(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

John Self has just traveled from London to New York City to make arrangements for his movie, alternatively titled Money, Good Money, and Bad Money. He takes a horrific taxi ride through Manhattan and engages in excessive drinking that leads to blackouts. He also consumes pornography, both live and simulated. Self meets with producer Fielding Goodney and fends off the stars who are courting him while trying in vain to contact his girlfriend Selina before a massive blackout convinces him that it is time to return to London.

Back in London, Self grounds himself at his father’s pub, the Shakespeare, and makes a bad loan to his best friend, Alec. In a meeting with lesbian screenwriter Doris Arthur, Self describes his movie’s plot—a love triangle between a father, his mistress, and his son that ends with a violent confrontation in the son’s favor. When Arthur questions the mistress’s motivation, Self offers her a tour of the backroom strip club and a slap on the bottom, at which point she storms out before deciding that the paycheck makes his bad behavior more palatable.

Back at his apartment, Self riffles through his mail to discover that he apparently threw Selina out before leaving for New York. She agrees to return on the condition that he open a joint checking account for them. He then visits an oral hygienist for chronic tooth pain that he likens to the hustle of the big city and checks in with his ad agency, whose executives offer him an afternoon on the town but no details on his severance package.

Self flies back to New York to meet with several actors. Caduta Massi convinces him of her maternal tendencies before Goodney takes him on an extravagant tour of New York. Self is stalked by an anonymous telephone voice he calls Frank the Phone and an exceptionally tall, ginger-haired woman. On his thirty-fifth birthday, Self blacks out an entire dinner party with his old friends the Twains, coming to the next morning lying face down on the street. In the midst of several unsuccessful meetings, he lunches apologetically with Martina Twain, and she buys him George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). The gift contrasts sharply with the mysterious pornographic package he receives at his hotel.

Once again in London, Self...

(The entire section is 942 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Money: A Suicide Note (and its successor, London Fields) allows Amis to introduce a new kind of character, the corrupt or profane artist figure. In Money the would-be artist is John Self; he is echoed in London Fields by the figure of Keith Talent. Having made his mark by producing and directing pornographic commercials for British television, John Self, a rapacious and epically greedy human being, is approached by Fielding Goodney, a bisexual financier who volunteers to underwrite the full production costs of a new film to be made by Self in America. Goodney’s proposal, of course, is an elaborate ruse, the first of many traps into which the obese Self will fall without any conscious deliberation.

In reality, Goodney is using Self’s credit line to finance the entire project in New York, just as Self’s partners in a London advertising agency are essentially living off Self’s earnings. In the end, his credit cards become useless, he is evicted from a New York hotel, and he flies back to London, where he is evicted again, this time from his flat. Even his beloved Fiasco, a car as unreliable as all the people in his life, finally falls apart and refuses to run.

Before this collapse occurs and before he fails even in his own suicide, the pill-popping, alcoholic Self takes the reader on a grotesque binge of transatlantic hopping, slumming in New York’s topless clubs and striptease joints, drinking...

(The entire section is 491 words.)