March 25, 1985 12:00 PM

by Martin Amis

The narrator of this darkly funny novel is John Self, a man who has made a lot of money directing TV commercials in London. He is, he thinks, about to direct his first feature film. Self drives a car he calls a Fiasco and has friends with such names as Spunk Davis, Butch Beausoleil (a female star) and Martin Amis. Yes, Amis, the author of The Rachel Papers, is a character in his own novel. Self has a tart of a girlfriend who is as expensive as his Fiasco. He is a serious drinker, and much of this book seems to reflect a kind of alcoholic hysteria. When Self flies to New York for his movie deal, he goes on an orgy of booze and seedy women on 42nd Street. He also learns he is getting mixed up in “a psychotic industry. Not even an industry—a conspiracy, a money conspiracy.” Movie business contracts are lies, the stars are crazed by drugs and sex. Self is robbed, beaten, ruined in body and pocketbook. Not since novelist Joyce Cary thought up larger-than-life painter Gulley Jimson for The Horse’s Mouth has a novelist come up with such a repulsive, full-of-life—and comic—character. Amis’ prose is occasionally impenetrable, full of slang, obscenities, dark curses, violence and nasty images—so much so that at times the book seems suffocating. But it is ultimately a sharp, surprisingly credible portrait of today’s man at his most greedy, unpleasant and debauched. (Viking, $16.95)

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