Monday, February 14, 2005

Passion for the Real, or So Says Martin Amis #2

Pussies are bullshit. Don't let them tell you any different.

"Answer me something," I said to John Stagliano. We were stepping out of the porno home--onto the porno patio with its porno pool. This was Malibu. Down the slope and beyond the road lay the Pacific Ocean; but the Staglianos have no access to its porno shore. In the evening they can watch the porno sunset with its porno pink mauve and blood-orange, and then linger awhile, perhaps, under a porno moon.

"Answer me something. How do you account for the emphasis, not just in your...work but in the industry in general, how do you account for the truly incredible emphasis on anal sex?"

After a minimal shrug and a minimal pause Stagliano said, "Pussies are bullshit."

Now John was bing obedient to the dictionary definition of "bullshit," which is nonesense intended to deceive.

With vaginal, Stagliano elaborated--well, here you have some chick chirruping away. And the genuinely discerning viewer (jacknifed over his flying fist) has got to be thinking: Is this for real? Or is it just bullshit?

With anal, on the other hand, the actress is obliged to produce a different order of response: more guttural, more animal. As Stagliano quaintly puts it, "Her personality comes out." He goes on: "You want guys who can fuck really good and make the girls look more...virile." "Virile," of course, means manly; but once again Stagliano is using the King's English. You want the girls to show you "their testosterone."

[...]

"It looks like violence, but it's not. I mean, pleasure and pain are the same thing, right? Rocco is driven by the market. What makes it in today's market place is reality."

And assholes are reality. And pussies are bullshit.

[...]

After a while you begin to think that porno stars, despite being very bad at acting, are very good at acting in one particular only: they can keep a straight face. But then humorlessness, universal and institutionalized humorlessness, is the lifeblood of porno...

If you're going to be a porno star, what do you need? It's pretty clear by now. You need to be an exhibitionist. You need to have a ferocious sex-drive. You need to suffer from nostalgie de la boue (literally "mud nostalgia": a childish, even babyish delight in bodily functions and wastes). And--probably--you need damage in your past. You also need to be humorless...

As I sampled some extreme productions on the VCR in my hotel room, I kept worrying about something. I kept worrying that I'd like it. Porno services the "polymorphous perverse": the near-infinite chaos of human desire. If you harbor a perversity, then sooner or later porno will identify it. You'd better hope that this doesn't happen while you're watching a film about a copraphagic pigfarmer--or an undertaker...

Later that afternoon I journeyed from San Fernando to Pasadena: I was expected at a conference on "The Novel in Britain, 1950-2000" at the Huntington Library. After some prompting, I told a gathering of delegates about my recent experiences. "Pussies are bullshit" became the (unofficial) conference slogan.

If pussy is bullshit, then bullshit is pussy. On the second night, I played a regrettably sophomoric parlor game on this theme with Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Hitchens. What's New Bullshitcat? Bullshit in Boots. "The Owl and the Bullshitcat" ("Oh lovely Bullshit! O Bullshit, my love, / What a beautiful Bullshit you are"). Bullshit-whipped. Bullshit-wagon. Bullshit's in a well. Someone mentioned the character from Goldfinger: Bullshit Galore. Salmon Rushdie paused; his eyes widened, and he said, suddenly,
"Octobullshit."

Jokes have been defined (by Nietzsche) as epigrams on the death of feelings. In other words, the best jokes are always a new low. It is utterly characteristic that the coiner of "pussies are bullshit" had no idea that he was joking. In any case, porno is littered--porno is heaped--with the deaths of feelings.

-Martin Amis, Porno's Last Summer

6 comments:

Mark Kaplan said...

Martin Amis really is adickhead, isn't he?

Matt said...

Yes, I feel you.

Mark Kaplan said...

Perhaps 'wanker' would be more precise.. portentous and self-dramatizing .. the subject matter serves as little more than a pretext for the writing of a certain kind of pathos-laden, hard-boiled prose. The shape of the sentence and its anticipated effects count for more than any fidelity to what is being written about.. the straining towards the epigrammatic, chiasmatic, whatever. The same old stylistic cookie cutter throwing up th esame old patterns.

Mark Kaplan said...

I remember him once on UK TV ralking about his shite book Time's Arrow. Y'know, everything is played in rewind - someone goes to the toilet and shit disappears up his anus etc. Anyway, Amis is asked whether some stuff didn't look the same back to front. He pauses (of course), nodding with narrowed eyes, then: 'yea, love stuff. love stuff. Which ever way you play it, it's exactly the same.'

Matt said...

Very funny.

Recalling also what Hunter S. said about Dubya (in whom Amis would no doubt find an eager plagiarist) being "a sort of butt-boy" etc. (in more ways than one).

Anonymous said...

The problem with Amis is that he just isn't very bright. In one of his early, execrable books of essays (The Moronic Inferno or Einstein’s Monsters) he wrote a couple of pieces in particular which shocked me with their sheer dim-wittedness when I read them on publication. Both were written when Amis was in his late thirties. In one essay, he waxed lyrical about atomic weapons and explained that They Are A Bad Thing. He had come to this conclusion he informed his public, since recently becoming a father. He didn't want his own dear offspring to be blown up in a nuclear war and had thus decided that his former position that they were A Good Thing may have been wide of the mark. His other epiphany was to realise that gay men were OK after all whereas his former position (presumably prior to the birth of said children) was that they were pretty disgusting etc etc. Amis is roughly the same age as me and I was amazed to hear that he had held such ill-informed positions until his early thirties. He appeared on the ‘Newsnight at 30’ review on BBC2 recently and had absolutely nothing of any consequence to say. It was embarrassing. Jarvis Cocker and Tracy Emin were more articulate and interesting than Amis which gives you an idea…. I have never understood why people take him seriously.