Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sunny afternoons with miles of women. Booksmith Life.

I'm taking a break from the heat of Chelsea Handler.
As in the sun, heat from the sun. I've been the guy going down the 500+ deep line asking to see every person's receipt and asking for every person's name and writing it correctly on a Post-It; oh, the Melissa's, the Lauren's, the various spellings of Amy/Aimie/Aimee/Ami...then the Big D, the Azi, the Machoukeya, the Ashwipe (yes. Ashwipe.), two Renee's and one Rennie. A Mike, several John's, one Teddy, and a Dolores.
I only misprinted names seven times.
I don't have a word for what it was all like, but it was new to me.

I'm taking a break so that I can continue my train of thought, which was broadsided off the rails as I reached the front door of the store and saw the line stretching into the haze, which should give a sense of how long the line was, considering that this is a crystal clear afternoon. But all of these folks - mostly twenty-something women here to celebrate this icon of sex, laughs, and vodka - they actually are the continuation of my train of thought.

Martin Amis' next novel is in my hands. I've followed his every book, and I feel I am attuned to the fluctuations of his creative output, its general arc. If this were a Tour de France Stage Profile, you'd have a short, steep climb right after the neutral starting zone which gives a taste of the potential (The Rachel Papers): then a fast, almost spiraling descent into a bunch of his books that I don't really enjoy (including one of his best known, Money): then what this spectator considered to be the unmatchable mountain in the middle of the ride, a steep, long, emotionally draining and technically challenging hill (London Fields): followed by a rather tricky (and experimental) little patch, which also brings us our first sprint point (Time's Arrow): another forgettable stretch leads us down into the reflective valley road (his memoir, Experience): and then we start the long slog up the mother of all mountains, where we find out the true nature of all that lies beneath this journey (his bio of Stalin, Koba the Dread): and then it really kicks up into the sky with what is surely the awakening of the mature artist (House of Meetings).

And with this, The Pregnant Widow, he has burst out into the sunshine of the final mountaintop. From this vantage point he surveys what came before, with a wisdom and a sureness that he has never fully possessed before.
And, so daring is he, he has written his most profound novel using almost nothing more than tits & ass as his medium. This book is utterly unique. His characters are incredible specimens as well as fully realized humans. His dark worldview is tempered by endless compassion for our every flaw: the primal urges always win the day, but everyone knows they ought not to, and some even try, almost exclusively in vain, to deny them.
He has written comedic passages here that exceed anything he has written before. It is a sun-drenched tale of a summer in the Sexual Revolution, and it is, perhaps, his best novel yet.
May 14th.

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