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Book Title: London Fields|
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Reader ratings: 7.5
The author of the book: Martin Amis
Date of issue: 2003
ISBN 13: 9780099748618
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 843 KB
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Samson Young, first-person narrator of this Martin Amis novel, is a somewhat jaded, frequently sarcastic and acerbic 40-something intellectual literary writer from, not surprisingly, New York City. But his hard-edged Big Apple voice is absolutely pitch-perfect for the story he is telling, a story involving a host of memorable and very human characters, not to mention a couple of super-human characters: an Incredible Hulk-like toddler and one doozy of a MAN MAGNET, and, yes, indeed, that’s spelled with all capital letters. Meet the lady at the center of the novel’s vortex, Ms. Nicola Six – modern day Helen of Troy, X-rated femme fatale and manifestation of goddess Kali all rolled up into one – everything you always wanted and everything you never wanted, your most cherished dream and your most dreaded nightmare, complete with Eastern European accent, mysterious Middle Eastern origins, Ms. World face and figure, shiny dark hair and even shinier dark eyes. Oh, my goodness, what a gal.
London Fields is a loose, baggy monster if you are looking for a tight-knit murder mystery; but if you enjoy your novels with many characters finely portrayed in gritty, grimy detail along with generous portions of philosophical musing thrown in along the way, then you will enjoy taking your time with its 470 pages. Now, on one level, the men and women are stereotypes representing a particular social and cultural class, but on another level Amis fills out his characters with such vivid, visceral descriptions, their eccentricities, their passions, their intense emotions and desires, in a way, I almost had the feeling I was reading an epic with the streets of London standing in for the walls of Troy – modern city life as the ultimate human blood sport.
One major character – Keith Talent, low-class grunge par excellence, a 29-year old addicted to liquor, pornography and sex, has made a life-long career out of cheating and steeling. Any time Keith opens his mouth we hear an open sewer of words – thick, coarse, vulgar and garbled. If there was ever an example of Wittgenstein’s “The limits of your language are the limits of your world.”, Keith is our man. From what I’ve said, you might think Keith would be totally despicable, a character incapable of our empathy, yet, through the magic of Amis’ fiction, we feel Keith’s pain.
By way of example, here is a scene after Nicola, posing as a social worker, barged uninvited into his cramped, dirty, pint-sized home and accused Keith’s wife and Keith of being too poor and too ignorant to properly care for their baby girl. Shortly thereafter, Keith is at Nicola’s apartment and he looks at her and in his look he says: “Home was his secret. Nobody had ever been there before. Oh, there had been ingress: rentmen and census people, the police, and cheating electricians and would-be plumbers and so on as well as real social workers and probations officers – but nobody he knew. Not ever. Only the dog, and the woman, and the child: the insiders. They, too, were secrets. Home was his terrible secret. Home was his dirty little secret. And now the secret was out.”
Words are exchanged. Keith tells Nicola repeatedly she “shouldn’t’ve fucking done it”. Nicola replies “You didn’t want me to know, did you, that you lived like a pig.”. Keith says, “That’s so . . . That’s so out of order.” We understand the humanness of Keith’s plight – no matter how crappy and filthy his living conditions, to have his private space violated and be called a pig by such a woman.
Second major character – Guy Clinch, a wealthy, refined, well-educated gentleman with the heart of a love poet reminds me of the 1950-60s British actor Terry-Thomas. Here is Guy in Nicola’s apartment, letting her know how rude men can be about women and sex: “Guy got to his feet and came forward. In no uncertain terms, and with his mind half-remembering some analogous recital, some previous exercise in illusion-shattering (when? how long ago? what about?), he told her what Keith and his kind were really like, how they thought of women as chunks of meat, their dreams of violence and defilement.” Guy explaining the sexual dynamics of men and women to Nicola is like a university student explaining Machiavelli to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Talk about black humor.
Among the many other characters, one of my personal favorites is Marmaduke, Guy Clinch’s son who needs an army of nannies to keep him from tearing the house apart and wreaking havoc on adults, especially his mother and most especially his father. When his wife Hope was pregnant, Guy was worried about protecting his son from the world; after colossal Marmaduke’s birth, he’s worried about protecting the world from his son. Here is a taste of what our first-person narrator Samson has to say about the child: “Turn your back for ten seconds and he’s in the fire or out the window or over in the corner, fucking a light socket (he’s the right height for that, with a little bend of the knees). His chaos is strongly sexual, no question. If you enter his nursery you’ll usually find him with both hands down the front of his diaper, or behind the reinforced bars of his playpen leering over a swimsuit ad in one of the magazines that some nanny has thrown in to him. He goes at that bottle like a top-dollar Vegas call-girl, like a grand-an-hour sex diva.”
Lastly, a word about the novel’s structure: Samson Young is in the process of writing a novel about the very novel we hold in our hands, offering ongoing critique and color commentary on the art of his telling and the act of our reading. Metafiction, anyone? Nothing like heaping another layer (or two or three) on top of an already many-layered work of literary fiction.
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Read information about the authorMartin Amis is an English novelist, essayist, and short story writer. His works include the novels Money, London Fields and The Information.
The Guardian writes that "all his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis [his father] complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be recognisable in any piece before he reaches his first full stop."
Amis's raw material is what he sees as the absurdity of the postmodern condition with its grotesque caricatures. He has thus sometimes been portrayed as the undisputed master of what the New York Times has called "the new unpleasantness."
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