Thursday, February 15, 2007

Amiscellany


I'm a bit of a Martin Amis fan. Or, at least, I was. Recent efforts, from Night Train onwards, have seen the law of diminishing returns set in; I'm afraid I've even skipped reading Koba The Dread and House Of Meetings. I've always been intrigued, though, by the "By The Same Author" lists in the frontispieces of his books. One book, listed along with his journalism compilations under non-fiction, was entitled Invasion Of The Space Invaders. There was a time, pre-internet, when I went searching for this book once every year or so; it was long out of print, and no library seemed to have a copy. Though Amis had hinted at an interest in pub games in his novels and his newspaper and magazine writing, I fondly imagined that the book was more journalism, the Space Invaders of the title being metaphoric rather than the real, Taito-manufactured ones. Over time, after countless fruitless searches, I rather gave up on ever seeing a copy.

This changed three days ago on a long weekend in London. While browsing the fantastically expensive but thoroughly intriguing Dover Street Market in Mayfair, a post-modern playground (or "exciting and innovative retail concept") where plaster models of the life-cycle of a chicken and Brown Betty teapots rub shoulders with Comme Des Garcons jackets and John Galliano skirts. A small concession in the shop sold art monographs, first edition photography collections and so forth, and it was there that I laid eyes on a second-hand copy of Invasion of The Space Invaders for the first time. With a foreword by Steven Spielberg, no less, this is, as the title suggests, a fanboy's guide to Gorf, Defender, Tempest, Asteroids, Space Invaders etc. In colour, with pics, printed in Quarto format! The quality and production values were rather closer to those cheapie pop cash-ins that Omnibus used to publish than they were to the standards of Jonathan Cape. But still... I'd have grabbed it there and then, except that it was priced at a breath-taking £150.00 (the original 1982 price was £5.99). Almost as much as a Raf Simons T-shirt.

Since Monday, I've found a few references to the book on the internet, including an amusing aside regarding Nicholas Lezard in this piece from the Village Voice. You can even look at a PDF of five pages of the original, should you be so inclined. In the meantime, I'll be diligently searching the racks at the local charity shops. Well, you never know...

In other Amis news, the man perenially referred to as the enfant terrible of British literature (even though he's pushing 60) will be taking up a post teaching creative writing at Manchester Uni. A campus novel may ensue. As another of my faves, Tom Wolfe, came a cropper recently with his campus novel, let's hope not, eh?

By the way, eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that this blog entry has no connection whatsoever with music. Hey, whaddaya want from me?




Martin Amis on the net

5 comments:

jude calvert-toulmin said...

as i've just mentioned over at mine, amis is one of my partner bry's favourite writers; i've yet to read any myself. the village voice link piece is very interesting, thanks for that.

hmmmm, early books of which the author isn't proud. did you see the stephen king interview on tv a few weeks ago? that was fascinating. he wrote "carrie" in a week or something and threw it in the bin because he thought it was so crap. his wife rescued it.

when i was 15, i threw my diary from when i was 13 in the bin, and i deeply regret it now. and one of my exes stole 3 years of diaries from me, from my late teens, and that makes me very sad; i remember there was some good writing in there :(

i back up religiously now, i can't risk that happening again.

irkthepurists said...

Postscript: after a lot of scoping around the internet, I finally snagged a copy of Invasion Of The Space Invaders, for less than £150, but considerably more than £5.99 (courtesy of Abebooks). It arrived at the weekend, and I'm trying to handle it as gingerly as possible, given its expense. Despite this, I've had a quick flick through, and it's terrifically well written, harking back to the lightness of tone found in The Rachel Papers or Success, rather than the leaden, laboured, pre-millennial prose of, say, The Information or Heavy Water. I suppose the subject matter helps.

BrianT said...

I blow hot and cold on martin Amis. I haven't read that many of his books. I read 'The Rachel Papers' which was amusing but a bit unmemorable. I have 'Time's Arrow' and another one of his whose title escapes me, on my shelves awaiting my attention, but the one I really liked was 'London Fields'. It's been praised and criticised all over the shop, but for me it's like a more literate Irvine Welsh. The characters are stylised but still real enough to be believable, and the resolution of the detail of their intertwining lives pulls you in until you really know and feel you care about them, something Welsh has never done for me. This is despite the fact that you wouldn't say you actually like any of the three main protagonists. Take all their good points and you might have enough to put together one decent person, but as individuals, they're all fuck-ups. I suppose it's Amis's way of exagerrating the flaws of ordinary people, until they become grotesques, that lifts an essentially mundane, soap-ish plot into the realms of David Lynchian nightmare. Come to think of it, Lynch could probably make a decent fist of directing a film of the book. Now then...

Anonymous said...

Ah takes me back, I got Invasion of the Space Invaders for Christmas back in 1981, and I must have devoured ever word 100 time, being an arcade addict at the time. It was a shock to find it the loft and realise it was by an author I admire. And I agree, the writing shines.

Irk The Purists said...

Cheers Anonymous. If you were ever short of cash, you could sell it; I keep getting e-mails from book lists I signed up to back in the day, when I was still searching for a copy. At www.half.com, for example, the median price seems to be around $120.