This is the third book in what is generally known as The London Trilogy, with the books Money and London Fields preceding it. They’re not connected by story-line, only by the fact they all take place in contemporary London and the themes, tone and character “types” are essentially the same. I’ve not read either of the other two.
In the book – a middle-aged writer named Richard Tull is very, very jealous of his fabulously successful long-term friend Gwyn Barry. Gwen Barry of the best-selling novels and drop-dead gorgeous wife. Richard is so jealous he becomes obsessed with the idea of messing up Gwyn’s life in some way. And he seeks “information” to either write up himself in one of his articles or reviews, or to leak to the bottom-feeding press.
He wants to do to Gwyn what Gwyn has done to him. He wants to assassinate his sleep. He wants to inform the sleeping man; an I for an I. (p. 62)
His adventures in finding dirt on Gwyn take him to seedy places in his mind and in reality – but then he’s a very unpleasant guy. There are plenty of literary connections allusions, references (Dante? Narcissus? Shackerly Marmion? the symbolism of forests?) to keep the more literate amongst the reader occupied – at least for a little while.
Amis was about 40-something when he wrote this and to tell the truth it reads like fictionalized memoir with a hard edge of satire – which I didn’t really “get” until about a hundred pages in.
I read Amis’ Night Train and House of Meetings back when they were first published and enjoyed them pretty well. From what I understand though they’re not among his best. I tried to read Time’s Arrow, but it was too crazy. He must have been trying to invent some kind of new post-modern thing and it didn’t work too well – for me anyway. That’s the kind of writing he satirizes in The Information.
But the satire is slow to come on, it turns into morbid fantasy, then into a simple negative response to the whole literary scene, especially in the US. Amis has thrown in here erring thing he can think up to pad 372 pages and it’s too long by about a third because Amis digresses into all these subjects or fictional events he thinks are witty and sophisticated but, in 2015, are pretty boring. Otoh, I suppose aging, sex and the literary world are all Amis knows at this point.
Writing literary novels is really a game you can’t win for losing – if the author is successful the other authors dispose his having sold out. If he’s not successful he hates himself and the guys who are successful. . lol –
Amis’s best-known novels are Money, London Fields, and The Information, commonly referred to as his “London Trilogy”. Although the books share little in terms of plot and narrative, they all examine the lives of unpleasant middle-aged men, exploring the sordid, debauched, and post-apocalyptic undercurrents of life in late 20th-century Britain.