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One Nation, Oneself: Politics, Place and Identity in Martin Amis’ Fiction

  • Daniel Lea
Chapter

Abstract

Money: a Suicide Note (1984) and London Fields (1989) are Amis’ most political novels, vituperative castigations of the materialistic attitudes promoted by Thatcherite capitalism. Unlike the formalistic experimentalism of some of his later work (notably Time’s Arrow [1991]) and the characteristic emotional detachment that appears elsewhere in his fiction, these are committed and angry novels. Amis derides the conspicuousness of the Thatcherite yuppie generation, the consumerism that shamelessly affirms its self-perpetuation whilst disavowing any broader social responsibility. A devotee of free market economics, Money’s John Self lives out a fantasy of capitalist exorbitance protected from the reflections of conscience by the seductive reassurance of money.1 He can know himself only through his possessions, his material and psychic parameters irreducibly entwined, their substance determined only by his affluence in comparison with others. Self is a grotesque parody of superfluous consumption, shorn of morality and self-restraint. But Amis’ political engagement, his insistence on the interdependencies and responsibilities that permeate even this attenuated cultural framework, point towards a broader remit of social satire. Despite their metafictional flourishes these novels belong to the tradition of the ‘condition-of-England’ novel, the tradition beginning with such novels as Benjamin Disraeli’s Sybil (1845) and Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855).2

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For Further Reading

  1. For a hard copy list of Martin Amis’ work up to 2001, see Contemporary Novelists, ed. David Madden et al., 7th edn (New York: St James Press, 2001). For a more up-to-date list on the internet, see the British Council website: <http://www.contemporarywriters.com/authors/>.Google Scholar
  2. Diedrick, James, Understanding Martin Amis (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  3. Kavanagh, Dennis, Thatcherism and British Politics: the End of Consensus? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  4. Lane, Richard J., Rod Mengham and Philip Tew, eds, Contemporary British Fiction (Cambridge: Polity, 2003).Google Scholar
  5. Taylor, D. J., A Vain Conceit: British Fiction in the 1980s (London: Bloomsbury, 1989).Google Scholar
  6. Tredell, Nicolas, The Fiction of Martin Amis (Cambridge: Icon Books, 2000).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Daniel Lea 2005

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  • Daniel Lea

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