Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Green Man by Kingsley Amis (4/5)

The back says: Like all good medieval coaching inns, the Green Man in Farenham, boasts a resident, if retired, ghost Dr Thomas Underhill, a notorious seventeenth-century practitioner of black arts and sexual deviant suspected of two particularly savage murders. The landlord Maurice Allington, veteran addict to the spirits of this world, is the sole witness to the renaissance of the malign Underhill in the oppressive August of 1968.

It had been a trying summer for Allington. In addition to a series of major staff crises, his new wife was unresponsive, his teenage daughter withdrawn and symptoms of advanced middle-age hypochondria aggravated by twenty years’ hard drinking. The death of his father after an unnamed vision of horror, the series uncanny manifestations, the glimpses of nightmarish creatures on the edge of reality, affect Allington with an alarm which even the delicious prospect of a romp with his wife and mistress fails to alleviate. Led by curiosity and an anxious desire to vindicate his sanity, Allington uncovers the key to Underhill’s satanic secrets and is brought face to face with the monstrous agent of his evil purpose.

I say: I realised late last year that I am not really the fan of horror that I used to be in my youth and Stephen King days, so it was a sort of surprise for me to realise that this was a horror story – or, not really, since I’ve since long stopped to read synopsis. Had I known what this was about my prejudices would have kept me from it;

hence the no longer reading of synopsis.

Either way, I am falling deeper and deeper in love with Amis’ writing, which is just so full of brilliance, humour and pure perfection I can’t even know what to say. What I love is that sometimes his humour is so subtle I’m not sure if it was meant as a joke/quip or if it’s just me, whereas at other times it’s so blatantly in your face and British I have to laugh out loud. When I read Lucky Jim I noticed that his sense of humour reminded me of my favourite Russians and it was a delight to recognise that I still got that feeling when reading this.

I know, British and Russian humour isn’t the same thing, but there’s a mix of both here, in my humble opinion.

I really liked Allington with all his obvious flaws and ridiculous ways of dealing with things; which usually started with him having a triple gin or whiskey. Since I suck at solving mysteries, I really liked the fact that Allington and I were more or less on the same page regarding the ghost – ok, sometimes he was way ahead of me, and others I was wondering how he could be so dense, but it all evened out in the end. He was funny, drunk, stupid, sex-obsessed, inattentive, and just the perfect type of antihero. And I have to admit that all his imperfections made for this being more than a pure horror story, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much.

The ghost story was inventive enough for those who like that sort of thing, but it didn’t take over so much that it was merely about ghosts. We had the subplot of him trying to arrange a threesome with his wife and mistress, his daughter who was desperately trying to get his attention and his son and doctor who thought he was going insane rather than seeing ghosts.

So yeah, 4/5 because of Amis’ writing and his brilliant portrayal of a selfish and alcoholic owner of a haunted inn who you really should hate but can’t help but find endearing.



*This is my twentieth entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).

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