Do you drink? Do you smoke? Are you in it for the money? Does everything else merely pass you by? Are you satisfied? Are you happy? Where are you heading? Are you searching for something?
Money, a book I picked up merely out of passing interest, has become an eye-opener. It is a spitting, scything demolition of the way we live our lives; a coarse masterpiece that deals with close-to-the-knuckle issues in a malevolent, hysterical way that must surely contain echoes of our own lives. But it is this unbridled reality that makes Money a classic.
Amis’ brash-yet-poetic style opens the readers’ eyes to the dark lunacy of the things we surround ourselves with, and doesn’t it need doing? Isn’t the mark of a great author the ability to alter perceptions and change minds? Because if it is, Amis will surely go down as one of the best.The novel is, essentially, about one man and his lifestyle, but the beauty of the work is that the main character is inter-changeable; it may be John Self to one reader; it may appear to be like a friend to another; some unlucky folk may feel like they are reading a synopsis of their own existence, but whatever your perception of Self, you are assured of his place in the real world, the world we all live in, some might say the world we have thrust upon us.
Amis’ intention is not for the reader to feel pity towards John Self; instead, he uses him to bring to the surface the despicable elements that reside in all of us, and present us with the potential good that can come about if we are willing to change. The book is about Self, the high-flying, greedy, Hollywood lifestyle he leads, and the way he throws away his one chance at salvation: a meaningful relationship. Because of this, Money is quintessentially twentieth century, in the way that Hard Times is truly nineteenth century – I can only hope that Money will attain the same timeless status. However, the difference between Money and Hard Times is that Money is surely full of autobiographical elements – Amis’ knowledge of the things he writes about is paramount, and yet, Amis is not Self; Amis is clearly and irrefutably Amis, toying with the notion of an autobiography by even placing himself into the book as a parallel character. Is he mocking perceptions of himself? Is he comparing himself to the main character? Does the surname “Self” indicate that Amis is indeed writing autobiographically? Who am I to say? I read this novel along the lines of my own interpretation, and I am surely in no position to pass across definite meaning when there is blatantly little to be found. While Dickens wrote Hard Times with a single vision, Amis wrote Money with a plethora of problems, a depth of knowledge that can surely only come from experience. Whatever your opinions on the twentieth century, this book is undeniably crucial to understanding the time in which we live.