Sunday, January 13, 2008

Time's arrow by Martin Amis

What is the essence of time but the perrenial river that stumbles past every pebble?

What difference would it make which way the river flowed? Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis is a manipulative novel. I mean this in a good way. (Isn’t it sad that some words are forever canonized into having a negative connotation?) The book starts off with a man in a hospital, paralyzed and unable to move. This is the point where most novels would decide to end the story. Man born, grows up, falls in love, makes futile attempts at procreation, and is paralyzed by the humiliation of his inability. However this is where his novel begins in reverse.

A popular movie in recent times has been Memento which uses this concept to create an exceedingly well paced thriller about a man who at no point in time knows more than the viewer does. More so, Irreversible (a French movie) uses this same concept and toys with our sentiments about happy endings.

The book has a protagonist but the narrator isn’t the protagonist. One executes, the other refutes. From paralysis to well being, from love to unlove, and from death to life, this book dramatically questions our ability to understand the world around us as simply a sequence of events dictated by Time’s arrow. Sometimes I guess it doesn’t matter which way the arrow points.


Sheri said...

Although I have never read this book, I have seen the movie Memento several times and loved it. I watched it first as a viewer, then again and again as a writer, to dissect it and see how the writer achieved this scintillating way of telling this chiller tale.

I think I finally decided, he must have, at one point, written the story from beginning to end. I envisioned that his process went something like this… A writer, alone in his office, writes each scene of his screenplay onto index cards. Without hesitation, he throws the pile up into the air and steps in to take a closer look. He, then, fancies himself with a challenge; how can I tell this story in this out-of-order order? Not a bad exercise at all, come to think of it…

There is a psychiatrist – I think it was Carl Jung (but alas! It’s been many moons since I studied this field in college) who had a theory that we live life out of order and it is our brain that rationalizes and organizes it for us in order for it to makes sense. He compared life to a light bulb that is always on. He questioned… if you have nothing to compare this always-on-light-bulb to – namely an off light bulb… how would you know when it is on? This is how he thought of life. Interesting…

Thanks for the book review. I will have to check out this book.

Josephine Damian said...

Kaushik, is this a new Amis? Something that came out recently?

Did anyone read "The Information?"
It's one of my faves.

Anonymous said...

No Time's Arrow is not a new novel. It's at least twelve or thirteen years old. If I weren't typing in bed I would go and look on my bookshelf. I have quite a few of Amis's books, signed copies no less from readings. Money is my favorite, then London Fields and then the Information. I heard Cronenberg was filming London Fields.

You must read Time's Arrow.