Complaining about self-important preciousness in a Martin Amis novel is like ordering guacamole and complaining that it contains avocado.
But this one about that least interesting of fictional topics—a novelist in creative crisis—is not just full of quirkiness for quirkiness's sake (one unlikely character, a black street punk, is named 13), it also is full of infuriatingly truncated passages. "Quite recently I," reads one sentence in its entirety. Indeed, what Moby Dick was to hunting whales, The Information is to dangling thoughts.
Yet Amis's storytelling skills are compelling. The plot tracks the fitful attempts of the chronically envious Richard lull, a minor novelist-reviewer-editor in London, to gain revenge on his friend Gwyn Barry for Barry's popular success with his novel Amelior. Tull considers cuckolding Barry, having him beaten by a thug and accusing him of plagiarism.
It turns out that Barry is the one who does the one-upping, albeit in a less malicious way, but only after some 300 pages of confusing language and fringe characters with names like Ranko and Darko.
Amis, the London author of The Moronic Inferno and Einstein's Monsters, is too lacking in self-awareness to shine at satire. Could a self-respecting satirist (not to mention anyone with a love of the language) write the mindless line (in describing Tull's bad hair day), "Richard's hair was basically in deep s-t"? (Harmony, $24)