Oh, what disappointment! London Fields had me eagerly in its command until about two hundred pages in. Then, Amis’ brilliance scorched me and left me wanting a story. This is not to say that London Fields does not contain a story. It holds several, but stingily, it seems, and they aren’t allowed to progress due to the pages and pages of cleverness and dipsidoodicle writing. The writing, by itself, is staggeringly perfect and full, too full, of showy technique and allusion. With such a display in store for each reading session, I found myself more and more reluctant to open the novel, while at the same time becoming just as terribly curious about the resolution. It was exhausting.
On one hand, I felt small and insignificant in the face of such craft. On the other hand, I began to feel irritated at the circularity and repetition. A very unfriendly thought crossed my mind. Reading this novel is akin to making love and being held from climax by a passive-aggressive lover, someone who wants to show you all that he can do, while you suffer and wait. By the time things finally come to a close, the fun and warm fuzzies are gone and you are left thinking that you just may have wasted some serious time.
Only one hundred or so pages into this and I’m wondering how I ever managed without Martin Amis. His sentences contain so much coiled energy that I’m rereading several passages immediately after completing them, just to relish the wordcraft. Earlier in the year, I attempted Lolita, but was underwhelmed by the narrative tricksiness and overwhelmed by Humbert’s cruelty. Nabokov has, as they might say, not a patch on Martin.
Here’s the story so far, and it’s a tangled one. Three characters, Keith, Guy and Nicola, are converging upon one another in what may be the fulfillment of Nicola’s premonitory powers. It may also be a burgeoning love triangle, though Keith is a nasty and at this point wouldn’t recognize an emotion if it bit him raw. Guy and Nicola have established a connection, but is it profit taking? And, if so, whose? All are being birddogged and chronicled by the writer, Sam, whose distance at this point is confined to approximately the thirty paces back of Nicola’s swinging hips, though he really wants to go to their “homes”, inside each head. Nicola’s the one I’m watching as well, not her hips, but something in her characterization that’s stirring and very rich. Could that be rain I’m hoping for this weekend? Otherwise, I’ll be mowing, a large, unevenly sodded yard, when I’d rather be
…trying to ignore the world situation. I am hoping it will go away. Not the world. The situation. I want time to get on with this little piece of harmless escapism. I want time to go to London Fields.