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The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis

The Rachel Papers (1973)

by Martin Amis

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The Rachel Papers was funny and involving, but subsequently I remembered it mostly for its account of the sexual mores of upper-middle-class British teenagers in the 70s. Most striking is, the way that in the pre-AIDS, pre-antibiotic resistance era, STIs seemed to be regarded as little more serious than a cold. It's interesting background if you've been involved with someone who came of age at that time, whilst you grew up in the era of the tombstone ads and never knew things any other way.
Also, that typical Amis thing of awful protagonist which one wonders to what extent the author identified with. (And plenty of readers, come to that.) ( )
  antonomasia | Nov 30, 2014 |
Is this great literature? No. But I did really like it. It should sit next to Rabbit, Run and Portnoy's Complaint, but with the benefit of being much, much better written than the first, and more interesting than the second. Also, compared to 'Dead Babies,' which was my first M. Amis read, this is much less datedly 'shocking.' Reading DB was a bit like listening to a teenager with green-dyed hair talking about how much she's subverting Them. Kind of cute, but also more than a bit tragic. I didn't get that feeling here, thank the lord.

Aside from being hilarious, the book's strength is the distance between the character, the reader, the 'implied author' (sorry for the jargon, but it's a useful one) and Amis himself. That distance separates the book from Roth. Roth always makes me think that, not only does the protagonist = the implied author = Roth, but also that the reader is being morally bullied into identifying with Roth; there is nobody I less want to identify with. Here, Amis is distant from Charles Highway; he starts off letting the reader be distant, then eventually forces you to be - the conclusion is the only truly shocking part of the book, but it's perfectly right. But Charles Highway is himself distant from Charles Highway, thanks to the narrative structure. Nice.

All that said, this is clearly a love it or loathe it kind of deal. I wonder how funny it would be to someone who was never a teenage boy? Or perhaps more importantly, to men or women who like to think that being a teenager is all wide-eyed joy and openness to the world and lack of responsibility and stress. Probably not funny at all. And you'll hate it if you can only like books when you like the protagonist. But if you're one of those people, I mean, come on, really? You're missing a lot of great books. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
If I'm gonna read Kingsley I might as well read his kid too.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Read this a long time ago and remember finding it sexist and annoying. I always mean to look at it again to see if that was a mistaken judgment of youth. Also have never been able to get the underwear stuff out of my head. ( )
1 vote AnnB2013 | Mar 14, 2013 |
Ok. Funny in parts. Very 70's! ( )
  tinfoilspider13 | Mar 7, 2013 |
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My name is Charles Highway, though you wouldn't think it to look at me.
Don’t I ever do anything else but take soulful walks down the Bayswater Road, I thought, as I walked soulfully down the Bayswater Road.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679734589, Paperback)

In his uproarious first novel Martin Amis, author of the bestselling London Fields, gave us one of the most noxiously believable -- and curiously touching -- adolescents ever to sniffle and lust his way through the pages of contemporary fiction. On the brink of twenty, Charles High-way preps desultorily for Oxford, cheerfully loathes his father, and meticulously plots the seduction of a girl named Rachel -- a girl who sorely tests the mettle of his cynicism when he finds himself falling in love with her.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:34 -0400)

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On the eve of his twentieth birthday, Charles Highway reviews his campaign to win over a self-assured girl named Rachel

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