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Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis

Martin Amis was born in Cardiff on August 25, 1949. He was educated in schools in Wales, England, Spain and the USA and graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, with First Class Honours in English. He is known as one of the most influential and advanced voices in contemporary British fiction. His work has been heavily influenced by American fiction. His novel Money: A Suicide Note, which was written in 1984, was included in 100 Best English –language Novels from 1923 to 2005 by Time Magazine.

The work Money: A Suicide Note is one of the Amis’s most representative novels, where the author tries to unite the aesthetic quality with an interpretation of the historical present. Money is the major achievement in Martin’s narrative and a turning point in his development as a writer. The novel Money: A Suicide Note represents Amis’s central tropes and topics: duality, otherness and the nature of the self in the context of the twentieth century. The work combines a complex web of postmodern stunts and narrative methods with a depiction of the 1980s.

The story is narrated by John Self, a successful director of commercials, who is invited to New York by Fielding Goodney, a film producer, to shoot his first film. Everything in the book is perceived through John’s energetic monologue. Self is a hedonist and slob, he drinks, smokes, whores, handjobs. John Self is a parody of an uncertain, self-destructive, racist, who values only money and sex. Amis addresses to the public with this caricature, the people cannot be sympathetic towards his losses at the end.

Self travels during six months between London and New York to make the necessary arrangements for the autobiographical film called Good Money (later Self wants to change the title to Bad Money). The actors of that film are unsuitably selected by Goodney: they have some emotional issues which clash with each other and with the roles they are asked to play. For example: the motherly Caduta Massi, who is insecure about her money, is asked to play the sex scene with Lorne, whom she hates; the strict Christian, Spunk Davis is asked to play a drugs pusher and so on.

For John this film is the door to big money and success and the way out of a distressing past. As an orphan, Self was bringing up by the aunt, though he always felt the absence of his mother. From the teenage years a striptease pub was his surrogate home. During all the life the protagonist feels the endless need of money to satisfy the requirements of his girlfriend, his father or his car. John is fed the wrong type of information and he passively prospers on it. He used to watch too much television and reed nothing but tabloids. All these created in him a chronic moral and temperamental laziness.

He lives his own life and chooses the easiest ways. The hero is always incapable to connect the things with each other in a proper way. His incapacity to gather lessons from past experience results in bitter end. The protagonist becomes a victim of the conspiracy; he is the final target of manipulation and betrayal. As things become increasingly blurred, the author casts himself in two roles: as himself Martin Amis in London and on the other side as the would-be-saviour of Self’s life Martina Twain. Martin Amis helps Self with the film script and gives him cautions about his situation in the story.

But John is deaf to all the warnings and finds himself trapped in the plot of Fielding Goodney. The film project has never existed, John becomes bankrupt and the only way to save the situation for Self is to escape back to London. The novel subtitle, “A Suicide Note” is lightened at the end of the story. It is revealed that Barry Self is not John Self’s father; his father is in fact Fat Vince. As such, John Self no longer exists. Amis points out that this stoppage of John Self’s existence is analogous to suicide, which results in the death of the self.

In the capital of Great Britain he tries to commit suicide, but survives ready to start from the very beginning. The novel can be divided into eight sections, which corresponds to Self’s trips between London and New York. Each part takes place in one of the two cities, starting in New York and finishing in London. These journeys are the metaphor of both his displaced self and attempt to escape such displacement. In America he suffer from jet-lag, the same problem appears when he is back to London. In Self’s eyes America is a dream with its promises of wealth and eternal youth.

Moving to New York John is deaf to the situations on his way which seems designed to stop him. Even his car, his Fiasco, does not want to work. His life in London is a constant chain of repetition and he leaves to New York in the search of better life. In Money we can observe a complex pattern of ‘rise’ and ‘fall’. Self’s expansion in the world of money and fame is certainly meteoric. All his steps take him down and down until he reaches a total dishonor. His disgrace is undoubtedly connected with Self’s relations with other people, they are most of all meditated by money.

That implies a literal and metaphorical suicide of Self\sel. All this story is framed by the brief introductory note signed M. A. , and followed by a postscript. These two parts are italicized and dated. The first note belongs to the Martin Amis character, who acts as an commentator of John Self’s Suicide Note and not as that of the Martin Amis author; the second one is narrated by the protagonist John Self. This structural style depicts an evolution of the American motif in Amis’s fiction.

Works Cites Martin Amis. Money: A Suicide Note. London: Penguin,2000

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