Sunday, January 23, 2005

so says Martin Amis

I didn't notice, while writing this book (I only noticed while reading it, for revision), how often my free will has been compromised by fame (otherwise known as the media); stymied, finessed, crosspurposed. You're not meant to mind about this, because fame is meant to be so great. And I don't complain: I genuflect, and think of my friend Salmon Rushdie...Actually there's a good reason, a structural reason, why novelists should excite corrosiveness in the press. When you review a film, or appraise a film-director, you do not make a ten-minute short about it or him (or her). When you write about a painter, you do not produce a sketch. When you write about a composer, you do not reach for your violin. And even when a poet is under consideration, the reviewer or profilist does not (unless deeply committed to presumption and tedium) produce a poem. But when you write about a novelist, an exponent of prose narrative, then you write a prose narrative. And was that the extent of your hopes for your prose--bookchat, interviews, gossip? Valued reader, it is not for me to say this is ency. It is for you to say that this is envy. And envy never comes to the ball dressed as Envy. It comes dressed as something else: Asceticism, High Standards, Common Sense. Anyway, as I said, I don't complain about all that--because fame is so great.

-"Introductory: My Missing" (from Experience)

Of course Nabokov's famous antipathy toward critics (as in those who aren't also writers) comes to mind. The four months I spent reading nearly all of Nabokov's novels (and most of his short stories and criticism--it was a fantastic four months) for a course with a Russian professor who seemed to get all her material from the safely modernist but quite thorough Brian also flooding back as I read Will Self's My Idea of Fun--as clear a tribute to Nabokov's false creators and ethics-muddling eidetic synaesthesia as any. It's also pretty damn raw, as far as fiction goes. Here is an excerpt from a particularly Blanchodian moment:
All over London The Fat Controller's creatures, his confreres and familiars, his agents and accomplices, his licentiates and legates, were stirring. They were feeling his presence--or maybe it was the anticipation of his presence, as it were, his pre-presence--as someone might sense the coming of a thunderstorm. First the fall in air-pressure, then the build up of humidity, then the agonizing apprehension that everything presages something else, that all there is is this awful, close waiting. But when at last it comes--what a disappointment. Rain is, after all, only rain. Sky piss. And thunder is, after all, only thunder. Just God, like a troubled pensioner, a little bit 'confused' and indulging his second adolescence by imagining that a rearrangement of the serviced flatlet's furniture will somehow engender a new charisma. (My Idea of Fun, 218-219)

Will Self, putting Delillo to shame. Special bonus question for anyone who's read the book, or anyone at all: Who is "The Fat Controller"? Is he Capital, God, an omnipotent Devil, an evil Santa Claus, Alfred Hitchcock, empire, J.P. Morgan, Will Self's narrator's subconscious, Will Self himself?

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