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The Information (novel)
The Information is a 1995 novel by British writer Martin Amis. The plot involves two forty-year-old novelists, Gwyn Barry (successful) and Richard Tull (not so). Amis has asserted that both characters are based (if they can be regarded as based on anybody) on himself. It is, says Amis, a book about "literary enmity".
Gwyn Barry and Richard Tull have been friends since they roomed together at university. Richard Tull was a promising writer with a seemingly bright future. However his career flags and he finds himself depressed writing book reviews for a small literary paper and running a vanity press. To his chagrin, Gwyn Barry - whose literary skills Tull holds in low esteem - has written a phenomenally successful novel and won a lucrative and respected literary prize. Barry begins to enjoy a rarified life whilst Tull toils away with his unsuccessful pursuits.
Tull, increasingly envious, begins to manufacture ways of bringing Barry down. These begin relatively innocently, attempts to cause Barry inconvenience. But later things become much more serious as Tull makes contact with violent men he later finds he cannot control.
Running through the book (indeed what "The Information" in question turns out to be) is the awareness of mortality and, relating to that, midlife crisis. In a later interview Amis elaborated on the subject of midlife crisis, describing it as "an hysterical overreaction to the certain knowledge that you're going to die." Furthermore, he illustrated it as intrinsic and structural, which corresponds to the etymology of the title: in "into" + formare "to form, shape".
Throughout the narrative Amis digresses into depicting different vistas of interstellar space. Looking on the vast range of the Universe and its lifelessness serves the theme of mortality. In addition the book deals with ideas of success, failure and envy.
The New York Times said, "Amis is quite dazzling here [...] drags a bit around the middle, but you're never out of reach of a sparkly phrase, stiletto metaphor or drop-dead insight into the human condition." A further review from the same paper said "Amis has [an] idiosyncratic vision and his ability to articulate that vision in wonderfully edgy, street-smart prose [...] an uncompromising and highly ambitious novel that should also be a big popular hit.". In London The Independent gave a less favourable review saying, "The Information has been seen as the conclusion of a London trilogy that opened with Money and London Fields - but that argument doesn't stand up. They're all the same book, a template worked over three times, retyped rather than rewritten [...] The Information reads like 500 pages of smart, highly finished extracts. It doesn't add up. It's a Herbie Hide of a novel, a pumped cruiserweight, flashy, fast, brave and hopelessly overmatched."
Circumstances surrounding publication
Amis came under attack for two reasons around the time The Information was published. Firstly he had dropped his agent, Pat Kavanagh, wife of Julian Barnes, and had signed up with Andrew Wylie, perceived to be a more aggressive agent. Amis and Barnes had been friends but this caused a rift that was played out in public. Secondly he received an almost unheard of advance for a literary novel (approximately £500,000 according to most sources) which caused what was described as resentment and envy amongst his peers.