Martin Amis is a gifted writer. He knows loads of dead long words. He can string em together pretty well too. But he’s no James Kelman. Whereas Kelman is always described as a ‘working class Glaswegian’ writer, Amis never gets called an ‘upper class London writer’ and whilst Kelman gets plenty of stick from the critocracy for his depiction of ‘the proletariat,’ Amis is allowed free reign to vent his public school spleen on those he sneeringly portrays as slovenly, shallow, almost sub-human, as if Wayne and Waynetta Slob were real life ‘Walford’ characters. This is reality filtered through layer upon layer of media misrepresentation, class prejudice and wilful ignorance.
Kelman at his best ranks alongside other Celtic lyricists like James Joyce, Dylan Thomas and Sam Beckett whereas ‘Marty’ is a mere essayist with delusions to literature. Take two books, Kelman’s Booker winning ‘How Late it Was, How Late’ and Amis’s ‘ ‘Money’ and the gap in both talent and humanity becomes clear. Kelman is sneered at by the type of critic who worship at the Amish altar because he uses the word ‘cunt’ too much and is accused of writing in the Glasgow dialect as an anti-intellectual provocation. Amis’s own gimmicks such as using backwards dialogue and satirical character and brand names are simply the tell tale signs of a master. John Self. Will Self. How very Nee-chah!
His latest book, ‘Lionel Asbo (he’s ‘with it’ Mart, ASBO being such a 2012 phenomenon they’ve recently been replaced by SCUMBOs) is obviously based on ‘Super Chav’ Michael Carroll who won £9.7 million on the National Lottery much to the Daily Mail’s disgust. Amis’s character wins a larger amount, £139 million and the novel apparantly looks at the culture of “surfaces, trivialities and vulgarities ” that surrounds the Rooneyesque ‘hero’ of the title.
Rooney ofcourse and his wife, Colleen come in for plenty of stick from the self-elected moral guardians of the ‘free press.’ How dare these two scouse guttersnipes dare to earn vast fortunes despite their lowly backgrounds, their vulgar displays of wealth and their lack of intellect. All these perceived ‘flaws’ could be levelled at the royal family ofcourse or anyone else who inherits wealth from their parents (Amis for example) and at least Wayne in particular can claim to be one of the very few truly gifted players this country has produced for a generation. He is paid according to his skills whereas the royals are rewarded simply for being born into a series of ‘arranged/forced’ marriages that would shame the most conservative Pakistani patriarch. The type that Amis really hates and regards as the ‘enemy’ despite his own rather obnoxious views on women.
Amis desperately wants to be regarded as some kind of wise teller of truths, a man who can see the big picture but his most infamous essays on pornography and islamism have exposed him as just another narrow minded, upper middle class, frightened bigot who views the world in terms of ‘us’ and ‘we’ and ‘our’ rather than as individuals capable of existing beyond the confines of a subjective national identity. Amis tells fellow Oxbridge sneerer, Paxman On last night’s Newnight how proud he is to be English but his version of ‘Englishness’ is as selective and unrepresentative as Cameron’s or Miliband’s.
Like his great pal and fellow sneerer, Chris Hitchens, Amis didn’t really get on with the type of upper class English gels he was supposed to breed with and once he gets goosed by an American groupie, it liberates him from the repressive sexlessness of the British. But the boys and girls of inner city Britain have always fucked and boozed and drugged themselves into oblivion so there’s nothing new about Lionel, as there was nothing novel about Hogarth’s despiction of Georgian gin wives 250 years ago. This may appal the ‘refined’ tastes of the middle classes but Binge Out Britain has a long and noble history dating right back to Stonehenge mushy sessions.
Amis, like Paul Dacre and others of their class and generation, have a puritanical and hypocritical disgust for young, working class women, the type who get their tits out in Spanish and Greek holidays resorts, stumble across city streets in high heels, vomitting onto the pavement and have the temerity to have sex and raise children without the safety net of a rich sugar daddy or professionally qualified husband to take care of them. It’s OK for debs and starlets to live lives of shallow sensualness as their brand of debauchery is socially acceptable to the wannabe aristos of Middle England. Amis and his elitist chums, the male, post-war, public school academics, writers and politicians who now hold economic and cultural power fear female sexuality yet desire it too. This makes them feel insecure and unmanly and so they take it out on those who live ‘on the surface.’
Lionel Asbo is the anti-Amis, perhaps like John Self, the ‘anti-hero’ of ‘Money’ the kind of man that Marty secretly wants to be, living for immediate gratification, existing from hour to hour, day to day, spending, fucking, snorting; y’know enjoying himself without all the intellectual angst or moral hang ups of the chattering classes. Morality is a middle class concept ofcourse, something the ‘lower orders’ know nothing of. As Oscar put it;
“Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.”
Now Ozzy was speaking with his tongue firmly stuck up Bosey’s arse but he was reflecting the same sentiments that exist widely in the present political and cultural spheres of both the left and right. What ‘right’ do those like Carroll or Colleen, Wayne or Waynetta have to breed and spend and breathe and spoil this land; the state of England. Amis ofcourse lives in America and therefore has some neck moaning about the state of anywhere. Kelman’s lives are real lives, lived in real cities, whereas Amis’s lives are unreal, lived in a sensationalised and superficial tabloid distortion. Despite the vast amount of media space devoted to him and his ‘work’ Amis is little more than a ‘thinking man’s Jeffrey Archer’ for the Islington literati set.
Maybe we can discuss it over canapes at Hay eh?