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Success Paperback – April 3, 1991


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More from Martin Amis
At once poetic and cynical, bestselling novelist Martin Amis is known for his unflinching critiques of modern life. Visit Amazon's Martin Amis Page.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 3, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679734481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679734482
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Amis's American reputation is accelerating, and this early novel, published in Britain nine years ago, is appearing here for the first time. It bears his usual hallmarks: an irresistible narrative flow, writing that seems effortlessly to embrace extremes of tough verismo and delicate poetry, and a remorseless cynicism that one London reviewer has unerringly characterized as "exhilarating unpleasantness." Amis's tale is of two foster brothers: Gregory, an aristocratic, self-deluded esthete and sexual all-rounder, and his lower-class adopted sibling Terry, who is as physically uncouth as Gregory is gorgeous, but whose grim tenacity and realism enable him to prevail in the hideous social struggle that is Amis's vision of London in the '70s. This is not a book for the squeamish: there is misogynism and racism galore (shades of Amis pere?), an obsessive attention to the messier bodily functions, a prevailing mood of apocalyptic hysteria and a number of comic asides that inspire winces more often than laughs. Amis is a vast talent who seems to have only his prose under control; but there is no escaping his ghastly readability, or the way his festering visions linger in the mind.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Gregory Riding and Terry Service, foster brothers who loathe each other, are the central characters in Martin Amis's pungent novel, originally published in England in 1978. For Gregory, London is a gilded galaxy, an endless whirl of smart parties, tony art galleries, and easy conquests. Terry's life is altogether more squalid, marred by a history of nagging sexual failures and missed opportunities. Inexplicably, success suddenly smiles on Terry as Gregory plunges to subterranean depths. But it is Gregory's story that most engages the reader's sympathy. In this unusual novel Amis provides a verbal feast for connoisseurs of fine writing; the prose is at times dazzling. But beneath the surface brilliance lies a serious exploration of contemporary life and morals. Highly recommended. Laurence Hull, Cannon Memorial Lib., Concord, N.C.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "figurat" on April 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
Let me just say that Martin Amis is probably not for everyone. His ecceedingly dark meditations on British Middle Class issues (think of it as the dark side to Jane Austen) may be either too disturbing or totally irrelevant to some readers. But for those who go in for dark irony in thick layers, and carefully constructed narratives, Amis is probably for you. *Success* chonicles a pivotal year in the life of foster brothers. Terry Service, a "yob", as well as a compelling, gittering pile of neuroses, self-hatred and self-pity who hasn't had sex in months is the adopted brother of Gregory Riding, rich, self-assured, attractive and completely heartless. Terry was adopted after watching his father kill his sister. Add to the antagonistic brew of the two "brothers", unreliable first-person accounts of the year, a decidedly insane sister and some rather biting role reversal, and the book turns out to be a real treat. It's fairly clear early on what is going to happen in the course of the novel, at least in the grand scheme of things, if not in the minutiae of the plot details. It's still a fun ride to watch Amis pull off the expected with incredible panache and some unexpected turns. Trust me, get through the first two chapters and continue reading, it's definitely worth it. What's also interesting is to read Amis' *MONEY* after reading this book. The main character in *MONEY* is like a mix of Terry and Greg (if that were imaginable). *SUCCESS* is a good introduction to the aesthetics of Amis, after this read *MONEY* or *THE INFORMATION*. Then you'll probably be ready for *LONDON FIELDS*.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "katlovestoread" on October 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Amis excells at playing nasty tricks on his readers, and "Success" is in many ways an emotional con game. As with all works of satire, the ultimate purpose of the novel is didactic. When "Success" works well (ie, when a reader is enough of a "sucker" to buy into Amis' conceit) it is a meditation on the ways we can be misled by pity, an audience-participation demonstration of the fallability of human sympathy. As such, it's a remarkably thought-provoking read.
That said, the success of "Success" is largely based on reader manipulation. There are a number of reasons why Amis' technique might not work for a particular reader - for instance, if they are easily offended, or if they don't find Amis' brand of humor funny, or (and this is absolutely vital) if they don't share the sympathy-for-the-underdog and corresponding lack-of-sympathy-for-the-overdog mentality upon which Amis' experiment depends. Without an emotional investment from the reader, "Success" reads as a heartlessly empty comedy, rife with cliche, riddled with needless sexism, racism, and homophobia, and featuring characters unique only in their dislikability. Once transformed by the gullability of the reader, however, "Success" becomes a fascinating and enlightening study of contemporary human nature.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 1998
Format: Paperback
There is in the life of every man a year which is entered as a confused adolescent and is ended either as an independent fully formed adult, or as a broken human being. Promise, as perceived by others, has very little to do with the outcome. Promise, as perceived by the adolescent himself is also not the determining factor. Amis argues that what ultimately forms the man is the ability to cope with adversity and choose the few avenues that lead somewhere (not necessarily somewhere special), rather than be side-tracked into a dead-end by the need for transient success.
From the first sentence this book keeps the reader riveted and directly involved. Every one of the twelve chapters, one for each month of that formative year, consists of two parts, a first part in which Terry Service tells the reader what is going on in his life and a second part in which his foster brother Gregory Riding takes his turn. The two compete fiercely for the reader's approval and understanding. Terry, insecure and convinced that he is marked for failure, tries to avoid, or at least delay, the disaster he assumes to be his inevitable lot. He succeeds and makes it into a sustainable, if not particularly exciting adulthood. Gregory, ever the spoiled brat and outright psychopath, lies to and deceives everyone including himself until that inevitable moment when everything in his life unravels fast and he runs home only to be faced with his family's financial bankruptcy and his father's death. Murders, suicide and incest give a gothic aura to the tale, but then no one should underestimate the horrors of that metamorphosis whereby the adult human male is formed. Yet the whole thing is made bearable by the protagonists' remarkable sense of humor and by a healthy dose of cynicism and denial.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Reverend_Maynard on July 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
'Success' contains all the familiar elements of an Amis novel: insightful and witty social observation, lashings of frequently explicit sex, impeccable structure and countless sublime and delightful examples of his sparse and anarchic prose. The novel concerns two foster brothers, one the prodigal son of an established upper class family, the other an orphan with a nightmare past, adopted by the same family in an act of misguided charity. The novel works as a paradigm for the changing of social structure in England: the boundaries between classes becoming blured, along with the occupations and pursuits normal to the members of these classes becoming more permeable.
Despite the fact that the book is structured in a peculiar fashion, with each brother taking a turn at narrating the same events (along with all the contradictions and inconsistencies this would suggest), Amis injects a remarkable amount of comedy into the narrative, with much of the humour in fact springing from the books peculiar format. The descrpitions of the activities of Gregory Riding, all of his foppish aspects and our nagging intuition that he refrains from telling us the truth about his life are handled skillfully, while Terence Services character evokes sympathy and pity, but gradually disgust as the novel progresses and the roles are reversed, the effectiveness of the change reminding us of Amise's talent.
Although not for the squeamish, this is an intelligent and enjoyable comic novel, with hints of very dark humour, which just about leaves us in thought about societys structure and how we should live our lives, which all good novels should.
Reccommended.
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