Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?

26 Jun

I acknowledge the influence of Martin Amis’s latest offering for the canon –  Lionel Asbo – a visceral, gruesome morality tale of extreme Chavism. The reception has oscillated between sycophancy and disappointment, which is pretty much what the exile in New York is used to. Both  he and his amoral thug-hero Lionel are beyond the reach of ordinary mortals.

Amis patronisingly subtitles the grubby tale ‘State of England’ – as if we wouldn’t geddit. Lionel is a viscious, small-time gangster who lets no-one have peace – least of all himself – unless he is banged up in the ‘Scrubs’. His nephew, Des is a half-caste, academic, renaissance goody-two shoes save for the minor blemish of having had regular sex with his gran, Li’s mum. Li and Des. Ego and id? When Des proclaims a fondness for poetry Li wearily whines “….I despair of you sometimes. Why aren’t you out smashing windows?”

The narrative crackles along but it’s a path that doesn’t surprise once the set-up is established. Li has Des’s schoolmate Rory ‘topped’ for being another granny conquest and Asbo is able to shift a gear when he wins £140million on the Lotto. Amis now shifts into celebrity anti-culture and fires obvious and entertaining bullets at as many aspects of our broken society as he can manage in 276 pages. It’s funny, it’s disturbing but it’s also just a tad boring.

We get the ‘joke’ – although it’s hard to discern why Amis insists on his knowingly ‘clever’ but also often impenetrable tricks of language, grammar, syntax. I’m not keen on speech, dialogue, mediaspeak and soundites being italicised. Some ‘Li -speak’ is phonetic, some not; some dumbed down – some surprisingly eloquent.I’m happier with the more obvious. Lionel is a megabucks moron whose story is a graphic slide-show of the perversions of England 2012. But we have heard this before, haven’t we- and in slightly more digestible form such as Little Britain, Kevin and Perry, Keith Richard’s autobiography and  Eastenders. Last night’s Traffic Cops on BBC1 was more real and hardly less frightening.

For Amis’s fictional slides,  each jpeg has a recognisable heading: Rooney, Tabloids, Bankers, tax dodgers, PR men and smart-arse accountants, Jordan, Simon Cowell, cheap booze, cheap sex, underage sex, drugs galore, dogs with studded collars (fed on Tabasco), corrupt politicians, insufferable families, brutal shouting-matches, high-rise benefit fraud, immigration, education, toilet values as far as the eye can see, love, hate, language, violence….And in 2102, money buys you more and more of it all.

It’s an easy disconcerting read. But I didn’t really care if upstanding Des’s secret incest was discovered or not. I didn’t much care if the lovechild Cilla was mauled to death by Jek and Jak, the Tabasco-crazed dogs. The narrative had beaten me up so much that I was desensitised by the time I came to Lionel’s best-man speech, pages 76-79, delivered shortly after the bride had been gang-banged by hotel kitchen staff.  ‘With her fucking trousseau up round her waist and her fucking knickers down round her shins and her great big fat arse in the air…’ This signalled a family riot, untold damage, hospitalisation aplenty,  various custodial sentences…but the marriage remained intact with Gina prostituting herself to Lionel, once he’d been released.

Her husband Marlon took the money and kept schtum. Martin Amis should probably do the same.

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