January 16th, 2013
I’m on a break from Mr. Amis right now, due to pressing book-club committments, but I’m already about 2/3 of the way through *The Information* and finding it as good as I remembered. Better, even, because now I understand a great deal more. Amis compares impotency with trying to put an oyster in a parking metre, and compares *that* with Caussabon having sex with Dorothea. I laughed until I choked, which I’m almost positive I didn’t do at 18, not least because I hadn’t read *Middlemarch* yet. The nice thing about Amis, however, is that despite his smarty-smart pants-ness, he still provides a layer of the book that’s for everyone. Well, everyone but prudish teenagers, I guess, can laugh at the oyster/parking metre thing.
But actually, I’m feeling increasingly that the book’s target market is *me*, and not in comforting way. The book is very hard on the posturing and entitlement on the minor writer–”such people and their delusions of grander need to be put in their place” is the message I’m taking home. Richard has now signed his book with an independent American press with no advance $$, and has accompanied Gwynn on a book tour. Partly, Richard is writing a grudging profile of Gwynn for a large magazine and a large sum of money. Partly, he’s attempting to publicize his own book, and that’s of course going spectacularly badly. I recognize all the worst moments–sitting alone at the signing table heaped with your books while another author is surrounded by admirers; being forced to listen to lunatics at literary events because they’re the only one interested in speaking to me; carrying a heavy sack of my books to a sales event, only to have to lug them all home again.
Poor Richard. But also, 15 years later, poor *everybody*–at least in this country. If only Amis could’ve seen what was coming for the literary world–there are so very few mega-successes now, so many of us are comfortable with the idea that we can’t sit in our home offices dreaming all day, so much of a writer’s time is spent earning money often in non-literary ways, that Richard’s goals kinda do seem entitled, selfish, naive.
But, um, this would all be so much more poignant if Amis weren’t one of the few writers in the world that *does* fly first class, and never gets ignored at parties. Is this novel a parody of *himself*? My mother’s theory was that Amis saw Richard as himself if everything had gone wrong instead of right, as it actually did go. I now wonder if Amis isn’t supposed to be *Gwynn.* And how much less funny it is then.
I almost never do this, this decoding of the author’s secret self in the novel, but *The Information* almost begs it–too much of the author tour in the US rings like notebook observations of a stranger in a strange land himself.
In the end (or 2/3s, whatever), I don’t care who is supposed to be whom, orif this book is mean or anything, because it is SO funny, well observed, and gorgeously written. I’m pretty sure I don’t want Mr. Amis to be my friend, but he’s probably not interested in that position anyway.
I’m off to read Edgar Allen Poe for a few days, back at Amis next week. In the meantime, Mark’s farther ahead and probably will be finishing up soon.
And yes, it has been delightful reading the funny bits aloud to each other. The Cohabitational Reading Challenge is one of our better ideas, actually.