Martin Amis’ London Fields was published in 1989, and its obsession with the end of the millennium is humorously bleak. Or is it bleakly humorous? I don’t know. But there are other obsessions in the book, too. Oddly (to an American), darts is one. So is death. And sex. Definitely sex. And death. Definitely death.
The story is a disturbing love quadrangle. Keith Talent is a violent, misogynistic cheat. Guy Clinch is an inept, credulous romantic. Samson (Sam) Young is an author. And because this is a “modern” novel, he is also the narrator, but he is not “one of those excitable types who get caught making things up.” So does that mean he’s honest? Or does it mean he’s never been caught lying?
Nicola Six (think Sex) is the black hole these men don’t try to escape. When she was a child, she had an imaginary friend named Enola Gay, and Enola had a little boy. Yeah, Mr Amis does not paint with pastels.
Nicola has always been able to sense when something will happen, so she knows she will be murdered on her 35th birthday. She’s looking forward to it. Oh, yes, nearly forgot – the world, and everything in it, is shabby. Except Nicola. She’s resplendent and wants to die.
From the beginning we know who the murderer is. We also know Nicola is the “murderee” (she is definitely not the victim), and we know when she will be killed. As Sam explains, the story is not a “whodunit”. It’s a “whydoit”. It succeeds either way.
But why is Nicola obsessed with death? Is she heart-broken? Is she bored? What does Nicola say about it? “I am a male fantasy figure. I’ve been one for fifteen years. It really takes it out of a girl.”
Nicola is every sexual fantasy men have. But is she just drawn that way? Like Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We only see her through Sam’s filter. When Nicola reads a chapter Sam has written about her, she doesn’t recognize herself. But that doesn’t matter to Sam. It’s how he sees her, and he’s writing the story. So does Nicola welcome death because she’s too good for this shabby world? Or is it the only way out of a story in which she does not recognize herself?
Gladiola Overdrive, Chief Editor