Jaipur Diary – In Martin Amis’s Melancholic Company
On porn, aging and writing.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Writing fiction in the eighties was a loner’s job. “No profiles, no photo sessions, no book tours,” said London-based author Martin Amis in the session ‘Writing the 1980s’, which he participated with New York based novelist Jay McInerney. The Delhi Walla was in the Jaipur Literature Festival.
Looking slouchy and sad, Mr Amis questioned the point of ‘decade’. “You never set to write a novel to write about a decade. You’re not even aware that you’re in a decade. It’s an arbitrary idea.” Describing a time when newspapers were not thick and journalists hadn’t exhausted all the gossip mongering about the private lives of socialites and boxers, Mr Amis said, “I had freedom for the first seven years of my fiction writing. Camera lens were not focused towards writers. Today most writers focus too much on the peripheral side of writing, like coming to Jaipur Literature Festival.”
While writing his first novel, pornography had just begun to take – in Mr Amis’s words – “an industrial dimension.” “Porn is a profound matter of our time. We have witnessed disassociation of emotion and sex under the influence of money. While men are least resistant to it, it has been less acceptable to women. To see their greatest power being trivialised and monetarised is painful to them. I’ve no idea how it has affected my sons in their idea about love.”
Mr Amis, who turned 60 a year earlier, said, “When you hit 40, you are hit by the mid-life crisis. And if you don’t have a mid-life crisis, than that’s a crisis. As you reach 50, life starts thinning out and past because a huge presence since it’s bigger than your future. Gradually you realize that you have to live your own decade rather than the one announced by the calender.”
When a young author in the audience asked tips on writing about the eighties in the novel he is working on, Mr Amis said, “If I were you, I won’t bother. The first rule of writing fiction is that write what you know best. Write about this decade.” Talking about the so-called innocence of the eighties, he said, “We’ve been around here so much. All experiences are getting added up. The eighties seem acardian compared to now.”
Returning to the present-day pomp of writers getting sucked into rituals of readings and interviews, Mr Amis said, “A writer is most alive when he’s alone. I should now go back to London.”
One sad afternoon in Jaipur
Go back to London and write
The Martin Amis readers