Martin Amis loves to show off. He’s like a precocious magician who enjoys showing you a trick so complex, you still marvel at exactly how he pulled it off. Amis’ novel Time’s Arrow precisely fits this description, and narrator Graeme Malcom is the perfect choice to pull off performing Amis’ tour de force.
Malcom’s haughty English accent brings just the right combination of condescension and child-like wonder to Amis’ playful prose. His performance, especially in the first half of the book, is reminiscent of Jeremy Irons’ pitch-perfect reading of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. He sounds annoyed and repulsed by the crude characters surrounding him, and yet also completely captivated by everything he sees and hears. Malcom makes Amis’ seemingly simple sentences soar, illustrating exactly why critics regard Amis as one of the best writers of his generation.
Time’s Arrow seems like a simple trick. The book starts at the end of Dr. Tod T. Friendly’s life and goes backwards. Harold Pinter’s powerful play Betrayal uses a similar storytelling strategy to chronicle an adulterous affair. This time, Amis raises the stakes beyond mere sins of passion to describe in detail the casual cruelty of a Nazi prison camp doctor. There’s another twist as well. Amis astutely decides not to have Tod T. Friendly as narrator. Instead, a voice in Friendly’s head that’s completely unaware that time is running backwards tells the story. This unnamed voice (perhaps Friendly’s subconscious) believes the end is the beginning. As a result, everything that happens comes as a surprise to the narrator.
The more you listen to Time’s Arrow, the more you’ll be amazed by Amis’ brilliance. And based on his always entertaining interviews, Amis seems to know just how clever he can be in one book after another. Then again, Houdini was one of the greatest self promoters ever, and everyone was still mesmerized by his astounding illusions. Ken Ross
This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.
©1992 Martin Amis; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
"A novel that seems to have been written with the term 'tour de force' in mind . . . Amis's radical rethinking of time . . . brings the abomination of the Holocaust home to the jaded late-20th-century reader in a way that few conventional novels could." (Village Voice, Literary Supplement)
"Splendid . . . bold . . . gripping from start to finish." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"The narrative moves with irresistible momentum.... [Amis is] a daring, exacting writer willing to defy the odds in pursuit of his art." (Newsday)
Business Physicist and Astronomer
Martin Amis can be difficult to get. He's hard to digest because he shows the world up close using bizarre lighting. His writing seems like it ought to be easy...simple, somewhat base British humor. Gutter talk. Grit.
But oh boy, if that's all you see, you're missing an entire world of insight that ought to make each of us squirm a little.
This book is really brilliant. It's a story of a life run in reverse. But as God is not the opposite of the Devil, Reverse is not as simple as going backwards. A doctor who starts with well patients, does surgery to insert tumors and the patients leave sick? But they keep coming! Why? What's very odd, they give him huge sums of money, in advance, to have the tumors put in! (Advance?)
I don't want to give away any of these gems...from AIDS to concentration camps. Can we laugh about these things? We can. And then feel uncomfortable as though hearing a racial joke. I shouldn't laugh. I do laugh. I'm guilty. We're all guilty.
I recommend this book highly. Give it time. Get used to Amis. Go slowly.
You'll love it. Arrow really is brilliant.
Chris Reich, Teachu and BizPhyZ
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