Saturday, 30 June 2012

a state of England

Lionel Asbo A few days of travelling around the centre has given me a chance for some reading. I realise I've pretty much abandoned new normal books now and tend to use the Kindle.

It wasn't something I was expecting, but there's the convenience factor of small size and ability to store a whole reading pile instead of limiting to a single book.

That's not to say I won't pop into bookshops as well, but it does highlight a change.

And yes, I realise my iPad also has a Kindle reader, but there's a few factors that keep me using both. One is reading outdoors, where the iPad isn't as clear if its sunny. The other, which sounds a little feeble is the respective weights. The Kindle is decidedly lighter and more compact than the iPad when reading for a while.

Alongside finishing my proper paperback copy of Hemingway's 'To have and have not' which is set in Key West (which is where I bought it), I've been reading the latest Martin Amis book 'Lionel Asbo'.

They both feature a main protagonist who has to do 'a bit of this and a bit of that' to keep head above water, but for Hemingway's character there's a bit of a downward spiral, whilst Amis gives his character a lottery win.

I've always enjoyed the turns of phrase in Martin Amis writing, and this one continues that, with a set of Dickensian named characters and places set in a missing part of London called Diston, conjuring any number of Hackney/Dalston/Leyton-esque parts of the capital.

We get a slice of London, rough, violent, fairly disgusting and the subsequent magnification of the characters via the immense money that appears within the plot line.

I know Martin Amis leaves many readers divided but I'm one who has enjoyed quite a few of his novels over the years. The early Rachel Papers was a singleminded plot line first book but then the middle books where he painted some of his London street life characters whether directly or indirectly engaged in some form of crime.

And along the way there was Time's Arrow, which took a stark theme and played the action in reverse, I can still remember reading a sample chapter of that in Granta before it emerged as a novel and wanting to finish it when we arrived at my station.

So what to make of the latest one?

A banged-up convict who wins crazy money and dates a Formula 1 Pit Pet who wants to be a poet and sell underwear. A nephew with a torrid secret who is trying to tread an altogether conventional path. A stately home guarded by pitbulls named after murderers. You get the picture?

Some of Martin Amis' writing is truly tonto and all the more fun for it. Other recent London books I read were 'Hackney - that rose red empire' by Sinclair and 'Capital' by Lanchester. Sinclair's was a heavy book and sometimes dull. Lanchester's grounded a believable street story which at times became an over-explained soap opera. Amis drives his questionable set of characters and situations relentlessly right up to the edge. And somehow turns it back on us all.


Pat said...

I too use my kindle all the time but won't give up on books.

rashbre said...

Pat I also still have a pile of books to read alongside the Kindle downloads.