Money is a story about excess.
The narrator, John Self, our excessively fat anti-hero, is a burgeoning film director in the process of putting together his first blockbuster with the intent of making a fuckton of cash. As he flies back and forth between London and New York throwing money to the wind, he overindulges in booze, pornography, fast food, liquor, masturbation, violence, alcohol, prostitution, and most notably booze.
He is greedy, immoral, and supercilious.
He is a walking disaster. A heart attack waiting to happen. Debauchery incarnate.
In other words, he’s a thoroughly entertaining character.
While the story revolves around the movie deal and Self’s relationships with women and his father, the book is at heart a portrait of depravity by a very talented and clever writer whose prose is frequently poetic. Amis’ sharp wit is on display often as in the following passage that begins with Martina explaining to Self why she stood him up.
‘I tried to cancel on the telephone but you weren’t listening.’
I waited. ‘I waited,’ I said.
Martina sighed. ‘You were drunk. You know, it’s quite a lot to ask, to spend a whole evening with someone who’s drunk.’
. . . I had always known the truth of this, of course. Drunks know the truth of this. But usually people are considerate enough not to bring it up. The truth is very tactless. That’s the trouble with these non-alcoholics – you never know what they’re going to say next.
However, the problem with Amis’ style, in addition to the whole British-English debacle (e.g. a “sock” is an apartment), is that his prose is frequently poetic. Despite the dissolute subject matter, there’s too much artsy and not enough fartsy.
All day I am my night self, spliced by night thoughts, night sweats. And all night, well, I am something else entirely, something else again, I am something overevolved, a salty slipstream thinning out and trailing down over the Atlantic.
Further, I’m a dude who appreciates reasonably sized font and a minimum of four paragraphs per page. Each time I see a page chock full of tiny text with no indents whatsoever, I’m pushed one step closer to impotence.
If you’re able to make a two-word sentence fragment like “Take yesterday” into an entire paragraph, then surely you can break up one of your long-winded sedatives into a few digestible chunks.
A less frequent but still noteworthy defect can be found in sentences like the following.
… and watched through diamond wire as eight kids bobbed with their ball beneath the flapping hole.
Jesus Christ, dude, you watched kids play basketball through a fence. Why do you need to dress it up so? To make the uninteresting interesting? Did it work?!
So to sum up, despite the often unwieldy prose, if your expectations are in order and you go into it with the right mindset, Money is well worth the read. It’s poetic yet profane. Insightful yet indecent. Philosophical yet filthy. It’s kind of like homework for deviants. And while there aren’t a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, there are a decent amount of laugh-under-your-breath moments.
Verdict: 3.5 pearls rounded down to 3 due to the artsy handily outweighing the fartsy.
Bonus quote #1 (Self’s analysis of a certain money shot):
Just before the male’s climax the couple separated with jittery haste. Then she knelt in front of him. One thing was clear: the cowboy must have spent at least six chaste months on a yoghurt ranch eating nothing but icecream and buttermilk, and with a watertight no-handjob clause in his contract.
Bonus quote #2:
You know, I’ve been told that I don’t like women. I do like women. I think chicks are cool. I’ve been told that men don’t like women, period. Oh yeah? Who does then? Because women don’t like women.