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London Fields by Martin Amis

London Fields (1989)

by Martin Amis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,864393,313 (3.73)112
The murderee is Nicola Six, a "black hole" of sex and self-loathing who is intent on orchestrating her own extinction. The murderer may be Keith Talent, a violent lowlife whose only passions are pornography and darts; or the rich, honorable, and dimly romantic Guy Clinch. As Nicola leads her suitors towards the precipice, London-and, indeed, the whole world-seems to shamble after them in a corrosively funny novel of complexity and morality.… (more)
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English (38)  Italian (1)  All languages (39)
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
The story is about a murder that is going to happen, that book is about 450 pages (21 hours) leading up to that event. You know who is going to die, so that is not a secret. Nikki Six knows she is going to die and accepts that. She convinces one main character she is a virgin, while in reality being quite the slut. She has a fetish that she lets the narrator in on and in her own mind goes on to compare it as Cygnus X1, a binary star system in which one of the stars is now a black hole. One gives life, the other death. She relates this to her fetish by comparing the binary system to her own anatomy. She does it in such a way that it makes perfect sense in a very warped way.

The man who believes she is a virgin, is Guy. He has money, a wife, and a truly monstrous toddler. I mean, not just terrible twos. This kid has violence issues. Joining the mix is Keith (pronounced, Keef). He a drunk, criminal, and possibly even worse. He, too, has a wife and child and cheats on his wife regularly. From girlfriends to paying the mother pimping her under 16 year old daughter. Keith is scum, but apparently fairly good at darts. He mumbles half thoughts in a drunken, hungover, just woke up, incoherent way.

The narrator is a writer visiting London and staying at an acquaintance's house. His first exposure to London is Keith. He meets Nikki at the Black Cross Tavern and meets Guy also. He interacts with the characters, and knows a murder is going to happen. So much so that the book he is writing is about the future murder that he does nothing to stop.

What I did like in the book were some of the phrases and images. Airplanes were called crucifixes in the sky. Niki's lingerie was described as "candied vulgarity". The tv weathermen were described as the new combat reporters -- braving the elements to delivery the important story. The description and the getting into the mind of the characters is also done well. You will actually hate some of the characters, really hate them. What Stephen King does for horror, Martin Amis does for loathsome characters. All in all, a good read although the characters rose above the story for me. Three and a half stars, rounding up to four.

I listened to this book over the course of two weeks walking to and from work. I walk six miles each way so I have plenty of time to burn. I chose this as something lighter than the more classical book I have from audible.
( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
A story that grew on me the more I listened to it. Not for everyone and definitely not for the church library. But still some gems of great writing. ( )
  charlie68 | Nov 12, 2019 |
I got as far as page 100. The characters didn't engage me and I saw no sign of the plot that sounded so good in the reviews. He's a clever writer but I guess that wasn't enough to hold me.
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
This is a story about writing in novel form in my opinion and is reported to be the author's best work. The story is about an American writer, Samson Young, in London, dying of cancer with a 20 year writer's block. It is also a story of a murder. The characters in this book are from various walks of life and feature city life. London, east end. They never really go to London Field.

This book was published in 1989 and is set in the future. This woman, Nicola Six, has picked November 5th as the day she will die. So we have an American author dying and we have Nocola who is going to die because she does not want to get any older, she is turning 35. "It doesn't happen yet, but it will".

There is really so much in this book. Samson Young is the narrator. He emphasizes that he is a "reliable narrator". Samson Young is a writer of nonfiction and can't seem to write fiction so he starts writing about these people from their real life; Nicola Six, Keith Talent, a criminal, dart player, Guy Cinch a rich banker, Marmaduke the rich banker's son, Mark Asprey (a successful British author). Samsonb uses Nicola's diaries, Guys short story, Keith darting diaries. Mark Asprey may be a play on words for the author Martin Amis and true life memoirs.

In this book, which in my opinion is about writing, we have the question of accuracy; reliable narrators, memoirs, tabloids, gossip columns, weather forcasters, etc. We have the TV with its fast forward, freeze frame and confusing realities.

As I said, there is really a lot here, even with the descriptions of darts and shafts, etc, etc, the word play, the theme of dying and writing block. There is also a theme of end times with mentions of Enola Gay and Baby Boy both alluding to nuclear weapons/holocaust. The American president's wife (Faith) is fighting for her life. So there is the dying of the individual as well as the dying of the world. There is the mockery of Keith's culture of cheap tabloids set against the high literary culture of Guy.

It's all very creative and well done but in the end, did I enjoy it? Can't say that I did. Did I appreciate it? I do appreciate the work and talent of this book. I've also read the authors Time's Arrow and Dead Babies.

5-Legacy: This book does fit the scope of books of the era. It does contribute to the novel.
5-Plot: actually at times dull but very creative
4-Characterization: some very unique characters representing life
2-Readability: not so enjoyable
4-Achievement: some important lists
2-Style: a whole lot of violence, not very favorable image of women, sex

Rating 3.67 ( )
  Kristelh | Jan 27, 2019 |

Samson Young, first-person narrator of this Martin Amis novel, is a somewhat jaded, frequently sarcastic and acerbic 40-something intellectual literary writer from, not surprisingly, New York City. But his hard-edged Big Apple voice is absolutely pitch-perfect for the story he is telling, a story involving a host of memorable and very human characters, not to mention a couple of super-human characters: an Incredible Hulk-like toddler and one doozy of a MAN MAGNET, and, yes, indeed, that’s spelled with all capital letters. Meet the lady at the center of the novel’s vortex, Ms. Nicola Six – modern day Helen of Troy, X-rated femme fatale and manifestation of goddess Kali all rolled up into one – everything you always wanted and everything you never wanted, your most cherished dream and your most dreaded nightmare, complete with Eastern European accent, mysterious Middle Eastern origins, Ms. World face and figure, shiny dark hair and even shinier dark eyes. Oh, my goodness, what a gal.

London Fields is a loose, baggy monster if you are looking for a tight-knit murder mystery; but if you enjoy your novels with many characters finely portrayed in gritty, grimy detail along with generous portions of philosophical musing thrown in along the way, then you will enjoy taking your time with its 470 pages. Now, on one level, the men and women are stereotypes representing a particular social and cultural class, but on another level Amis fills out his characters with such vivid, visceral descriptions, their eccentricities, their passions, their intense emotions and desires, in a way, I almost had the feeling I was reading an epic with the streets of London standing in for the walls of Troy – modern city life as the ultimate human blood sport.

One major character – Keith Talent, low-class grunge par excellence, a 29-year old addicted to liquor, pornography and sex, has made a life-long career out of cheating and steeling. Any time Keith opens his mouth we hear an open sewer of words – thick, coarse, vulgar and garbled. If there was ever an example of Wittgenstein’s “The limits of your language are the limits of your world.”, Keith is our man. From what I’ve said, you might think Keith would be totally despicable, a character incapable of our empathy, yet, through the magic of Amis’ fiction, we feel Keith’s pain.

By way of example, here is a scene after Nicola, posing as a social worker, barged uninvited into his cramped, dirty, pint-sized home and accused Keith’s wife and Keith of being too poor and too ignorant to properly care for their baby girl. Shortly thereafter, Keith is at Nicola’s apartment and he looks at her and in his look he says: “Home was his secret. Nobody had ever been there before. Oh, there had been ingress: rentmen and census people, the police, and cheating electricians and would-be plumbers and so on as well as real social workers and probations officers – but nobody he knew. Not ever. Only the dog, and the woman, and the child: the insiders. They, too, were secrets. Home was his terrible secret. Home was his dirty little secret. And now the secret was out.”

Words are exchanged. Keith tells Nicola repeatedly she “shouldn’t’ve fucking done it”. Nicola replies “You didn’t want me to know, did you, that you lived like a pig.”. Keith says, “That’s so . . . That’s so out of order.” We understand the humanness of Keith’s plight – no matter how crappy and filthy his living conditions, to have his private space violated and be called a pig by such a woman.

Second major character – Guy Clinch, a wealthy, refined, well-educated gentleman with the heart of a love poet reminds me of the 1950-60s British actor Terry-Thomas. Here is Guy in Nicola’s apartment, letting her know how rude men can be about women and sex: “Guy got to his feet and came forward. In no uncertain terms, and with his mind half-remembering some analogous recital, some previous exercise in illusion-shattering (when? how long ago? what about?), he told her what Keith and his kind were really like, how they thought of women as chunks of meat, their dreams of violence and defilement.” Guy explaining the sexual dynamics of men and women to Nicola is like a university student explaining Machiavelli to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Talk about black humor.

Among the many other characters, one of my personal favorites is Marmaduke, Guy Clinch’s son who needs an army of nannies to keep him from tearing the house apart and wreaking havoc on adults, especially his mother and most especially his father. When his wife Hope was pregnant, Guy was worried about protecting his son from the world; after colossal Marmaduke’s birth, he’s worried about protecting the world from his son. Here is a taste of what our first-person narrator Samson has to say about the child: “Turn your back for ten seconds and he’s in the fire or out the window or over in the corner, fucking a light socket (he’s the right height for that, with a little bend of the knees). His chaos is strongly sexual, no question. If you enter his nursery you’ll usually find him with both hands down the front of his diaper, or behind the reinforced bars of his playpen leering over a swimsuit ad in one of the magazines that some nanny has thrown in to him. He goes at that bottle like a top-dollar Vegas call-girl, like a grand-an-hour sex diva.”

Lastly, a word about the novel’s structure: Samson Young is in the process of writing a novel about the very novel we hold in our hands, offering ongoing critique and color commentary on the art of his telling and the act of our reading. Metafiction, anyone? Nothing like heaping another layer (or two or three) on top of an already many-layered work of literary fiction.

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  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Martin Amis's 'London Fields' dissected by Carla Scura. It's set, of course, not in Hackney but in Notting Hill!
added by scura | editLondon Fictions, Carla Scura (Dec 1, 2013)
"London Fields" is a virtuoso depiction of a wild and lustful society. In an age of attenuated fiction, this is a large book of comic and satirical invention.
Keith Talent represents Mr. Amis's best creation in the book - a grotesque who is nevertheless both surprisingly vivid and desperate. It is a portrait done in verbal glitter. [...] Nicola is a problem, though; she makes us yield to a sneaking suspicion that a misogynist lingers here somewhere. She is not truly satisfying as character or caricature.
As a tale of nuclear warning, ''London Fields'' is unconvincing. It succeeds, however, as a picaresque novel rich in its effects.
In a prefatory note, Amis says he toyed with the idea of calling his book The Murderee. The coinage describes the dark lady of the novel, whose self- arranged annihilation strongly suggests one of the author's recurrent themes: the nuclear and toxic capacities of industrial nations to destroy life on earth. "Hard to love, when you're bracing yourself for impact" is the succinct way the narrator of London Fields puts this modern predicament. But not hard to laugh when slouching toward the millennium with Amis.
added by Widsith | editTime, RZ Sheppard (Feb 26, 1990)
Nicola's king-sized deathwish ('Begging for it. Praying for it') is stated, never explained. Instead, Amis takes refuge in that familiar device for disowning authorial responsibility, the writer as a character. [...] Like his creation, Keith Talent, Amis's preoccupations are 'modern, modern, modern'; more than any other British writer of his generation he gets to grips with the postmodern condition.

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martin Amisprimary authorall editionscalculated
D'Amico, GéraldineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Massanet, LluísTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schönfeld, EikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swahn, Sven ChristerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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