A Little Learning

I’m reading Amis’ The Rachel Papers. It’s good in its unwieldy portrayal of adolescence and that signature wallop of falling in love for the first time. Plus it’s a rattle bag of wit and humor, cutting away at the little Mayfly wings of sentimentality for the loud whirring of the locust of youth with all its pimples, snot, sexual gaffes , intellectual cow patties, and the finger-licking uselessness of  juvenile rebellion.

But Amis’ chilly knowingness is hard on the singular pleasure of reading. He’s always there as the writer, occupying the lounge behind the front-room drama going on in the narrative. He’s like this jaunty panther behind the words, like Rilke’s poetical beast with “smooth motion of blood and sinew/ turning in its own, small circle.” That’s Amis, the slick voice behind the caged words glibly and boldly licking his lips as an author as you as a reader get gobbled up into his slathering maw.

It’s unsettling to be always conscious of his style and what he wants you to be paying attention to as a reader. I understand I’m being manipulated when I read a book, but with Amis it’s as if you hear the straps being tightened and the bed springs groaning as he has his way with you.

“As long as you still have new consciousnesses in the world then old things never get old.” Gopnik

Where’s the line between entertainment and egomania?


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