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yellow dog - martin amis
by: liquidindian 06 november 04
Reading this book, you're reminded of a hyper-active two-year-old, desperate to impress. "Look at me," says the author, bounding up and down as he bombards you with metaphor, alliteration, similes, and all manner of literary tricks. And while you may be willing to indulge a precocious child for a while, it does become tiring - and in a middle-aged author it's a bit depressing.
Yellow Dog has a few good ideas behind the tricks, and deals in some pretty depraved subjects - incest, pornography, and tabloid journalism, for instance. The story centres around Xan Meo, an author and musician with a murky past who, on suffering a severe head injury, reverts from perfect father to anti-dad - foul-mouthed, primitive, slow-witted and horny. Connected to this are a porn star, a scandal brewing in the monarchy, a lower-than-the-gutter-press journalist, and an aeroplane with engine trouble. But not connected very well - seemingly only to let some half-baked ideas allow his prose bound and leap. And, praise where it's due, it is pretty impressive stuff - each sentence looks as though its been bullied into a form of perfection. The characters, on the other hand, are mainly quick caricatures, or too-obvious satire. It's difficult to identify with anyone, as we don't really get to know anyone. Also the final third, set in a Californian 'porno valley', seems designed just to shock and appall with its tales of mysoginist trends in the sex trade - but it's the author who comes across as patriarchal, 'redressing the balance' as he sees it by introducing a fictional world where the women are abused totally for the world's enjoyment. Amis is capable of good work, when more focussed and reining in his stylistic quirks - but this is merely (as he himself might put it) authorial masturbation.
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