I've been reading British novelist Martin Amis' memoir "Experience" over the past week, and I have to say it has been one hell of a read. In addition to his absolutely divine prose, there's that dry British humor that had me snorting out loud rather unattractively on the #32 bus. He subverts the tedium of chronology and instead organizes the events of his life around some strange thematic structure composed of short vignettes that you wouldn't want to map, but that keeps the reading lively. And even as a telling memoir, he's pretty evasive--he indulges us with great detail in the traumas and despairs of his young cousin being abducted and murdered by an infamous serial killer, but you have to infer his marriages and divorces. They are only glanced at, and you feel that it is all a bit too close for him to examine or, at least, to reveal to us.
Anyway, while much of the novel is quite moving, I thought I'd share some of the snort-inducing moments:
On the birth of his little sister:
Sally was born on 17 January 1954 at 24 The Grove. I was allowed on the scene soon afterwards, and i have an utterly radiant--and utterly false--memory of my hour-old sister, her features angelically formed, her blonde tresses curling down over her shoulders. In fact, of course, she was just like the other Amis babies: a howling pizza
His father was renowned British novelist Kingsley Amis:
Perhaps the most revealing thing my father ever said was in response to Yevgeny Yevtushenko's question, "You atheist?" He answered: "Well yes, but it's more that I hate him."
On being a short (5'2") teenager:
Everyone kept saying to me, "You'll suddenly shoot up," and, after a while, I kept saying to everyone, "What's all this about me suddenly shooting up? It hasn't happened." I minded being short chiefly because it seemed that about half of womankind was thereby rendered unapproachable. When I was even younger and shorter I had a girlfriend who was over six-foot-one. We had an unspoken agreement. We never stood upright at the same time. And we never went out.
Even Amis' long-time friend Christopher Hitchens (HA! You just *thought* you were going to get a Hitch-free week!) appeared for some laughs. Amis writes this about the
Cuban Missile Crisis:
We all remember it. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens's pertinent inversion: Like everbody else, I remember exactly where I was standing and who I was with at the moment that President Kennedy nearly killed me.
And here, telling his Dad not to get so angry when he has to buy lunch for deadbeat friends:
[Martin]--Look at you--you're a fucking wreck. Who paid for lunch?
--And you've let it poison your whole day. Instead of having a nice time with your old pal. It's not worth it, Dad. When I go out with Rob, I pay for everything. He says, "Just pretend I'm a chick." And I do pay for everything and i give him twenty quid for his taxi home. And I don't mind.
--Yes but Rob couldn't pay for anything even if he wanted to.
--So? It's like with the Hitch when he used to say, "Whose turn is it to pay for me?"