Do Martin Amis and Katie Price write in a similar way?

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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: State of England

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

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.

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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?


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26 Comments

  1. I’m glad you read them so I don’t have to! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, It has been a long time since I forced myself to finish books I wasn’t enjoying. Making note of lots of quotes helped me to enjoy it a bit more, but I think I’ll stick to books I like for the near future.

  2. Maxine says:

    I wouldn’t want to read either, having become bored by Martin Amis long ago – and what I called to myself then his pseudo-cleverness. This is a great post, my only question is that I presume Katie Price does not actually write the books herself – who is her ghost writer? Not a certain M….A… by any chance? ;-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Maxine, Good point! I’ve done a bit of googling and discovered that Katie Price’s ghost writer is Rebecca Farnworth http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/sep/30/featuresreviews.guardianreview

      Perhaps she’s read a lot of Amis?!

  3. bibliolathas says:

    Love that quiz – only 6/10 for me (and have read neither). Also love the suggestion, above, that MA could be KP’s ghostwriter!

    1. Jackie says:

      biblioathas, I did the test before I’d read either book too. I wonder if I’d score more now I’ve read them? I’d love it if it turned out Amis was the ghost writer, but I can’t see it!

  4. cbjames says:

    I’m going to pass on both, but I’m glad you read them because I enjoyed this post. I think it’s fun to do a little project like this now and then just to satisfy one’s curiosity.

    I loved Time’s Arrow myself, but haven’t really enjoyed anything else by Martin Amis or by his father Kingsley for that matter. I never heard of Katie Price before. Is she a television host in the U.K?

    1. Jackie says:

      cbjames, Yes, Katie Price is a TV personality here in the UK. She was a topless model, but now seems to be on all sorts of different reality shows.

      I haven’t tried any of Kingsley Amis’ books, although I have been curious about them. Perhaps I’ll give one a go soon.

  5. Violet says:

    I love most of Martin Amis’ books and think he’s a wonderful writer when he’s on form. Katie Price’s ghostwriter is probably a decent writer too! I think you have to “get” Amis to enjoy his work. I haven’t read his latest as the paperback costs $34.95 in bookstores here, so I’m waiting for the library to acquire it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, I agree that you have to be on the same wavelength as Amis to appreciate his work. I just don’t share his sense of humor and so it is all a bit tedious. I hope your library gets a copy of his latest soon and that you enjoy it as much as his others.

  6. Shan says:

    An interesting comparison! I never even entertained reading anything by Katie Price, I’ve always assumed they weren’t written by her anyway. Because I don’t care for her, I don’t care for anything she puts her name to. Feel kind of sorry for her ghostwriter that she is writing an okay novel but has to put someone like Katie’s name on it.

    But you make a great point, literary fiction writers can get away with a lot more in the press and maybe we need to stop being so unfair to the Katie Price’s of the literary world (I keep wanting to refer to her as Jordan, this full name thing doesn’t seem to fit.)

    1. Jackie says:

      Shan, Yes. I feel sorry for the ghost writers too. Rebecca Farnworth has written a couple of books in her own name, but it must feel a little bit odd to have so many extra sales just by attaching someone else’s name to your writing. Hopefuuly she’s at least getting well paid for it.

  7. Charlie says:

    Maybe it has happened in real life, who knows, but a book where two characters are having such an incestuous relationship? No thanks, eww. From all you’ve said I can understand exactly why you weren’t keen.

    I actually like the sound of Katie Price’s book though, perhaps mainly because I’m naturally drawn to females called Charlie, but that you gave it better marks than the Amis does make me interested. Regarding the dialogue, the concept of the Amis makes me wonder if his dialogue would be the same usually (can’t say, never read his books).

    It’s actually a pity that the likelihood of ghost writers means the Price could have been a lot worse, because you naturally end up with a skewed result, even if you’re not reading to compare.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, You may well enjoy the Price book. It is a bit too light and predictable for my taste, but it has some entertaining sections and is engaging throughout. I’ll be interested to see what you make of it.

  8. Neither of these books appeal to me, but I see that you read them for research purposes. Brave! They seem quite similar in style, yes. I don’t think Fifty Shades of Grey is worse than this. Hmm.

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, The extracts of 50 Shades that I read were a lot worse than this. I’m afraid I’m not going to do a comparison between them all, but you are welcome to ;-)

  9. Lauren says:

    This cracks me up. But I suspect that what other commenters have said is true: she has a decent ghostwriter. I think its hard to compare books like this because they are trying to do different things, but I got 5/10 on that quiz too and I can’t help but be tickled by that.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lauren, I agree – they are trying to do very different things. Amis is trying to be funny, but I’m afraid it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I don’t think Price is trying to be funny, but it somehow is. I’m all confused now. Not sure why one is funny and the other isn’t when the writing is so similar.

  10. stujallen says:

    I think this just shows how out of touch Amis is shame his early books are good ,he has gone exactly the same way as his father went later in his career ,as for the other book she doesn’t write them so I m not going comment on a unkown writer ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, I haven’t tried any of his earlier books so I’m afraid i can’t compare them. Perhaps I should try one of his first books and see if I have any more luck with it.

  11. JoV says:

    Wow. I stay away with anything that has Katie Price’s name in it. Be it books or TV shows. I can’t stand her. But to have Amis comparing alongside with her and come out a loser, I don’t want to read any of Martin Amis’ books either. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I actually think Price is treated quite harshly by the media. She is never going to be to my taste, but my opinion of her is growing all the time – she has matured a lot in the last few years.

  12. Steph says:

    LOL! This was a great post… and after reading through it, I felt like I had to try my hand at the quiz as well. I only scored 4 out of 10! I’ve never read anything by either Amis or Price, but of the two I was probably most likely to read Amis. Now that he’s been (so aptly) compared to Price, though, I’m not really in much of a hurry to do so any more!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I think the fact they are so similar is a bit of a coincidence, mainly due to their similar subject matter. You might have more luck with Amis (especially his other books) than I did. Glad you enjoyed this post!

  13. Ros says:

    I have read, and not enjoyed, Martin Amis but avoided anything by Katie Price. i had a go at the quiz too and got 8 out of 10, but I think this was largely because I thought who it *ought* to be by given the nature of the quote then answered the other!

    1. Jackie says:

      Ros, Congratulations on scoring 8/10! You’re system sounds like a good one!

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