Saturday, March 24, 2012


KA-nevolim: The UGLY BEAUTY
(from my Karlovac friend Zvonimir - sad and beautiful)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Martin Amis, "Looking in the mirror now"

You have to love Martin Amis. Here is Richard Tull, the protagonist of "The Information":
"Looking in the mirror now, on the morning of his fortieth birthday, Richard felt that no one deserved the face he had. No one in the history of the planet. There was nothing on the planet it was that bad to do. What happened? What have you done, man? His hair, scattered over his crown in assorted folds and clumps, looked as though it had just concluded a course of prolonged (and futile) chemotherapy. Then the eyes, each of them perched on its little blood-rimmed beer gut. If the eyes were the window to the soul, then the window was a windscreen, after a transcontinental drive; and his cough sounded like a wiper on the dry glass. These days he smoked and drank largely to solace himself for what drinking and smoking had done to him-but smoking and drinking had done a lot to him, so he drank and smoked a lot. He experimented, furthermore, with pretty well any other drug he could get his hands on. His teeth were all chipped pottery and prewar jet glue. At each given moment, whatever he was doing, at least two of his limbs were immovably numb. Up and down his body there were whisperedrumors of pain. In fact, physically, at all times, he felt epiphanically tragic. His doctor had died four years ago ("Unfortunately I am terminally ill."); and that, in Richard's mature opinion, was definitely that. He had a large and lucent lump on the back of his neck. This he treated himself, by the following means: he kept his hair long to keep it hidden. If you went up to Richard Tull and told him he was in Denial, he would deny it. But not hotly.

None of this altered the fact that he had to take the vacuum cleaner in. [...]

By the time he had grappled the vacuum cleaner out of its sentry box Richard had long been weeping with self-pity and rage. He was getting good at crying. If women were right, then you needed to cry about three or four times a day. Women cried at the oddest times: when they won beauty contests, for instance (and when they lost them too, probably: later on). If Richard won a beauty contest-would he cry? Can we see him there, on stage, with his bouquet, his swimsuit and his sash, and with all his mother coming into his eyes?

By the time he got the vacuum cleaner out of the apartment and onto the stairs Richard was wondering if he had ever suffered so. This, surely, is how we account for the darkness and the helpless melancholy of twentieth-century literature. These writers, these dreamers and seekers, stood huddled like shivering foundlings on the cliffs of a strange new world: one with no servants in it. On the stairs and landings there were bikes leaning everywhere, and also shackled to the walls-and to the ceiling. He lived in a beehive of bikers.

By the time he got the vacuum cleaner down into the hall Richard was sure that Samuel Beckett, at some vulnerable time in his life, had been obliged to take a vacuum cleaner in. Celine, too, and perhaps Kafka-if they had vacuum cleaners then. Richard gave himself a loud breather while he looked through his mail. His mail he no longer feared. The worst was over. Why should a man fear his mail, when, not long ago, he had received a solicitor's letter from his own solicitor? When, rather less recently, in response to a request for more freelance work, he had been summarily fired, through the post, by his own literary agent? When he was being sued (for advances paid on unwritten books) by both his ex-publishers?"