I love reading first novels, especially of writers I already know and respect. But I’ve been having a love/hate relationship with Martin Amis’s The Rachel Papers. Here is an author who can really write, who is wonderfully clever and wordy and funny. But I suspect he knows it and that smugness runs right across nearly every page. Also, the idea behind The Rachel Papers is much what I imagine a story passed between sex-obsessed twentysomething men might be like. All about who gets what, when, how and for how long. And will there be any swapping.


The book reminds me a bit too much of Edward Docx’s The Calligrapher, which I read in 2007 and which I grudgingly admired but which secretly annoyed me to no end. I realize now The Calligrapher was probably a nod to Amis, at least the main characters of the two books and their ridiculously contrived research and preparation for each seduction seem to be cut lovingly from the same cloth. So does their snarky humor and irreverence for anything not having a direct effect on their sex life.


This is neither my kind of book nor my kind of story but Amis is undoubtedly a most excellent writer and for that alone, I’m enjoying The Rachel Papers. Also, Amis’s hero (an unabashed Martin Amis stand-in) reminds me of a friend of mine, an inveterate womanizer who happens to believe his miniscule poetic side somehow makes up for most of his horrible behavior. Men like this are infuriating, and so is Amis’s Charles Highway. He also happens to be literate and just self-deprecating enough I’m willing to read on and see what will happen to him.


If I get through the entire book without slamming the covers shut at least once it will be a miracle.


Happy weekend reading everyone!