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Dead Babies by Martin Amis

Dead Babies (1975)

by Martin Amis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7811011,802 (3.19)26

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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Good God it's hard to rate this book.

I read it when I was about 17/18, and I devoured it in about 24 hours. I loved that some of the narrative was almost stylised around the characters, as if the characters influenced the writing style. At the time I thought it was absolutely brilliant - I hadn't experienced or read many books that dealt with drugs or sex in such a frank, open way.

I think my adventure into books that dealt with those topics was almost my way of experiencing drugs and sex. I experienced pill-taking and various explorations into heroin and light bondage from the comfort of my own home, and my favourite reading spot. I was quite a lazy teenager, alright? I liked to experience most things vicariously, with very little risk.

... moving on! I owe this book a lot. This book introduced me to William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, I rediscovered my love for Hunter S. Thompson, and a whole collection of other cult classic authors. Unfortunately, the list of my favourite authors was, for a time, mostly white, mostly male, all from fairly upper-class backgrounds. These men were very often misanthropic, or didn't like women, and Martin is certainly not an exception to this group.

But I'm still grateful I read this book because it meant that I went on to read so many other great books. I'd finally found reading material that I was interested in - I didn't have to be struggling through the fantasy or Young Adult section, trying to find a book that suited me.

... so, I think, at the end of all that, I'll have to give it 4 stars. Amis is by no means perfect, but this book gave me a lot. ( )
  lydia1879 | Aug 31, 2016 |
Review: This story is another sad example of the drug culture, going no where, seventies. It supposedly is a parody of Agatha Christie novel and there is the England pastoral, large mansion house setting and a crew of characters and a bit of mystery with notes from “Johnny”. This story takes place over a weekend. We have several characters. The British characters are Quentin and Celia (husband and wife and owners of the house), Andy Adorno handsome and aggressive. Giles, anxious and phobic, Keith Whitehead, short and very fat, Diana, girlfriend to Andy and Lucy the whore. The Americans are Marvell, Skip and Roxeanne (all sexual perverts). But really who wants to read page after page of swear words (the worst) and discussions of sex and drugs of every type over and over. Thank goodness for short novels. What is so sad is that from the writing, it is obvious that Martin Amis has talent. He writes well and he could write something that could be enjoyable. So sad to waste talent writing crap. ( )
  Kristelh | Dec 24, 2014 |
Probably 3.5 stars actually. This is hilarious black comedy, which I suspect hasn't aged all that well. It was first published in 1975, so between publication and my reading of it we've had the immoral 80s, the high conceptualist 90s, and the more-immoral-still 00's; not to mention the internet and internet porn and designer drugs... the epigraph suggests that this is meant to be satire of the present by means of speculation on the future. But since almost everything that Amis speculates about is now perfectly common - e.g., bestiality porn might have been shocking in the 70s, I don't know, but I knew people in high school who had a folder for it on their hard-drive, and I assume it all came free - well, it reads less like future-oriented satire and more like straight farce. Granted, if your reading diet otherwise consists of Dickens and Waugh, you'll find this unbearable. But if you've read anything written in the meantime, this is almost prudish: Giles, for instance, isn't all that horrible, and Lucy is a nice girl. Which I guess says something pretty unpleasant about the Welshes and Palahniuks and the general state of the world. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
The principle embodied by this book seems to be, "if some is good, more is better." It's kind of about a group of friends who are having a debauched weekend of drugs and sex (when the drugs allow them any sort of sexual interest in each other). It's probably also kind of about the '70s attitudes of the younger part of society. They're aimless, bored, willing to try anything but sort of jaded about it all. Or they're pretending to be jaded about it all because that's what their peer group expects. In other words, the moral of the story is that hipsters aren't new, in case you thought they were.

And as it turns out, the weekend is a little more than they can handle on a number of levels. Bullying, drugs, sexual politics, weird phobias, mother issues, father issues, casual prostitution, and existential searching for something more are all parts of the narrative. But that makes it sound more interesting to read than it really is in practice. The fact of the matter is that the characters are pretty much uniformly either vile, carelessly cruel, self-destructive or all of the above. I can get past that, but at the bottom of it, the old adage "if you're bored, then you must be boring" holds true for all of them.

Recommended for: nihilists, people who romanticize the "free love" era.

Quote: "The inhabitants suffer, too, from curious mental complaints brought on by prolonged use of drugs, complaints that can be alleviated only by drugs of different kinds. And so Appleseed Rectory is a place of shifting outlines and imploded vacuums; it is a place of lagging time and false memory, a place of street sadness, night fatigue and cancelled sex." ( )
  ursula | Nov 5, 2013 |
In this book, Martin Amis is a wonderful satirist of a (mostly imagined?) kind of post-sixties upper class British youth decadence. I wanted to put this book down repeatedly in disgust, but kept going till the end to gather up the little Amis gestures. The exaggerated excesses, cruelty, and callous blasé attitude -- along with the privileged pointlessness of their lives -- make the characters all "dead babies." ( )
  jpe9 | Aug 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
"Amis' second novel ranks among his most incendiary with its mordant wit, black comedy, and sense of the violently absurd."
added by GYKM | editBBC, David Wood (Jan 22, 2001)

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martin Amisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ménard, Jean-FrançoisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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...and so even when [the satirist] presents a vision of the future, his business is not prophecy, just as his subject is not tomorrow...it is today.

For Julie
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There were five bedrooms.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Dead Babies was also published under the title Dark Secrets.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 067973449X, Paperback)

If the Marquis de Sade were to crash one of P. G. Wodehouse's house parties, the chaos might resemble the nightmarishly funny goings-on in this novel by the author of London Fields. The residents of Appleseed Rectory have primed themselves both for a visit from a triad of Americans and a weekend of copious drug taking and sexual gymnastics. There's even a heifer to be slugged and a pair of doddering tenants to be ingeniously harassed. But none of these variously bright and dull young things has counted on the intrusion of "dead babies" -- dreary spasms of reality. Or on the uninvited presence of a mysterious prankster named Johnny, whose sinister idea of fun makes theirs look like a game of backgammon.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:22 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Blitzed on uppers, downers, blue movies and bellinis, the bacchanalia bent bon-vivants ensconced at Appleseed Rectory for the weekend are reeling in an hallucinatory haze of sex and seduction. But as Friday melts into Saturday and Saturday spirals into Sunday and sobriety sets in, the orgiastic romp descends to disastrous depths.… (more)

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