RIP Martin Amis, and let’s embrace feelgood reads for a change


RIP Martin Amis, and let’s embrace feelgood reads for a change

After KERNEELS BREYTENBACH read André de Ruyter's book, he needed a pick-me-up. A friend recommended love stories.

I READ André de Ruyter's Truth To Power and that's why I'm heading in a different direction this week, looking for something that will make me feel good about life. My friend Ciska du Plessis wanted to know why I never write about books that make you forget about everything you  wanted to know.

The implication, of course, is this: What does Neelsie really know about love if he never reads love stories? Now, I won't be able to embrace the entire genre but at least I'll be able to report on the love stories that love connoisseurs enthuse about right now.

Fictitious & factual

For starters, though, I want to tell you about Inside Story by Martin Amis, recently deceased. One could certainly read any of his novels (preferably The Information) to remember him, but I prefer Inside Story, a semi-autobiographical work in which imagined figures share space with real people. Amis inserts a lot of information about himself but it's the others who make the book something special: Saul Bellow, Philip Larkin and Christopher Hitchens. Distinguished writer, poet and polemical atheist, respectively.

Inside Story is about the ways in which we experience death and love. Amis is at the scene when Bellow begins to develop dementia. He was in close proximity to the deaths of Larkin and Hitchens, both from forms of throat cancer. (Horrible irony — Amis also died of throat cancer.)

The idea one gets of Amis from his books and his literary criticism is of an aloof, often offensive human being. In Inside Story, he unexpectedly shows the real Amis, a man capable of deeply felt love for his true friends.

Larkin's deep fear of death was common knowledge to his friends. At the end, he was incapable of speech and had to write notes. No one knows what his last thoughts were because he was so heavily sedated that he couldn't write. One friend said, however, that you could read one thing on his face and in his eyes: naked fear. All this Amis conveys in memorable prose. Ditto the part about Hitchens' final months.

One can marvel at the deep sense of love that can develop between two people and acknowledge the magical bond that develops between writers. Of course, everything comes back to the author, the man whose cynicism about love in the Eighties knew no bounds but who, in his personal life, nevertheless experienced it with great intensity.

Inside Story by Martin Amis was published by Vintage Publishing and costs R253 at Exclusive Books.

Strange angle

There are many moving descriptions in Inside Story, and a lot of wry humour. What more could one ask from love stories? And here's a love story from a completely unexpected angle. It sounds so weird that I think I'm going to acquire and read it.

Joe Goldberg and Wonder Parish both attend a writing school. They are drawn to each other and love blossoms. There is only one problem: Joe is a serial killer and he makes no secret of it to readers.

There are a bunch of snobs on the course with Joe and Wonder, and Joe makes life easier for his beloved Wonder in the only way he knows how. But then another problem rears its head: there are more corpses than Joe can be held responsible for. Dexter for the literati?

For You And Only You by Caroline Kepnes was published by Simon & Schuster Ltd and costs R329 at Exclusive Books.

Exotic milieu

This book is one of the best sellers among lovers of love stories overseas. The milieu is quite exotic: Lake Muskoka in Canada.

Fern Brookbanks has to take over her late mother's lakeside resort, where  she encounters the man who broke her heart 10 years earlier after a wonderful night of love and passion. To make things worse, he's the only guy who can help her to save the struggling resort.

It all sounds predictable but the American reviewers were captivated by Carley Fortune's writing style. The following sentence is being quoted all over the place: “I didn't know an apron could be sexy, but this apron is the lost Hemsworth brother of aprons."

Meet Me At the Lake by Carley Fortune was published by Little, Brown Group and costs R253 at Exclusive Books.

Home to roost

Nicole Jones is a chicken farmer. She trended on Instagram, where she is known as Chick Nic.

Then her boyfriend breaks up with her and she moves, chickens and all, to a small rural town where her neighbour is a benevolent veterinarian. He is in no way whatsoever impressed by the way she handles her chickens. The two are constantly at loggerheads and it's only a matter of time before matters come to a head. 

Chick Magnet by Emma Barry was published by Montlake and costs $9.78 at Amazon.

Aristocrat wanted

Love stories set in the Regency era (1811–1820) remain ever popular. They are now no longer written in excess, but when one arrives it stays on the bestseller lists. Like Forever Your Rogue.

This one is a private publication, so look for it on Amazon. I mention it because it sold so well in the US, but I'm a bit cautious because the story sounds far-fetched.

Cora Dane is suddenly widowed and her late husband's sister is keen to obtain custody of her two children, apparently because a single woman cannot raise a young count alone. Cora has to marry an aristocrat, and by chance her friend knows just such a person. And he's willing.

Is he going to make it to Cora's side? Is there a chance in these kinds of novels that he would fail? Never!

Forever Your Rogue by Erin Langston was published privately and costs $4.99 on Kindle at Amazon.

♦ VWB ♦

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