by Martin Amis
“Cities at night, I feel, contain men who cry in their sleep and then say Nothing. It's nothing. Just sad dreams. Or something like that...Swing low in your weep ship, with your tear scans and sob probes, and you would mark them. Women--and they can be wives, lovers, gaunt muses, fat nurses, obsessions, devourers, exes, nemeses--will wake and turn to these men and ask, with female need-to-know, "What is it?" And the men will say, "Nothing. No it isn't anything really. Just sad dreams.” ― Martin Amis, The Information
By the time I read The Information, the novel was notable not so much for its critical success, but for the scandals surrounding its publication, I had already enjoyed London Fields. The Information, while also set in London had a more contemporaneous plot and with its focus on the literati held my attention in spite of Amis's sometimes anarchic prose style. The enormous advance (an alleged £500,000) demanded and subsequently obtained by Amis for the novel attracted what the author described as "an Eisteddfod of hostility" from writers and critics after he abandoned his long-serving agent, the late Pat Kavanagh, in order to be represented by the Harvard-educated Andrew "The Jackal" Wylie. The split was by no means amicable; it created a rift between Amis and his long-time friend, Julian Barnes, who was married to Kavanagh. According to Amis's autobiography Experience (2000), he and Barnes had not resolved their differences.
The Information itself deals with the relationship between a pair of British writers of fiction. One, a spectacularly successful purveyor of "airport novels," is envied by his friend, an equally unsuccessful writer of philosophical and generally abstruse prose. The novel is written in the author's classic style: characters appearing as stereotyped caricatures, grotesque elaborations on the wickedness of middle age, and a general air of post-apocalyptic malaise.
Amis's novels are somewhat an acquired taste and his claim to be influenced by Jane Austen seems to have dissipated by the appearance of this and later novels. On the other hand perhaps not, with a fascination for words and contemporary relationships Amis's style may mirror our current world in a way not that different from Austen in her world.
View all my reviews