on 15 October 2001
The first time I read this, I hated it. It seemed self-indulgent, pointless, unrealistic, unbelievable, and far, far too long.
Now, several years later, spurred on by Amis's return to form with the wonderful "Experience", I thought I'd give it another try. And what a pleasant surprise. Yes, I stand by my claim that it is far too long. It could easily have lost 100 pages, and been much tighter and more exciting as a result. Otherwise, however, it is witty, clever, endlessly surprising and at times hysterically funny ("Unfortunately I am terminally ill").
Amis has always been a writer in love with language, and "The Information" sees him almost drowning in words. There are far too many of them. Far too many descriptions of clouds, planets, stars, seemingly endless sojourns with largely irrelevant low-life characters and their artlessly-depicted speech patterns. But just when you think he's lost it, he finds it, and you remember why there really is no one else quite like him. Certainly the rash of young male writers who rose to power after his golden age (from "Success" to "London Fields", inclusively) would kill to write half as well. Because when Amis is on form - and for about seventy five per cent of this, he is - then he remains untouchable. The story - a simple one - at times a ludicrously simple one - plays out over a background of hilarious failure (Richard Tull's) and irritating success (Gwyn Barry). The depiction of life at the farthest margins of London's literary scene ("The Little Magazine", The Tantalus Press) is hilarious and spot-on. The running gag of Richard's novel and its deleterious effect on its (very few) readers is hilarious. The vile Barry is perfectly drawn.
If only Amis had read none of the reviews of his last "major" work ("London Fields") all of which praised his melding of low and high culture to such a degree that it must have really gone to his head, forcing him to insert unnecessary scenes involving frankly unbelievable low-life (there is no one here to rival the amazing Keith Talent) who really have so little to do with the action, they might as well not be there at all.
Amis is a great writer. Perhaps he is even the best we have. This is not his best book, but it contains some of his best writing. It demands to be read.
on 12 October 2002
Be warned: this book is not everybody's cup of tea. An appreciation of black, irreverent humour is absolutely essential if you want to enjoy this novel and it is no wonder that a lot of people find it infuriating and outrageous. Everybody does seem to agree, however, that it is very well-written.
First of all let me tell you what the book is about. Protagonist Richard Tull is a pretentious, but sensationally unsuccesful novelist - plus a chainsmoker and an alcholic with a harrowing midlife crisis. His novels are so unreadable that nobody makes it past page 10 without developing at least one mysterious ailment. So when the bland, improbably inoffensive novels of his dim friend Gwyn hit the bestseller lists and Gwyn gets the celebrity, wealth and trophy wife that go with beststellerdom something snaps in Richard. He now has only one goal left in life: f*****g up Gwyn. Contemplating the several ways he can go about doing this, Richard runs into Steve, a screwed-up, sadistic drugdealer and as it happens not only his only fan but also the only reader able to make it past the first dozen or so pages. Of course this is a set-up for disaster, but of the comic not the tragic kind.
So, all this sounds like fun. And it is, several passages are downright laugh-out-loud funny, especially if you read them in context...
But the book is also dark and pessimistic. The London that provides most of its background is a crowded city full of filth and violence. Neither Richard nor Gwyn is likeable. The publishing world is a scream. And human is life is nothing, absolutely nothing from a cosmic point of view, as the author keeps pointing out. The low-life characters such as Steve, 13 and Darko are unconvincing and superfluous. But is the book depressing? Not to me; the exuberant wit, the great writing and the incisive original thinking save it from itself. Not a masterpiece, not even the best Amis ("Money" is better), but definitely a great deal more worthwhile than most bestsellers.
on 21 May 2010
Information about The Information: it's a great book. Not Martin Amis's best (that's Money), but not too far off. This is essentially a darkly comic tragedy and a wry look at human vanity, jealousy and insecurity. Some of the writing is very, very funny indeed. Amis tackles the mid-life crisis full on, and the realization of mortality (and our place in the cosmic scheme of things) seems to underpin almost everything in the book. He also satirises the literary world to great effect, placing Richard Tull's demanding modernist fiction at one end of the scale, and Gwyn Barry's artless, clichéd 'trex' at the other. Then there are the running jokes about the effect of reading Richard's book on its (very few) readers, the endless biographies of minor literary figures that Tull is forced to review, and the humiliating ways authors are forced to promote and hype (thus cheapening) their wares.
Some people say this novel is too long. I like it this way, as the finely honed tragedy is allowed to unfold over a greater distance, this becoming even more pitiful and wretched. I would have been happy for a few more hundred pages. It's a wonderfully rich, sprawling work crammed with dazzlingly inventive sentences and ideas.
I have now read it twice and enjoyed it even more on the second go.
If you like Money and London Fields, you'll enjoy this.
on 29 March 2016
We will always have Martin Amis's supreme London trilogy - Money, London Fields, The Information - even if the books that followed have not been so well received. Rereading The Information, I had almost forgotten (but the sensations had never left me, and were swiftly rekindled when I started reading) what an astonishing piece of writing this is. Who else alive has this writer's gift with language? Such power and vigour, such lyricism, mordancy, farcical humour, human understanding, knowledge of life and literature - all bundled together into a coruscating display of linguistic pyrotechnics. The Information made me laugh out loud a dozen times (and moved me close to tears on occasion, too). He understands, you see - he understands what it is to be a man (poor, pitiful object) in the modern world, and he shares this understanding in a unique way. Thanks, MA. Thanks for all.
on 18 January 2001
When you were at school and a certain kid always got the praise, the love, the admiration and the gold stars. Did you want to be him: or did you want to re-house the blackboard eraser, where only the Colonic experts at Guys Hospital, could dream of relocating it. The Information speaks of the traits in all of us, the once we don't have the nerve to acklowedge. Its a challenge but only because it twists like a eplileptic sea snake. Nice one Martin, keep them comming.
on 1 November 2006
I truly enjoyed this sad and funny book, which explores the interaction between two old Oxford friends -- Richard Tull, a failed and impotent cult writer, and Gwyn Barry, a best-selling author of mindless utopian trash. Further, Amis does a great job in the last section of the book, when the perspective shifts from Tull's futility to Barry's cruelty. This entire section was a surprise but also, on reflection, character-driven inevitability. It's super work.
Even so, does anyone else feel that Amis writes a tad long? In the middle of "The Information" I found myself pushing ahead, fearful that I might lose interest and not finish. Then, I found myself stopping to reread great bits from Amis that I had rushed over. Here's one: "Belladonna was a punk. That is to say, she had gone at herself as if to obliterate the natural gifts. Her mascara she wore like a burglar's eye-mask; her lipstick was approximate and sanguinary, her black hair spiked and looped and asymmetrical, like the pruned trees outside the window. Punk was physical democracy. And it said: let's all be ugly together."
Two good descriptive words for Amis are brilliant and exasperating. But do we really need so much of the character Scozzy?
on 23 September 2012
By far the most difficult of all his books that I have read. I am a great fan . Maybe the subject is also writing difficult books. One hardly knows what is going on. What happened at the end ? I will read it again as one reviewer said was needed.
So Amis is maybe both of the men, he is both Richard and Gwyn. Neither are likeable according to other reviewers. But why not ? Like Amis both are Oxford educated.The language is astounding and by far the most difficult of all his books. He plays with us readers in that a lot, so much, is repetitive. Why is that? And often why? And the big deal about the information?
All life is information.
It is not so dark? But then London is everywhere, like in his other books and the Notting Hill of where he did his writing.
I will study this more because like James Joyce it is difficult and then Richard's novel gave everyone a headache after page 9 . Why did Crash? Steve read it all?. Odd and odder we will wriTe more akimbo and anon.
on 20 June 2000
Amis is occassionally a little self-indulgent, but this is an hilarious read. It's full of insights into strands of English (and often specifically London) life, including the divergence of class and wealth, fatherhood and impotence. Fantastically well-observed dark humour.
on 3 March 2015
A little over written and at times he seems to get bogged down with his descriptions and his attempt at giving a convincing voice to working class people is hilarious in it's ignorance. Still, these are minor complaints because when all is said and done this is a damn good read from a damn good writer!
on 8 April 2014
This is my favourite Martin Amis novel. (My favourite Martin Amis book is the non-fiction "Koba The Dread").
I first read "The Information" in my early 30's and loved it for the virtuoso comic writing of pinpoint accuracy, bravura wordplay and vicious, merciless satire.
I then re-read it on my 41st birthday, and loved it for all the above, plus: its pain, rage, disgust, outrage, horror, terror, disbelief, pity, tendresse, sadness... I noticed for the first time that it is dedicated to his neice Lucy Partington who was murdered by fred and rose west: The Information is an expression of furious and saddened disgust at the world we've accepted - its vacuous glitter and gree,d and its selfish violence and cynicism. There's a laugh, a sneer, a nod on every page - in every paragraph: the writings so good it makes you want to re-read every page, then tell everyone you know. Yes, there are flaws - a couple of clunky devices to disguise the denouement - but this book is overall so far ahead/above/beyond/out of the league of 99.999% of any other writer out there that any tiny flaws don't matter. This book is worth buying purely for the hilarious descriptions of the physical decrepitude, hypochondria and self-pity of the protagonist, in the first fifty pages. This is a masterpiece by an author who over recent years has devalued -, a voice crying in the wilderness, to a certain extent - but I feel recently, changes in the zeitgeist may mean his star turns back into the ascendency - no writer deserves it more.