The extraordinary adventures of 35-year-old John Self, a sleazo British TV-ad director, a fast-food glutton, a heroic drinker, a masturbator and woman-hitter and porno-shop devotee--an inheritor, in other words, of every low form of anti-civilization (other than murder) the 20th century has worked itself up to. There's only one ""value"" Self can refer to, of course: money. And he now seems about to start roiling in it: he's gone into partnership with a reptilian, golden-boy American producer named Fielding Goodney--to make a movie called Good Money (Self's idea, Self as director), with Self careening back and forth across the Atlantic on movie business. (Manhattan and London are witheringly, beautifully, and exactly captured in Amis' slices of backgrounds.) In London, Self is kept busy trying to pacify his equally pecuniary girlfriend, Selina Straight; in New York, he spends hilarious hours dealing with the grasping, grotesque egos of his prospective star-actors--aging Lorne Guyland, motherly Caduta Massi, bright blond airhead Butch Beausoleil, and the even dimmer male-romantic lead, Spunk David (who thinks ""halibut"" rhymes with ""Malibu""); the script itself is especially lame. (In need of a rewrite, Self calls on a pub acquaintance, a writer he knows named Martin Amis.) But, while Self is giving new meaning to debauch and dissolution, his new New York acquaintance Martina Twain (whose husband happens to be sleeping with Self's girlfriend in London) is fighting a rear-guard, futile action--hoping to civilize Self, urging him to eat health food and read books. (Self muses: ""Reading takes a long time, though, don't you find? It takes such a long time to get from, say, page twenty-one to page thirty. I mean, first you've got page twenty-three, then page twenty-five, then page twenty-seven, then page twenty-nine, not to mention the even numbers."") In sum, then, this is quite simply a close-up portrait of the ultimate contemporary barbarian, filled in with pratfall farce and acid satire and splendid comic timing. Amis (The Rachel Papers, Dead Babies) gives Self a narrating tongue that is astoundingly rich, jazzy and perceptive: he's like an inverted Augie March--a brilliant describer, past message or instruction, to whom the words mean absolutely nothing. And, as a tour-de-force of risky characterization, Self is a nasty triumph--a man who suffers and knows it but does nothing about it, a man with an explosive (yet strictly vestigial) consciousness, a character who's somehow adorable in his utter cravenness. (You'll hate yourself for liking him.) Gross yet subtle, tufted in gorgeous language yet really made of hellfire, with a comic/moral vision that's more European than Anglo-American: a daring, dazzling extravaganza.