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Martin Amis
Born 25 August 1949 (1949-08-25) (age 60)
Swansea, Wales[1]
Nationality British
Occupation Writer
Known for A series of best-selling novels
Spouse(s) Antonia Phillips (1984-1993); Isabel Fonseca (1996-present)
Children Delilah (1976), Louis (1985), Jacob (1986), Fernanda (1997), Clio (1999)
Parents Kingsley Amis (father), Hilary Ann Bardwell (mother)
Relatives Philip Amis (brother), Sally Amis (sister)

Martin Louis Amis (born 25 August 1949) is a British novelist, the author of some of Britain's best-known modern literature, including Money (1986) and London Fields (1989). He is currently Professor of Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester. The Times named him in 2008 as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.[2]

Amis's raw material is what he sees as the absurdity of the postmodern condition and the excesses of late-capitalist Western society with its grotesque caricatures. He has thus been portrayed as the undisputed master of what The New York Times called "the new unpleasantness."[3] Influenced by Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce, as well as by his father Sir Kingsley Amis, he has inspired a generation of writers with his distinctive style, including Will Self and Zadie Smith. The Guardian writes that "[a]ll his critics have noted what Kingsley Amis complained of as a 'terrible compulsive vividness in his style ... that constant demonstrating of his command of English'; and it's true that the Amis-ness of Amis will be recognisable in any piece before he reaches his first full stop."[1]

Contents

Early life

Sir Kingsley Amis (1922-1995)

Amis was born in Swansea, south Wales.[1] His father, Sir Kingsley Amis, was the son of a mustard manufacturer's clerk from Clapham; his mother, Hilary Bardwell (Hilly), was the daughter of a shoe millionaire.[3] He had an older brother, Philip, and a younger sister, Sally. His parents divorced when he was twelve. Much later, he lived in a house with Kingsley, Hilly, and Hilly's third husband, Alistair Boyd, Lord Kilmarnock.[4] Amis has described it as "[s]omething out of early Updike, 'Couples' flirtations and a fair amount of drinking," he told The New York Times. "They were all 'at it'."[3]

He attended a number of schools in the 1950s and 1960s—including Swansea Grammar School, and Cambridgeshire High School for Boys—where he was described by one headmaster as "unusually unpromising."[1] The acclaim that followed Kingsley's first novel Lucky Jim sent the family to Princeton, New Jersey, where Kingsley lectured. This was Martin's introduction to the United States.

He read nothing but comic books until his stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, introduced him to Jane Austen, whom he often names as his earliest influence. After teenage years spent in flowery shirts and a short spell at Westminster School while living in Hampstead, he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford with a "Congratulatory" First in English — "the sort where you are called in for a viva and the examiners tell you how much they enjoyed reading your papers."[5]

After Oxford, he found an entry-level job at The Times Literary Supplement, and at age 27 became literary editor of The New Statesman, where he met Christopher Hitchens, then a feature writer for The Observer, who remains a close friend.

Early writing

According to Martin, Kingsley Amis famously showed no interest in his son's work. "I can point out the exact place where he stopped and sent Money twirling through the air; that's where the character named Martin Amis comes in." "Breaking the rules, buggering about with the reader, drawing attention to himself," Kingsley complained.[3]

His first novel The Rachel Papers (1973) won the Somerset Maugham Award. The most traditional of his novels, made into an unsuccessful cult film, it tells the story of a bright, egotistical teenager (which Amis acknowledges as autobiographical) and his relationship with the eponymous girlfriend in the year before going to university.

He also wrote the screenplay for the film Saturn 3, an experience which he was to draw on for his fifth novel Money.

Dead Babies (1975), more flippant in tone, has a typically "sixties" plot, with a house full of characters who use various substances. A number of Amis's characteristics show up here for the first time: mordant black humour, obsession with the zeitgeist, authorial intervention, a character subjected to sadistically humorous misfortunes and humiliations, and a defiant casualness ("my attitude has been, I don't know much about science, but I know what I like"). A film adaptation was made in 2000.

Success (1977) told the story of two foster-brothers, Gregory Riding and Terry Service, and their rising and falling fortunes. This was the first example of Amis's fondness for symbolically 'pairing' characters in his novels, which has been a recurrent feature in his fiction since (Martin Amis and Martina Twain in Money, Richard Tull and Gwyn Barry in The Information, and Jennifer Rockwell and Mike Hoolihan in Night Train).

Other People: A Mystery Story (1981), about a young woman coming out of a coma, was a transitional novel in that it was the first of Amis's to show authorial intervention in the narrative voice, and highly artificed language in the heroine's descriptions of everyday objects, which was said to be influenced by his contemporary Craig Raine's 'Martian' school of poetry.

Main career

1980s and '90s

Amis's best-known novels, and the ones most respected by critics, are Money, London Fields, Time's Arrow, and The Information.[citation needed] Money, London Fields, and The Information are commonly referred to as Amis' "London Trilogy." Although the books share little in terms of plot and narrative, they all feature examinations of the lives of middle-aged men. More specifically, the London novels explore the sordid, debauched, and post-apocalyptic undercurrents of life in late 20th Century Britain. Amis' London protagonists are anti-heroes: they engage in questionable and objectionable behaviour, are passionate iconoclasts, and strive to escape the apparent banality and futility of life.

Money (1984, subtitled A Suicide Note) is a first-person narrative by John Self, advertising man and would-be film director, who is "addicted to the twentieth century." "[A] satire of Thatcherite amorality and greed,"[6] the novel relates a series of black comedic episodes as Self flies back and forth across the Atlantic, in crass and seemingly chaotic pursuit of personal and professional success. Time included the novel in its list of the 100 best English-language novels of 1923 to 2005.[7] On 11 November 2009, The Guardian reported that the BBC has adapted Money for television as part of their early 2010 schedule for BBC 2.[8] Early word on the casting includes Nick Frost to play John Self.[8] It will also feature Vincent Kartheiser, who plays Pete Campbell in Mad Men, Little Dorrit's Emma Pierson and Jerry Hall,[8] who will be playing Selina Street.[9] The adaptation is to be a "two-part drama" and is written by Tom Butterworth and Chris Hurford.[8]

London Fields (1989), Amis's longest work, describes the encounters between three main characters in London in 1999, as a climate disaster approaches. The characters have typically Amisian names and broad caricatured qualities: Keith Talent, the lower-class crook with a passion for darts; Nicola Six, a femme fatale who is determined to be murdered; and upper-middle-class Guy Clinch, 'the fool, the foil, the poor foal' who is destined to come between the other two. The book was reportedly omitted from the Booker Prize shortlist in its year of publication, 1989, because of panel members protesting against its alleged misogyny.[citation needed]

Amis' 1991 offering, the short novel Time's Arrow, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Notable for its unique, backwards narrative - including dialogue in reverse - the novel is the autobiography of a Nazi concentration camp doctor. The unique reversal of time in the novel seemingly transforms Auschwitz - and the entire theatre of war - into a place of joy, healing, and resurrection.

The Information (1995) was notable not so much for its critical success, but for the scandals surrounding its publication. The enormous advance (an alleged £500,000) demanded and subsequently obtained by Amis for the novel attracted what the author described as "an Eisteddfod of hostility" from writers and critics after he abandoned his long-serving agent, the late Pat Kavanagh, in order to be represented by the Harvard-educated Andrew "The Jackal" Wylie.[citation needed] The split was by no means amicable; it created a rift between Amis and his long-time friend, Julian Barnes, who was married to Kavanagh. According to Amis' autobiography Experience (2000), he and Barnes had not resolved their differences.[10] The Information itself deals with the relationship between a pair of British writers of fiction. One, a spectacularly successful purveyor of "airport novels," is envied by his friend, an equally unsuccessful writer of philosophical - and generally abstruse - prose. The final instalment in Amis' loose trilogy of novels set in London, The Information is written in the author's classic style: characters appearing as stereotyped caricatures, grotesque elaborations on the wickedness of middle age, and a general air of post-apocalyptic malaise.

Amis' 1997 offering, the short novel Night Train, is unique in that it is the first of Amis' books to use a female protagonist. Narrated by the mannish American Detective Mike Hoolihan, the story revolves around the suicide of her boss's teenage daughter. Like most of Amis' work, Night Train is dark, bleak, and foreboding - arguably a reflection of the author's views on America. Amis' distinctively American vernacular in the narrative was criticized by, among other, John Updike, although the novel found defenders elsewhere, notably in Janis Bellow, wife of Amis' sometime mentor and friend, the late Saul Bellow.[citation needed]

2000s

The 2000's were Amis' least productive decade in terms of producing full length fiction since he started in the 1970's (with two novels in ten years), while his non-fiction work saw a dramatic increase in volume (with three published works including a memoir, a hybrid semi-memoir/amateur political history, and a journalism collection).

In the year 2000 Amis published a memoir titled Experience. Largely concerned with the strange relationship between the author and his father, the novelist Kingsley Amis, the autobiography nevertheless deals with many facets of Amis' life. Of particular note is Amis' reunion with his long-lost daughter, Delilah Seale, the product of an affair in the 1970s, whom he did not see until she was 19. Amis also discusses, at some length, the murder of his cousin Lucy Partington by Fred West when she was 21. The book was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography.

In 2002 Amis published Koba the Dread, a devastating history of the crimes of Lenin and Stalin, and their denial by many writers and academics in the West. The book precipitated a literary controversy for its approach to the material, and for its attack on Amis' long-time friend, Christopher Hitchens. Once (but no longer) a passionate and committed leftist, Hitchens' alleged sympathy for Stalin and communism was criticized by Amis. Although Hitchens wrote a vituperative response to the book in The Atlantic, his friendship with Amis appears to have emerged unchanged: in response to a reporter's question, Amis responded "We never needed to make up. We had an adult exchange of views, mostly in print, and that was that (or, more exactly, that goes on being that). My friendship with the Hitch has always been perfectly cloudless. It is a love whose month is ever May."[11]

In 2003, Yellow Dog, Amis's first novel in six years, was published. The novel drew mixed reviews, and was most notably denounced by the novelist Tibor Fischer: "Yellow Dog isn't bad as in not very good or slightly disappointing. It's not-knowing-where-to-look bad. I was reading my copy on the Tube and I was terrified someone would look over my shoulder… It's like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating."[12] Elsewhere, the book received mixed reviews, with some critics proclaiming the novel a return to form, but most considered the book to be a great disappointment.[citation needed] Amis was unrepentant about the novel and its reaction, calling Yellow Dog "among my best three". He gave his own explanation for the novel's critical failure, "No one wants to read a difficult literary novel or deal with a prose style which reminds them how thick they are. There's a push towards egalitarianism, making writing more chummy and interactive, instead of a higher voice, and that's what I go to literature for."[13] Yellow Dog "controversially made the 13-book longlist for the 2003 Booker Prize, despite some scathing reviews", but failed to win the award.[14]

Following the harsh reviews afforded to Yellow Dog, Amis relocated from London to Uruguay with his family for two years, during which time he worked on his next novel away from the glare of the media and the pressure of the London literary scene.

In September 2006, upon his return from Uruguay, Amis' published his eleventh novel. House of Meetings, a short novel, continued the author's crusade against the crimes of Stalinism and also saw some consideration of the state of contemporary post-Soviet Russia. The novel centres on the relationship between two brothers incarcerated in a prototypical Siberian gulag who, prior to their deportation, had loved the same woman. House of Meetings saw some better critical notices than Yellow Dog had received three years before, but there were still some reviewers who felt that Amis' fiction work had considerably declined in quality while others felt that he was not suited to writing an ostensibly serious historical novel. Despite the praise for House of Meetings, once again Amis was overlooked for the Booker Prize longlist. According to a piece in The Independent, the novel "was originally to have been collected alongside two short stories - one, a disturbing account of the life of a body-double in the court of Saddam Hussein; the other, the imagined final moments of Muhammad Atta, the leader of the 11 September attacks - but late in the process, Amis decided to jettison both from the book."[15] In the same 2006 interview, Amis revealed that he had "recently abandoned a novella, The Unknown Known (the title was based on one of Donald Rumsfeld's characteristically strangulated linguistic formulations) in which Muslim terrorists unleash a horde of compulsive rapists on a town called Greeley, Colorado"[15] and instead continued to work on a follow-up full novel that he had started working on in 2003:[16]

"The novel I'm working on is blindingly autobiographical, but with an Islamic theme. It's called A Pregnant Widow, because at the end of a revolution you don't have a newborn child, you have a pregnant widow. And the pregnant widow in this novel is feminism. Which is still in its second trimester. The child is nowhere in sight yet. And I think it has several more convulsions to undergo before we'll see the child."[15]

However, the new novel took some considerable time to write and was not published before the end of the decade. Instead, Amis' last published work of the 2000's was the 2008 journalism collection The Second Plane, a collection with compiled Amis' many writings on the events of 9/11 and the subsequent major events and cultural isses resulting from the War on Terror. The reception to The Second Plane was decidedly mixed, with some reviewers finding its tone intelligent and well reasoned, while others believed it to be overly stylised and lacking in authoritative knowledge of key areas udner consideration. The most common consensus was that the two short stories included were the weakest point of the collection. However, the collection sold relatively well and was widely discussed and debated.

2010s

In 2010, after a long period of writing, rewriting, editing and revision, Amis published his long-awaited new long novel, The Pregnant Widow, which marks the beginning of a new four-book deal. Originally set for release in 2008, the novel's publication was pushed back to 2009 and then 2010 as further editing and alterations were being made, expanding the novel to some 480 pages. A statement from publishers Johnathan Cape describes the content of the novel:

"The 1960s, as is well known, saw the launch of the sexual revolution, which radically affected the lives of every Westerner fortunate enough to be born after the Second World War. But a revolution is a revolution - contingent and sanguinary. In the words of the Russian thinker Alexander Herzen: The death of the contemporary forms of social order ought to gladden rather than trouble the soul. Yet what is frightening is that what the departing world leaves behind it is not an heir but a pregnant widow. Between the death of the one and the birth of the other, much water will flow by, a long night of chaos and desolation will pass. In many senses, including the literal, it was a velvet revolution; but it wasn't bloodless. Nor was it complete. Even today, in 2009, the pregnancy is still in its second trimester. Martin Amis, in "The Pregnant Widow", takes as his control experiment a long, hot summer holiday in a castle in Italy, where half a dozen young lives are afloat on the sea change of 1970. The result is a tragicomedy of manners, combining the wit of "Money" with the historical sense of "Time's Arrow" and "House of Meetings"."[17]

The first public reading of the then just completed version of The Pregnant Widow[18] occurred on 11 May 2009 at the Norwich Playhouse as part of the Norwich and Norfolk festival.[18]. Amis was in conversation with the Observer’s Robert McCrum, a long-time friend of his. At this reading, according to the coverage of the event for the Norwich Writers' Centre by Katy Carr, "the writing shows a return to comic form, as the narrator muses on the indignities of facing the mirror as an aging man, in a prelude to a story set in Italy in 1970, looking at the effect of the sexual revolution on personal relationships. The sexual revolution was the moment, as Amis sees it, that love became divorced from sex. He said he started to write the novel autobiographically (something that has been interesting the press recently), but then concluded that real life was too different from fiction, and difficult to drum into novel shape, so he had to rethink the form."[18] Additionally, Amis "seemed quite happy reading the opening pages in the novel’s first public outing."[18]

Further details concerning the novel's plot were revealed by The Times on 10 May 2009, its reporter Maurice Chittenden writing that at the event "Amis said the book was originally meant to be based much more closely on his own life. However, he had introduced more fictional passages after realising the format was not working," and that he "[had] been working on the partly autobiographical The Pregnant Widow for more than five years."[19]

Chittenden writes that Amis said at the event regarding the length of the novel's protracted writing and creative gestation:

"In 2003 I tried for a couple of years [to make the novel more autobiographical]. I flailed about and it all felt awful. Bits were autobiographical but I had to completely rethink it. It was an uncontrollably long and pointless novel of 200,000 words. But the summer in Italy, I drew that out.”[19]

In an 1 August 2009 interview with The Afterworld, Amis clarified the nature of some of the content of The Pregnant Widow and revealed that he is currently "writing two novels at the same time":[20]

I started a novel [but] then I’m going to write a novella before I get on to it. But I was in big trouble a few years ago, with a huge, dead novel. And it took me a long time, and a lot of grief, to realize -- I thought I was clutching at straws -- it turned out it was actually two novels, and they couldn’t go together. So I wrote The Pregnant Widow, [that’s] one half of it, and the other half I started, and it will be very autobiographical, the next one.[20]

Published in a whirl of publicity the likes of which Amis had not received for a novel since the publication of The Information in 1995, The Pregnant Widow once again saw Amis receiving mixed reviews from the press.

Amis' next project is a novella currently titled State of England, and that will be followed by another full novel made up of some of the other half of the original draft of The Pregnant Widow.

Amis and Katie Price

On 27 October 2009, The Daily Telegraph reported that during a recent appearance by Amis at the Hay Festival in Wales, Amis had discussed his fascination with the glamour model turned celebrity author Katie Price (formerly known as Jordan). Amis went on to reveal that he "has honoured [Price] with a character bearing some of her traits"[21] in his forthcoming new novella provisionally titled State of England (also the title of a 1996 short story by Amis).[21] Amis said that her character was named 'Threnody', and stated categorically that Threnody "isn't based on" Jordan"[21] but readers should "bear in mind" the model when they read the book.[21] Furthermore, Amis said of Price: "She has no waist, no arse...an interesting face...but all we are really worshipping is two bags of silicone,"[21] though he admitted to having read both volumes of her autobiography.[21]

Amis' remarks concerning Price and the rise of the "celebrity author" provoked wide discussion and much fierce debate with the press and literary circles, with Guardian BookBlog writer Jean Hannah Edelstein accusing Amis of misogyny and implying that it showed insecurity on his part.[22] David Lister in The Independent thought that Amis was "refreshingly unafraid to challenge prevailing orthodoxies"[23] but thought he had also been "a real fool".[23] "In turning his critique of celebrity publishing into a personal attack on a woman's physical attributes in language that would have seemed chauvinist 40 years ago, let alone now, he has shown his true colours, won Jordan sympathy and lost the argument on celebrity novels,"[23] Lister wrote. These are accusations which have been levelled at Amis before, most notably in 1989 when London Fields was rumoured to have been excluded from the Booker Prize longlist for similar reasons after protests by judges Maggie Gee and Helen McNeil, and exclusions from the shortlist for the Whitbread Prize the same year.[24] Independent Editor-At-Large Janet Street Porter also attacked Amis' remarks: "The truth is, he doesn't sell as many books as he used to...Whether Amis can cope with it or not, Katie Price sells millions of books to people who would not normally buy books."[25] Street Porter went on to add that Price's novels were "pure escapism"[25] (asking "...what's wrong with that?") and that in being "reduced to slagging off a woman who will never have read one of his own books, or even have heard of him, in order to drum up interest and grab a few headlines for his next opus",[25] Amis was "signing up to the very culture he's said to despise."[25] Porter signed off her piece saying that Amis shouldn't be "...such a rude snob."[25]

Amis was defended by fellow novelist Tony Parsons. Writing in The Mirror, Parsons opined that "...it is wrong to suggest that Amis is just jealous of Jordan’s sales figures. I think the real problem is the sheer excitement that Katie/Jordan generates among her readers. She encourages people to pour into bookshops in a way that the likes of Martin and I can only dream about."[26] Despite the critical acclaim of literary fiction and high profile awards such as the Booker Prize, Parsons said that ultimately "Jordan, those two bestselling bags of silicone, has done more to promote reading in this country than anyone apart from the great J.K. Rowling."[26]

Amis revealed a few more details about Threnody and his views on Jordan in an interview with Will Gore for the Epsom Guardian prior to the release of The Pregnant Widow:

“She is a minor character,” he explains. “It is not Jordan but a rather different type of woman who gets about as much attention. My character is a poet, not a novelist, on the side as well as being a glamour model. “I think it is slightly depressing that Jordan’s autobiography is a best seller and people queue for five hours to meet her. What does that say about England? “Snobbery has to start somewhere and if you can’t be snobbish about Katie Price you are dead, you’ve gone.”[27]

Further details about State of England and Amis' plans were revealed in an interview with The Times in late January, 2010 prior to the release of The Pregnant Widow. According to the article, "[Amis has] nearly finished his next novel, State of England, about chavs, which contains one character, Threnody, inspired by Katie Price and another, “my worst yet”, he says, based on Mikey Carroll, a crack-smoking lottery winner. “Lionel Asbo wins £90m on the lottery and does something so vicious…I can't tell you what”.[28] Amis clarified further by stating: “I’ve got the first draft of the next novel done...and another novel ready to go after that.”[29]

Other works

Amis has also released two collections of short stories (Einstein's Monsters and Heavy Water), four volumes of collected journalism and criticism (The Moronic Inferno, Visiting Mrs. Nabokov, The War Against Cliché and The Second Plane), and a guide to 1980s space-themed arcade video-game machines (Invasion of the Space Invaders). He also regularly appeared on television and radio discussion and debate programmes, and contributes book reviews and articles to newspapers. His wife Isabel Fonseca released her debut novel Attachment in 2009 and two of Amis' children, his son Louis and his daughter Fernanda, have also been published in their own right in Standpoint magazine and The Guardian, respectively.[30]

Current life

Amis returned to Britain in September 2006 after living in Uruguay for two and a half years with his second wife, the writer Isabel Fonseca, and their two young daughters. Amis became a grandfather in 2008 when his daughter Delilah gave birth to a son.[31]

He said, "Some strange things have happened, it seems to me, in my absence. I didn't feel like I was getting more rightwing when I was in Uruguay, but when I got back I felt that I had moved quite a distance to the right while staying in the same place." He reports that he is disquieted by what he sees as increasingly undisguised hostility towards Israel and the United States.[31]

Political opinions

A conversation between Martin Amis and Ian Buruma on "Monsters" at the 2007 New Yorker Festival.[32]

Through the 1980s and 1990s, Amis was a strong critic of nuclear proliferation. His collection of five stories on this theme, Einstein's Monsters, began with a long essay entitled "Thinkability" in which he set out his views on the issue, writing: "Nuclear weapons repel all thought, perhaps because they can end all thought."

He wrote in "Nuclear City" in Esquire of 1987 (re-published in Visiting Mrs Nabokov) that: "when nuclear weapons become real to you, when they stop buzzing around your ears and actually move into your head, hardly an hour passes without some throb or flash, some heavy pulse of imagined supercatastrophe."

Amis expressed his opinions on terrorism in an extended essay published in The Observer on the eve of the fifth anniversary of 9/11 in which he criticized the economic development of all Arab countries because their "aggregate GDP... was less than the GDP of Spain", and they "lag[ged] behind the West, and the Far East, in every index of industrial and manufacturing output, job creation, technology, literacy, life-expectancy, human development, and intellectual vitality."[33]

The Catholic-Marxist critic Terry Eagleton, in the 2007 introduction to his work Ideology, singled out and attacked Amis for a particular quote (which Eagleton mistakenly attributed to one of Amis' essays),[citation needed] taken the day after the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot came to light, in an informal interview in The Times Magazine. Amis was quoted as saying: "What can we do to raise the price of them doing this? There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children...It’s a huge dereliction on their part".[34] Eagleton wrote that this view is "[n]ot the ramblings of a British National Party thug, [...] but the reflections of Martin Amis, leading luminary of the English metropolitan literary world".

In a later piece, Eagleton added: "But there is something rather stomach-churning at the sight of those such as Amis and his political allies, champions of a civilisation that for centuries has wreaked untold carnage throughout the world, shrieking for illegal measures when they find themselves for the first time on the sticky end of the same treatment."[35]

Elsewhere, Amis was especially careful to distinguish between Islam and radical Islamism, stating that:

"We can begin by saying, not only that we respect Muhammad, but that no serious person could fail to respect Muhammad - a unique and luminous historical being...Judged by the continuities he was able to set in motion, Muhammad has strong claims to being the most extraordinary man who ever lived...To repeat, we respect Islam - the donor of countless benefits to mankind...But Islamism? No, we can hardly be asked to respect a creedal wave that calls for our own elimination...Naturally we respect Islam. But we do not respect Islamism, just as we respect Muhammad and do not respect Muhammad Atta." [36]

A prominent British Muslim, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, wrote an op-ed piece on the subject condemning Amis and he responded with an open letter to The Independent which the newspaper printed in full. In it, he stated his views had been misrepresented by both Alibhai-Brown and Eagleton.[37] In an article in The Guardian, Amis subsequently wrote:

And now I feel that this was the only serious deprivation of my childhood - the awful human colourlessness of South Wales, the dully flickering whites and grays, like a Pathe newsreel, like an ethnic Great Depression. In common with all novelists, I live for and am addicted to physical variety; and my one quarrel with the rainbow is that its spectrum isn't wide enough. I would like London to be full of upstanding Martians and Neptunians, of reputable citizens who came, originally, from Krypton and Tralfamadore.[38]

On terrorism, Martin Amis wrote that he suspected "there exists on our planet a kind of human being who will become a Muslim in order to pursue suicide-mass murder," and added: "I will never forget the look on the gatekeeper's face, at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, when I suggested, perhaps rather airily, that he skip some calendric prohibition and let me in anyway. His expression, previously cordial and cold, became a mask; and the mask was saying that killing me, my wife, and my children was something for which he now had warrant."[33]

In comments on the BBC in October 2006 Amis expressed his view that North Korea was the most dangerous of the two remaining members of the Axis Of Evil, but that Iran was our "natural enemy", suggesting that we should not feel bad about having "helped Iraq scrape a draw with Iran" in the Iran–Iraq War, because a "revolutionary and rampant Iran would have been a much more destabilising presence."[39]

His views on radical Islamism earned him the contentious sobriquet Blitcon[40] from the New Statesman (his former employer). This term, it has since been argued, was wrongly applied.[41]

His political opinions have been attacked in some quarters, particularly in The Guardian[42]. He has, however, received support from many other writers. In The Spectator, Philip Hensher noted:

"The controversy raised by Amis’s views on religion as specifically embodied by Islamists is an empty one. He will tell you that his loathing is limited to Islamists, not even to Islam and certainly not to the ethnic groups concerned. The point, I think, is demonstrated, and the openness with which he has been willing to think out loud could usefully be emulated by political figures, addicted as they are to weasel words and double talk. I have to say that from non-practising Muslims I’ve heard language and opinions on Islamists which are far less temperate than anything Amis uses. In comparison to the private expressions of voices of modernity within Muslim societies, Amis is almost exaggeratedly respectful."[43]

In June 2008, Amis endorsed the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, stating that "The reason I hope for Obama is that he alone has the chance to reposition America's image in the world".[44]

Current employment

In February 2007, Martin Amis was appointed as a Professor of Creative Writing at The Manchester Centre for New Writing in the University of Manchester, and started in September 2007. He runs postgraduate seminars, and participates in four public events each year, including a two-week summer school.[31]

Of his position, he said: "I may be acerbic in how I write but...I would find it very difficult to say cruel things to [students] in such a vulnerable position. I imagine I'll be surprisingly sweet and gentle with them."[31] He predicts that the experience might inspire him to write a new book, while adding sardonically: "A campus novel written by an elderly novelist, that's what the world wants."[31] It has been revealed that the salary paid to Amis by the university is £80,000 a year.[45] The Manchester Evening News broke the story claiming that according to his contract this meant he was paid £3000 an hour for 28 hours a year teaching. The claim was echoed in headlines in several national papers. However like any other member of academic staff his teaching contact hours constitute a minority of his commitments, a point confirmed in the original article by a reply from the University.[46]

Martin Amis is scheduled to give a number of appearances at Manchester University's Whitworth Hall, public discussions with other experts on various topics during 2008-2009.

Bibliography

Novels

Collections

Non fiction

References

  1. ^ a b c d "Martin Amis", The Guardian, 22 July 2008.
  2. ^ The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Times, 5 January 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Stout, Mira. "Martin Amis: Down London's mean streets", The New York Times, 4 February 1990.
  4. ^ Sarah Sands: "My life with the unfaithful old devil Kingsley Amis", in Daily Mail, 6 October 2006 (retrieved 2008-05-18); Eric Jacobs: "From angry young man to old devil", Obituary of Sir Kingsley Amis in The Guardian, 23 October 1995 (retrieved 2008-05-18).
  5. ^ Leader, Zachary (2006). The Life of Kingsley Amis. Cape, p. 614.
  6. ^ "Martin Amis", British Council: Contemporary Writers, accessed 24 January 2009
  7. ^ http://www.time.com/time/2005/100books/the_complete_list.html
  8. ^ a b c d http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/nov/11/nick-frost-bbc2-martin-amis-money
  9. ^ http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5hlGddUFPNbPvOIO2CT-QBaEDMTCQ
  10. ^ Amis, Martin, Experience (2000), pp. 247-249
  11. ^ "Martin Amis: You Ask The Questions", "The Independent", 15 January 2007.
  12. ^ [1] "Someone needs to have a word with Amis", The Daily Telegraph, 4 August 2003.
  13. ^ "Amis needs a drink", The Times, 13 September 2003.
  14. ^ http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/showbiz/article-6732841-booker-snubs-amis-again.do
  15. ^ a b c http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/martin-amis-30-things-ive-learned-about-terror-418950.html
  16. ^ http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/2009/05/martinamisthereturnofthemaster/
  17. ^ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pregnant-Widow-Martin-Amis/dp/0224076124
  18. ^ a b c d http://www.writerscentrenorwich.org.uk/2009/05/martin-amis-treats-norwich-to-first-reading-of-the-pregnant-widow/
  19. ^ a b http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6256982.ece
  20. ^ a b http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/afterword/archive/2009/08/01/q-amp-a-with-martin-amis-quot-there-s-only-one-way-of-judging-quality-and-that-s-time-quot.aspx
  21. ^ a b c d e f http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/6447521/Jordan-is-just-two-bags-of-silicone-says-Martin-Amis.html
  22. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/oct/28/martin-amis-katie-price-women
  23. ^ a b c http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/david-lister/david-lister-you-need-a-phd-for-a-night-at-the-opera-1812304.html
  24. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=aW1e-Ep7C1IC&pg=PA97&lpg=PA97&dq=London+Fields+Booker+Prize&source=bl&ots=wh6JgEKhfT&sig=Sb0yewYkD7IYDo2Ci_fq_9k2rtM&hl=en&ei=Xl_oSpWNK9TD-Qb5oI2JBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CA8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=London%20Fields%20Booker%20Prize&f=false
  25. ^ a b c d e http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-face-it-martin-ndash-katie-sells-books-and-you-dont-1812777.html
  26. ^ a b http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/columnists/parsons/2009/10/30/katie-price-why-it-is-right-that-we-worship-two-bags-of-silicone-115875-21785738/
  27. ^ http://www.epsomguardian.co.uk/leisure/4730776.Martin_Amis_at_Book_Now_Festival/
  28. ^ http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6996980.ece?token=null&offset=36&page=4
  29. ^ http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article6996980.ece?token=null&offset=36&page=4
  30. ^ http://www.martinamisweb.com/days.shtml
  31. ^ a b c d e Alexandra Topping (15 February 2007). "Students, meet your new tutor: Amis, the enfant terrible, turns professor". http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2013359,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=10. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  32. ^ Martin Amis, Ian Buruma. (2007-10-05) (flash). Monsters. [Conversation]. New York City: The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/online/video/festival/2007/AmisBuruma. Retrieved 2008-03-08. 
  33. ^ a b Amis, Martin. "The Age of Horrorism", The Observer, 23 February 2007.
  34. ^ Martin Amis interviewed by Ginny Dougary, originally published in The Times Magazine, 9 September 2006
  35. ^ Eagleton, Rebuking obnoxious views is not just a personality kink, The Guardian, Wednesday 10 October 2007
  36. ^ [2] Martin Amis: No, I am not a racist, The Guardian, 2008
  37. ^ Jackson, Michael. ""Amis launches scathing response to accusations of Islamophobia" - Home News, UK - Independent.co.uk". News.independent.co.uk. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article3052346.ece. Retrieved 2008-12-08. 
  38. ^ "No, I am not a racist", The Guardian, 1 December 2007
  39. ^ "Martin Amis - Take Of The Week". BBC. 26 October 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_week/6088700.stm. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  40. ^ Ziauddin Sardar (11 December 2006). "Welcome to Planet Blitcon". http://www.newstatesman.com/200612110045. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  41. ^ Robert McCrum (7 December 2006). "Planet Blitcon? It doesn't exist". The Guardian. http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/robert_mccrum/2006/12/post_764.html. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 
  42. ^ Bennett, Ronan (2007-11-19). ""Shame on us"". Guardian Unlimited. http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2213285,00.html. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  43. ^ Hensher, Philip (Wednesday, 16 Jan, 2008). ""Defender, though not of the faith"". The Spectator. http://www.spectator.co.uk/print/the-magazine/books/451411/defender-though-not-of-the-faith.thtml. 
  44. ^ [3] Martin Amis on Barack Obama
  45. ^ Yakub Qureshi, £3,000 an hour for Amis, Manchester Evening News, 25/1/2008; Amis the £3k an hour professor, Guardian, 26/01/2008.
  46. ^ Yakub Qureshi, op. cit., Manchester Evening News, 25/1/2008.

External links

Comprehensive information and hubs

Sample works and articles by Amis

  • Authors in the front line: Martin Amis, The Sunday Times Magazine, 6 February 2005 – On the streets of Colombia, young boys cripple or murder each other just for showing disrespect or for winning at a game of cards. Is the taste for violence opening up a wound that can never heal? Report: Martin Amis – In The Sunday Times Magazine's continuing series of articles, renowned writers bring a fresh perspective to the world's trouble spots. The international medical-aid organisation MSF has helped our correspondents reach some of these inhospitable areas.
  • CareerMove - A complete short story by Amis.
  • The Unknown Known - A satire on fundamentalism in this extract from an unpublished manuscript by Amis. NOTE: Requires subscription to Granta to access.

Interviews

Reviews

Note: for reviews of individual works, please see its article.

Amis and "Islamism"

Community

Media

Other


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The arms race is a race between nuclear weapons and ourselves.

Martin Amis (born 25 August 1949) is a British novelist, essayist and short story writer. He is the son of Kingsley Amis.

Contents

Sourced

Style is not neutral; it gives moral directions.
  • Style is not neutral; it gives moral directions.
    • Novelists in Interview (1985) edited by John Haffenden
  • Money doesn’t mind if we say it’s evil, it goes from strength to strength. It’s a fiction, an addiction, and a tacit conspiracy.
    • Novelists in Interview (1985) edited by John Haffenden
  • Every writer hopes or boldly assumes that his life is in some sense exemplary, that the particular will turn out to be universal.
    • The Observer [London] (30 August 1987).
  • Being inoffensive, and being offended, are now the twin addictions of the culture.
  • When you review an exhibition of paintings you don't compose a painting about it, when you review a film you don't make a film about it and when you review a new CD you don't make a little CD about it. But when you review a prose-narrative then you write a prose-narrative about that prose-narrative and those who write the secondary prose-narrative, let's face it, must have once had dreams of writing the primary prose-narrative. And so there is a kind of hierarchy of envy and all those other things.
  • What happened on September 11? On September 11 — what happened? Picture this: two upended matchboxes, knocked over by the sheer force of paper-darts.
    Only it was much, much worse than that. In fact, words alone cannot adduce how much worse it was than that. September 11 was an attack on words: we felt a general deficit.
    And with words destroyed, we had to make do, we had to bolster truth with colons and repetition: not only repetition: but repetition and: colons. This is what we adduce.

The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America (1986)

One of the many things I do not understand about Americans is this: what is it like to be a citizen of a superpower, to maintain democratically the means of planetary extinction.
  • One of the many things I do not understand about Americans is this: what is it like to be a citizen of a superpower, to maintain democratically the means of planetary extinction. I wonder how this contributes to the dreamlife of America, a dreamlife that is so deep and troubled.
    • "Introduction"
His style is one of hammy self-effacement, a wry dismay at his own limited talents and their drastic elevation.
  • The true manipulator never has a reputation for manipulating.
  • What is this televisual mastery of Reagan's? It is a celebration of good intentions and unexceptional abilities. His style is one of hammy self-effacement, a wry dismay at his own limited talents and their drastic elevation.
    • "Ronald Reagan" (1979)
  • In my experience of fights and fighting, it is invariably the aggressor who keeps getting everything wrong.
  • Our vulgar delight in American vulgarity.
    • "The New Evangelists" (1980)
  • When success happens to an English writer, he acquires a new typewriter. When success happens to an American writer, he acquires a new life.
  • Probably all writers are at some point briefly under the impression that they are in the forefront of disintegration and chaos, that they are among the first to live and work after things fall apart. The continuity such an impression ignores is a literary continuity.
  • The doltish euphemism of conglomerate America.
  • Nowadays every business in America says how warm it is and how much it cares — loan companies, supermarkets, hamburger chains.
    • "Hugh Hefner" (1985)
  • In the end one cannot avoid the conclusion that AIDS unites certain human themes — homosexuality, sexual disease, and death — about which society actively resists enlightenment. These are things that we are unwilling to address or even think about. We don't want to understand them. We would rather fear them.
    • "Making Sense of AIDS" (1985)

Einstein's Monsters (1987)

Weapons are like money; no one knows the meaning of enough.
  • Weapons are like money; no one knows the meaning of enough.
    • "Introduction: Thinkability"
  • Bullets cannot be recalled. They cannot be uninvented. But they can be taken out of the gun.
    • "Introduction: Thinkability"
We are Einstein's monsters, not fully human, not for now.
  • What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can't get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves.
    • "Introduction: Thinkability"
  • For myself and my loved ones, I want the heat, which comes at the speed of light. I don’t want to have to hang about for the blast, which idles along at the speed of sound.
    • "Introduction: Thinkability"
  • The arms race is a race between nuclear weapons and ourselves.
    • "Introduction: Thinkability"
  • "Einstein's Monsters," by the way, refers to nuclear weapons, but also to ourselves. We are Einstein's monsters, not fully human, not for now.
    • "Introduction: Thinkability"
  • Bujak spoke of Einstein as if he were God's literary critic, God being a poet. I, more stolidly, tend to suspect that God is a novelist — a garrulous and deeply unwholesome one too.
    • "Bujak and the Strong Force"

London Fields (1989)

  • I know what his poetry will be about. What poetry is always about. The cruelty of the poet's mistress.
  • She was sitting there beside the bookcase, trying to read, in a growing panic of self-consciousness. Why? Because reading presupposed a future.

Visiting Mrs. Nabokov and Other Excursions (1993)

  • It used to be said that by a certain age a man had the face that he deserved. Nowadays, he has the face he can afford.
    • "Phantom of the Opera: The Republicans in 1988" (1988)
  • Never content just to be, America is also obliged to mean; America signifies, hence its constant and riveting vulnerability to illusion.
    • "Phantom of the Opera: The Republicans in 1988" (1988)
  • Not greatly gifted, not deeply beautiful, Madonna tells America that fame comes from wanting it badly enough. And everyone is terribly good at badly wanting things.
    • "Madonna" (1992)

Political Correctness: Robert Bly and Philip Larkin (1997)

Lecture given at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (30 January 1997)
Laughter always forgives.
  • Laughter always forgives.
What we eventually run up against are the forces of humourlessness, and let me assure you that the humourless as a bunch don't just not know what's funny, they don't know what's serious. They have no common sense, either, and shouldn't be trusted with anything.
  • What we eventually run up against are the forces of humourlessness, and let me assure you that the humourless as a bunch don't just not know what's funny, they don't know what's serious. They have no common sense, either, and shouldn't be trusted with anything.
  • What is the deep background on the deep male? From 100,000 BC until, let's say, 1792 — Mary Wollstonecraft and her Vindication of the Rights of Women — there was simply the man, whose main characteristics was that he got away with everything. From 1792 until about 1970, there was, in theory anyway, the "enlightened" man, who, while continuing to get away with everything, agreed to meet women to talk about talks which would lead to political concessions. Post-1970, the enlightened man became the new man, who isn't interested in getting away with anything, who believes, indeed, that the female is not merely equal to the male but is his plain superior.
  • Iron John, a short work of psychological, literary and anthropological speculation by the poet Robert Bly, dominated the New York Times best-seller list for nearly a year and made, as we shall see, a significant impact on many aspects of American life. In England, it made no impression whatever. ... We are British over in Britain, we are skeptical, ironical, et cetera, and are not given, as Americans are, to seeking expert advice on basic matters. Especially such matters as our manhood. In England, maleness itself has become an embarrassment: male consciousness, male pride, male rage, we don't want to hear about.
People don't change or improve much, but they do evolve. It is very slow.
  • Bly is a poet, he is a big cat, so to speak, and not some chipmunk from the how-to culture. But it is the how-to culture that has picked up on his book. ... And yet, for a while Iron John transformed male consciousness in the United States. The wild men weekends and initiation, adventure holidays and whatnot, which were big business, may prove to be ephemeral. But what does one make of the unabashed references in the press to "men's liberation" and the men's movement and the fact that there are now at least half a dozen magazines devoted to nothing else? Changing men, journeymen, man. ... Bly's average reader is not a poet and a critic, but a weightlifter from Brooklyn.
  • Feminists have often claimed a moral equivalence for sexual and racial prejudice. There are certain affinities and one or two of these affinities are mildly and paradoxically encouraging. Sexism is like racism: we all feel such impulses. Our parents feel them more strongly than we feel them; our children, we trust, will feel them less strongly than we feel them. People don't change or improve much, but they do evolve. It is very slow.
  • Philip Larkin, a big, fat, bald librarian at the University of Hull, was unquestionably England's unofficial laureate: our best-loved poet since the war; better loved for our poet than John Betjeman, who was loved also for his charm, his famous beagle, his patrician Bohemianism and his televisual charisma, all of which Larkin notably lacked.
    Ten years later, Larkin is now something like a pariah, or an untouchable.
  • The reaction against Larkin has been unprecedentedly violent as well as unprecedentedly hypocritical, tendentious and smug. Its energy does not, could not derive from literature — it derives from ideology, or from the vaguer promptings of a new ethos. ... This is critical revisionism in an eye-catching new outfit. The reaction, like most reactions, is just an overreaction, and to get an overreaction you need plenty of overreactors — somebody has to do it. ... I remember thinking when I saw the fiery Tom Paulin's opening shot, We're not really going to do this, are we? But the new ethos was already in place, and yes, we really were going to do this — on Paulin's terms, too. His language set the tone for the final assault and mop-up, which came with the publication of Andrew Motion's, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life. Revolting. Sewer. Such language is essentially unstable. It calls for a contest of the passions and hopes that the fight will get dirty.
One wonders how the literary revisionists and canon cleansers can bear to take the money. Imagine a school of sixteenth century art criticism that spent its time contently jeering at the past for not knowing about perspective.
  • They can't ban or burn Larkin's books. What they can embark on is the more genteel process of literary demotion.
  • Exploitative is the key word here. It suggests that while you are free to be as sexually miserable as you like, the moment you exchange hard cash for a copy of Playboy, you are in the pornography perpetuation business, and your misery becomes political.
    The truth is that pornography is just a sad affair all around. It is there because men in their hundreds of millions want it to be there. Killing pornography is like killing the messenger. The extent to which Larkin was "dependent" on pornography should be a measure our pity, or even our sympathy. But Motion hears the beep of his political pager, and he stands to attention.
  • One wonders how the literary revisionists and canon cleansers can bear to take the money. Imagine a school of sixteenth century art criticism that spent its time contently jeering at the past for not knowing about perspective.
  • Just as a Philistine does not on the whole devote his life to his art, so a misogynist does not devote his inner life to women. Larkin's men friends devolved into pen-pals. Such intimacies as he shared, he shared with women.
Motion is extremely irritated by Larkin's extreme irritability. He's always complaining that Larkin is always complaining.
  • Words are not deeds. In published poems — we think first of Eliot's "Jew", words edge closer to deeds. In Céline's anti-Semitic textbooks, words get as close to deeds as words can well get. Blood libels scrawled on front doors are deed.
    In a correspondence, words are hardly even words. They are soundless cries and whispers, "gouts of bile," as Larkin characterized his political opinions, ways of saying, "Gloomy old sod, aren't I?" Or more simply, "Grrr."
    Correspondences are self-dramatizations. Above all, a word in a letter is never your last word on any subject. There was no public side to Larkin's prejudices, and nothing that could be construed as a racist — the word suggest a system of thought, rather than an absence of thought, which would be closer to the reality, closer to the jolts and twitches of self response.
  • Viewed at its grandest, P.C. is an attempt to accelerate evolution. To speak truthfully, while that's still okay, everybody is a racist or has racial prejudices. This is because human beings tend to like the similar, the familiar, the familial. Again, I say, I am a racist. I am not as racist as my parents. My children will not be as racist as I am. Freedom from racial prejudice is what we hope for down the line. Impatient with this hope, this process, P.C. seeks to get things done right now. In a generation or at the snap of a finger, you can simply announce yourself to be purged of these atavisms.
  • In Andrew Motion's book, we have the constant sense that Larkin is somehow falling short of the cloudless emotional health enjoyed by, for instance, Andrew Motion. Also the sense, as Motion invokes his like-minded contemporaries, that Larkin is being judged by a newer, cleaner, braver, saner world. ... Motion is extremely irritated by Larkin's extreme irritability. He's always complaining that Larkin is always complaining.
  • His last words were spoken to a woman, to the nurse who was holding his hand. Perhaps we all have the last words ready when we go into the last room. Perhaps the thing about last words is not how good they are, but whether we can get them out. What Larkin said faintly was, "I'm going to the inevitable."
Is there any good reason why we cannot extend our multi-cultural generosity to include another dimension? That of time. The past, too, is another country. Its ghosts may look strange and frightening and slightly misshapen in body and mind, but all the more reason then, to welcome them to our shores.
  • A life is one kind of biography and the letters are another kind of life, but the internal story, the true story is in the Collected Poems. The recent attempts by Motion and others to pass judgement on Larkin look awfully green and pale, compared with the self-examinations of the poetry. They think they judge him? No, he judges them. His indivisibility judges their hedging and trimming. His honesty judges their watchfulness.
  • Larkin the man is separated from us historically by changes in the self. For his generation, you were what you were and that was that. It made you unswervable and adamantine. My father had this quality. I don't. None of us do. There are too many forces at work, there are too many fronts to cover.
    Still, a price has to be paid for not caring what others think of you, and Larkin paid it. He couldn't change the cards he was dealt. What poor hands we hold, when we face each other honestly. His poems insist on this helplessness...
  • Is there any good reason why we cannot extend our multi-cultural generosity to include another dimension? That of time. The past, too, is another country. Its ghosts may look strange and frightening and slightly misshapen in body and mind, but all the more reason then, to welcome them to our shores.

Question and answer session:

  • I think it's the whole impulse to judge and censor and euphemize, that is the enemy. ... What fun, to feel superior to T. S. Eliot. And that's the impulse that I am suspicious of.
  • I think enlightenment is incremental, and I see it in my children. I was six-years-old when I met a black person. My father tutored me and said, "We're going to meet two men who have black skin." And on the bus in Swansea on the way there, I accepted this and thought this would be no trouble for me. As it was, I went into the room and burst into tears and pointed at the man and said, "You've got a black face."
    This wouldn't happen with my children. They've known, they've mingled with black people all their lives. This certainly is not going to occur. And so it goes on in this incremental way. ... I think this is the only way it can be achieved. The trouble with proclaiming yourself to be cleansed of atavism is that it's not the case. It's an illusion. It's an illusion that can only be maintained by ideology and executive policing. It is forced consciousness. It's a lie to say, I have no racial feelings. Honesty and slow progress is a better policy, I think.

Experience (2000)

All publicity isn't good publicity.
  • The trouble with life (the novelist will feel) is its amorphousness, its ridiculous fluidity. Look at it: thinly plotted, largely themeless, sentimental and ineluctably trite. The dialogue is poor, or at least violently uneven. The twists are either predictable or sensationalist. And it's always the same beginning; and the same ending ...
    • Introduction
  • By calling him humourless I mean to impugn his seriousness, categorically: such a man must rig up his probity ex nihilo.
    • Part I: Failures of Tolerance
  • All publicity isn't good publicity. As a New York publicist put it: "What: the guy's an asshole so I'll go and buy his novel?"
    • Part I: Thinking with the Blood
  • Kingsley fell over. And this was no brisk trip or tumble. It was an act of colossal administration. First came a kind of slow-leak effect, giving me the immediate worry that Kingsley, when fully deflated, would spread out into the street on both sides of the island, where there were cars, trucks, sneezing buses. Next, as I grabbed and tugged, he felt like a great ship settling on its side: would it right itself, or go under? Then came an impression of overall dissolution and the loss of basic physical coherence. I groped around him, looking for places to shore him up, but every bit of him was falling, dropping, seeking the lowest level, like a mudslide.
    • Part II: One Little More Hug

Fear and loathing (2001)

The Guardian (18 September 2001)
For those thousands in the south tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future.
  • It was the advent of the second plane, sharking in low over the Statue of Liberty: that was the defining moment. Until then, America thought she was witnessing nothing more serious than the worst aviation disaster in history; now she had a sense of the fantastic vehemence ranged against her.
  • For those thousands in the south tower, the second plane meant the end of everything. For us, its glint was the worldflash of a coming future.
    Terrorism is political communication by other means. The message of September 11 ran as follows: America, it is time you learned how implacably you are hated. United Airlines Flight 175 was an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile aimed at her innocence. That innocence, it was here being claimed, was a luxurious and anachronistic delusion.
  • A week after the attack, one is free to taste the bile of its atrocious ingenuity. It is already trite — but stringently necessary — to emphasise that such a mise en scène would have embarrassed a studio executive's storyboard or a thriller-writer's notebook ("What happened today was not credible," were the wooden words of Tom Clancy, the author of The Sum of All Fears). And yet in broad daylight and full consciousness that outline became established reality: a score or so of Stanley knives produced two million tons of rubble.
  • This moment was the apotheosis of the postmodern era — the era of images and perceptions. Wind conditions were also favourable; within hours, Manhattan looked as though it had taken 10 megatons.
The firefighters were not afraid to die for an idea. But the suicide killers belong in a different psychic category...
  • The bringers of Tuesday's terror were morally "barbaric", inexpiably so, but they brought a demented sophistication to their work. They took these great American artefacts and pestled them together. Nor is it at all helpful to describe the attacks as "cowardly". Terror always has its roots in hysteria and psychotic insecurity; still, we should know our enemy. The firefighters were not afraid to die for an idea. But the suicide killers belong in a different psychic category, and their battle effectiveness has, on our side, no equivalent. Clearly, they have contempt for life. Equally clearly, they have contempt for death.
    Their aim was to torture tens of thousands, and to terrify hundreds of millions. In this, they have succeeded.
  • Weirdly, the world suddenly feels bipolar. All over again the west confronts an irrationalist, agonistic, theocratic/ideocratic system which is essentially and unappeasably opposed to its existence. The old enemy was a superpower; the new enemy isn't even a state. In the end, the USSR was broken by its own contradictions and abnormalities, forced to realise, in Martin Malia's words, that "there is no such thing as socialism, and the Soviet Union built it". Then, too, socialism was a modernist, indeed a futurist, experiment, whereas militant fundamentalism is convulsed in a late-medieval phase of its evolution. We would have to sit through a renaissance and a reformation, and then await an enlightenment. And we're not going to do that.
Our best destiny, as planetary cohabitants, is the development of what has been called "species consciousness" — something over and above nationalisms, blocs, religions, ethnicities.
  • Violence must come; America must have catharsis. We would hope that the response will be, above all, non-escalatory. It should also mirror the original attack in that it should have the capacity to astonish. A utopian example: the crippled and benighted people of Afghanistan, hunkering down for a winter of famine, should not be bombarded with cruise missiles; they should be bombarded with consignments of food, firmly marked LENDLEASE — USA.
  • Our best destiny, as planetary cohabitants, is the development of what has been called "species consciousness" — something over and above nationalisms, blocs, religions, ethnicities. During this week of incredulous misery, I have been trying to apply such a consciousness, and such a sensibility. Thinking of the victims, the perpetrators, and the near future, I felt species grief, then species shame, then species fear.

The voice of the lonely crowd (2002)

Essay in The Guardian, (1 June 2002)
The sketchiest acquaintance with cosmology will tell you that the universe is not, or is not yet, decipherable by human beings.
  • On any longer view, man is only fitfully committed to the rational — to thinking, seeing, learning, knowing. Believing is what he's really proud of.
  • September 11 was a day of de-Enlightenment. Politics stood revealed as a veritable Walpurgis Night of the irrational. And such old, old stuff. The conflicts we now face or fear involve opposed geographical arenas, but also opposed centuries or even millennia. It is a landscape of ferocious anachronisms: nuclear jihad in the Indian subcontinent; the medieval agonism of Islam; the Bronze Age blunderings of the Middle East.
The universe is far more bizarre, prodigious and chillingly grand than any doctrine, and ... spiritual needs can be met by its contemplation. Belief is otiose; reality is sufficiently awesome as it stands.
  • The 20th century, with its scores of millions of supernumerary dead, has been called the age of ideology. And the age of ideology, clearly, was a mere hiatus in the age of religion, which shows no sign of expiry. Since it is no longer permissible to disparage any single faith or creed, let us start disparaging all of them. To be clear: an ideology is a belief system with an inadequate basis in reality; a religion is a belief system with no basis in reality whatever. Religious belief is without reason and without dignity, and its record is near-universally dreadful. It is straightforward — and never mind, for now, about plagues and famines: if God existed, and if He cared for humankind, He would never have given us religion.
  • My apostasy, at the age of nine, was vehement. Clearly, I didn't want the shared words, the shared identity. I forswore chapel; those Bibles were scribbled on and otherwise desecrated, and two or three of them were taken into the back garden and quietly torched.
    Later — we were now in Cambridge — I gave a school speech in which I rejected all belief as an affront to common sense. I was an atheist, and I was 12: it seemed open-and-shut. I had not pondered Kant's rather lenient remark about the crooked timber of humanity, out of which nothing straight is ever built. Nor was I aware that the soul had legitimate needs.
    Much more recently I reclassified myself as an agnostic. Atheism, it turns out, is not quite rational either. The sketchiest acquaintance with cosmology will tell you that the universe is not, or is not yet, decipherable by human beings. It will also tell you that the universe is far more bizarre, prodigious and chillingly grand than any doctrine, and that spiritual needs can be met by its contemplation. Belief is otiose; reality is sufficiently awesome as it stands.
  • PC is low, low church — it is the lowest common denomination.
  • The champions of militant Islam are, of course, misogynists, woman-haters; they are also misologists — haters of reason. Their armed doctrine is little more than a chaotic penal code underscored by impotent dreams of genocide. And, like all religions, it is a massive agglutination of stock response, of cliches, of inherited and unexamined formulations.
  • After September 11, then, writers faced quantitative change, but not qualitative change. In the following days and weeks, the voices coming from their rooms were very quiet; still, they were individual voices, and playfully rational, all espousing the ideology of no ideology. They stood in eternal opposition to the voice of the lonely crowd, which, with its yearning for both power and effacement, is the most desolate sound you will ever hear. "Desolate": "giving an impression of bleak and dismal emptiness... from L. desolat-, desolare 'abandon', from de- 'thoroughly' + solus 'alone'."

The Palace of the End (2003)

Essay in The Guardian (4 March 2003)
Like all "acts of terrorism" (easily and unsubjectively defined as organised violence against civilians), September 11 was an attack on morality...
  • We accept that there are legitimate casus belli: acts or situations "provoking or justifying war". The present debate feels off-centre, and faintly unreal, because the US and the UK are going to war for a new set of reasons (partly undisclosed) while continuing to adduce the old set of reasons (which in this case do not cohere or even overlap).
  • Like all "acts of terrorism" (easily and unsubjectively defined as organised violence against civilians), September 11 was an attack on morality: we felt a general deficit. Who, on September 10, was expecting by Christmastime to be reading unscandalised editorials in the Herald Tribune about the pros and cons of using torture on captured "enemy combatants"? Who expected Britain to renounce the doctrine of nuclear no-first-use? Terrorism undermines morality. Then, too, it undermines reason. ... No, you wouldn't expect such a massive world-historical jolt, which will reverberate for centuries, to be effortlessly absorbed. But the suspicion remains that America is not behaving rationally — that America is behaving like someone still in shock.
  • The notion of the "axis of evil" has an interesting provenance. In early drafts of the President's speech the "axis of evil" was the "axis of hatred", "axis" having been settled on for its associations with the enemy in the second world war. The "axis of hatred" at this point consisted of only two countries, Iran and Iraq. whereas of course the original axis consisted of three (Germany, Italy, Japan). It was additionally noticed that Iran and Iraq, while not both Arab, were both Muslim. So they brought in North Korea.
    We may notice, in this embarras of the inapposite, that the Axis was an alliance, whereas Iran and Iraq are blood-bespattered enemies, and the zombie nation of North Korea is, in truth, so mortally ashamed of itself that it can hardly bear to show its face.
There are two rules of war that have not yet been invalidated by the new world order. The first rule is that the belligerent nation must be fairly sure that its actions will make things better; the second rule is that the belligerent nation must be more or less certain that its actions won't make things worse.
  • It was explained that the North Korean matter was a diplomatic inconvenience, while Iraq's non-disarmament remained a "crisis". The reason was strategic: even without WMDs, North Korea could inflict a million casualties on its southern neighbour and raze Seoul. Iraq couldn't manage anything on this scale, so you could attack it. North Korea could, so you couldn't. The imponderables of the proliferation age were becoming ponderable. Once a nation has done the risky and nauseous work of acquisition, it becomes unattackable. A single untested nuclear weapon may be a liability. But five or six constitute a deterrent.
    From this it crucially follows that we are going to war with Iraq because it doesn't have weapons of mass destruction. Or not many. The surest way by far of finding out what Iraq has is to attack it. Then at last we will have Saddam's full cooperation in our weapons inspection, because everything we know about him suggests that he will use them all. The Pentagon must be more or less convinced that Saddam's WMDs are under a certain critical number. Otherwise it couldn't attack him.
  • All US presidents — and all US presidential candidates — have to be religious or have to pretend to be religious. More specifically, they have to subscribe to "born again" Christianity. Bush, with his semi-compulsory prayer-breakfasts and so on, isn't pretending to be religious... We hear about the successful "Texanisation" of the Republican party. And doesn't Texas sometimes seem to resemble a country like Saudi Arabia, with its great heat, its oil wealth, its brimming houses of worship, and its weekly executions?
  • Saddam's hands-on years in the dungeons distinguish him from the other great dictators of the 20th century, none of whom had much taste for "the wet stuff". The mores of his regime have been shaped by this taste for the wet stuff — by a fascinated negative intimacy with the human body, and a connoisseurship of human pain.
  • There are two rules of war that have not yet been invalidated by the new world order. The first rule is that the belligerent nation must be fairly sure that its actions will make things better; the second rule is that the belligerent nation must be more or less certain that its actions won't make things worse. America could perhaps claim to be satisfying the first rule (while admitting that the improvement may be only local and short term). It cannot begin to satisfy the second.

Off the Page: Martin Amis (2003)

Online interview with Carol Burns at washingtonpost.com (7 November 2003)
I fear the comic novel is in retreat. A joke is by definition politically incorrect...
  • I once wrote, in The Information, that an Englishman wouldn't bother to attend a reading even if the author in question was his favorite living writer, and also his long-lost brother — even if the reading was taking place next door. Whereas Americans go out and do things. But Meeting the Author, for me, is Meeting the Reader. Some of the little exchanges that take place over the signing table I find very fortifying: they make up for some of the other stuff you get.
  • I'd like to be remembered as someone who kept the comic novel going for another generation or so. I fear the comic novel is in retreat. A joke is by definition politically incorrect — it assumes a butt, and a certain superiority in the teller. The culture won't put up with that for much longer.
  • I have been outflanked by the culture. I am now seen as a drawling Oxonian, and a genetic elitist, who took over the family firm. People subconsciously think that I was born in 1922, wrote Lucky Jim when I was 7, and will live for at least a century. This feels odd to me, because my father was a "angry young man" and helped democratize the British novel. I'm not a toff. I'm a yob.
  • Good sex is impossible to write about. Lawrence and Updike have given it their all, and the result is still uneasy and unsure. It may be that good sex is something fiction just can't do — like dreams. Most of the sex in my novels is absolutely disastrous. Sex can be funny, but not very sexy.

Playboy interview (2003)

Interview with Sam Jemielity, Playboy magazine (2003)
I think it's a very confused culture. On the one hand, no one is better than anyone else; no one is prettier. On the other hand, everyone is completely obsessed by their looks and by how they strike the world.
  • I'm not sure what the American convulsion at the moment is, but I get the impression that people have moved beyond political correctness there by now. But here it lingers, although much ridiculed.
  • It now seems that pornography is the leading sex educator in the Western world. And the idea of having your sexual nature determined by a medallion-in-the-chest-hair artist out in Los Angeles is really humiliating. I'm not talking about me, but I'm talking about my children's contemporaries, kids aged 18. They're getting their sex tips from some charlatan at Wicked Video.
  • I think it's a very confused culture. On the one hand, no one is better than anyone else; no one is prettier. On the other hand, everyone is completely obsessed by their looks and by how they strike the world. On the one hand, we're all equal; on the other hand, everyone's a superstar. It's all very irrational, like all ideology.
  • If people have personal conversations about very emotional matters in public, and people reveal parts of their body that were originally kept covered, and pornography is becoming semi-respectable, it makes you think the push for greater freedom and divesting yourself of inhibitions is a real human need. I'm 54, so I'm further back upon the road. We certainly did a fair amount of divesting ourselves of inhibitions, but there seems to have been a quantum leap in the last half a generation. Maybe we're destined to be freer, but it's taking odd forms, like showing your big gut to all the world and discussing the future of your marriage at a bus stop with 30 people listening in.
  • Sex has become much more competitive, with the girls becoming sort of predators as well. It's ferocious.

About Martin Amis

  • She thought of an article she had once seen on mind control. Apparently if there was a person fiendish enough to set about interfering with your life, the only thing you could do was to concentrate hard on someone they were unlikely ever to have heard of called Martin Amis. The particular blankness of this image was guaranteed to protect from any subtle force, but Gloria realised with a sinking heart that it was too late now.
  • Martin Amis's reputation as the bad boy of British writing shouldn't overpower the fact that he's simply a fantastic writer. His brash, intelligent novels are sharp with insight, and his wordplay makes reading Amis feel like playing: swinging high in a swing, hanging from monkey bars, just having fun.
    Yet his view of the world is not a light one... authors across the "pond" often hone a super-realism that is actually bleak. Amis's hyperbole makes his works funny, but they're funny with an edge.

External links

Wikipedia
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Simple English

Martin Amis (born August 25, 1949) is a Welsh novelist. His best known novels include Money (1984), London Fields (1989), Time's Arrow (1991) and The Information (1995).

Affected by several writers including his father Sir Kingsley Amis, Amis's style of writing has affected a generation of writers. His recent work has looked at moral and geopolitical issues, including The Holocaust, Communist Russia, and the September 11, 2001 attacks and Islamism.

Contents

Early life

Amis was born in Cardiff, South Wales. He was the middle of three children, with an older brother, Philip, and a younger sister, Sally. He went to many different schools in the 1950s and 1960s. The fame of his father's first novel Lucky Jim sent the Amises to Princeton, New Jersey, where his father lectured. Amis's parents, Hilly and Kingsley, divorced when he was twelve.

Amis graduated from Exeter College, Oxford. He graduated with a first-class degree in English. After Oxford, he got a job at The Times Literary Supplement. At age 27, he became literary editor of The New Statesman.

Early writing

His first novel The Rachel Papers (1973) won the Somerset Maugham Award. It tells the story of a smart, self centered teenager (which Amis says he based on himself) and his relationship with his girlfriend in the year before going to university.

Dead Babies (1975) has a typically 1960s plot. It has a house full of characters who abuse various substances. A movie version was made in 2000 which was unsuccessful.

Success (1977) told the story of two foster-brothers, Gregory Riding and Terry Service, and their good and bad luck.

Other People: A Mystery Story (1981), about a young woman coming out of a coma.

Later career

Money (subtitled A Suicide Note) is a first-person narrative by John Self. He was an advertising man who wanted to be a movie director. The book follows him as he flies back and forth across the Atlantic looking for success. The book was a huge success and is Amis's most highly regarded work.

London Fields is Amis's longest book. It show the encounters between three main characters in London in 1999, as a climate disaster draws near.

Time's Arrow is about a doctor who helped torture Jews during the Holocaust. It was written in the form of an autobiography. The story is unusual because time runs backwards during the entire novel.

The Experience is mainly about his relationship with his father, Kingsley Amis. He also writes about finding long-lost daughter, Delilah Seale and of how one of his cousins, 21-year-old Lucy Partington, became a victim of suspected serial killer Fred West.

He lives and writes in London and Uruguay and is married to the writer Isabel Fonseca, his second wife.

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