British writer and enfant terrible Martin Amis celebrates his 63rd birthday today. Perhaps phrasing it that way suggests the curmudgeonly scribe might actually be enjoying himself. Just a few years ago, Amis spoke about his 60th milestone to GQ magazine. “It is true. It all ends in dissolution and chaos and indignity and tears. I’m very conscious of that… there’s something about 60 that can’t be laughed off,” he gravely reflected. We imagine his outlook hasn’t changed a mere three years later, especially while the author is being greeted with negative press about his latest novel, Lionel Asbo.
While Amis is busy wrestling with the gross consumerism of greeting cards and cursing the deadly clichés of birthday cheers, we wanted to honor his pith and loathing by rounding up ten things the writer despises. It’s all in good fun — for us anyway. Amis would probably just scowl in our general direction.
It seems with every birthday, Amis is quick to remind himself — and us — that the end is near. He expressed this to the Telegraph last year when breaking down the doom of each mortal decade: “I’m 62 now… Another feeling comes on you when you’re 60, which can be expressed by the thought, ‘This can’t turn out well.’ And that’s the bit I’m at the moment. And really that’s the arrival of fear. In my case not fear of death, but fear of getting there.” Slice it how you like Amis, but we have evidence:
“The worst thing about growing old is the fear of declining powers.”
“It’s so uncool. Like getting a telegram from the mortuary.” (On becoming a grandfather.)
“At 45 you accept mortality. At 55 you think ‘Death is intrigued by me.’ At 60, where I am now, you think ‘This is not going to turn out well!'”
“You get ugly when you get old. It’s all perfectly simple. In fact I can tell you how it’s going to go. Everything seems fine until you’re about 40. Then something is definitely beginning to go wrong.”
“And meanwhile time goes about its immemorial work of making everyone look and feel like shit.”
“Oh Christ, the exhaustion of not knowing anything. It’s so tiring and hard on the nerves. It really takes it out of you, not knowing anything. You’re given comedy and miss all the jokes. Every hour you get weaker. Sometimes, as I sit alone in my flat in London and stare at the window, I think how dismal it is, how heavy, to watch the rain and not know why it falls.”
“The universe is a million billion light-years wide, and every inch of it would kill you if you went there. This is the position of the universe with regards to human life.”
“It was the tiredness of time lived, with its days and days. It was the tiredness of gravity — gravity, which wants you down in the center of the earth.”
“Old always gets you in the end.”
“The development given to us by modern medicine is that writers now have to endure the loss of their powers. This is horribly evident when you read the late novels of writers who live beyond 70. Shakespeare died at 56, Jane Austen at 41. They never had to feel their powers deserting them. Now, writers die twice!”