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Discussion Paper 4 in 2006
First published in ejcjs on 8 May 2006

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Nihilism or Nonsense?

The Postmodern Fiction of Martin Amis and Haruki Murakami


Wendy Jones Nakanishi

Professor of English Literature
Shikoku Gakuin University

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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 British contemporary'(2).

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 in 1996.

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, dehumanized subject'(4).

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 established facts.

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 old-fashioned realism'(18).

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 himself.

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 proceedings.

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 circumference'(40).

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 affairs.'

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. 399.

8. Ibid.

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.

12. Ibid.

13. Ibid.

14. Adams, Tim, 'Success. Money. Happy?' The Observer, 12 October 1997.

15. Ibid.

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.

22. Ibid.

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.

30. Ibid.

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.

35. Ibid.

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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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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Copyright: Wendy Jones Nakanishi
This page was first created on 8 May 2006

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