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Sunday, September 17, 2006

And Melville Had to Self-Publish 

D-Squared and commenters wonder if Martin Amis will mailerize soon:

Long after the nuclear holocaust when we are all dead, the cockroaches that crawl through the ashes of Western civilisation will still take Martin Amis seriously, although none of them will know why.

But Amis shouldn't be singled out in this way. No book can be sold without fantastic, ridiculous hype. In the shop window yesterday I saw a display with two or three novels among some other books, and each of them had some sort of miniblurb right on the front cover. “An astounding performance, as good as anything by that Chekhov”. Since literature is now almost impossible to justify, let alone understand, it has to be promoted all the more just to get it off the shelf. Marketers have to claim that the author is a magical person who can shrink the consumer's hemorrhoids and and make him more popular and so on.

Kingsly Amis had a great success and got lots of attention with Lucky Jim, but I suspect at that time people had a better idea of what novels were, and so the talk was a little more moderate. In fact, Amis himself objected to being treated as an Angry Young Man with bogus affiliations to other artists, as if his work wasn't enough by itself. But nothing good is any good now. If it's not better than it could possibly be, why bother?


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