Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Immortals by Martin Amis

I recently picked up The Art of the Story: An International Anthology of Conemporary Short Stories, edited by Daniel Halpern. I'm a short story junkie for many reasons: the near-instant gratification, the possibilities for experimentation without long-term commitment, the close attention to structure and language. Halpern's collection includes authors from around the world but is limited to those authors born between 1938 and 1970. The date cutoffs are arbitrary, Halpern admits, but the result is a fascinating amalgamation of contemporary writing in short form. I highly recommend the collection.

Now, to get to the title of this post, the first story I read in Halpern's collection was The Immortals by Martin Amis, which begins:

It's quite a prospect. Soon the people will all be gone and I will be alone forever. The human beings around here are in very bad shape, what with the solar radiation, the immunity problem, the rat-and-roach diet, and so on.
Amis's story, in turns humorous and tragic, covers the entirety of earth's life story from the perspective of an all-seeing narrator. Amis's narrator has this to say about the dinosaurs:

They could have made it, if they'd tightened their belts and behaved sensibly. The tropics were a little stifling and gloomy, true, but perfectly habitable. No, the dinosaurs had it coming: a very bad crowd.
And this about the Renaissance:

Know what my favorite period was? Yes: the Renaissance. You really came good. To tell you the truth, you astonished me. I'd just yawned my way through five hundred years of disease, religion, and zero talen. The food was terrible. Nobody looked good. The arts and crafts stank. Then--pow! And all at once like that, too.
The Immortals is a great reason to invest in Halpern's The Art of the Story (which you can find for well under $20). Every ten pages or so offers a new opportunity for a reading adventure.

1 comment:

Emma Janson said...

I absolutely LOVE this short! The humorous journey the main character took me on through his perspective of history is/was enough to ask why in the world has this not been turned into the best, most epic TV series ever?