Archive for April, 2006

Amis on Looking at Things

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

The next morning:

“Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by the secret police. He felt bad.”

— Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim

Amis on Too Many

Sunday, April 16th, 2006

Has anyone said it better than my dear friend Kingers?

“He stood brooding by his bed. His face was heavy, as if little bags of sand had been painlessly sewn into various parts of it, dragging the features away from the bones, if he still had bones in his face. Suddenly feeling worse, he heaved a shuddering sigh. Someone seemed to have leapt nimbly up behind him and encased him in a kind of diving suit made of invisible cotton wool. He gave a quiet groan; he didn’t want to feel any worse than this.

“He began getting into bed. His four surviving cigarettes — had he really smoked twelve that evening? — lay in their packet on a polished table at the bed head, accompanied by matches, the bakelite mug of water, and an ashtray from the mantelpiece. A temporary inability to raise his second foot on to the bed let him know what had been the secondary effect of drinking all that water: it had made him drunk. This became a primary effect when he lay in bed. On the fluttering mantelpiece was a small china effigy, the representation, in a squatting position, of a well-known Oriental religious figure. Had Welch put it there as a silent sermon to him on the merits of the contemplative life? If so, the message had come too late. He reached up and turned off the light by the hanging switch above his head. The room began to rise upwards from the right-hand bottom corner of the bed, and yet seemed to keep in the same position. He threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, his legs hanging. The room composed itself to rest. After a few moments he swung his legs back and lay down. The room lifted. He put his feet to the floor. The room stayed still. He put his legs on the bed but didn’t lie down. The room moved. He sat on the edge of the bed. Nothing. He put one leg up on the bed. Something. In fact a great deal. He was evidently in a highly critical condition. Swearing hoarsely, he heaped up the pillows, half lay, half sat against them, and dangled his legs half over the edge of the bed. In this position he was able to lower himself gingerly into sleep.”

— Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim