Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I’m reading a Kingsley Amis novel called ‘The Old Devils’. Like biographies of serial killers you mustn’t read too many Kingsley Amis novels in a row, because it can start to affect the way you view your relationships with women.

Kingsley Amis was a misogynist. I’m not afraid to say that.

You could probably argue that his point of view was more nuanced than just out and out fear and resentment of women, but the fact that you’d even need to doesn’t bode all that well does it? In fact in ‘Difficulties with Girls’ (sequel to ‘Take a Girl Like You’) he expounds the theory that it’s not only women who are solipsistic, jealous, self-interested and fundamentally out of touch with reality. Some men are too, but those men are therefore actually women.

Another major feature of Amis’s work is that everyone is drunk nearly all the time. It’s like advertising in the eighties. In fact the hero of ‘Stanley and the women’ works selling advertising for a national newspaper, but spends all day in the pub. Occasionally he’ll try to talk to someone on the phone, but will be too drunk and confused to work out what’s going on. The only writer who has his characters fixing and buying and waiting for drinks more often than Amis is Ernest Hemingway. ‘Across the river and into the trees?’ You’d be lucky to get out your seat on that lot.

Reading a Kingsley Amis novel is quite like being so drunk you can’t work out quite what people are doing. Characters respond to situations in utterly inappropriate ways, emotionally speaking. It’s both disorientating and realistic.

‘I can’t do anything about your terrible mind, Garth,’ said Alun, grinning harder than before, ‘I can’t help your inability to notice anything that doesn’t directly involve your pathetic self,’ he continued, starting to shake with mirth, ‘but when you start vaunting your supposed moral superiority, you bloody little cowshed mountebank,’ and here he started laughing as he spoke, ‘then at least I can tell you to shut your blathering trap before I slam your doubtless irreproachable dentures down your fucking throat’

As I’m constantly saying, I don’t drink and I’m pretty smug about it. So when people go ‘oh wow it must have been amazing in the eighties when everyone was pissed,’ I always think ‘yeah but you would think that because you’re bit of a cunt anyway.’

You used to have to drink in advertising, I imagine, just because the processes involved took so long that you’d go out of your mind with boredom if you didn’t. These days everyone is up in your face on Google Wave, even if they’re on the other side of the world, and the mobile phone basically ruined the pub as a place to retreat to. Anyway, who needs alcohol when you've got embeddable flash games?

UPDATE: I've removed the embeddable flash game that Team Rubber PR'd me with because it played an irritating tune when you opened the blog. Can't be doing with that.

Flash games for teenagers are basically the reason that you must never give a web agency any money before they've had an idea. The supposition that, since yoof play videogames, they will find this sort of thing anything but infantile and patronising, and furthermore, that it will change their behaviour one iota just goes to show that if you're out of touch with your market, you will basically believe anything.


John said...

Amis did dislike the ladies a bit yes, but he does make me laugh unlike his son, who seems permanantly put-out by the fact that his dad was 1000-times more likeable than he'll ever be.

Kingsley may've been (amongst other things) a sexist, but Martin's a snob. Which makes him infinitely more offensive than his father.

Oh, btw, i worked out why modern copywriting sounds like a conversation cool exchange students: It's just people doing shit Dan Germain impressions.

Gordon Comstock said...

Couldn't agree more about the difference between the Amises. Martin Amis, weirdly, is becoming more like a less sophisticated version of his Dad with the passing of years. All this 'if Muslims would just let their children get drunk and have sex they wouldn't be interested in blowing themselves up'. Yeah, yeah.

'Lucky Jim' is still one of the funniest novels there is. And even at his most formulaic and grim he writes like a dream. Butch and unfussy.

Not convinced by the Germain thing - but if you're interested in how Mr Germain came to be the marketing superpower he is make sure you pick up your August edition of Bleeders Digest for a long feature from, hem, yours truly.

John said...

"Lucky Jim" is one of those books I never seem to own because I always end up giving my copy to someone (philanthropist, moi?) Have you ever read KA's letters? I always meant to but worried it might detrimentally alter my view of his work.

The worst thing about Amis Jnr. is how a man so reactionary and self-absorbed has become a kind of stockroom intellectual for the media. He's quite happy to cough his wonky opinions over anyone who'll listen, and no one bats an eyelid. NEWSNIGHT EDITOR: "Hi, Martin. We just need someone to say something hollow, yet erudite and superficially plausible about jelly. Same fee as last time? Yeah, 800 B&H. That's right." Mind you, it must take some fucking discipline being THAT serious all the time. He just doesn't do Light Hearted does he. There's never even a glimmer, the miserable runt.

You and Creative Review, eh. You'll go blind you know young man. ;-)