extreme excess of Self’s lifestyle quickly became tedious – there is only so many passages of drunken binges, hitting on whores or getting into bar fights before it becomes all a bit, well, dull. And though I understood what Amis was trying to say through his narcissistic narrator, it didn’t compel me to keep reading. In all honesty, the only thing that kept me going was the belief that SURELY, it had to get better, right?

It didn’t.

I’m sure there are many, many Martin Amis fans out there that I would probably piss of with this book review. That’s fine. I get the impression that you either love his writing style, or you hate it. Unfortunately for me, I’m in the second category. I would love to have loved Money, to have enjoyed Amis’s distinctive writing style and unique characters, but I didn’t. If you would like to explain to me what I’m missing, seriously, please do. Until then, I would definitely not recommend this book.

 

Have you read Money? Have you read anything by Martin Amis? Can you enjoy a book even if you’re not a fan of the protagonist? Let me know!

money by martin amis

Money – (image taken from http://www.cynicalreviewer.com)

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