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book.jpgYELLOW DOG


By Martin Amis

MIRAMAX BOOKS

Copyright © 2003 Martin Amis
All right reserved.
ISBN: 1-4013-5203-0



Contents

PART I
CHAPTER ONE
1. Renaissance Man.....................................3
2. Hal Nine............................................15
3. Clint Smoker........................................22
101 Heavy..............................................32
CHAPTER TWO
1. The transfer to Trauma..............................33
2. Doing Beryl.........................................40
3. On the Royal Train..................................50
101 Heavy..............................................59
CHAPTER THREE
1. The publicity of knowledge..........................62
2. The high-IQ moron...................................69
3. Excalibur...........................................78
101 Heavy..............................................88
CHAPTER FOUR
1. The thing which is called world.....................89
2. His Voluminousness..................................102
3. Cold Blow Lane......................................115
101 Heavy..............................................130
CHAPTER FIVE
1. In the master bedroom...............................132
2. Storm in a teacup...................................145
3. Car-sweat...........................................158
101 Heavy..............................................174
PART II
CHAPTER SIX
1. The Decembrist......................................179
2. Cora Susan..........................................183
3. Denizen.............................................188
4. At Ewelme...........................................190
5. 101 Heavy...........................................192
6. Apologia - 1........................................194
7. We two..............................................200
8. Use Your Head.......................................203
9. Epithalamium........................................207
CHAPTER SEVEN
1. We will go quietly..................................212
2. Weird sister........................................217
3. King Bastard........................................220
4. Cora's call on Pearl................................223
5. It's Not Unusual....................................226
6. Size zero - 1.......................................231
7. Size zero - 2.......................................238
8. Not knowing again...................................245
9. To Otherville.......................................248
CHAPTER EIGHT
1. 101 Heavy...........................................254
2. The face has holes in it............................255
3. Apologia - 2: Keith the Snake.......................260
4. Yellow Tongue.......................................266
5. Cur moment..........................................275
6. 101 Heavy...........................................279
PART III
CHAPTER NINE
1. The syrups of the sky...............................285
2. Sickout at Dolorosa Drive...........................290
3. The principle of lullabies..........................293
4. Anger of the just...................................299
5. The Sextown Sniper..................................304
6. Men in power........................................306
CHAPTER TEN
1. 101 Heavy...........................................309
2. Clint prepares......................................310
3. Waking in the cold..................................311
4. Leather on willow...................................312
5. 101 Heavy...........................................313
6. What do princesses want?............................314
7. Simon Finger........................................316
8. The vestal follow...................................317
9. 101 Heavy...........................................321
LAST CHAPTER
1. Courtly love........................................323
2. k8..................................................326
3. The edge of the earth...............................328
4. 101 Heavy...........................................330
5. Yellow dog..........................................332
6. When they were small................................338


Chapter One

1. Renaissance Man

But I go to Hollywood but I go to hospital, but you are first but you are last, but he is tall but she is small, but you stay up but you go down, but we are rich but we are poor, but they find peace but they find ...

Xan Meo went to Hollywood. And, minutes later, with urgent speed, and accompanied by choric howls of electrified distress, Xan Meo went to hospital. Male violence did it.

'I'm off out, me,' he told his American wife Russia.

'Ooh,' she said, pronouncing it like the French for where.

'Won't be long. I'll bath them. And I'll read to them too. Then I'll make dinner. Then I'll load the dishwasher. Then I'll give you a long backrub. Okay?'

'Can I come?' said Russia.

'I sort of wanted to be alone.'

'You mean you sort of wanted to be alone with your girlfriend.'

Xan knew that this was not a serious accusation. But he adopted an ill-used expression (a thickening of the forehead), and said, not for the first time, and truthfully so far as he knew, 'I've got no secrets from you, kid.'

'... Mm,' she said, and offered him her cheek.

'Don't you know the date?'

'Oh. Of course.'

The couple stood embracing in a high-ceilinged hallway. Now the husband with a movement of the arm caused his keys to sound in their pocket. His half-conscious intention was to signal an impatience to be out. Xan would not publicly agree, but women naturally like to prolong routine departures. It is the obverse of their fondness for keeping people waiting. Men shouldn't mind this. Being kept waiting is a moderate reparation for their five million years in power ... Now Xan sighed softly as the stairs above him softly creaked. A complex figure was descending, normal up to the waist, but two-headed and four-armed: Meo's baby daughter, Sophie, cleaving to the side of her Brazilian nanny, Imaculada. Behind them, at a distance both dreamy and self-sufficient, loomed the four-year-old: Billie.

Russia took the baby and said, 'Would you like a lovely yoghurt for your tea?'

'No!' said the baby.

'Would you like a bath with all your floaty toys?'

'No!' said the baby, and yawned: the first lower teeth like twin grains of rice.

'Billie. Do the monkeys for Daddy.'

'There were too many monkeys jumping on the bed. One fell down and broke his head. They took him to the doctor and the doctor said: No more monkeys jumping on the BED.'

Xan Meo gave his elder daughter due praise.

'Daddy'll read to you when he comes hack,' said Russia.

'I was reading to her earlier,' he said. He had the front door open now. 'She made me read the same book five times.'

'Which hook?'

'Which book? Christ. The one about those stupid chickens who think the sky is falling. Cocky Locky. Goosey Lucy. And they all copped it from the fox, didn't they, Billie.'

'Like the frogs,' said the girl, alluding to some other tale. 'The whole family died. The mummy. The daddy. The nanny. And all the trildren.'

'I'm off out.' He kissed Sophie's head (a faint circus smell); she responded by skidding a wet thumb across her cheek and into her mouth. And then he crouched to kiss Billie.

'It's Daddy's anniversary,' Russia explained. 'Where are you going,' she asked him finally, 'for your lost weekend?'

'That bar-type place on the canal. What's its name. Hollywood.'

'Goodbye, Daddy,' Billie called.

Leaving the house, he turned briefly to assess it - a customary means of assessing himself, assessing where he was positioned, where he was placed. It wasn't his style (we shall come to his style), but he might have put it this way:

If fine materials are what you like, then have a feel of that fleece there, on the extravagantly deep armchair (take as long as you like: don't stint yourself). In fact, if you have an interest in real estate or fine living generally, you could do worse than take a tour of the whole house. If, alternatively, German technology is your thing, then get you to my garage, just around the side there. And so on. But it wasn't the money. If you harbour an admiration for extreme womanly beauty, then feast your eyes on my wife - the mouth, the eyes, the aerodynamic cheekbones (and the light of high intelligence: he was very proud of her intelligence). Or, if your soul melts to the vivid ardour of unusually cute, healthy and well-behaved children, you would envy us our ... And so on. And he might have continued: But then I am the dream husband: a fifty-fifty parent, a tender and punctual lover, a fine provider, an amusing companion, a versatile and unsqueamish handyman, a subtle and accurate cook, and a gifted masseur who, moreover (and despite opportunities best described as 'ample'), never fools around ... The truth was that he knew what it was like, being a bad husband, a nightmare husband; he had tried it the first time; and it was murder.

Xan Meo walked down St George's Avenue and came to the main road (this was London, near the Zoo). In so doing he passed the garden flat, opposite, which he now seldom used. Were there any secrets there? he wondered. An old letter, maybe; an old photograph; vestiges of vanished women ... Xan paused. If he turned right he would be heading for pram-torn Primrose Hill - itself pramlike, stately, Vicwardian, arching itself upwards in a posture of mild indignation. That route would have got him to Hollywood the long way round. If he turned left he would get there sooner and could stay there later. So he had a choice between the garden and the city. He chose the city. He turned left, and headed for Camden Town.

It was late afternoon, and late October. On this day, four years earlier, his decree nisi had been made absolute, and he had also given up smoking and drinking (and dope and coke. American pimps, he had recently learnt, called coke girl; and heroin boy). It had become Meo's habit to celebrate this date with two cocktails and four cigarettes and half an hour of writhing reminiscence. He was happy now - a delicate state: you could feel the tingle of its stress-equations. And he was steadily recuperating from his first marriage. But he knew he would never he over his divorce.

The rink of Britannia Junction: Parkway and Camden Lock and Camden High Street, the dozen black frames of the traffic lights, the slum of cars. Certain sights had to be got out of the way: that heap - no, that stack - of dogshit; that avalanche of vomit; that drunk on the pavement with a face like a baboon's rear; that old chancer who had clearly been incredibly beaten up in the last five or six hours - and, just as incredibly, the eyes that lurked among those knucklestamps and bootprints harboured no grievance, sought no redress ...

Xan Meo looked at the women, or more particularly the girls, the young girls. Typically she wore nine-inch bricks and wigwam flares; her midriff revealed a band of offwhite underpants and a navel traumatised by bijouterie; she had her car-keys in one cheek and her door-keys in the other, a plough in her nose and an anchor in her chin; and her earwax was all over her hair, as if via some inner conduit. But aside from that - what? The secret purpose of fashion, on the street, the harlequinade, fashion in its anarcho-bohemian form, is to thwart the lust of your elders. Well, it's worked, thought Meo. I don't dig you. He thought too of the menpleasers of twenty-five years ago, their stockings, garterbelts, cleavages, perfumes. Girls were now breaking with all that. (And maybe it went further, and they were signalling the retirement of physical beauty in the interests of the egalitarian.) Meo would not say that he disapproved of what he saw, though he found it alien. And when he saw two teenagers vigorously kissing - an unimaginable mesh of lip-rings and tongue-studs - he felt himself assent to it. See the young kissing and run it by your heart; if your heart rejects it, retreats from it, then that's age, that's time - fucking with you.

As he joined the long queue at the service store, for cigarettes, Meo recalled his penultimate infidelity (the ultimate infidelity, of course, had been with Russia). In a hotel room in Manchester he methodically undressed a twenty-year-old continuity girl. 'Let me help you out of those nasty hot clothes,' he said. Which was a line of his. But the line felt accurate: the damp-dog sloppy joe, the woollen tights, the rubber boots. He was seated on the armchair when she finally straightened up in front of him. There was her body, with its familiar circles and half-circles, its divine symmetries, but it included something he had never seen before. He was face to face with a pubic buzzcut. Also: 'What's that doing there?' he asked. And she answered: 'It helps me have an orgasm' ... Well, it didn't help him have an orgasm. Something else was hard where everything was meant to be soft: he seemed to be pestling himself - against a steel ingot. Plus a nice telltale welt (with her name and phone number on it) to take home to a wife who was, in any case, and with good reason, psychopathically jealous (as was he). The continuity girl, then, had not been a continuity girl. Discontinuity, radical discontinuity, was what she had signalled. How clear did it need to be? No more monkeys jumping on the bed. He had been sleeping with Russia for four and a half years. Passion survived, but he knew it would dwindle; and he was prepared for that. Xan Meo was on his way to realising that, after a while, marriage is a sibling relationship - marked by occasional, and rather regrettable, episodes of incest.

Dusk was now falling; but the firmament was majestically bright; and the contrails of the more distant aeroplanes were like incandescent spermatozoa, sent out to fertilise the universe ... On the street Meo stopped looking at the girls, and the girls, naturally, went on not looking at him. He had reached the age (he was forty-seven) where young women looked through you, beyond you, they looked through your ghost: a trite misfortune, perhaps, but definitely a point in your leavetaking, your journey to ghostdom. You whisper goodbye, goodbye - God be with you (because I won't be. I can't protect you). And yet this was not quite fully Meo's case, for he was a conspicuous man, and knew it, and liked it, on the whole. He owned a lot of physical space, tall, broad, full; his dark brown hair was no longer thick and wavy but it still covered a fair part of his head (the unguent that lent it extra mass and fixity was called Urban Therapeutic); and his eyes had rather more twinkle in them than you necessarily want to see. His face held a glow to it - a talented glow, certainly, but what kind of talent? At its weakest, its most ingratiating, Meo's face was that of a man who might step up to a microphone and give you a competently leering rendition of 'Pop Goes the Weasel'. His air seemed likely: plausible for the purpose at hand.

And, more than this, he was famous, and therefore in himself there was something specious and inflationary, something bigged-up. He was, however, quietly famous, as so many are now: many are famous (and even Meo could remember a time when hardly anybody was famous). Fame had so democratised itself that obscurity was felt as a deprivation or even a punishment. And people who weren't famous behaved famous. Indeed, in certain mental atmospheres it was possible to believe that the island he lived on contained sixty million superstars ... Meo was, in fact, an actor, an actor who had gained sudden repute by warily diversifying into another field. And the world has a name for these people who can do more than one thing at the same time, these heroic multitaskers: it calls them Renaissance Men. The quiet glow of quiet fame, then, further illumined Xan Meo. Every five minutes someone would smile his way - because they thought they knew him. He returned such smiles.

The stroll to Hollywood continued - and we will stay with Meo's stroll, because it will be his last for some time. He stuck his head round the door of the High Street bookshop and complacently ascertained that his paperback (a debut collection of short stories entitled Lucozade) was still on the table marked Our Staff Recommends. Then, turning right up Delancey Street, he passed the café where Renaissance Man played rhythm guitar every second Wednesday with four old hippies who called themselves the Original Hard Edge. He cut left down Mornington Terrace - rather poorer, very much quieter: he could hear his own footfalls despite the thrashing trees he walked beneath and the submerged clangour of the rolling-stock deep down over the wall to his right. The weather was of the type that was still politely described as blustery. A ragged and bestial turbulence, in fact, a rodeo of wind - the earth trying to throw its riders. And in the street: garden furniture, twirling dustbins, bicycles and (increasingly) car doors thrown open into the path of the boost. Xan was too old for fashion, for cuts and styles; but his trousers, now, were alternately flared and drainpiped by the wind.

Up ahead he picked out a figure that reminded him, or reminded his body, of his first wife - his first wife as she was ten years ago. Pearl would not have had a cigarette in her mouth and a tabloid in her armpit, and nor would her clothes have been quite so brief, so taut, so woman-crammed; but the aggressive or at least sharply defiant stance, the arms disaffectedly folded, the lift of the chin that said that all excuses had now been considered and dismissed ... She stood, waiting, in the shadow of a dun-coloured mediumrise. Behind her a male infant lingered, wiggling a stick among the exposed innards of a black plastic bag. As Meo turned to cross over the railtracks he heard her say,

'Harrison. Move your fucking arse!'

Yes, most regrettable, no doubt; but with his back safely turned Meo did not deny himself a wince of laughter. He was a good modern person; was a liberal, a feminist (indeed a gynocrat: 'Give the girls a go,' he'd say. 'I know it's asking the earth. Still, we're no good. Give the girls a go'). But he still found things funny. The woman, after all, had made her meaning plain; and it couldn't be said that she had minced her words. No: Pearl would have put it differently ... He could see the building now, with its variegated Christmas lights, its squirming barber's pole. Sometimes a descending aeroplane can sound a warning note: one did so, up above - an organ-chord, signalling its own doom.

He stopped and thought: that feeling again. And he sniffed the essential wrongness of the air, with its fucked-up undertaste, as if all the sequiturs had been vacuumed out of it. A yellowworld of faith and fear, and paltry ingenuity. And all of us just flying blind. Then he stepped forward.

Xan Meo went to Hollywood.

Continues...


Excerpted from YELLOW DOG by Martin Amis Copyright © 2003 by Martin Amis . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


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