Thursday, June 21, 2012

As if a man were author of himself

As I wind down number 55, Money by Martin Amis, I thought I should comment on something this book had, which I believe to be very unique.  I'm sure I haven't seen this before, and doubtful I'll see it again, at least not from this list.

Several of my previous reads from the list have mentioned other books on the list, and Money joins those ranks after the protagonist reads both Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as mentioning The Catcher in the Rye.  And other books have mentioned authors of books from the list, be they mere mentions or actual characters like Theodore Dreiser was in RagtimeMoney joins that group as well, when the protagonist meets an author who lives in his neighborhood, a certain Martin Amis.

I'm not sure what I think about having the author of the book as a character in the book.  And it isn't as if Amis is a once off, mentioned only in passing.  Quite the contrary, Amis becomes a rather important character in the book.  There isn't anything wrong with this, and the character is entirely believable and fits the book, it's just such an interesting technique.  Since starting this list two years ago, I've always, for whatever reason, gotten a kick out of these mentions and I think Money has now taken the cake.

One could argue, I guess, that Kurt Vonnegut makes an appearance in Slaughterhouse-Five, as 'Kilgore Trout,' but I don't think an appearance by what could at best be described as an alter-ego, is the same as the Amis cameo in Money.  Not only is the character named Martin Amis, he's also a writer and son of a famous writer.  Of course I really can't speak to whether or not the character is anything like the author when it comes to personality, as I don't really know Martin Amis very well; especially not 1984 Martin Amis.  But in the end, it does not really matter as the book is fiction.

For the record, this is the 11th book I've read so far that mentions another book or author.


  1. Although Kilgore Trout is the alter-ego of Vonnegut, the real life (albeit in a fictional story) Vonnegut appears in Slaughterhouse Five. While Billy Pilgrim is in the prison camp:

    "Billy looked inside the latrine. The wailing was coming from in there. The place was crammed with Americans who had taken there pants down. The welcome feast had made them sick as volcanoes. The buckets were full or had been kicked over.

    An American near Billy wailed that he had excreted everything but his brains. Moments later he said, 'There they go, there they go.' He meant his brains.

    That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book."

    He also appears in Breakfast of Champions (in a more philosophical role), another classic by Vonnegut that I'd recommend if you enjoyed Slaughterhouse-Five. The nice thing about Vonnegut books is that you can read them in an afternoon. The first time I read Breakfast of Champions was on a four hour flight from Maryland to Arizona- I read the whole book in one sitting.

    I anxiously await your review of Money, but based on what you have written so far, it looks like one I will add to my "to read" list.


    1. Just re-read my comment- I wrote "there" instead of "their" in the book quote. The error is mine and not Vonnegut. Oops. I assure you, I do know the difference between "there", "their" and "they're", even if my fingers don't.


  2. I did enjoy Slaughterhouse-Five and am keen to read some more Vonnegut when I'm finished these next 45! Can't say I noticed he mentioned himself in that manner. Although the entire time I was reading it, I had the fact that a lot of the book must have been very autobiographical in the back of my mind.