My goodness. Looking back, I realise how much I gassed on about this novel to my partner while I was reading it. We went on walks while visiting her relatives, and that romantic myth about walking and talking books with people who are close to you came undone each time I pulled my fingers back out from my throat. “Eeaurth,” I heaved “That Amis *earth* unsympathetic characters *earth wooer* how caricatured they are *earth wooer, cat-cat, oh ‘scuse me, wooer-earth* [now dabbing the diced carrots from my mouth]: how empty their lives are.”
What forced my hand was not so much an annoyance at the characters themselves as a certain smugness on the part of Amis. There is a pervading sense that the novel’s statement amounts to something like “this new money is the wrong kind of money because it lacks breeding and the cultural sensitivity that goes with that breeding.”
The author rams this home with occasional cameos. These give him the opportunity to contrast just how cultured he is with how crude, shallow, and sunk in sin that the characters are. For Money follows the relentless drinking, spending, shagging and insulting that is supposed to (I assume) represent the values of the movie business the characters work in. This low-brow setting gives ample opportunity to demonstrate the awful lives and views of life that the author clearly wishes to parody. There are some redemptive features. Dispensing with plot in favour of a collection of chronologically progressing scenes is appropriate to the nihilistic material. I get that the characters fit an idea of tragedy in which those who have everything stand to lose it if they lack the wherewithal to keep it. What I doubt though is that they’d be so unaware or indifferent that this idea might be lost on them.
So I found myself having two reactions. Firstly a sense of “why should I care?” Why should I share the author’s continual sneering at a cardboard cut-out nouveau riche? My second reaction was to laugh loud out at the acid humour in spite of myself. This raised the odd eyebrow when I read during my lunch breaks at work. The difficulty it raised was that anything that provoked this reaction further provoked the desire to read out an excerpt to someone; the sophistication to Amis’s prose is in how his ‘gags’, if we can call them that, usually make sense only in context with the preceding few pages or even the entire story. This would leave me wondering at the merits in re-reading Money were it not for way that the uncultured with new money weren’t credited with enough redemptive features to three-dimension them out.
Amis is ubiquitous in secondhand bookshops. If you see him in one, support that secondhand bookshop: that way you give less money (along the chain, as it were) to the author. After all, too much money leads to an uncultured character, right?
If this review interested you, then you might also enjoy this one on Amis Sr.’s The Old Devils, posted on Intermittencies of the Mind.