DEAD BABIES by Martin Amis


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Best things first: Martin Amis' Rachel Papers (1974), a post-pubescent-terrible novel of initiation and conquest had some shamelessly funny moments. Martin Amis is a very good writer if he chooses to be. Take these lines describing Appleseed Rectory, where most of these non-events take place--""a place of shifting outlines and imploding vacuums. . . of lagging time and false memory. . . of street sadness, night fatigue, and canceled sex."" But here at the Rectory, tenanted by six young people, occasionally joined by five others, there are just non-people to go with the non-events. Perhaps Amis realized that they are of equal indistinguishability (as well as indifference) since he helpfully includes a cast of characters with four-word descriptions. Since they're all on amphetamines, alcohol, ""occult compounds"" and constant sex (save for the poor little dwarf usually jerking off via ""cunt magazines""), the atmosphere is at once ""twitchy and slothful""--not to mention smelly since Amis uses olfactory effects to go with his alt too literal visuals (acne on the nose which is emitting snot). Sometimes there are outings to the Psychology Revue or a change of pace at the Blow Shop; a practical joker sends a vilifying letter; excrement is found in a bed. The Appleseed Rectoryites have their own raison d'etre not to be confused at any point with joie de vivre: ""Fuck all this dead babies about love, understanding, compassion."" But Amis forfeits the effectiveness of scurrilous satire with his monotonous crapulence while also taking all the ""fuck potential"" out of that particular, all purpose part of speech.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1975
ISBN: 067973449X
Publisher: Knopf