The Memoir

Just before Christmas 1999, The Martin Amis Discussion Board sponsored a contest: write the opening paragraph(s) of Amis's anticipated memoir. The entries:

Noel Edmonds

Friday, December 24, 1999 12:53 PM

Where to start? Well, at the beginning would be good . . . Famous father.. Larkin around a lot . . . lots of different schools and travelling a lot . . . crammers.. Cover up work in typewriter whenever Kingsley comes in . . .Oxford set . . . New Statesman.. TLS . . .First book Rachel Papers . . . Full time writer.. Pressure of being son-of-a-writer . . . Married . . . kids . . . Julian Barnes/Pat Kavanagh episode . .  .re-married.. my teeth.. media luvvie . . . opening of an envelope.. mid-life crisis . . . memoir . . . will this do?

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Friday, December 24, 1999 10:01 PM

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.. so it was time I was born. Saul Bellow compared me to the Dickens of the 20th century but I'm getting ahead of myself. I could hardly get out as Mum tells me because of my enormously sized brain. The doctor considered a Caesarian but mom said no: after my Dad's drinking bouts, the pain was nothing. To continue, my sister Sally was born so I became a middle child and this was bloody stressful to a three year old kid, but the ordeal was worth it in the end: out of the ashes rose the greatest novelist of the 21st century. Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself again; but, there it is, as it were. Now I look ahead into the darkest shadows of my Welsh childhood from the POV of Time's backward shifted arrow and see that even though my Dad left my mom for a sexy, younger writer, I swore I'd never would do such a despicable thing to my kids; but there we have it, as it were: you just never know how destiny will deal your cards. And character is destiny.

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Sunday, December 26, 1999 12:42 PM

Warily looking back through my days years life I glimpse a progression of mayhem: My acting career, Father, serious literary awards, Nobility. Like the Chimp who snacks on his up-chuck only in order to re-vomit and re-snack again, I feel a certain perpetuity of self that has remained my essence while the World self destructs and re-emerges as though in a parallel universe against which my existence seems, well, banal. Yet the dreams. Small red devils flying tiny planes through the air dropping bombs on my crib. Sirens in the night. Screaming and laughing in the dark. Oh yes, the dreams remain.

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Chet Desmond

Wednesday, December 29, 1999 05:04 AM

    This is a true story but I can't believe it's really happening.    

    I'm sitting here, enthroned here, almost choking on my chiselled teeth, this mouthful of marble, my garage downstairs throbbing with the majesty of the sleek sexwagon sprawled inside. You paid for these babies, you gave me these gifts, so in return, this book, my dears, is for you (and for my new mini-golf range, my knighthood, my cosmetic bust-thrust as Doctor Twistwick calls it, and anything else that cash can buy).

    Before we open the sluice, though, a few truths you should know: John Self succeeded in suicide, Keith sixed Nicola, Richard's kid was run over, and jealous Mike shot Jennifer herself (that whole sorry caper, I must confess, I plucked from the pages of the National Enquirer). I changed the endings to make them more artful, but now I find I'm bored of playing God. It's too goddamned easy. I told my publisher I wanted a challenge. He said I should write about myself.

    "Me?" I said, throwing my head back with waxy laughter. (After nine novels, he'd finally got the hint.)

    "Yah", he snorted, (it's a parlance we have - oh, and snorting, that's the industry's favourite pastime ever since Nick Hornby made fiction the new pop.) "Try making them love you again after that obese advance you frittered away, not to mention the anorexic pseudo-Chandler chick-lit you dished up for seconds. Your people, Martin, are bruised."

    "So poetic, Wayne," I said. "Have you thought of publishing yourself?"

    His words resound as I relax here with my Microshaft Voice-Recognition Word-Processo-Package (Like I lift my fingers for anyone anymore) and I figure this is a cinch. Giftwrapped. My people, bruised? I think of the Internet Infantry, masturbating over their modems, speckling the Marty-A Chat-Suites with speculation as to whether I'm logging on amongst them. They fix me up like some kind of Cyber Christ. Jeez, who do I need to impress? No love's been lost. What makes me so sure? Because you and I both know that all the molars and motors in the world are nothing to a novelist if he hasn't had the Booker. As my mantelpiece still awaits the weight of such brass, your devotion remains. Poor old Martin, you're saying. Time's Arrow was robbed. Too right. Keep it coming. Lay it on. And by the way, I chipped one of my teeth the other day. And last week, the wife pranged the new wheels, you know. Does this help? (Memo to Wayne: will this do?)
Whatever shape this chimera takes, it needs a name.     

* * * * * * 

    Tossing titles around is the latest parlour-game chez Amis. The Disinformation raises a smile. The Kingsley and I, perhaps? (Like I'd ever put his name before mine. Like such obliging deference would ever sell.) Why not simply Notting Hill? Barnes called his last one the same word twice. Now that's inventive. I was going to call this The Edge of Reason but I see Bridget Jones has beaten me to it. Bitch. No title at all might work. Yes, I see the cover now. No title. Just my name.

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Gooch McCracken

Wednesday, December 29, 1999 11:13 AM

    "This is the first paragraph of my new book. Sorry about this. I realize that this sort of self-referential stuff is oh-so-emeticable and cutesy-poo and ultimately old-hat. (Luigi Pirandello must be yawning in his grave.) But I can't help it, dammit. As Mats Wilander astutely observed: those who live in a postmodern age are condemned to parrot it ad nauseum. Just as surely as the observation of subatomic particles is dependent on the position of the observer. Just as surely as the placement of Jules Clinch between 2 mirrors produces an infinite regression of her exquisite image. Just as surely as an M.C. Escher print shows 2 hands drawing each other. Just as surely as Geoff the Wonder Newt bites his own tail that wags the Geoff, this paragraph was doomed to disappear up its own butthole."

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Celestina Groeberhorst

Wednesday, December 29, 1999 11:39 AM

    "Where do babies come from? Where did *you* come from? I don't know where *I* came from. I have no idea where I was before my parents conceived me. Perhaps I was nowhere. Yes. There's a strong possibility that I came from nowhere. After all---nowhere, like somewhere, exists everywhere. Especially in England."

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Anthony Soprano

Thursday, December 30, 1999 09:38 AM

    Here's Glenda Slagg's entry (with apologies to Mr Stephen Pepper for having the idea first)

    Kingsley Amis: donchya just hate him? Poncing around in his old age, womanising and being misogynistic? Being cruel to young Marty.. winning the Booker prize.. being mates with Old Larkin

    Kingsley Amis: donchya just love him? His uxoriousness, fine writing and laugh-out-loud humour. The Old Devil could work his way into my bed any day (geddit?!?!?) It's no wonder that he had so many friends like old misery guts himself Mr Philip Larkin. He deserved to win the Booker - his son's efforts are no where near as good. Although Lucky Jim Murphy may disagree (geddit?!?!?)

    Teeth: donchya just hate 'em? Always getting in the way and falling out and needing thousands of pounds worth of surgery. There's only one mouth-protected organ that you need to please me and Mini Mart could slip it down my opening any time (geddit?!?!)

    Teeth: donchya just love 'em? Where would we be without teeth? We wouldn't be able to appreciate a nice juicy steak and have to live off soup and booze. Who sez you can't get a chapter out of the little canines. [You're fired - Ed.]

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