electronic journal of contemporary japanese
Discussion Paper 4 in 2006
First published in ejcjs on
8 May 2006
How to contribute to
Nihilism or Nonsense?
The Postmodern Fiction of Martin Amis and Haruki Murakami
Wendy Jones Nakanishi
Although neither Haruki Murakami nor Martin Amis are
considered crime novelists, violence and death figure largely in their works. The
deaths in their books are as often the result of suicide as of murder. Both these
popular contemporary authors produce stories which, in any case, fail to conform
neatly to categories or genres such as crime fiction. Murakami's A Wild Sheep
Chase (1982), for example, begins as a detective novel, dips into wild
comedy, and becomes a tale of possession and of a heroic quest. In Scott
Reyburn's opinion, Murakami's fiction 'belongs to no genre but has the addictive
fluency of the best genre fiction'(1). Similarly, Amis's celebrated London
Fields, published in 1989, the year the English translation of A Wild
Sheep Chase appeared in print, opens as a perverted murder mystery whose main
character, Nicola Six, both foresees and conspires in her own death, and ends
rather as a 'why-dunnit' than a 'who-dunnit'.
There are surprising coincidences in the lives and careers
of these two individuals, residents of countries located at opposite ends of the
earth. They each achieved prominence in the mid-1980s when Murakami and Amis,
both born in 1949 and thus exact contemporaries, were recognized as two of the
most famous and accomplished young writers of their generation. The enormous, and
unanticipated, success of his fifth novel Norwegian Wood, published in
1987, led Murakami to flee his native Japan to seek refuge from the unwonted and
undesired publicity, only returning to Tokyo in 1995. With the publication of
Money in 1984 and London Fields in 1989, Amis, earned plaudits as a
writer of the 'most intellectually interesting fiction...beyond the reach of any
Amis's initial success came early in his life, with his
being awarded the Somerset Maugham Award for his first novel, The Rachel
Papers, in 1974. Coincidentally, Murakami also won a literary award in 1974,
the Shinjin Bungaku Prize, but his decision to devote himself single-mindedly to
his writing came later than Amis's. Upon graduating from Waseda University, with
the assistance of his wife, Murakami opened and managed a jazz club in Tokyo
called Peter Cat from 1974-81. On returning to writing as a career,
Murakami won the Junichiro Tanizaki Prize in 1985 and the Yomiuri Literary Prize
Murakami and Amis are prolific writers; and it is beyond
the scope of this short article paper to examine the complete oeuvre of
either author. Rather, this essay will attempt a comparison of ways in which the
two writers resemble each other and ways in which they differ, looking
particularly at Amis's two most popular works, Money and London Fields,
and Murakami's Norwegian Wood, signaling his breakthrough as an author of
international fame, as well as one earlier publication - A Wild Sheep Chase
(1982) - and two later works - a novel entitled South of the Border, West of
the Sun (1992), and a collection of short stories called The Elephant
Vanishes (1993). A necessary constraint on this comparison is represented by
language itself. Despite proficiency in English, Murakami composes his works in
Japanese, and we are, here, considering only the English translations of the
publications listed above(3).
Murakami and Amis as Postmodern Authors
First, it is appropriate to delineate some of the
parameters of the proposed comparison of these two authors. Both Amis and
Murakami are frequently described as authors of postmodern fiction. Postmodernism
is a term which only emerged as a widely-recognized area of academic study in the
mid-1980s. It is a concept which is not limited to the study of literature but
also appears in a variety of disciplines including art, architecture, music,
film, sociology, communications, fashion, and technology. According to Dr. Mary
Klages, postmodernism in literature appears as a rejection of boundaries between
high and low forms of art and of rigid genre distinctions, and an emphasis on
'pastiche, parody, bricolage, irony, and playfulness ... reflexivity and
self-consciousness, fragmentation and discontinuity (especially in narrative
structures), ambiguity, simultaneity, and ... on the destructured, decentered,
This paper will focus especially on ways in which Amis and
Murakami adopt, as authors, postmodernist positions as outlined above. In The
Oxford Companion to English Literature, Margaret Drabble argues that many
features of 'postmodernism' echo or continue traditions of 'modernism,' but that
'postmodernism' is particularly distinguished from its literary predecessor by 'an indifference to the redemptive mission of Art as conceived by the Modernist
pioneers.' Her conclusion is that 'Postmodernism thus favours random play rather
than purposeful action, surface rather than depth'(5). This paper will focus
especially on ways in which Amis and Murakami adopt, as authors, postmodernist
positions as outlined above.
As postmodern authors, Amis and Murakami reject the realist
tradition of the novel with its established components of plot, characters,
setting, theme and tone, intent on exposing such realism as a fallacy unsupported
by and not representational of lived experience(6). This rejection of literary
realism may serve as a useful departure point for analysis of their works, which
emphatically jettison, or transform, or pervert what might be understood as the
traditional elements of fiction.
A realistic novel is one which seeks to present a plausible
world, taking great pains to provide 'motivation for the thoughts, emotions, and
actions of the characters as well as for the turns and twists of the plot'(7).
Such plausible characters are known as rounded characters, and the realistic
novelist places them firmly in a plausible context 'in a specific cultural
group, locale, and historical era'(8). With a few notable exceptions, a realistic
novelist further attempts to enhance the plausibility of his efforts by effacing
his own presence in his work, presenting it as 'truth' or a narrative based on
Amis and Murakami flout nearly all these conventions, in
the case of Amis, so defiantly that some have surmised that his work represents
an 'Oedipal struggle between literary fathers and sons': a challenge to the 'realist' novels produced by his father, Kingsley Amis, from 1957 onwards, with
the publication of the wildly popular Lucky Jim(9). Both Amis and
Murakami, for example, tend to couch their stories as first-person narratives. It
is a tradition honored in Japanese tradition, with its fondness for the
'watakushi-shōsetsu' or 'I novel,' but Murakami takes
the technique to unusual lengths. Sometimes it seems impossible for him to tell a
tale in any other way.
Of the four of Murakami's works under discussion here, the
three novels are 'watakushi-shōsetsu' and in the
fourth book, The Elephant Vanishes, a collection of short stories, all
seventeen tales are related by first-person narrators. Fifteen of these narrators
are nearly indistinguishable from each other. They are male, middle-aged, leading
aimless existences. They enjoy preparing and eating such western foods as
spaghetti; they love American pop culture, particularly music of the 1960s and
1970s; and they are hedonistic and idle. They either engage in casual love
affairs or fantasize about having them. These stories, like Murakami's novels,
are characterized by meandering plots and improbable coincidences and mysteries.
The reader is tempted to identify their male narrators with Murakami himself. In
the opinion of the critic Julian Loose, Murakami seems scarcely to be in control
of his material. Loose observes that it is at once disconcerting but also 'oddly
reassuring to spend time with a writer so relaxed he can let us know that he is
not trying too hard; that he, too, is unsure where he is heading'(10).
In this respect, Murakami and Amis markedly differ. If
Murakami exercises too little authorial control, Amis arguably exercises too
much. Money's John Self, for example, repeatedly encounters a writer
called Martin Amis who has entered the story as a fellow character and assumes an
ever-increasing importance in the novel. The 'fictional' Amis, ironically,
threatens to disrupt Self's carefully fashioned narrative by playing a game of
chess with him that influences the story's outcome. As James Diedrick observes,
this overt intrusion of Amis into Money thus 'literalizes a tendency
present in all of Amis's novels. Even his omniscient narrators are
self-conscious, individualized characters aware of their roles as fiction-makers'(11).
Nihilism in Amis's and Murakami's Fiction
Far from the realist novelist's desire to obliterate the
traces of artfulness from his work, to absorb his reader so completely in the
narrative detail that his story might be mistaken for 'truth,' Amis repeatedly
and ostentatiously draws attention to his role as the shaper of his stories. He
has confessed that the narrators he fashions to relate his tales John Self in
Money and Samson Young in London Fields, for example deliberately
are relegated to shadowy roles, their importance in the stories of which they are
the purported protagonists eclipsed by Amis himself (12). In Amis's opinion,
readers almost invariably will identify or empathize with the characters
presented in a fictional work, but he rejects the idea that this identification
is desirable: 'What the reader should do is identify with the writer. You try and
see what the writer is up to, what the writer is arranging and what the writer's
point is. Identify with the art, not the people'(13). Rather than striving to
create a fictional world which is sufficiently realistic and absorbing that it
will lull the reader into accepting the illusion of its existence as fact, in his
own novels, Amis wishes deliberately to draw attention to the artfulness and
artificiality of his ingeniously-constructed narratives.
This objective represents at once a strength and a weakness
of Amis's work. It has often been remarked that Amis's writing is mainly
enjoyable as an extravagant display of rhetorical extravagance: that it seems
impossible for Amis to write a dull sentence or to express a clichιd
thought or emotion. Since Amis's early and precocious debut as a writer, he has
been widely admired and envied for the prodigious intelligence evident in his
work. His style, which one critic describes as one of 'drawled certainties and
thrilling aphorisms'(14) has been often emulated, rarely successfully. The
content of his tales, often comprising brilliant satire (in the case of both
Money and London Fields, consisting of a ruthless dissection of 1980s
western capitalism and the emptiness Amis finds at the heart of its materialistic
creed), has been applauded as prophetic and shrewd as well as chilling in its
evocation of an impending apocalypse. And yet. And yet.
As the journalist Tim Adams observed in 1997, in an
interview with Amis, although Amis exhibits 'more pure writing talent than the
current Booker short list combined, his books lack real emotional bite; we do not
care what happens in them'(15).While we admire the novels' ingenuity of
construction, we fail to be moved by them. Their self-conscious brilliance
ultimately proves to be oddly repellent: it dazzles but doesn't attract.
It was a risk which Kingsley Amis had warned his son about,
to no avail. Kingsley Amis was exasperated by what he perceived as Martin's
unnecessarily difficult fictional style, described by him as 'terrible compulsive
vividness,' which he blamed on the influence of Nabokov(16). He admitted to a
friend that his son's work 'bored' him sufficiently that he had only been able to
read about 'half' of it, and that he considered Martin 'bright' but a 'fucking
fool'(17). Although Martin Amis continued to read his father's novels, according
to Kingsley Amis's biographer 'Martin was inclined to think that the novel had
simply moved on into postmodern forms, leaving his father behind stuck in
Martin Amis once explained the unremittingly bleak
perspective of his books, in which the violence and death meted out to the
characters finds echoes in sordid imagery presaging the death of western
civilization and the slow destruction of the Earth itself, as resulting from the
unfortunate timing of his birth, on 25 August 1949. Martin Amis had entered a
world which was post-Holocaust and 'four days before the Russians successfully
exploded their first atom bomb and inaugurated the era of nuclear deterrence'(19). Amis's gloominess was not confined to his fiction; Kingsley Amis complained
in 1986 that his son had 'gone all lefty and of the crappiest neutralist kind,
challenging me to guess how many times over the world can destroy itself'(20).
There is a nihilistic tone to Murakami's work as well, an
all-pervasive atmosphere of anomie, of the breakdown of social structures and
systems, which Fred Hiatt also attributes to the timing of his birth. In a review
published in 1989 Hiatt described Murakami as representative of a modern Japanese
in his 'alienation from rootless, monied Tokyo' and in a nostalgia for a 'missing
idealism,' who is aghast at the sudden transformation of Japan from an austere,
traditional culture into one driven by the demands of unchecked materialism(21).
Murakami's predicament is not a recent one for the Japanese
writer, who has expressed for the past century and a half a sense of inhabiting a
deracinated culture in which traditional values have been supplanted by foreign
ones, whose feelings for the west are a curious blend of contempt and
fascination, of superiority and inferiority. If, as Hiatt argues, Murakami's
writing reflects the consciousness of a Japanese who believes that 'the old has
been destroyed, an ugly and meaningless hodgepodge has taken its place, and
nobody knows what comes next'(22), it is a drama equally visible in the works of
such earlier, seminal writers as Natsume Soseki (1867-1916), Shiga Naoya
(1883-1971), and Mishima Yukio (1925- 1970).
Murakami himself seems an odd compound of the sensibilities
of Shiga and Mishima. His nihilistic view of modern Japan resembles Mishima's,
but his fictional creations adopt the course adopted by the protagonist of
Shiga's most famous work, A Dark Night's Passing, who indulges in a
mindless pursuit of pleasure in a vain bid to ignore the emptiness of his
existence and the apparent meaninglessness of life itself.
In fact, there are remarkable similarities between the
modern Japanese fiction penned by such writers as Soseki, Shiga and Mishima, from
the early twentieth century onwards, and what is now perceived as postmodern
fiction, which has gained popularity in western countries only in the past three
or four decades. There is the same blurring of genres and apparent rejection of
if not obliviousness to high and low forms of literature. Japanese modernist
novels are characterized by what can, to a western reader, seem a frustrating
absence of straightforward narrative or clearly-defined plot. Their action is
fragmented, linked only by the consciousness of the first-person narrator. This
narrator often represents, to reiterate Dr. Mary Klage's description, a
'destructured, decentered, dehumanized subject'. But perhaps this is not
surprising. Writers are inevitably influenced by their predecessors, just as we
may see in what one critic describes as characteristic features of Martin Amis's
fiction 'scatalogical and satirical treatment of sex ... comic description of
the indignities of bodily life ... and ... inventive deployment of language'(23)
clear echoes from the English eighteenth-century of the Jonathan Swift who penned
Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal.
Contrasting Amis and Murakami: Differences
But there are curious differences between the postmodern
fiction written by Amis and Murakami. The two writers, for example, adopt quite
opposing tones as authors. Whereas Amis's writing is energized by anger and
anxiety, Murakami's partakes of resignation; it is characterized by passivity,
its atmosphere alternating between whimsical playfulness and bittersweet sadness.
Murakami seems to inhabit a world stripped not only of traditional Japanese
values but one which is remarkable for its bland featurelessness. His narrators
revere western culture, but only in its most superficial manifestations. As Lewis
Beale observed in 1991, 'Except for references to place names and certain foods,
Murakami's protagonists might as well be living in Santa Monica ... they exhibit
a curiously American style of ennui and are always bemoaning their shallow,
materialistic lives'(24). Amis, on the other hand, seems to thrill in elaborating
the vulgarity, sordid disarray and ugliness of what he perceives as the 'dying
world' of late capitalist Western civilization(25).
There is also the matter of the two writers' prose styles.
Julian Loose complains of Murakami's propensity to clichι
and fondness for 'hackneyed, low-pressure generalisations' and sarcastically
observes that to 'describe Murakami's characteristic mode of expression as
childlike would be unfair to children: his clunky yet oddly weightless prose
often seems to aspire to the banal'(26). As noted above, Amis is widely admired
for his brilliant linguistic inventiveness, for an 'exuberant use of figurative
language,' and for his 'punning allusiveness'(27). Martin Amis once admitted that
he had made his writing so deliberately difficult that he felt his reading public
should be willing to read his books at least twice fully to understand them(28).
Whereas Murakami's narrators seem to live a day-to-day existence of mindless
hedonism, ignorant of anything approaching a cultural heritage, Amis's
protagonists make frequent, if often unselfconsciously ironic, reference to a
huge range of literary predecessors from Britain
and the rest of the world, ranging, for example, from allusions to Shakespeare to
quotations from Tolstoy.
Amis's reader might complain that his works are thereby freighted by an
unearned portentousness, but it is clear Amis labors under what Harold Bloom has
identified as the 'anxiety of influence.' Amis not only alludes to other authors,
but pays them the ultimate compliment by borrowing parts of his plots from them.
The Rachel Papers, for example, exhibits striking parallels with Henry
James's The Aspern Papers, published nearly a century earlier, and the
curious irony at the heart of London Fields, whose Nicola Six recognizes
herself as a murder victim and searches for and desires her murderer, is
anticipated by Muriel Spark in The Driver's Seat (1970).
Comparing Amis and Murakami: Similarities
One area of similarity between Amis and Murakami, affirming their
credentials as postmodern authors, lies in their presentation of dehumanized
characters. As we have seen, Amis 'encourages the reader to identify with the
author of his fiction, not with any of the characters'(29). While the realist
novel traditionally places great emphasis on delineating believable individuals
driven by understandable motives, speaking in recognizable and characteristic
voices, and is concerned with consistent preoccupations, postmodern fiction of
the variety penned by Murakami and Amis dislodges the vividly-realized main
character to place the writer himself at center stage. Amis in particular places
'language over psychological naturalism'(30). If, as postmodernism holds, the
world lacks any meaning and, if, as Amis believes, it is on the brink of
collapse, then it is risible to attempt to use art to explain or to order life or
to attempt a representation of reality. Even the names Amis gives to many of his
characters illustrate a kind of contempt for the old realism. The heroine of
London Fields, for example, Nicola, bears the unlikely surname of 'Six'.
Fellow characters in the novel mishear her last name as 'sex' and she is a very
sexually active creature but her name is actually pronounced, we are informed
by the narrator, as 'seeks'. Her name is an appropriate title, an apt signifier
for a woman who is engaged in a search; she is looking for the man who will
murder her. Such names as Nicola's are known as 'cratylic': they advertise a
property that is fixed, whether terrible or ludicrous. A character thus named
must act out a characteristic, which is his inescapable identity(31). Similarly,
the protagonist of Money, at once a paean to and an indictment of the
materialist 'me-generation' of the America and England of the 1980s, is called
'John Self': 'the name of the very era,' as John Mullan observers(32). Although
this technique has been used by western authors for hundreds of years, in Amis's
case, it seems to stem from a decision to rob his characters of dignity, of any
claim to the possession of an identity independent of authorial intent.
As for Murakami, again, it is difficult to differentiate Murakami's almost
inevitably first-person narrators from each other or from Murakami himself: they
are nearly always male and approaching middle-age, leading aimless but contented
existences, obsessed with both conspicuous consumption and with the 'west' with
consuming western food, books, and music. Although they are sexually active, they
tend to adopt the role of passive voyeurs of life's oddities.
The fellow members of the cast peopling Murakami's narratives similarly are
granted little autonomy or distinguishing features. As an author Murakami
displays a cavalier, negligent attitude towards his fictional creations; he can
scarcely be bothered to think up individual names let alone personalities for
them. In The Elephant Vanishes, for example, the name Noboru Watanabe is
bestowed on a missing cat in the story 'The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday's Women' and
on the narrator's sister's fiance in the story 'Family Affair'. Murakami's
characters inhabit a quirky but ultimately empty world devoid of ethical concerns
in which, for example, it is nothing out of the ordinary for a ravenous young
couple whose fridge is empty to decide to stage a burglary at a nearby
McDonald's, stealing not money but thirty hamburgers to assuage their appetites.
Internal logic need play no part in the narratives Murakami fashions. His
characters often utter speeches which directly contradict their subsequent
actions. In South of the Border, West of the Sun, for example, despite his
being happily married, the narrator is unable to forget a girl named Shimamoto he
had known in junior high school. When she improbably turns up once again in his
life, they embark on an affair, but, like most of Murakami's female characters,
she is a mysterious, self-absorbed individual whose personality and motives are
impossible to fathom. She appears and disappears in the narrator's life at will;
he knows nothing of her life apart from the snippets of information she grants
him when she decides to materialize in the small bar he owns in Tokyo. At what
proves to be their last meeting, they agree to drive to a cottage the narrator
owns in Hakone and, en-route, he affirms his love for her and his commitment to
their relationship because she asserts that she will settle for nothing less.
But, despite having successfully wrung this concession from her lover, Shimamoto
has disappeared by the next morning. Like a cloud that can materialize in the sky
on a clear day, she is seen one minute and gone the next, with Murakami feeling
under no obligation to provide the slightest motive or explanation for her
behavior. His narrator subsequently theorizes that Shimomoto had intended to
commit a double suicide by wresting the wheel of the car from him as he drove
them back to Tokyo, but this conjecture arises out of the blue, like another
cloud in the sky, and vanishes without trace. Murakami has provided no grounding,
no clues, no hints that would prepare the reader to draw such a conclusion
Current Assessments of Amis and Murakami as Writers
As for Amis's and Murakami's writing in recent years, despite Amis's meteoric
climb to success with the phenomenal popularity of Money and London
Fields, other postmodernist works such as Einstein's Monsters (1987)
and Yellow Dog (2004) have met with decidedly mixed reviews. Some
influential figures in the literary world are going so far as to dismiss Amis as
a spent force as a fictional author, although he remains a popular essayist and
respected literary critic. In the case of the two less than wildly successful
Amis novels listed above, the critics were mainly impatient with what was
perceived as a tediously didactic content and a whining tone(33).
It may be that Amis has written himself into a literary dead-end and that this
is a potential danger of adopting a postmodernist position in literary writing.
It does not seem coincidental that some of the most recent, successful work
published by both Amis and Murakami consists of autobiographical narrative or
'true' fiction or memoir in the case of Amis, a book called Experience,
that appeared in 2000, which represents a fairly straightforward account of his
life, including the horrific story of a cousin, Lucy Partington, who was one of
the victims of the British serial killers Rosemary and Frederick West. Another
venture into non-fiction entitled Koba the Dread (2002), which mingled
memoir with fact, delineating Amis's opinions of Stalin, was condemned as
insufficiently researched, and shallow, and inappropriately egotistical in its
parameters and in its conclusions.
Similarly, some of Murakami's more recent work, such as a novel entitled
Sputnik Sweetheart, published in 2001, has been described as banal and trite,
the work of an author 'who has taken faux naivete to the next level'(34).
But, in the same review, the critic observes that Murakami's popularity in the
west is 'on the increase,' a phenomenon he attributes to the 'way his novels show
an individual's everyday progress through life being suddenly diverted into the
weird and fantastical'(35). Again, it may be that Amis, with his convoluted plots
and difficult prose, demands too much of the reader, while Murakami's works
resemble a plodding but pleasurable stroll through a strange yet somehow
recognizable reality, asking far less of us and not even soliciting our
credulity. But Murakami, like Amis, has also turned to 'real life' for his
writing, spending a year interviewing sixty-three victims of the Aum cult's
poison gas attack on a Tokyo subway in March 1995 and writing what he describes
as a 'crime nonfiction book' about their stories(36).
Conclusion: Nihilism Translated into Nonsense
In comparing Murakami and Amis as postmodernist authors, we witness the
interesting phenomenon of their having adopted a similar literary theory but one
reached from quite different starting points or motives. One senses an
overwhelming rage and despair in Amis's work which translates into such
postmodernist features as narrative fragmentation, disinterest in realistic
characters or a plausible plot, and into a tone of nihilism and impending doom.
Mark Asprey, one of Martin Amis's more overtly autobiographical mouthpieces,
observes in Money that 'It doesn't matter what anyone writes any more. The
time for mattering has past. The truth doesn't matter any more and is not
wanted.' For Amis, of course, God is dead or, more accurately, never existed, and
mankind lives in an age when nuclear apocalypse is an everyday possibility(37).
This is a post-Christian, end-of-the-world apocalyptic vision of the world
unshared by Murakami, who, as a Japanese, undoubtedly has been affected by
Buddhist influences. From Buddhism the Japanese traditionally have acquired a
belief in reincarnation accompanied by a conviction that the ever-changing world
lacks any real substance and constitutes a kind of dream. Although few modern
Japanese admit to possessing active religious beliefs, a survey of Japan's
population of 121 million inhabitants taken in 1985 found that 95% of those
questioned described themselves as Shintoists and 76% as Buddhists(38).
Traditionally, the Japanese observe Shintoist wedding rites and Buddhist funeral
The tolerance for entertaining competing religious views is expressive of
Japanese culture. If life is a dream, then more than one philosophy of existence
is permissible. If one inhabits a society in which social and familial pressures
remain immensely potent forces, the importance of the individual is diminished
and, in any case, Buddhism counsels the rejection of personal egotism. If one is
a citizen of a nation in which one's life, from birth till death, is 'supposed'
to follow prescribed custom and ancient tradition, conformity and the acceptance
of wearing a 'mask' in the various roles which life offers may seem
advisable(39). Brian Finney believes that John Self in Money is a typical
product of what,
Baudrillard has called the age of simulation. Simulation, according to Baudrillard, is opposed to representation. In an age of simulation it is no
longer possible to distinguish between the image of representation of a reality
outside it and the simulacrum 'never again exchanging for what is real, but
exchanging in itself, in an uninterrupted circuit without reference or
The contemporary writer depicting a world in which reality itself is a
problematic concept and increasingly so, with the scientific discoveries and
technological developments of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, may
feel naturally drawn to postmodernism, which 'doesn't lament the idea of
fragmentation, provisionality, or incoherence, but rather celebrates that. The
world is meaningless? Let's not pretend that art can make meaning then, let's
just play with nonsense'(41).
Notes and References
1. Scott Reyburn, New Statesman, November 15, 1999.
2. Julian Symons, London Review of Books, quoted back cover, paperback
edition, Martin Amis, London Fields (London: Penguin Books, 1989).
3. See 'Murakami
Haruki at the complete review,' which observes that 'Foreign audiences
are, of course, hampered by the fact that Murakami's work is only accessible in
translation...(some)... dubious...Surprisingly, Murakami
a fluent English speaker who has translated a number of English-language works
into Japanese has permitted this sad state of
4. Klages, Mary (Dr.), 'Postmodernism',
English 2010: Modern Critical Thought Course Notes, University of Colorado
at Boulder, September 1, 2005. For a recent study of Murakami's inversions of
traditional literary genres in his work, see 'Corpi, Murakami, and Contemporary
Hardboiled Fiction' by Cathy Steblyk, which examines how such a contemporary
author as Murakami exemplifies 'a current international trend that deploys the
analytic methodology of the modern detective genre and simultaneously undermines
it in order to open an original text, namely history,' published in CLCWeb:
Comparative Literature and Culture: A WWWeb Journal (June 2003).
5. The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 6th edition, edited by
Margaret Drabble (Oxford: Oxford University press, 2000), p. 806.
6. Peter Widdowson, The Palgrave Guide to English Literature and its Contexts,
1500-2000 (London: Palgrave Press, 2004) p. 261. Widdowson argues that among
'the principal characteristics of British Postmodernist fiction are: the
strategic exposure of the fallacy of 'realism'; an exuberant promotion of the
non-representational...self-reflexivity and self-referentiality about writing
fiction ('metafiction'); a teasing disturbance of fictional conventions such as 'character' and
'plot', and a reluctance to release the 'meaning of the text'.
7. Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray, The Bedford Glossary of Literary and
Critical Terms, 2nd edition ( London: Bedford/St. Martin's Press, 2003) p.
9. James Diedrick, Understanding Martin Amis ( Columbia: University of
South Carolina Press, 1995), Introduction.
10. Loose, Julian, 'Counting the Cliches,' Book Reviews, 4 June 2001.
11. Diedrick, op. cit. See also Todd, Richard, 'The Intrusive Author in
British Postmodernist Fiction: The Case of Alasdair Gray and Martin Amis,'
Exploring Postmodernism (London: John Benjamins Publishing), 1987, which
includes a discussion of self-reflexivity in Other People and Money.
14. Adams, Tim, 'Success. Money. Happy?' The Observer, 12 October 1997.
16. Michener, Charles. 'Britain's Brat of
Letters.' Esquire 106 (1986): p. 142, quoted in Finney, Brian, 'Martin
Amis 1: What's Amis in Contemporary Fiction? Martin Amis's Money
and Time's Arrow,' September 13, 2005. Victoria Alexander examines Amis's indebtedness to Nabokov in
'Martin Amis: Between the Influences of Bellow and Nabokov,' in Partisan Review
(Fall 1994), pp. 580-90.
17. Eric Jacobs, Kingsley Amis: A Biography (London: Hodder &
Stoughton, 1995), p. 16, pp. 344-5.
18. Ibid., p. 345.
19. Finney, op. cit. In Martin Amis's own words, quoted in Diedrick, op.cit.
'I was born on August 25, 1949: four days later, the Russians successfully tested
their first atom bomb, and deterrence was in place. So I had those four carefree
days, which is more than my juniors ever had.' See also Bellow, Janis Freedman, 'Necropolis of the Heart. Review Essay of The Information and Sabbath's
Theater,' Partisan Review (62) (1994), pp. 699-718, which explores
the 'postmodern decadence' of Amis's novels and whether art can provide an
'answer' to the question of nihilism.
20. Jacobs, op. cit., p. 344.
21. Hiatt, Fred, The Washington Post, December 25, 1989.
23. Finney, op. cit.
24. Beale, Lewis, The Los Angeles Times, August 12, 1991.
25. Finney, op. cit.
26. Loose, op. cit.
27. Finney, op. cit.
28. Jacobs, op. cit., p. 345.
29. Finney, op. cit., p. 2.
31. Mullan, John, 'Signs of the times,' The Guardian, September 13,
2003. See also Ashley, Leonard R.N., 'Names are Awfully Important: The Onomastics
of Satirical Comment in Martin Amis's Money: A Suicide Note,' Literary
Onomastics Studies 14 (1987), pp. 1-48.
32. Mullan, op. cit.
33. Finney, op. cit.
34. Loose, op. cit.
36. Miller, Larua, 'The
Outsider: The Salon Interview with Haruki Murakami,' 22 August 2005.
37. In Theo Hobson's Spectator article published on September 10, 2005,
Hobson quotes Amis as asserting that he 'became an atheist at the age of twelve'. Amis also states that
'Belief is otiose; reality is sufficiently awesome as it
stands ... (every religion) ... is a massive agglutination of stock responses, of cliches, of inherited and unexamined formulations.' Hobson observes that Amis
thus illustrates a belief that religion is 'therefore the opposite of art, which
dares to tell the truth about the complex world,' (p. 26).
38. Ian Reader, Religion in Contemporary Japan (Honolulu: University of
Hawaii Press, 1991), p. 5.
39. As for the profound influence exerted on Japanese individuals by their
society, a friend of the author's provides an interesting insight in Alex Kerr's
Lost Japan (London: Lonely Planet Publications, 1996), p. 140, observing
that while the 'Japanese ... restricted by their society, are so limited as human
beings ... their culture is infinitely deep.'
40. Finney, Brian, 'Narrative and Narrated Homicide in Martin Amis's Other
People and London Fields,' Critique: Studies in Contemporary
Fiction 37 (Fall 1995), pp. 3-14. In the opening of his article Finney
repeats the observation which begins this piece, that 'Martin Amis is not a crime
writer. Yet murder and violence feature repeatedly in most of his novels.'
41. Klages, op. cit.
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About the author
Wendy Jones Nakanishi, an American by birth, spent seven
years in Britain, earning her MA in 18th-century English Studies at
Lancaster University and her PhD at
Edinburgh University, with a doctoral thesis
on Alexander Pope's correspondence. She has been a resident in Japan since the
spring of 1984, working first for five years as a 'Guest Professor' at
Tokushima Bunri University's Shido
campus, and since then, as a full-time tenured member of staff in the Department
of Language and Culture at Shikoku Gakuin
University. She has published widely in her academic field, mainly on the
topic of letters, diaries and journals, but recently has also been writing on the
topic of her experiences as a foreigner living in Japan, the wife of a farmer and
the mother of three sons.
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Wendy Jones Nakanishi
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