Last week the Huffington Post produced a quiz highlighting similarities in the writing of Martin Amis and Katie Price. I scored 5/10, showing that I could not tell which quotes were written by Martin Amis, a respected literary novelist, and which were written by Katie Price, an author often ridiculed in the press for her poor writing skills. I was surprised and so decided to investigate further.
Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis
I have to admit that I’ve never had much success with Amis’ fiction. His most famous book, Time’s Arrow, failed to impress me and none of his other books have made it out of the library door as the first few pages have failed to grab my attention.
His new book, Lionel Asbo, is a satire of the English working classes. It follows two characters: Lionel Asbo, a violent criminal who is in and out of prison; and Des Pepperdine, his nephew, who is having an affair with his 42-year-old gran.
My main problem with the book was that none of the characters were realistic. They came across as rich, middle class people who happened to own dangerous dogs. For satire to work it has to be close to the bone, but it all felt way off. Yes, the 42-year-old gran worked, but the incestuous relationship? It wasn’t funny – it was just weird.
The plot was virtually non-existent and the lack of narrative drive made it slow and difficult to read. It was dis-jointed and I didn’t see the point of it.
This book is a simple character study, but as the characters weren’t realistic the whole book was flawed. It annoyed me and bored me in equal measure.
In the Name of Love by Katie Price
I’ve never read any Katie Price before – I tend to find that romances lack the depth I like to see in a book. I’ve been reading a lot of darker books recently so I enjoyed the chance to try something a bit more fun.
In the Name of Love focuses on a holiday romance between Charlie, a sports presenter, and Felipe, an attractive Spanish man. Neither are honest about their backgrounds and the relationship goes through many turbulent stages. The plot is very simple: will they stay together?
The book flowed well, but the dialogue was so cheesy that I cringed whilst reading it. I quickly realised that this was part of the charm and giggled along at the silliness of it all. The predictable plot sometimes bored me, but the characters felt realistic.
This is a light, entertaining read that I recommend to anyone looking for an easy read.
Is the writing style similar?
I noticed many similarities in the writing style of the two books. The dialogue was almost indistinguishable:
‘Look outside. Oh Des.’ she said and kissed him back. ‘Des, imagine we were getting married today.’
‘Yeah. Imagine. And jetting off to Malta for our honeymoon.’
‘…You know those candles Mum gave us? I’ll make a cottage pie when we get back. Let’s have dinner by candlelight. And let’s go mad and get a little packet of vin de table.‘ Lionel Asbo, p72
‘Is it really worth that much?’ she asked. She could just about imagine spending that much on a bottle of champagne, but a single drink? She could almost hear her mum’s voice in her head exclaiming, ‘What a waste of money! That’s more than most families spend on their weekly shop!‘ In the Name of Love, p173
‘What was the matter with him? Why did he work at being stupid?’ Lionel Asbo, p27
‘Do you think men like that grow on trees? Let me tell you, they categorically do not.’ In the Name of Love, p126
I also thought that the sex scenes could almost be swapped over without anyone noticing (as so well demonstrated by the Huffington Post quiz).
The only real difference was that the descriptive passages in Lionel Asbo were a lot more complex:
Outside, it had rained and grown dark under a lilac sky, and a film of water swam on the flagstones. Orange blotches of mirrored streetlight kept pace with him as he walked down Crimple Way. Lionel Asbo, p40
He sighed and lay back, looking up at the blue sky with white clouds scurrying over it as if off to somewhere more important. In the Name of Love, p192
With the exception of the descriptive passages, I think it would be difficult to identify which book any individual sentence (and in most cases paragraph) came from.
The main difference between the two books is in the structure. Lionel Asbo is disjointed and confusing; In the Name of Love is simple and engaging.
It made me realise how unfair the press are to authors like Katie Price. Literary fiction authors seem to be able to get away with anything, when really there is often little difference between the two. I know which book I’m more likely to be passing on to my friends this Summer!
I wasn’t a fan of either book, but I enjoyed comparing the two!
Which book would you rather read?