Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Walk-On Part

I was just sitting there, not stirring, not even breathing, like the pub's pet reptile, when who should sit down opposite me but Martin Amis, the writer. He had a glass of wine, and a cigarette - also a book, a paperback. It looked quite serious. So did he, in a way. small, compact, wears his rug fairly long ...

I was feeling friendly, as I say, so I yawned, sipped my drink and whispered 'Sold a million yet?'
He looked up at me with a flash of paranoia, unusual in its candour, its bluntness. I don't blame him really, in this pub. It's full of turks, nutters, martians. The foreigners around here. I know they don't speak English - okay, but do they even speak Earthling? They speak stereo, radio crackle, interference. They speak sonar, bat-chirrup, pterodactylese, fish-purr.
'Sorry,' he said.
'Sold a million yet?"
He relaxed. His off-centre smile refused to own up to something.
'Be serious,' he said.
'What you sell then?'
'Oh, a reasonable amount.'
I burped and shrugged. I burped again. 'Fuck,' I said 'Pardon me.' I yawned, I stared around the pub. He returned to his book.
'Hey,' I said 'Every day, do you ...Do you sort of do it every day, writing? Do you set yourself a time and stuff?'
'I wish I could stop fucking burping,' I said. He started reading again.
'Hey,' I said 'When you, do you sort of make it up, or is it just, you know, like what happens?'
'Autobigraphical,' I said. 'I haven't read any of your books. There's, I don't really get that much time for reading.'
'Fancy,' he said. He started reading again.
'Hey,' I said, 'Your dad's a writer too, isn't he? Bet that made it easier.'
'Oh sure. it's just like taking over the family pub.'
I love the way Martin Amis gives himself a cameo role in Money, and uses it to such comical effect. (His dad, of course was Kingsley Amis). Auster is another author who walks into his own novels. Can you think of any others? I must have a go at fictionalising myself ... a nice writing exercise.

I have been meaning to read Money (also sometimes subtitled A Suicide Note) for years and finally bought a copy a few months ago.

In case you're wondering how this highly acclaimed and best-selling novel slipped past me ... well in 1984 when the book was published, I was living in a small town in Malaysia and didn't hear the buzz about it. The bookshops in KL (Berita, Times, Guardian Pharmacy) carried such a limited range of best-sellers. I missed so much good stuff and now have to go back and fill in the gaps. (The TBR Challenge is very useful!)

But progress is slow. Because a) It's the sort of book where you want to read each sentence carefully to enjoy the style - I love the voice, the energy and the poetry of the writing, and b) it is my "bag book" i.e. I am not allowed to read it at home ... just in cafes, on the LRT and during moments when "real life" is Dullsville. (Yesterday I was at Immigration getting my yearly stamp, and read a fair whack.)

At home, I have to get on and read the stuff I need to read ... for reviews, interviews, blurbing, editing and proofreading. And these are also the copies I musn't spill stuff on and can't let get scrunched up and dog-eared in the chaos of my big bag.

(How ironic the other day that I remembered my novel, but not my purse. I had Money, but no money, haha.)

Among my other reads - The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng, which I am very much enjoying and am nearly two-thirds through. (It's a substantial read!). But since this is presently sub-judice, I can't say any more about it for now. Also Dina Zaman's I Am Muslim which I'm proofreading, and which is informing and delighting me even as I scribble corrections on it.

More about all of these reads in the fullness of time.

But more importantly, what are YOU reading?


sympozium said...

Green Gold - The Empire of Tea, by Alan MacFarlane.

The Uninvited - Geling Yan (not that good)

Sufian said...

I just received my Acma Mall books! Why Did I Ever & Tell Me, both by Mary Robison! Thems my read for the next two days.

Am also reading Interrogator's War, non-fic, an account of how the US Military Intelligence 'fight' 'The War Against Terror'.

Of course am also busy plotting the destruction of MPH and Kino for not bringing in Olov Enquist.

animah said...

Alias Grace, Margaret Attwood. My fascination about how a real event is fictionalised. The book has been adapted into a play and this will be shown in KL sometime this year.

KayKay said...

Re-Reading The Black Dahlia as I'm leading in the next meet.Haven't visited the dark, twisted LA of Ellroy for awhile. Relishing it.

BTW followed your link to The Gift Of Rain and read the synopsis. Sounds like a blend of James Clavell and Eric Van Lustbader. And that's no criticism as I used to devour their Far Eastern epics in school. Can't wait to read it.

Ted Mahsun said...

"...like taking over the family pub"! Mwahaha!

Am reading Michael Chabon's Kavalier & Clay. Engrossing stuff. Never knew comics could be this fun without the pictures!

bibliobibuli said...

sympozium - i googled up the tea book and it sounds fascinating. will order for the bc library

sufian - let's hope someone from the bookshops is reading ... is this bloke that good?

animah - i really enjoyed 'alias grace' though liked it less than other atwood i've read ... am v. excited to hear there is a play based on it and we will get to see it. really wanted to

kaykay - i think you will really enjoy "the gift of rain" - it's a kaykay kind of read. (now i know how your strange, guy's mind works).

glad "kavalier and clay" lives up to it's cover, ted

Anonymous said...

I am still reading Crime and Punishment. Money is one of those books I always wanted to read as well.

Jane Sunshine

Sufian said...


If I'm not mistaken he won the independent Fiction Prize the year after My Name is Red. That book (The Royal Physician's Visit) is in my all-time favourite list. Yes and I had to special order it.

His prose is an acquired taste, though.

Anonymous said...

Ew.. Clavell and Lustbader :P I don't read them, I swear :)

Am going through Dickens' "Hard Times" now.. wish I'd found him earlier, the guy's exactly my kind of writer :)

animah said...

Oh yes, Kundera walked into Immortality. There are others who walk ino their novels but I can't remember who. Let me check on my bookshelves.
Another interesting question would be, who acted out themselves through their protaganist but using another name. I've always suspected Murakami of this.

sympozium said...

I think Gift of Rain isn't at all like Clavell or Lustbader, from what I read of the synopsis ;-)

bibliobibuli said...

animah - kindera interposes himself among the pages but i can't think of a time he actually physically wanls on and interacts with his characters

yes but sympozium how much can you tell from a synopsis? i guess you'll all just have to wait and read it and then decide if it's like those guys or not. no use asking me, i haven't read clavell or the other guy

Sufian said...

Borges was in a few of his short stories - The Aleph, Tlon, Uqbar, Borges ans I, Pierre Menand (sp), Averroes' Search...

Ruhayat X said...

Oops, sorry.

Stanislaw Lem wrote a whole book of imaginary reviews written by imaginary reviewers reviewing imaginary books, and the first one was for an author named "Stanislaw Lem" in which the reviewer panned the book which Mr Lem never wrote.

Paul Auster's City of Glass has a scene in which the protaganist answered the phone in his office in which the caller wanted to speak to a "Mr Paul Auster".

Apparently, the practice of authors walking into their own works is as old as the Roman empire and writers.

Nope, not googled... read all about it in the May/June 2006 issue of The Believer magazine, yo. Had a whole article on just this topic, with quite a handful of examples cited.

sympozium said...

Trust me, I have a feel for these things ;-)