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Money Paperback – March 4, 1986
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Absolutely one of the funniest, smartest, meanest books I know. John Self, the Rabelaisian narrator of the novel, is an advertising man and director of TV commercials who lurches through London and Manhattan, eating, drinking, drugging and smoking too much, buying too much sex, and caring for little else besides getting the big movie deal that will make him lots of money. Hey, it was the '80s. Most importantly, however, Amis in Money musters more sheer entertainment power in any single sentence than most writers are lucky to produce in a career.
"Amis is still the finest English fiction writer of his generation."
— Sunday Independent
"An electrifying writer who likes to shock his fans and share his sharply contemporary concerns -- Amis is a maddening master you need to read -- the best of his generation."
— Mail on Sunday
"Amis is immaculate as a comic stylist-irresistible."
— Daily Telegraph
"His eloquently rendered inner life shows a richness and tenderness."
— Christopher Hitchens, The Week --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The problem is he already has the money. He has had the money, spent the money, and still has the money. Money is not the issue. The mindset of the people in his world is that if he would "relax, . . . sink a couple of thou into [his] backhand, . . . quit smoking, drink less, eat right . . . go to high-priced health clubs and fancy massage studios . . . undergo a series of long, painful and expensive operations" then he (and you, the universal Mr. Self) will be ready for success in today's society. It is an alluring dream, is it not?
Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
In reading this novel, I kept wondering how Self's producer could overlook-even encourage-his personal shenanigans, which would obviously undermine a movie project in the real world. But in the last section of "Money", Amis explains, as he shifts his focus from John Self's hilarious debauchery to plot analysis. Then, a character named Martin Amis, a writer brought on board to salvage a disastrous script, unravels the mystery and reveals the true dynamic of John Self and Fielding Goodney. At the book's end, the achievement of Martin Amis, the author, is clear. He has written a brilliant, entertaining, risky novel, telling a funny and implausible story that ultimately makes perfect sense. Bravo!
That's the problem with "Money." The first hundred pages of the novel depict the protagonist, John Self, getting drunk and being an oaf over and over. Maugham suggests that modern novels dispense with a plot so as to provide "psychological analysis," but Self getting trashed and being as offensive as imaginable, then doing the same thing again on the page after next provides no great insight into character. There's a running joke about pigs, but we already get it. He's a pig.
The plot is about Self's efforts to get a movie made, a movie based on his life, but at about page ten, you just knowwww that movie's never gonna get made. The first hundred or so pages can easily be skipped without missing anything of significance. The characters are all stereotypes (phonies -- American phonies, the worst kind), and it's thus not necessary to keep track of the names. About halfway through the book, an odd thing happens. The protagonist changes from being an utterly disgusting drunk to a somewhat sympathetic drunk, but he still manages to offend everyone else. There are subplots of a mysterious death threat against him and even a hit contract taken out on him, but neither of those threads eventually amount to much. After progressing at a snail's pace (a drunken snail) with frequent descriptions of the sky, the denouement occurs in a sudden jumble, then the book drags on for too long. Will he kill himself or not? Enough already.
As for psychological insight, who is this metaphorical "Self"? Is it Martin Amis depicting HIMself and his party-hearty life with pal Christopher Hitchens? Certainly not, because Amis performs the conceit of writing himself into the novel, and the depiction of himself is that of a paragon of sobriety, tolerance, and a Buddha-like composure. The fictional Amis also plays a masterful game of chess against the suddenly-sober protagonist, but this is about as plausible as the silly horse race previously described. Nor is "Self" the notorious (former) stoner and Amis imitator Will Self.
I would venture to say that "Self" represents . . . *you,* dear reader. YOURself, America. John Self lives in London, but he was raised in New Jersey. That must've warped him. The British characters are all disreputable (which, true, is typical of most of the novels of Amis), but they're nowhere near as loathsome as the Yanks. Hardly a nuanced view, but who am I to argue against Amis's (and the world's) perception of the USA as the heart of all greed, corruption and shallowness ?
The dialogue and the interior monologues which make up most of the book are superb. There aren't many writers with an ear to equal that of Martin Amis, and some of it makes for great reading, but that's not enough to support 363 pages of threadbare plot. Reading the novel feels as if you've sold your Self short.