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1. Money: A Suicide Note (Penguin
2. Experience: A Memoir
3. London Fields
4. The Pregnant Widow
5. The Information
6. The Second Plane: September 11:
7. Dead Babies
8. Vintage Amis
9. Time's Arrow
10. House of Meetings (Vintage International)
11. Money [Paperback]
12. The War Against Cliche: Essays
13. Other People
14. The Rachel Papers
15. Success
16. Night Train
17. Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: And Other
18. The Moronic Inferno and Other
19. Einstein's Monsters
20. The Information 1ED

1. Money: A Suicide Note (Penguin Ink) (The Penguin Ink Series)
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 368 Pages (2010-06-29)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.73
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0143116959
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Hailed as "a sprawling, fierce, vulgar display" (The New Republic) and "exhilarating, skillful, savvy" (The Times Literary Supplement) when it made its first appearance in the mid- 1980s, Money is Martin Amis's hilarious portrait of one man's relentless pursuit of pleasure.Amazon.com Review
Absolutely one of the funniest, smartest, meanest books Iknow. John Self, the Rabelaisian narrator of the novel, is anadvertising man and director of TV commercials who lurches throughLondon and Manhattan, eating, drinking, drugging and smoking too much,buying too much sex, and caring for little else besides getting thebig movie deal that will make him lots of money. Hey, it was the'80s. Most importantly, however, Amis in Money musters moresheer entertainment power in any single sentence than most writers arelucky to produce in a career. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (72)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great
The book arrived in excellent condition in a timely manner
Dorothy Skylor.

I also received the 2nd book entitled Bridgeport Bus with the same satisfaction as the Amis book

4-0 out of 5 stars Amusing but lacking substance
There is amusement aplenty in Money--lots of deft touches that bring a chuckle as the story zips along.Unfortunately, the novel suffers from a lack of substance.The points Amis makes about greed and unbridled lifestyles are fairly obvious, the targets of his venom are too easy, and the superficiality of his characters is overblown.I nonetheless found the novel worth reading for its comedy which, when it works, works very well.I would give Money 3 1/2 stars if that option were available.

3-0 out of 5 stars Light Lunch
Money was my first book by Martin Amis.I found his writing clever, a bit mannered, vibrant and -- ahem -- full of potential, sometimes too cute, with an undercurrent of finger wagging, and ultimately unfulfilling.Amis has a ear for film dialogue, and Lord knows he can entertain for stretches like Christopher Buckley or another New Yorker wit, but I missed the underpinnings of a story I cared about.

A long time ago, at the university I happened to be attending, I took a creative writing course, and one of the best stories that term was written by a cigarette-rolling undergrad who assumed the task of holding the reader's interest, with comedy, in a character without a life.He succeeded, perhaps more so than Amis, whose central character John Self isn't everyman and doesn't represent the 1980's any more than I do, but who sticks around for 363 long pages of self-destruction.

2-0 out of 5 stars Juvenile.
Maybe an andolescent boy would find this author and this book in particular worthwhile reading.Even if you aspire to be a drunk and a lout, this tiresome book would still not be inspirational.I enjoyed London Fields by same author, even though I thought he may have lifted the idea from Muriel Sparks' The Driver's Seat; but Money was a complete waste of time.After 100 pages or so, I didn't see the possibility of any further character development or improvement in the writing style.I didn't bother finishing it.

2-0 out of 5 stars It's like if Salinger and Bukowski had a brain child and wrote in British English.
I mean, I guess if you've never read Salinger or Bukowski, you'll think this book is okay. Frankly, his writing style is unimaginative and dated, and his plot seems to move aimlessly, but not in a very charming or interesting way. Main character gets drunk and stumbles around a lot and fails at playing tennis, and then he tries to direct a movie and then moves around from various US cities to Britain and back. He has a few friends and offends a lot of people. And a lot of people tell him to stop being such a jerk. And he has some pseudo-philosophies about money, but not really, because he just talks about that money exists and that he has a lot of money and that money runs the world.

The book is supposed to be a kind of discourse on how money ruins people, but I'm not exactly sure how this story brings new ideas to the table. Money corrupts. I'm not sure how this is a new message.

If you want an interesting book on money, read A. M. Homes's _This Book Will Save Your Life_. If you want an interesting book on consumerism, read DeLillo's _White Noise_. If you want a book on money that won't teach you anything new and will re-hash other authors' techniques, go ahead and pick this up. ... Read more

2. Experience: A Memoir
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 432 Pages (2001-06-12)
list price: US$17.95 -- used & new: US$10.06
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375726837
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Martin Amis is one of the most gifted and innovative writers of our time. With Experience, he discloses a private life every bit as unique and fascinating as his bestselling novels.

The son of the great comic novelist Kingsley Amis, Martin Amis explores his relationship with this father and writes about the various crises of Kingsley's life. He also examines the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who was abducted and murdered by one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers. Experience also deconstructs the changing literary scene, including Amis' portraits of Saul Bellow, Salman Rushdie, Allan Bloom, Philip Larkin, and Robert Graves, among others. Not since Nabokov's Speak, Memory has such an implausible life been recorded by such an inimitable talent.Profound, witty, and ruthlessly honest, Experience is a literary event.Amazon.com Review
"We live in the age of mass loquacity," Martin Amis writes by way ofintroduction to Experience, thereby placing the reader in a curiousbind. How to feel about a memoir by a writer who deplores our currententhusiasm for memoirs? Can such a public appeal for private life beconvincing? The son of misanthropic comic novelist Kingsley Amis, Amis theYounger's life story is "a literary curiosity," he tells us, "which is alsojust another instance of a father and a son." He's spent his whole lifebathed in the dubious yellow glow of celebrity, from the cries of nepotismsurrounding his firstnovel's publication to the bizarre tempest in a teapot involving thesize of the advance for TheInformation, his choice of literary agent, and of course thatfamously expensive set of new teeth.

Here, finally, is Amis's chance to set matters straight--and if you're lookingfor his take on these controversies, you won't be disappointed. In fact, youshould turn right away to the end of the book. After all, how many memoirshave indices--and how many indices are this entertaining? In addition to movers and shakers like "Travolta, John," "Brown, Tina," and "Bellow, Saul,"one finds an extended entry for "dental problems," which includes "of animals,""sexual potency and," "Bellow on," and--more ominously--"tumour."

Yet it's as "a clear view of the geography of a writer's mind," not as acelebrity tell-all, that Experience succeeds. Organized not bychronology but by a strange thematic schema all Amis's own, this messy,tangential book moves backward and forward in time and comes studded withfootnotes and interspersed with schoolboy epistles. As a result, it's muchtruer to the actual texture of experience than anything more "novelistic"could possibly be. Amis's charming, quarrelsome, almost entirely helplessfather; the tragic disappearance of his cousin, Lucy Partington; thedaughter discovered only as an adult; those teeth--the narrativecircles around these events and personages in prose as virtuoso but oftenless chilly than that found in his novels. This is memoir as anatomy ofobsessions, and in the most profound way, it illuminates the source andpower of Amis's remarkable work. --Mary Park ... Read more

Customer Reviews (39)

5-0 out of 5 stars It's not about the teeth
I'm going to quote at length:

"Some freak perihelion or syzyg caused the sun to hang unnaturally low in the late afternoons. A tennis balls would cast a shadow two yards long. As David and I, anticipating an evening snack, went to visit some new friends on the site, our hosts- two men sitting with their back to us around a fire- would start calling out greetings when we were forty feet away. We were growing boys. We were immensely proud of our shadows."

That description takes me back to being out there on a tennis court and feeling proud of my shadow (and knowing the pride was ridiculous and unmentionable). Talking about the shadow gives an insight into youth and tennis. This is what Martin Amis finds interesting- how he experienced it. It's not a typical biography and if a reader wants it to be a typical biography they're going to be disappointed.

They're also going to be puzzled by how much he talks about his teeth. It's not about the teeth. The reason he writes about them is that for him they are a window into his own thinking and that if he writes about the experience with honesty, discipline and intelligence that it will be interesting.

The other element I would like to point out about the passage is the rhythm of it. There's something beautiful about how the lenght of the third sentence leads into the fourth and fifth ones.

4-0 out of 5 stars and the implied loss of innocence
How many opportunities is one likely to have to read a well-regarded literary author's memoirs about (among other things) his relationship with his well-regarded author father? (Has either Susan or Benjamin Cheever even come close to matching their father's achievemtents?) It was fascinating to read about this father-son relationship from the son's point of view. While Martin clearly admired Kingsley, he was not blind to his father's weaknesses (both as a writer and as a husband); and he was fully aware of their differences on political and gender issues.

But these memoirs cover Martin Amis's life up to the present, the present being several years after his father's death. While Kingsley is a key figure, he is not the only relationship that gets examined. (His portraits of his mother, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Philip Larkin, and Saul Bellow are especially vivid.)And although this is not a grim book, much of what Amis recounts is about profound losses--his own loss of innocence due to childhood sexual abuse, the loss incurred when his parents divorced, the death of a cousin at the hands of a serial killer, and the loss of friendships (especially Julian Barnes's) from the furor surrounding the publication of Amis's book, THE INFORMATION. Implied losses, delicately mentioned but never examined, are those of his relationships with the women in his life.

Toward the end of the book, Amis writes, "My life, it seems to me is ridiculously shapeless. I know what makes a good narrative, and lives don't have much of that--pattern and balance, form, completion, commensurateness...but the only shape that life dependably exhibits is that of tragedy." (p. 361) It is tragedy that Amis can accept but courageously, if futilely, seems to want to protect his own children from.

5-0 out of 5 stars The fascinating Messrs Amis
"Experience" is the finest memoir I've read in a dozen years.It has a post-modern format with a variety of voice tones that range from witty to profound and poetic.Amis's narrative jumps back and forth in time and deals with his extended family and distinguished friends, among whom are: Philip Larkin, Saul Bellow, Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie, Allan Bloom and Robert Graves.The portrait of his father, Kingsley Amis, a hard-drinking, woman lover, dominates the book.The memoir, written by a man of great charm, held me absorbed from first page to last.

5-0 out of 5 stars 90 PercentProof
I gave Amis's memoir 5 stars because I have to---it is that good.("Pale as a Sex Pistol," is not nearly his best, and it's very, very good.) And, admittedly, I was nearly finished with the book before it hit me that Amis almost had me convinced that chronic alcoholism can actually put a spring in one's step if you only had a sense of humor!

The deepest impulse behind this memoir is to protect his father's image and reputation.It was a preemptive strike against future excavations by lesser sorts who write biographies, are too pc, etc., into Kingsley Amis's life.

Martin Amis is very clear that he was concerned about his father's reputation vis-a-vis posthumous publication of his father's letters.He didn't want his father to suffer the fate of Philip Larkin.

What is brilliant about this memoir is how Martin uses language that consistently plays down his father's behavior and incites (thereby diminishing) the behavior of others.Nothing is Kingsley's fault.Nothing.There is a near-Christ like depth of understanding and forgiveness that permeates his take on his father.

I am just doing this from memory but here are some examples.During abad time in the marriage between Kingsley and his second wife, ElizabethJane Howard, Martin Amis witnesses Jane doing all the work, including a lot physical work, in order to move house.While Kingsley sits around doing nothing but drinking, Jane's moving furniture is "maschochistic."Kingsley is "gently incapaciated."It's striking how Martin uses a perjorative term for Jane and obliquely soft language for his father.In this case, why wouldn't Kingsley be passive aggressive, or destructive?? Why is Kingsley's behavior described with utter homeliness and Jane's sent to the hells of pyschology?

The breakup of the first marriage ("remember," his father intoned to Martin and his brother, "I will always love your mother")... Well, I grew up with an aloholic, too -- and not a literary one-- and by God if that's not the exact same words my father said to my siblings and me -- and you could be sure Kingsley was drunk.Yet, this statement is treated as if it comes from some fathomless well of love.All evidence suggests that Kingsley's behavior towards his first wife was serially cruel.

I defy anyone to find a passage where Kingsley is not held up in a better light than anyone else who walks through the memoir.

Martin Amis has been called the Mick Jagger of literature but he has more in common with the fictional/cinematic Michael Corleone.Amis is a genius and his talent is beyond dispute but he was gifted with something else -- he manages to stay stable under the most strange, difficult circumstances.His mother noticed this -- she said he was born under a lucky star; his father stated, "...he is sane."

As Experience draws to its close, Amis is sitting at his father's bedside in the hospice.He is working on a review of Gore Vidal's first memoir and he is able to write it, while is emotions are "woefully disordered."

5-0 out of 5 stars Experience -- you can say that again!
If you are a reader with a capital "R", this book is a must read.Martin Amis' gift with language, his sense of humor, and the rich material of his family life come together to make the reading of the book an experience in itself.

I've literally read and re-read this book so many times the cover has fallen off.I like Mr. Amis' fiction writing but this book is, in my opinion, his best, and easily one of my alltime favorites. ... Read more

3. London Fields
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 470 Pages (1991-04-03)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$4.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679730346
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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In this wildly ambitious and funny novel, one of England's brilliant young writers relates two murders in the making. The first is the self-orchestrated extinction of Nicola Six. The second is the murder of the Earth itself, whose fate seems intricately bound up with Nicola's. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (83)

4-0 out of 5 stars consider me impressed
Love him or hate him: could anyone but Martin Amis have written this book? That alone, for any writer, says something. Only Amis could have written these sentences, only he could have done so within such a "plot." (In that, he and it can be accurately compared to Tom Wolfe and The Bonfire of the Vanities.)

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly disturbed
I read this book years ago and it has stayed with me.It is at times hilarious, always brilliantly written, compelling characters.A classic Martin Amis!

2-0 out of 5 stars Millennialdebris
You'll have to trust me when I say I'm not ordinarily one for dramatic gestures, but I threw my copy of London Fields in the trash the moment I finished it. I read to its tortured, labored "surprise" ending because I like to give all books a fair shake. I threw it away because it would be embarrassing to have it share a shelf with Pale Fire.

I am thrown into a black mood at the state of modern literature. Does postmodernism really excuse flatstock characters, unfunny comedy, and plot that isn't contrived so much as forced at gunpoint (or with a cartool, if you like)? It seems having a collection of themes and tropes is enough so that all the details of setting, characterization and narrative are inconsequential--prop them up in cardboard, they are not the principles. What exactly is meant to be satirized here? I see a collection of characters half-formed, the better to poke tedious fun at, ominous rumblings about the Crisis, millennial angst and the State of the World that manage to remain miraculously vague and incoherent despite ostensibly being the backdrop for all these conveniently literary events.

I may not be Michiko Kakutani of the NYT book review (who also recommendedZadie Smith - this being strike two against her), but I know when a writer hasmore style and talent than heart, wit, insight, or whatever general expansiveness of spirit is required to make great literature.

Several reviewers commented that this is the most challenging of Amis' works. For some authors this would present a serious concern for bad first impressions. I have not yet decrypted Finnegans Wake and don't know that I ever will. Had I started on Finnegan's Wake, it would have been the beginning and end of Joyce for me. But I started Nabokov on Ada, and became his devoted reader forever. In Amis' case, It feels lucky to have started with the best and most challenging of his works, because that means the rest of his oeuvre can be safely missed.

3-0 out of 5 stars Novel as Nicola: as ultimate prolonged tease
I enjoyed this novel. I stayed up late reading it over six nights. Yet, when the structure of the story began in the last sections to erode, and when the climactic fireworks, on a variety of levels, that Amis had taken such glee in arranging failed to spark as I'd hoped, I felt let down. Much of the novel's capable of five stars. I had just read Nabokov's "Ada" & "Bend Sinister" (also reviewed by me), so I was curious to discover how an author considered an heir to such narrative pyrotechnics would fare.

Amis appears to strain to get into the head of his louche character, Keith. I sense that the author's milieu's closer to hapless Guy, and perhaps Amis had to overcompensate. As others have remarked, it's as surprising to us as to Nicola when Guy fails to catch the atomic references early on, and after his Oxford degree! Also, the level of moronic panting that Guy's reduced to in his admittingly entertaining pursuit of Nicola does strain credulity as well as his trousers.

Still, there's so much that keeps you reading. You learn a lot about darts, erroneous or factual. Baby Marmaduke's reign of nursery tyranny continues to delight Amis as he ups the infant's cruelty, and this gets a poignant (not a common sentiment in this heartless saga) balance in the cries of little baby Kim-- these moments turn heartbreaking, if ultimately unresolved off-stage, to my confusion. There's also confusion in the apocalyptic set-piece. "The Crisis" of a lower and nearer sun fails to end after the wonderfully evoked eclipse on "Horrorday," and I was never quite clear about what the American president's wife and the geopolitics and the economic stagnation all added up to. Not to mention who Nicola represented: there's hints scattered but these never cohere.

Similarly, Samson Young's character never gains the clarity of the main three characters which he purportedly's writing about; his own failed romance with Missy and the failed pregnancy fizzle and you're never quite sure what occurred the six days he was or was not overseas while Mark Asprey's back in the London flat. Nicola, of course, adds mystery at every level, and above all, despite the novel's flaws, her endless tease of not only Keith and Guy (the Keats scene's superbly demented) makes her unforgettable. I get the sense that Amis created a character larger than the novel itself, which considering the heft and scope of this warped Waugh- meets- Nabokov epic remains quite a feat, for all its inevitable and unfortunate consequences for the novel.

As Sam admits late on: there go my "unities." Amis may have been too clever in outwitting himself, like Guy playing chess with his computer, into a narrative corner he could not escape. It's an unresolved mess, but a witty panorama of a future (already in our past, pre-Internet and pre-cellphones) that two decades ago, with its vague terrors on a global level and the environmental decay and personal fatigue appears to be inching ever closer.

5-0 out of 5 stars One word: Incredible. Incredible. Incredibly Incredible.

A mistress of seduction, having `come to the end of men' and a belief in the possibility of love, seeks her own murder--and sets about ruining the lives of two very different men in order to bring it about. The narrator of the novel--a self-described failure at art and love--is terminally ill and now rapidly failing at life, too; he's set himself the task of chronicling the rather ignoble efforts of Nicola Six and her pyrrhic dual seduction. The proceedings are set against an ominously looming worldwide crisis of nuclear and climactic proportions.

That, in maybe an eggshell, is the plot of *London Fields.* A nice enough hook, but as in any Amis novel, it's the execution that has you swallow the line and sinker, too. No one writes like Martin Amis. No one. Pity, too. It's poetry, in great parts, his style--an epic metropolitan voice as if Homer had been reborn in London with a wicked sense of humor, both castle and gutter, and a penchant for writing about deadbeats, sex-obsessed middle-aged guys, and a world gargling down the toilet-tube.

How even a sub-intelligent reader can possibly run his eyeballs over this novel and see in it only cynicism, nastiness, disgust, and mocking hatred is beyond comprehension. Are they paying attention to what Amis has actually written right there on the page in black and white--or only what has been written *about* him?

*London Fields,* like much of Amis' work is a deeply-felt and elegiac novel that is actually quite heartbreaking in its inimitable way. Rude, often crude, scalding and scornful, relentlessly, unrepentantly bleak--yes, that's all true, thank God, but Amis' style...and what a style!...is a corrosive that strips away all self-serving illusion and sentimentality to expose the skeleton of the last honest humanism still possible.

Here is Amis on one of his characters in *London Fields*:

`In the book, she stood for something. In the flesh, she was pointless: a complete waste of time. Or not quite. In the flesh, she broke your heart, as all human beings do. I watched her, an older man, failed in art and love. Fat ankles. Dear flesh.'

A waste of time that breaks your heart. In a sense, that sums up Amis' view on life, love, history, and existence itself as presented in *London Fields.* But the vitriolic comedy and famous disgust that Amis directs towards and lavishes upon everyone and everything is, in fact, the lament of the idealist who sees how very very far short human beings fall from anything even a kissing cousin of humanity.

His exaggerated characters, yes, arguably caricatures, are nevertheless uncomfortably familiar and that's precisely what makes their misdeeds and misadventures so uncomfortably compelling--and, I suspect, arouses so much wrath in those who consider the truth to be bad taste. These are, indeed, people we `know,' and sometimes even love; worse still, if we could stop the automatic monkey finger-pointing for five minutes, we realize these people are *us.*

Five stars, if that's all I can give it. *London Fields* deserves at the very least a small constellation of them.

... Read more

4. The Pregnant Widow
by Martin Amis
Hardcover: 384 Pages (2010-05-11)
list price: US$26.95 -- used & new: US$14.45
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400044529
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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The year is 1970, and the youth of Europe are in the chaotic, ecstatic throes of the sexual revolution. Though blindly dedicated to the cause, its nubile foot soldiers have yet to realize this disturbing truth: that between the death of one social order and the birth of another, there exists a state of terrifying purgatory—or, as Alexander Herzen put it, a pregnant widow.

Keith Nearing is stuck in an exquisite limbo. Twenty years old and on vacation from college, Keith and an assortment of his peers are spending the long, hot summer in a castle in Italy. The tragicomedy of manners that ensues will have an indelible effect on all its participants, and we witness, too, how it shapes Keith’s subsequent love life for decades to come. Bitingly funny, full of wit and pathos, The Pregnant Widow is a trenchant portrait of young lives being carried away on a sea of change. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (26)

3-0 out of 5 stars Boring, boring, boring
At first I was going to give this book 4 stars because I could not bear to give it 3. Martin Amis is a brilliant writer and exceptional wordsmith but as lovely as I sometimes found the words, I found this book boring, boring, boring. The intoxication of Italy in the summer is palpable as is the hot sexuality of the 20 year olds in the 1970s but uninteresting. Maybe it's a old man's book, all tits and ass. A rumination on getting old and what was lost and missed. I thought that I must be missing something but having read some of the other hilarious reviews, I don't think so.

1-0 out of 5 stars What passes for genius in England
Is it me, or does Martin Amis write the same book over and over and over again? The same fundamental misogyny, the same cynicism, the same dreary neologisms? Dreary beyond words.

1-0 out of 5 stars Disappointing.
Oh dear, another book written by an old man smitten with a beautiful, but dull young woman.Yawn.

1-0 out of 5 stars the tediuos widow
this is simply one of the most self-indulgent, hollow and vacant, senseless novel that i have read since anything by jane smiley.amis is like the robert de niro character in the flick jackie brown.i feel like sam jackson, looking at him and shaking my head...."amis, what happened to you, man?you used to be beautiful."
this pointless pile of words boils down to a giant fantasy for the mentally celibate and rapidly aging marty amis.spare the time on this....

4-0 out of 5 stars Not quite wicked
As a social satirist, Martin Amis has few peers.
That's why The Pregnant Widow is a bit of a disappointment - not to say bad - but it feels like a series of unsure observations about modern female sexuality made over a period of decades that is crammed into a not-so-interesting narrative about a summer abroad. Nothing much happens in Italy, except the protagonist gets a sex education at the hands of a clever vixen, pants after his girlfriend's posh best friend, and makes do with the sensible girlfriend who senses his sexual awakening but does little to encourage him. The best part of this novel is the depiction of the latter relationship - a cozy but boring affair based on a jokiness that covers for mutual dislike.
Rethinking the novel, I would say Amis is a bit of a misogynist. He is also needlessly merciless about the short stature of one of the male characters who is courting the posh girlfriend. ... Read more

5. The Information
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 384 Pages (1996-03-19)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$5.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679735739
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
From the author of London Fields and Time's Arrow comes the story of Richard Tull, a novelist whose literary criticism is the only work to actually see publication. His life is not going well. Now, he has dedicated his life to screwing up the political aspirations of his best friend and bestselling novelist, Gwyn Barry. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (66)

1-0 out of 5 stars Stupendously Bad.
The first 50 pages are funny. All the rest are dead boring. Abitter boring feud between writers that oozes nothing more than senility. After 100 pages this becomes one of the most morose novels I've ever read. You really can't stomach it after a while, it just plainly goes nowhere.

A mixture of irrelevance, unfunnyness, and stupidity permeates you. A story about two bad writers written by a bad writer, and in the end who cares? Martin was never profound, clever, or imaginative, he was just funny occasionally and he's not anymore here.

Thanks to the internet media this guy's hype has started to fade and people take him for what he is now, a very, very mediocre writer. Neither profound, nor clever, and certainly not imaginative. If you want to plough though 400 pages of garbage about two lesser writers squabbling by all means be my guest.

2-0 out of 5 stars Starts off strong, sinks slowly

Literary envy runs rampant, but then out of steam. Richard Tull ekes out a living (no idea how!) as a book reviewer of stultifying biographies of third-rate long-buried English poets. He undermines the reputation of Gwyn Barry, his best friend. Untalented, but his smarmy utopian claptrap's shot him onto the bestseller list, while Tull seethes as a forgotten novelist editing for a vanity press. How Tull hires thugs to start to take down Barry's the plot.

It starts off astonishingly well in its telling. Insightful astronomical analogies, well-crafted metaphors, a promising satire of the publishing industry, and the inevitable trip to America that British intellectuals love to include in their comedic romps all feature. But, the novel settles into a morass of underdeveloped supporting characters, a lazy approach of Amis towards the tension that should be building as he takes you on for hundreds of pages, and a weariness by the end at the machinations Tull sets up within which to destroy Barry and his vapid wife. You wind up not caring about any characters.

For a novel so immersed in London, as with his ambitious "London Fields" (flawed as it was, I enjoyed that one more; see my review), you get a strong sense of its urban feel. Yet, domestically, many as Tull's woes may be, you barely get any sense of his wife and children as living beings. And, oddly, for all the send-ups of Barry's lamentable bestseller's rank, Amis can't be bothered to concoct actual references to the novel's own prose that's so often argued to be so awful.

Finally, Tull's not got that bad a life compared to most of his London neighbors. He might not be famous, but given he at least has a job in the publishing industry seems decent enough despite his lowly rank, given his wife's basically supporting him. Again, I have no idea how Tull gets enough income to live as he does in one of the world's most expensive cities doing as comparatively little work as he does! This may reflect the insularity of Amis, for all his knowledge of how everyday people live, as he's so entangled in what was apparently a roman-a-clef made into a thinly disguised work of fiction when this appeared.

5-0 out of 5 stars Old batch, spinst and London calling ~ Amis reeks of greatness

Silver strips of light streaming from the great and awful caricature of Richard Tull's craggy universe pleating greatness from the stratosphere and handing it down as if passing a ciggy to the reader while the wind rocks the night;

This is a sensory trip to be sure and you best travel light for protagonist Richard Tull (dull? I can just see the mini-series unfolding with Ricky Gervais and the continuous mis-pronouncement of his name, "Yes, my name is Richard Tull." "Dull, you say?" "No, you twit, Tull." Can just see the glint of Cheshire cat smile, and toothy grin. Oh please oh please clap hands and come back through the door with a laugh out loud mini-series. Such an air of Faulty Towers does abound) - - Ahem, catching hold of one's own lugubrious enthusiasm and marching her hand to shoulder up the cliffs. --

Henceforth; such unfolding scenes steeple chasing the reader up and down the lane, while the twins, Marco and Marius (seriously?!) play ring around the posy and Tull (dull) and Gwin (win) -- two old batches playing snooker, and having their smokes while the women are busy bandying about in their own scenery lounging in the background, each a lithesome spike haired model frowning over some mess in the frying pan while wondering who is this crazed old man in rumpled clothes, or waistcoat bow tie, or snappy black track suit, reeking of old batch; cigarettes, fast cars, and booze they've handily swiped from the batch pool - - This old pool that literally reeks of batch. The tell tale signs of questioning- - the sheer genius of, "Untitled," and it's hand tossed migraines wending across the night. The bleak reality of the publishing industry -- such snipe; such an awful truth.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming; there are a few letters all rushing and glued together that Mr. Amis has left out of his hefty Saturday afternoon reading manual; I shall take a moment now to enlighten him. Waggle; Verisimilitude; Bunk; Bungle; Corrigendum (would work great for The Little Magazine, or Gal Aplanalp (too clever); and lest not forget to include Bowdlerize; other than those six words, I do believe this author to have handily mixed and mashed nearly every other so often not used word and deposited it directly into the text; where it flourishes marvelously; detours abound at a hellish pace; this is depending upon your gait of choice; walk, trot or cantor; no matter; Tull slips behind the scenes with scozzy (way to fluff the scuff out of scuzbag douchebag any old bag and raise the bar to plain old scozz, not your cousin that's for sure, but damn close) such interplay with words and letters all rambling about; brief interludes of grace and charm, Richard pulling at the corners of his most successful years, how he sandbagged his wife into looking into a crystal ball showing a simulacrum of success that dodges this family like the warm platitudes of the sun; then the plans, such plans of ruination! - - and I felt a modicum of pity for Mr. Gwyn (win?) Barry, until Amis pulls a one two and let's the reader into the scary backdrop of win's mind; a Jackson Pollack painting tilted ripped and glaring at the reader to kneel down and kiss his feet; a trip to America with such hilarity that I could barely keep from laughing, even while sitting in the background of a funeral parlor, this book should not be read when one is supposed to assume the position of permanent sorrow; for it is impossible to keep a straight face; there are moments of conglomeration where the planets stop and greet each other and I felt as if I would experience no greater joy in life as to have read this book; now, how many other readings can I say this of? One does not step frequently into such meadows. One may choose to swipe the label: light reading across the title; I however, am unable to offer such light fare on this journey. Maybe this book only profoundly speaks to writers. Unsuccessful writers. Writers who perilously try for years upon sweat browed clenched teeth and fervent upturned gazing years to climb up and over that great blue yonder only to be slapped back down with the palm of the great hand of the Universe and while boldly staring up at fate; date to keep up the climbing. Garlands of roses appear as of Richard's vignettes with his sons; how the moon weeps at Richard's inner monologues - - such reality, such aching; I dare say I am being propelled into the galaxy of fawning; and even Richard Tull would stop me here and say, "only a moment luv, now do catch yourself before going over the ledge and get a grip." Hold onto this novel if you can; catalogue it, contain it; presume to presume; or step aside after witnessing such talent and skill wielded as of a baton from the Gods; and let the words rip your soul into tiny little shreds forcing the dark open with such great light.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent

Like a good meal that gets better after every bite. Even thickish Scozzy, that evolved/devolved virgin criminal. Every card played right. Or, as the book's quasi-narrator might say, "Not a sip spilled across the whole night." Prose perfection, up and down. Creepy, funny, quizzical, deftly accurate, mind-bending. What a punkish, off-lit ending, though. Odd, that.

5-0 out of 5 stars His Best Work
Years ago, when Amis was on a book tour for Experience I went to the reading with some of his books to sign, including a dog-earred copy of The Information.I'd read it forwards and backwards and backwards and forwards. It had been ripped to shreds by the press when it first came out. At the signing I had the hardback version of Experience but began to feel embarrassed about the condition of The Information. Just before it was my turn, I said to his minder, Do you think he will be annoyed with this?Meaning the book.Ah...no, she said.

I gave him Experience, which he signed. Then I passed him The Information. He picked it up, rifled through the pages and said, "You read the s*** out of this." Then I got a full frontal view of his new teeth.

I did read the s*** out of it because it seemed to me that he broke new ground--it is different than Money, it takes more risks than Money, it's funnier, crueler and more frightening than Money.

Richard Tull is a fully realized character within a fully realized world as created in the novel. We don't know his wife as well because Richard doesn't know her and is less interested in knowing her than he is in literary success. He has gaping blind spots--brilliantly portrayed by his overthinking and competitiveness with everyone and everything. The amount of alcohol consumed -- the hangover damage that drives him to drink more--and yet still always on point in getting his novel Untitled published and recognized for its greatness.

This novel could be read just for the laughs but it's a richer experience than that --but the laughs are enough. Perhaps because it is a book about writers people may not appreciate some of the jokes and some of its sensibility but there is a lot there for anyone.

... Read more

6. The Second Plane: September 11: Terror and Boredom (Vintage International)
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 224 Pages (2009-04-07)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$8.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400096006
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A master not only of fiction but also of fiercely controversial political engagement, Martin Amis here gathers fourteen pieces that constitute an evolving, provocative, and insightful examination of the most momentous event of our time.

At the heart of this collection is the long essay “Terror and Boredom,” an unsparing analysis of Islamic fundamentalism and the West's flummoxed response to it, while other pieces address the invasion of Iraq, the realities of Iran, and Tony Blair's lingering departure from Downing Street (and also his trips to Washington and Iraq). Whether lambasted for his refusal to kowtow to Muslim pieties or hailed for his common sense, wide reading, and astute perspective, Amis is indisputably a great pleasure to read—informed, elegant, surprising—and this collection a resounding contemplation of the relentless, manifold dangers we suddenly find ourselves living with. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great Journalism
In "The Second Plane, Martin Amis has produced an excellent book.It is a collection of his journalism since the events of 11 September 2001.The collection is coherent, well researched and a compelling read.

Amis has no sympathy for the barbarians of the Islamic world.In many respects, he is close to the views of his colleague, Christopher Hitchens.His perspective, however, is somewhat more European.He endeavours to see a bigger picture while, at the same time, calling a spade a spade.He sees modern Islam for what it is; namely, a pretence for barbarism.

Perhaps the best chapter from the book is his reconstruction of the last days and hours in the life of Muhammad Atta, the pilot of the second plane to hit the twin towers in New York.Here, we see raw fanaticism.Atta was a psychopath, totally loathsome in all respects.Yet, there is little doubt that there are other such individuals who would love to emulate his "achievements".Amis has little time for such people.He sees them for the shallow but dangerous individuals that they are.He also has no time for the religious fundamentalism that they represent.

Yet despite his views on Atta and his horrible clique, Amis has no sympathy for the likes of George W Bush.This is a man that he identifies as being incompetent at best and stupid at worst.However, by some strange means, this backwoods Texan came to be the leader of the free world.Surely, we can do better?

I suspect that the far right in America will not like some of the arguments put by Amis.Too bad!Amis is a breath of fresh air in the modern political discourse.His book is time and money well spent.

3-0 out of 5 stars Collection of Essays
This volume is a collection of essays and short stories written in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. Amis, a novelist and outspoken critic of radical Islam, addresses cobtroversial aspects of religion and war. The collection does include "Bush in Yes-Man's Land," "The Wrong War," as well as two stores, including "The Last Days of Muhammad Atta." The essays are presented to us in the same order they were originally first published and do include some violence.

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential
Amis' foray into commentary on Islam's intrusion into modern western life drew opprobrium from many quarters.However, I believe his analysis is essential, accurate and true.The writing is exquisite, and the subject is of signal importance for those of us in the west.The torrent of criticism he attracted seems to have had it's desired effect in that Amis' writing on the subject has been few and far between since.I wish Amis would revisit and expand this topic.Very highly recommended.

2-0 out of 5 stars Vapid yet erudite hate speech
Martin Amis's collection of essays on terrorism and the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks came recommended in Salon's "Ask the Pilot" column. The essays consisted of reflections on events, as well as a couple of imaginative pieces on the inner workings of the terrorist mind. A piece on the last day of 9/11 pilot Muhammad Atta seemed journalistic in style, but was only loosely based on verifiable facts, such as Atta's schedule and the contents of his will. Amis's purpose leaned more toward ornate attacks on Islamism, portraying its adherents as vile and murderous hypocrites. I could get that level of insight from the street. Don't look for much analysis or on-the-ground reportage. These are replaced with overly-clever writing that is long on fancy vocabulary and short on coherency.

Unless you are looking for a few 10 dollar words with which to amaze and puzzle your friends, skip this one.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hey Islamists: prepare to know fear.
Mr. Amis expresses the bile that many of us feel for these deformed, ugly, self-proclaimed 'religious' 'men.'The Islamists don't design planes, don't administer flight training, don't create or offer much of anything. They fail to evangelize as other religious people do in the civilized world - (i.e. by being nice and generous while INVITING others to join them in bowing and scraping, chanting incantations, eating special food and wearing special clothes...)
Apparently they can only think to stab a 110 lb. stewardess in the back as item #1 on their 'to do' lists. Death cults are a little weak on subtlety and imagination.
All in a day's work, one might suppose...and in line with the tradition of heaving wheelchair-bound old guys into the Mediterranean ...or butchering Olympic athletes or reporters or diplomats in cold blood ...or strapping bombs on trusting young girls who happen to have Down's Syndrome...
...and on and on and on.
Amis' prose, glittering with hatred for these September 11th Islamist creatures, is relentless.('Critics' are usually uncomfortable with relentlessness.)
We should thank our lucky stars for an honest, passionate good guy like Martin Amis. This fine collection of essays and stories is as stunning as his book a few years ago that tore into another vile bag of garbage: a certain Mr. Iosif Dzugashvili / Joseph Stalin. ... Read more

7. Dead Babies
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 220 Pages (1991-04-03)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$3.74
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 067973449X
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Sparkling might not be the first adjective that springs to mind to describe a novel packed with the concentrated disgust which Dead Babies contains. Nevertheless, Martin Amiss version of the bleak and wrecky future that awaits a sex-and-drug-addicted society is so fizzing with style, so busy with verbal inventiveness, that the adjective is impelled upon one." -- Julian Barnes

If the Marquis de Sade were to crash one of P. G. Wodehouse's house parties, the chaos might resemble the nightmarishly funny goings-on in this novel by the author of London Fields. The residents of Appleseed Rectory have primed themselves both for a visit from a triad of Americans and a weekend of copious drug taking and sexual gymnastics. There's even a heifer to be slugged and a pair of doddering tenants to be ingeniously harassed. But none of these variously bright and dull young things has counted on the intrusion of "dead babies" -- dreary spasms of reality. Or on the uninvited presence of a mysterious prankster named Johnny, whose sinister idea of fun makes theirs look like a game of backgammon. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (18)

1-0 out of 5 stars No Glue?
I tried to read this book, but as I turned page one it just fell off the spine. I finally gave up at page 14. Oh well, the book looked like it was in good condition.

4-0 out of 5 stars pleasantly nauseating
Worth reading if only for Keith, the repugnant dwarf.The book is usually funny and occasionally disturbing, like most of Amis' work.Read it.Please.

3-0 out of 5 stars Shallow & Savage, but also fun
Yep - this is minor Amis - the two goals (that I could detect) are both fairly modest - a satire of the sex-and-drug debaucheries of the young and beautiful in mid-1970s England, and a literary satire that combines spoofs of a very English kind of drawing-room whodunnit with a very American sort of post-60s new-journalism wooziness.

Those goals are (in the first instance) a bit morally arrogant - Amis' satire gleefully rampages straight over into some abyss of merciless cruelty without the faintest hint of remorse, and (in the second instance) his targets are so narrowly drawn as to be fairly irrelevant to most readers.

But it's still very, very good - Amis' use of language is almost as sharp as that of his great hero, Vladimir Nabokov, and his very, very ruthless sense of humor could've almost made Richard Pryor or Frank Zappa cringe.

All of which is to say that this book is extremely funny - you may want to take a long shower afterwards, though Amis generally selects his targets well.Just not for the faint of heart.

-David Alston

3-0 out of 5 stars Minor Amis
I think the other reviews here for this Martin Amis novel are very apt. "Dead Babies" is a glib, superficial novel, not up to Amis's usual standards and obviously written early in his career. Characters are barely developed, the plot is obscure at best and at times completely incomprehensible, and Amis's disgust and nastiness (always present in his writing) is undisciplined here and overshadows everything else.

However, that said, even less than stellar Amis is fun to read, because he has a writing style that is so unquestionably unique and he writes phrases that pop like firecrackers. He's also scathingly funny, if your sense of humour leans a certain way.

The complaints about Amis's shallow treatments of Americans in this novel are justified, but his treatment didn't bother me too much, since he doesn't paint a much rosier picture of the English.

Like others here have said, if you've never read Amis before, I probably wouldn't start with "Dead Babies," as you might not want to read anything else.However, if you're an Amis fan, this novel lends an interesting look into the early development of a great writer.

4-0 out of 5 stars Horrific happiness
I bought this book on a whim.I wasn't expecting what I read.I couldn't put it down.It has been along time since I read something full of such detail.I truly enjoyed this book and since have had several of my friends read it.They feel the same way.I wasn't even aware of what I was reading until the end.I thought it was one thing and it turned out to actually be a completely different kind of book.If you enjoy exciting details and thrilling endings this is the book for you!!!! ... Read more

8. Vintage Amis
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 208 Pages (2004-01-06)
list price: US$9.95 -- used & new: US$5.25
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400033993
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Vintage Readers are a perfect introduction to some of the great modern writers presented in attractive, accessible paperback editions.

“Amis throws off more provocative ideas and images in a single paragraph than most writers get into complete novels.” —The Seattle Times

Equally at home in satirical novels and biting critical essays, wickedly funny short stories and intimate autobiography, Martin Amis is widely regarded as one of the most influential yet inimitable voices in contemporary fiction, a writer whose prose captures the warp-speed rush of modernity.

Vintage Amis displays this versatility in an excerpt from the author’s award-winning memoir, Experience; the “Horrorday” chapter from London Fields; a vignette from his novel Money; the stories “State of England,” “Insight at Flam Lake,” and “Coincidence of the Arts”; and the essays “Visiting Mrs. Nabokov,” “Phantom of the Opera.”

Also included, for the first time in book form, the short story “Porno’s Last Summer.” ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

3-0 out of 5 stars Hit and Amiss
I agree that parts of this book are outstanding, such as "Flame Lake" and the bit on the Republicans. The rest, one has to wonder why anyone would bother putting pen to paper. You might try reading the above couple quickly at the bookshop.

3-0 out of 5 stars Real hit and miss here...
I don't know any other way to state it, but the obvious:

1. "State of England" = almost made me not want to read anymore. Horrible way to open a "reader" of Amis' work. Utterly dull. UGH.

2. "My Missing" & "Money" = both were so-so, nothing quite spectacular.

3. "Mrs. Nabokov" & "Flame Lake" = both VERY nicely written, very, very commendable.

4. "Coincidence of the Arts" = BEAUTIFUL! Really, really, great, best of the lot as far as I'm concerned.

5. "Republicans 1988" = also very well written and nicely assembled.

6. "London Fields" = (see #1) UGH....

7. "Porno's Last Summer" = almost...ahem..."too" amusing... Very well done and interesting to say the least.

Overall, this book is a hit and miss. Plenty of good. Plenty of bad. Worth its value, though, for Coincidence of the Arts and Insigt at Flame Lake. ... Read more

9. Time's Arrow
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 176 Pages (1992-09-29)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679735720
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
"A novel that seems to have been written with the term 'tour de force' in mind . . . Amis's radical rethinking of time . . . brings the abomination of the Holocaust home to the jaded late-20th-century reader in a way that few conventional novels could." Village Voice Literary Supplement. "Splendid . . . bold . . . gripping from start to finish."--Los Angeles Times Book Review.Amazon.com Review
Amis attempts here to write a path into and through theinverted morality of the Nazis: how can a writer tell about somethingthat's fundamentally unspeakable? Amis' solution is a deft literaryconceit of narrative inversion. He puts two separate consciousnessesinto the person of one man, ex-Nazi doctor Tod T. Friendly. Oneidentity wakes at the moment of Friendly's death and runs backwards intime, like a movie played in reverse, (e.g., factory smokestacks scrubthe air clean,) unaware of the terrible past he approaches. The"normal" consciousness runs in time's regular direction, fleeing hisignominious history. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (70)

2-0 out of 5 stars Dull and uninspiring
I make no pretense to being a literary critic, and I do not wish to be uncharitable, but this book is not exactly a page-turner. For me, at least, it was a tedious read, a real bust.Not only did I find reading a story backwards an unexhilarating experience that was totally off-putting and not the least bit fun or interesting but, to top the whole mess off, the story itself was like rowing across a yawning sea of boredom.

5-0 out of 5 stars "At such times, I conclude, the soul can only hang in the dark, like a white bat, and let the darkness have the day."
philosophizes the doppelganger-narrator of this marvelous book that resides within the body of an elderly, paralyzed man, (p 10) "Flanked by the great guitars of the ears, his hair lay thin over the orange-peel scalp, in white worms." Not a fan of those who try to help him, (p 4) "How I hate doctors...They are life's gatekeepers. And why would anyone want to be that?" he feels something sinister, (p 5) "the sense of starting out on a terrible journey, toward a terrible secret," and peculiar, as the dates seem to run in reverse, (p 8) "It just seems to me that the film is running backward," and, (p 7) "I have no access to his thoughts-but I am awash with his emotions." Yet, he has his own views on the world, (p 16) "The moon I actually like looking at. Its face, at this time of the month, is especially craven and chinless, like the earth's exiled or demoted soul," his inhabitee, (p 54) "Tod is a big depositor in the bank where fear is kept," (p 91) "John Young...daily straddles a storm of souls, which kick up in the wind like leaves..." and mankind, (p 40) "Probably human cruelty is fixed and eternal."

What he doesn't realize (and what makes the novel so great) is that what he is observing is his host's life run backwards. To say more would spoil an absolutely original book. Also great: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Achievement
You hear what he's done -- written a novel in which time moves backwards -- and you think it's a clever gimmick.Then you read the book and are simply blown away at how insightful and genuine it is.You race through what he surely did not.This is why we read.

4-0 out of 5 stars ''He is traveling towards his secret"
"London Fields," Amis' previous novel, he tells us in its forward, could have been called "Time's Arrow," and that term comes up a couple of times in that sprawling narrative epic of environmental and personal chaos near the millennium. His experimental style in that novel (also reviewed by me) took on a mock-heroic, satirical tone that tried to fit its bitter social critiques and mordant humor. For "Time's Arrow," wisely, Amis stays sober. The voice assumed sounds much more American than the earlier novel, and this matter-of-fact style, reminding me in parts of Philip Roth's "Everyman," makes the mix of the bizarre and the mundane convincing. The daring of this novel may undo it from reaching perfection, but it remains worthwhile as an intellectual and spiritual quest into how a human contorts under pressures to do the wrong thing.

Reading it, I feared continuing as the horrors loomed ahead-- or behind. The ingenious structure of the tale fascinates. You fear how Dr. Friendly's medical skills will be warped, and how his care for children in his elderly incognito existence in America will be demonstrated to have emerged from the Nazi camps. This becomes a truly cathartic novel, in which fear and pity mingle as you turn the pages forward, backward into the origins of the doctor's past crimes.

An early passage: "A child's breathless wailing calmed by the firm slap of a father's hand, a dead ant revived by the careless press of a passing sole, a wounded finger healed and sealed by the knife's blade: anything like that made me flinch and veer. But the body I live and move in, Tod's body, feels nothing." (28) So we learn as his soul tells his tale. Like his spirit, we may not wish to continue the journey as the future recedes and the memories left repressed rear up and assault our senses, but this sometimes stunning depiction of the last century's historical regression into savagery, in its often relentless momentum, pulls us into their maelstrom.

The strain of this structure, perhaps, means that the underlying moral condition, buried as it is under the weight of time and of apparent suppression by the doctor, becomes less distinct. This may be intentional, but it blunts the impact of the novel. Perhaps, on the other hand, this has been an effective step back by Amis, for how many fictional works have tried and also stumbled in trying to "explain" the camps, the doctors, and the evil?

Amis, with relative reticence, and restraint, manages to take us into the labs of Auschwitz without exploitation or bathos. Parts remained rather unclear, but in retrospect I sense this shows the soul, and then Amis, stepping back from fully confronting the terrors that are summoned back from the lands of the dead. The necessary details that evoke this terrestrial hell, both in Tod's later life and his earlier years, have been integrated subtly, to show off by the estrangement of the form their parallel distortion in content, compared with conventional fiction and moral standards. This feat, in a novel that by its daring may (like "London Fields" in its range and hubris) show that Amis, even when he writes a less than perfect tale, can earn acclaim for his imagination, his innovation, and his performance in a bravura turn that compels you.

5-0 out of 5 stars Surprising Change in Narrative Pattern
I realize that other authors have broken with the linear narrative pattern, but I have to say that the way Amis broke down the life of his protagonist here, by telling his life backwards, was amazing.I doubt that many writers could figure out a way to still insert some sort of social commentary, and yet Amis manages to do just that.I loved the way he snatches us right up in the beginning with the character's death, and we then spend the rest of the novel trying to piece together how or why he died, what he did in his life, and how these experiences shaped the character we saw in the beginning/end.It's an interesting read, and one that I'd recommend doing in one sitting if possible! ... Read more

10. House of Meetings (Vintage International)
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 256 Pages (2008-01-08)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$8.91
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400096014
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
An extraordinary, harrowing, endlessly surprising novel from a literary master.

In 1946, two brothers and a Jewish girl fall into alignment in pogrom-poised Moscow. The fraternal conflict then marinates in Norlag, a slave-labor camp above the Arctic Circle, where a tryst in the coveted House of Meetings will haunt all three lovers long after the brothers are released. And for the narrator, the sole survivor, the reverberations continue into the new century.Amazon.com Review
House of Meetings Is an Amazon Significant Seven selection for March 2007

With The House of Meetings,Martin Amis may finally have written the novel his critics thoughtwould never come. By taming his signature (and polarizing) stylistichigh-wire act, Amis has crafted a sober tale of love and cynicismagainst the grim curtain of Stalin's Russia. The book's anonymousnarrator--a Red Army veteran and unapologetic war criminal--and hispassive, poetic half-brother, Lev, become pinned in a politicallydangerous love triangle with the exotic Zoya, though their tactics (andintentions) are as divergent as their personalities. Swept up in thewave of Stalin's paranoid purges, the brothers are sent independentlyto Norlag, a Siberian internment camp where their respective fates arecast through their contrasting reactions to the depravity of theprison. Zoya and Lev share a night in "The House of Meetings," a roomprovided for conjugal visits with the prisoners, and the events of thatnight reverberate through the decades, the details of the liaisonremaining concealed until the story's devastating denouement.

Amis's main achievement is his depiction of the cruel realities of the Soviet gulags. Drawing heavily on his research for Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million, his half-history/half-memoir of political imprisonment and industrial-scale killing in Soviet Russia, Amis has created his own Animal Farm--withoutmetaphors to mask the blood, filth, and death of the camps. Amisvividly recreates the social structure of gulag life, as the inmatesand guards sort themselves into distinct hierarchies and stations intheir struggles to survive the rigors of the gulag. Here The House of Meetings may accomplish what Amis had intended for the unfocused Koba: to cast a searing light on an often overlooked episode of 20th century inhumanity and mass murder. --Jon Foro

... Read more

Customer Reviews (33)

2-0 out of 5 stars An exasperating waste of time
A bloated, convoluted story of a sociopathic Red Army vet doing a balance of his wasted life and love, with the background of forever decaying (according to Amis) Russia. It's a tough slough, with an occasional brilliant turn of a phrase here and there, but, unfortunately, more pretension than authentic engagement. It's hard to care about any of the Amis' characters here, and the fact that the protagonist writes this lengthy letter/book, full of details of his sexual escapades, including mass rapes, to his young daughter makes one wonder whether he is an idiot or a monster. Quite possibly both.

Amis' disdain for Russia and his stereotypical and banal characterizations of the Russian "national character" are unpalatable in their predictability. Enough already. We get it, you don't dig Russia and its citizens, but don't rub it in so vehemently as if nothing else -- except feverish sexual desires, that is -- mattered. On the other hand, perhaps that's the point.

Rent the book, don't buy it.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Image of the Russian Cross
The House of Meetings is a narrative delivered as a long letter from an unnamed narrator, an 86-year-old Russian man, to his step-daughter Venus, living in Chicago. He is in the midst of traveling back home after many years in the U.S. The point of his journey is to revisit a work camp in the Artic where he had been held prisoner and slave laborer in the 40s and 50s. Particularly, he wants to visit the "house of meetings," where, late in the labor camp era, the Soviets had begun allowing some prisoners to meet briefly with their wives. The narrator's brother, Lev, with whom he shared most of his prison years, had been able to meet with his wife Zoya there on one occasion. Something occurred during the meeting that changed Lev's life for the worse, and the narrator's has yearned to know the details, partly out of perverse curiosity since he was also in love with Zoya--or rather in lust with her--and partly out of a need to understand what happened to all Russian men in the 20th century. Whatever happened to Russian men, the narrator comes to believe, resulted in the "Russian cross," the intersection of the national birth rate, ever-declining, and the death rate, ever climbing.

On his journey the narrator carries a letter in his pocket from Lev, which he has kept for many years but has never read.It was sent to him by Lev's second wife after his death and it explains what happened in the house of meetings. Now, late in his life, the narrator is finally preparing himself to read the letter, after which he has made arrangements to be euthanized by lethal injection.

The narrator has been called an anti-hero by other critics, wholly unlikable, if not evil. He had been in the "rapist Russian army" during the Second World War and lost his virginity in a ditch raping a housewife and went on this way across Eastern Europe. He says the devastating effects of rape on women may be well-known, but not much is said about what it does to the rapist. Amis likes to challenge our sensibilities by asking us to have empathy for such a man. Since The House of Meetings is written in first-person a certain degree of empathy is assured. The narrator is admirably honest, if a little too dry, about his crimes--against women, against humanity.He is not only a rapist but a murderer, having taken part in a mass riot in prison, killing three informers.He admits with some shame to getting an erection during the act. Lev, in contrast, is a pacifist, and while in prison, he never succumbs to that group thinking, madness, which may be rare in individuals, but, as Nietzsche pointed out, is typical in crowds. Thinking with the crowd may be the deep fault of the Soviet--perhaps even the Russian--mentality, so argues the narrative.

So what did happen to Lev in the house of meetings? The contents of the letter are finally revealed, but I am not certain I comprehend fully their meaning. There are passages in this sometimes obscure narrative that made me have a few Ashbery moments.I could understand the words, but wasn't sure who so-and-so was or what sort of connotations were being made. I'm not uncomfortable with some degree of confusion. The narrative is, after all, written to someone who is, presumably, more familiar with the people and events described, while I, as the reader, am not. This lends a degree of verisimilitude to the narrative of an overheard conversation, which is what The House of Meetings is. What happened to Lev, I think, is that he saw himself as a slave, not a man, and with the loss of his humanity, he lost his confidence, and later his sexual appetite for Zoya. The loss of interest in sex is loss of interest in life. After being released from camp, the homely Lev joins his beautiful and doting wife but he cannot muster the affection for her that she deserves. This is the one time that Lev seems, to the narrator, to succumb to that Russian collective mind, joining the nation's men in deep despair. Lev later recovers and marries Lydia, with whom he has a son, but when that young son is killed, Lev promptly reverts to despair; all his vital organs begin closing down and he dies.

The letter was written prior to the death of Lev's son, so its tone isn't affected by that impending tragedy. In a less despairing mind, Lev advises his brother to get a family around him, as he had. Lev also reveals to his older brother that he regarded him as a hero.Handsome, strong and fierce enough to make wild dogs cower, he protected Lev when they were boys and later when they were in prison. He broke arms for Lev, perhaps killed for him, which gave Lev the luxury of being a pacifist. In the letter Lev pays due respect to his brother's strength--pure brute force though it was.

Amis' ability to create empathy for this narrator is commendable. And he does not stoop to sentimentality. The empathy one feels comes with great discomfort. Early in the novel, addressing his stepdaughter directly the narrator self-consciously notes,

"I realize you must be jerking back from the page about three times per paragraph. And it isn't just the unvarying morbidity of my theme, and my general poor performance, which is due to deteriorate still further. No, I mean my readiness to assert and conclude--my appetite for generalizations. Your crowd, they're so terrorstricken by generalizations that they can't manage a declarative sentence. 'I went to the store? To buy orange juice?' That's right, keep it tentative--even though it's already happened....
A generalization might sound like an attempt to stereotype--and we can't have that. I'm at the other end. I worship generalizations. And the more sweeping the better. I am ready to kill for the sweeping generalizations. The name of your ideology, in case anyone asks, is Westernism. It would be no use to you here."

We can hear the honesty but also the irony, and these are not necessarily in conflict. When the narrator disembarks from his ship on Artic soil, he describes the port city in a passage which shows Amis' great talent imbuing physical objects and place with thought. The shipyard "comes alive," to be a bit trite about it, but importantly it reflects the narrator's own state of mind as a causality of war, slavery, mass rape, and utopianism. The port city is

"a Mars of rust, in various hues and concentrations. Some of the surfaces have dimmed to a modest apricot, losing their barnacle and asperities. Elsewhere, it looks like arterial blood, newly shed, newly dried. The rust boils and bristles, and the keel of the upended ferryboat glares out across the water with personalized fury, as if oxidation were a crime it would lay at your door. ...I think I've got it [icophobia, fear of rust]. The condition doesn't strike me, now, as at all ridiculous--or at all irrational. Rust is the failure of the work of man. The project, the venture, the experiment: failed, given up on, and not cleaned up after."

At some point later the narrator muses over the idea that Russians weren't given or didn't take the opportunity to admit to their crimes and suffer for them, as a means of absolution.They never had the luxury of recovering. This little bit of writing about the shipyard functions like a Spenserian ornament reflecting in miniature a theme, which is repeated with variations throughout the novel. Amis is a master at this.

When I read the "revelation" of the letter at the end of the novel I was disappointed--or thought I had just missed something--because it didn't seem to be much of a revelation. It told me nothing new. On reflection, however, I can appreciate it as yet another restatement of the theme that develops throughout the texture of the narrative itself. Every line and word of this impressive novel reflects the image of the "Russian cross."While this may not do much for the dramatic force of the novel, it is an absolutely beautiful, musical way to for Amis to resolve, with a satisfying final chord, the variations on his theme.

3-0 out of 5 stars Lost a little steam
Hey, I'm a huge fan of Amis..."Time's Arrow" is one of my absolute favorites.That being said, personally the story lost me a little after the brothers achieved "freedom."All the horrific, detailed accounts of times in the prison camp were making up to a wonderfully interesting novel for me.Once they were out, I think it lost a little steam.Overall, a great book...just not enough for 4 stars.

5-0 out of 5 stars I'm speechless
Wow! Oh, wow!
That is all I could say for a while.
That's all I can say even now.
What a magnificent piece of literature. Not since `The Corrections' by Franzen have I encountered such a masterful ownership of language, clarity and depth of thought, and so much, so much meaning. Meaning in the characters and meaning in the ideas and motivations behind their actions.

With this book, Armis becomes one of my favorite authors, at the same level as Jonathan Franzen and Don DeLillo.

I'm speechless...he gets my highest recommendation.

5-0 out of 5 stars How do you identify a monster?
I read this book greedily, it's very fast paced and is very conversational in tone.I immediately felt a connection with the main character, and was both shaken and horrified by the subject matter in which the three main characters are involved in (trying not to give spoilers).But to see how my own mind got sucked into what happened and how I found myself drawn in to what ultimately was NOT like me, well, it will pull you into it as well.Gives you something to think about yourself, and how you can identify a person, perhaps consider them a friend, but just how much do you know them and what do you condone? ... Read more

11. Money [Paperback]
by Martin Amis (Author)
Unknown Binding: Pages (1986)
-- used & new: US$23.70
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Asin: B003M57KWG
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12. The War Against Cliche: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 528 Pages (2002-07-16)
list price: US$16.95 -- used & new: US$6.76
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Asin: 0375727167
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Is there anything that Martin Amis can’t write about? In this virtuosic, career-spanning collection he takes on James Joyce and Elvis Presley, Nabokov and English football, Jane Austen and Penthouse Forum, William Burroughs and Hillary Clinton. But above all, Amis is concerned with literature, and with the deadly cliches–not only of the pen, but of the mind and the heart.

In The War Against Cliché, Amis serves up fresh assessments of the classics and plucks neglected masterpieces off their dusty shelves.He tilts with Cervantes, Dickens and Milton, celebrates Bellow, Updike and Elmore Leonard, and deflates some of the most bloated reputations of the past three decades.On every page Amis writes with jaw-dropping felicity, wit, and a subversive brilliance that sheds new light on everything he touches.Amazon.com Review
In Martin Amis's War Against Cliché, a selection of critical essays and reviews published between 1971 and 2000, he establishes himself as one of the fiercest critics and commentators on the literature and culture of the late 20th century. (He has already established himself as one of the most controversial and original novelists writing in English with novels such as Money and Time's Arrow.) In his foreword to the book Amis ruefully admits that his earlier reviews reveal a rather humorless attitude towards the "Literature and Society" debate of the time. Yet this only adds to the fascination of the collection, as Amis gradually finds his critical voice in the 1980s, confirming his passionate belief that "all writing is a campaign against cliché."

In the subsequent sections of the book, this war leads to some wonderfully cutting and amusing responses to whatever crosses his path, from books on chess and nuclear proliferation to Cervantes' Don Quixote and the novels of his hero Vladimir Nabokov. Praise for his literary heroes is often fulsome: J.G. Ballard's High-Rise "is an intense and vivid bestiary, which lingers in the mind and chronically disquiets it." But his literary wrath is also devastating in its incisiveness: Thomas Harris's Hannibal is dismissed as "a novel of such profound and virtuoso vulgarity," while John Fowles is attacked because "he sweetens the pill: but the pill was saccharine all along." Often frank in its reappraisals (Amis concedes to being too hard on Ballard's Crash when reviewing the film many years later), some of the best writing is reserved for his journalism on sex manuals, chess, and his beloved football. The War Against Cliché will provoke strong reactions, but that only seems to confirm, rather than deny, the value of Amis's writing. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk ... Read more

Customer Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars Intense and furitive life
This book taught me that literary criticisim could be valuable, funny, and an art form but what I loved most about it is how well written it is on the sentence level. The other levels are important but what I love is to read beautiful sentences.

Here's two quotes that I pulled out in five minutes.
"Only in the margins of the present novel is Ballards's real strength allowed any play: the ability to invest abstract vistas with intense and furitive life."
"It is as if all the institutional weights and fetters, the gravity of of the large agencies and big concerns, are pressing in on Simon; and Augie, who has swung life on to his brother's parallel track (he even has a stern Magnus daughter to court), must suffer this pressure vicariously, fraternally but with utterly unwelcome clarity."

4-0 out of 5 stars TOO BIG OF A TITLE?
Literary and popular cultures are examined in this book of essays -written between 1971 and 2000. Authors of acknowledged masterpieces (Cervantes, Jane Austen, Coleridge, Updike, Dickens, Saul Bellow, etc.), popular authors (Michael Crichton, Tom Wolfe...), politicians, chess and sports are forced to cohabit in this collection.
Like many young intellectuals, Amis as a young critic is more in love with his own cleverness than with the author or celebrity he examines.As he gets older, he is more temperate, more interested in the work itself, and more interesting as a result. His wit and bite are often present.Part One of the collection is titled "On Masculinity and Related Questions," and yet includes Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher and Andy Warhol.
He questions the validity of masterpieces classification.One striking example is James Joyce's Ulysses.The question that arises after reading Amis' essay on the subject is: Should a piece that is obscure and oblivious of readership qualify as a great book because of its relative un-readability? Amis responds and closes the essay with these biting sentences: "Joyce could have been the most popular boy in the school, the cleverest, the kindest.He ended up with a more ambiguous distinction.He became the teacher's pet."
Amis is much more indulgent with Nabokov -obviously his own literary pet.There is no doubt he is a good, witty writer.And a talented critic who knows what he likes and what he doesn't.I hadn't read this British author before, but because of the title of the book, I expected to see more diversity.More women, more Black, Asian, Latin and other world authors.Amis does have a section called "Ultramundane" that alludes to some of these.But I would have wished for more.The great majority of the culture he examines is male and white Anglo-American.And because of that, The War Against Cliche might be too big of a title.

3-0 out of 5 stars Solid
Of recent vintage there has been a spate of the talentless children of talented literary figures getting into print. The two worst examples are Thomas Steinbeck- son of John Steinbeck, who whined of `being forced to write a novel' by his publishers; and Frieda Hughes- spawn of Sylvia Plath's unholy coupling with Ted Hughes. A precursor to this trend is Martin Amis- a fictionist (London Fields, The Information), son of Kingsley Amis- a minor writer. The difference is the younger Amis, eased into a literature by birthright, surpassed his father long ago. Unfortunately, as this review's epigraph, selected from the titular book, proves, Amis is no stranger to banalities in his own work

The essays in his 2001 book, The War Against Cliché: Essays And Reviews, 1971-2000, do prove, however, that he's several cuts above such critics as Harold Bloom, Jacques Barzun, and Joyce Carol Oates, despite the dust jacket photo showing the fiftysomething Amis scowling like a perpetual badboy. Critics of his reviews have labeled him biased, but that's terminal PC- even as they conflate his objective critiques with terms like `he likes'. Amis is refreshing in that he speaks his mind more often than not, even if he's dead wrong, which he is more often than not in his literary assessments....Beyond that, and Amis's age when he penned such nonsense, is the fact that it is never the point to merely insult a bad writer or work in reviews nor criticism. Insults, however, are fair when just, preferably loaded with humor, and amply demonstrate the flaws they reference in the negative. In this last sense, Amis's barbs often fail and flail, for he is a poor selector of quotations in his essays, even as he can occasionally zing a barb as well as Randall Jarrell- or even this writer. The point is to let the horror show, for it is the bad writer whose work is truly insulting the reader, not the inverse in regard to the critic's assessment. When Amis learns this he may one day take his place as a good critic, but he will have to learn that the real war is not merely against cliché, but against critical and literary schizophrenia; something his solid, if not greatly worded, essays fall prey to. But, hey, if nothing else, he's no Thomas Steinbeck.

5-0 out of 5 stars Our Secret Weapon in the Culture Wars
These bits and pieces do not say all that much alone; together they work as a lethal brew strong enough to kill crawling insects, academics, and other vermin. Amis loves literature. He celebrates authorship and despises the campaign led by theorists against creativity and genius. He joins Waugh and Orwell and others who had an instinctive loathing for propaganda. In every review he takes on what he sees as the tenured onslaught against that fine thing known as the English language. He's marvelous at dismissing the pointed-headed bigots who despise refinement and elegance of expression. He is a kind of Spiro Agnew of literature. He has a take-no-prisoners attitude and shoos away the nonsense with one hand while drafting his essays with the other. He knows how to have fun and is having fun. He has his favorites: Angus Wilson, Iris Murdoch, Nabokov, Roth and Bellow. He is indifferent to the structuralists, post-colonialists, and Soviet-style enemies of frivolity. Amis celebrates the kinds of talent that embrace all of life, most especially the unexceptional. He likes Updike's Rabbit novels because Angstrom is deliciously ordinary. Amis himself is not; his genius lies in his knowing a good thing when he reads it.

4-0 out of 5 stars First Rate Lit Crit
Martin Amis has long since established himself as one of Britain's leading novelists. It does not follow that he is necessarily a great critic of literature or even a great essayist. And he is not; but he is damned good all the same.

This collection gathers a wide variety of literary reviews from 1977-2000 (though the majority of them were composed during the 70's and 80's while Amis was writing for the New Statesman) which provide curious readers with a marvelous resource in the realm of contemporary fiction. Amis makes no apologies for his overt reverence for Nabokov, Bellow, Roth, Joyce, and Kafka. He calls Bellow's `The Adventures of Augie March' the great American novel of the 20th century (next to Gatsby), and maintains that Bellow's late period was not characterized by intellectual nor artistic diminishment (a view I have not shared). Amis' criticism is heavily indebted to the style and philosophy of Nabokov's literary lectures at Cornell, insisting that a true reader of literature reads with `the spine' and ought to reject all theory.

There is an excellent and broad array of literature reviewed in this collection, including established greats like Updike, Capote, and Murdoch, but also lesser known but exciting writers like Ballard, but he includes reviews of indubitably bad writers merely for the sake of covering the whole spectrum. Not as compelling as Amis' own literature, but very worthwhile all the same. ... Read more

13. Other People
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 224 Pages (1994-02-08)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$3.50
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Asin: 0679735895
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

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What an amnesiac young woman discovers about her violently erased past is only one of the riddles in this eerie, blackly funny, and sometimes disorienting novel by the author of London Fields. Amis offers a revealing look at how someone with no memory constructs a self in a dangerous world. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

1-0 out of 5 stars I didn't get it, and didn't even care
I'll admit that Amis knows how to write a page-turner. But there's supposed to be a climax after you turn all those pages. None of that in here.

To me, this book was all about sex, and the many ways it can go wrong. There were so many sordid, miserable sex scenes, I started reliving parts of my past best left unremembered.

I say, no thanks! I'm glad I read "Night Train" first, so I know how gifted Amis is. If I had read this one first, I wouldn't have read any more of his books.

4-0 out of 5 stars Stylish, original fiction about downward mobility
This is one of Martin Amis's earlier novels, written during the phase where he seemed to be aiming to emulate the early career of Nabokov in producing short, stylish novels that play with the conventional rules of reality and narrative structure.

Other People can seem perplexing, but I think it is essentially an interesting angle on the social phenomenon of downward mobility - well off people going off the rails and plunging into messy troubles - which was a prominent one in 1970s London.

The heroine, Mary Lamb goes through an amnesiac process. She finds it difficult to remember nouns, common terms, the names of familiar objects. The whole world is a riddle for her. Thus a newspaper is a 'dirty sheath of smudged grey paper that came and went every day'. She wanders innocently through shabby London society, commented on by a mysterious narrator, leaving a trail of destruction wherever she goes. Through a mysterious policeman, Prince, she learns about Amy Hide, a girl who has disappeared. Amy appears to be Mary's doppelganger, another Nabokovian technique Amis has raided in this novel. Eventually, this strange netherworld comes into focus and it is revealed what has happened to Mary during her life.

Other People may seem odd, but I think it is one of Amis's most stylish and heartfelt fictions. The character of Mary Hide is endearing in a way that Amis's characters rarely are. Amis himself has suggested that 'Other People' can be read as a sort of sequel to his later novel 'London Fields'. Readers of 'London Fields' who know how that book ends will have a useful lead into this one.

3-0 out of 5 stars hmmm, not sure what the author was trying to do here...
'Other People' by Martin Amis is a rather perplexing read.It is well-written, interesting at times, but inevitably feels rather aimless.The story concerns itself with a young woman in London suffering from amnesia.As she (very) slowly pieces together who she was it becomes clear that all is not what it seems.Think in terms of surreal and existential and you'll have an idea what this book is like.Unfortunately the ending is, well, both too much and not enough.I felt disappointed and a bit cheated, as if the author simply got bored with writing the book and simply decided to put an end to it.

Bottom line: a mostly enjoyable read that leads nowhere.

1-0 out of 5 stars Smarty Anus
This is Smarty Anus at his worst - being clever for the sake of being clever, without having a real story to tell or a real theme to explore. For the first time in an Amis book I've read (and I enjoyed Money and Time's Arrow especially) the language jars. All the pretty phrases and clever metaphors have no soul.

His idea is a good one. Take a woman who has lost her memory and is born into the world as an adult. Let her explore a city, and meet a range of other people, as an adult "baby". This all works well, just as the device of telling the story backwards worked brilliantly in Time's Arrow (which for me is Amis's best book, and maybe that's because he has such a powerful story to tell and the device helps him tell it). Here, I don't feel he has a story to tell - once "Mary" has seen the world and recovered her memory, bang! End of story.

Amis is one of my favourite novelists. This is far from being his best.

3-0 out of 5 stars Amnesiac
This gripping mistery story focuses a young woman, Mary Lamb, who suddently wakes up in the streets of London and doesn`t seem to remember who she is, apparently knowing nothing about her life. As the plot develops, some hints about her backup life start appearing, and slowly she begins to discover some things about her. Martin Amis manages to create an intriguing and entertaining story about the development of one`s personality and the coming of adulthood, as Mary as to deal with multiple problems and new people that she doesn`t seem to understand. With time, she starts changing and turns into a different, stronger, less innocent and naive person to become a stronger and at times manipulative woman. As she starts recognizing the world that surrounds here, Mary also learns how to deal with "Other People". The book is engaging and compelling for the most part, and Amis writes with a true sense of detailed and credible atmosphere, managing to deliver some witty observations, clever humour and well-crafted characters. The ending, however, is a bit lackluster and really disappoints, given that until there the book is consistently good and surprising. Still, "Other People" is a worthwile pick nonetheless, even if it doesn`t stand out as one of Martin Amis` best pieces of writing.

Intelligent, poignant and amusing. ... Read more

14. The Rachel Papers
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 240 Pages (1992-09-29)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.20
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Asin: 0679734589
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Amis's vision of adolescence is an unvarnished, terrifying and hilarious one."

-- New Yorker

In his uproarious first novel Martin Amis, author of the bestselling London Fields, gave us one of the most noxiously believable -- and curiously touching -- adolescents ever to sniffle and lust his way through the pages of contemporary fiction. On the brink of twenty, Charles High-way preps desultorily for Oxford, cheerfully loathes his father, and meticulously plots the seduction of a girl named Rachel -- a girl who sorely tests the mettle of his cynicism when he finds himself falling in love with her.

"A truly sexy and funny book...a delight...the best teenage sex novel since Goodbye Columbus." -- New York

"Amis is a born comic novelist, in the tradition that ranges from Dickens to Waugh...He can find laughter in catastrophe and knows that morality shifts sneakily between absolutes and ambiguity...Amis's mercurial style...can rise to Joycean brilliance." ... Read more

Customer Reviews (54)

5-0 out of 5 stars The British version of Catcher in the Rye only Better
That would be a bit of a disservice however as Charles Highway the narrator of this entertaining and realistic novel is always upbeat; there are no Zen questions about wintering ducksin central parkwestto taxi drivers and Charles is anything but down on life.Also the idiomatic spellings which distinguishCatcher in the Rye are lacking though this is a novel set primarily in London .
All the works written by Martin Amisshow him to be one of the most important entertaining and hilarious contemporary writers worldwide. He has written many excellent novels essays and critical reveiws. This is his first novel. If unfamiliar with Mr. Amis, do try beginning with Time's Arrow, or for a some levity, Ordinary People. If you are like me, you will then proced to read everythin written by Martin Amis.

2-0 out of 5 stars Self-Indulgent and Slow
Oh, Charles Highway, your name made me want to love you, but alas, 'twas not to be.The protagonist of this novel, and I hesitate to call him that because he is one of the most antagonistic characters I've ever encountered, is a young man on the brink of turning 20 whose sense of self far outweighs his actual worth.

In creating 'the Rachel Papers' Charles documents his wooing, winning, and walking all over of one Rachel Seth-Smith.A girl whose visual gifts outweigh her intellectual ones, thoguh there isn't much attention paid to the latter since Charles cares only for hte former, and only in a clinical way.His detachment as he chronicles her orgasms, his sexual techniques, and their relationship is both nauseating and over-written.However, having never been a 19 year old boy (thankfully) perhaps this self-love is requisite to survival.

Amis has not created a single likable female character and perhaps that is to further emphasize Charles' own perspective: for a young man so interested in sex, he isn't all that interested in women.Because of his doormat mother?His domestically abused sister?Has he never met a woman with enough brass to tell him, unequivocally, what a total sod he is?

That being said, the asides about literature are hilarious in how deadly serious Charles takes himself.He rattles of literary theory after theory, astonishing only himself with the breadth (but certainly not depth) of his knowledge since there seems to be no one else who gets his references, nor would they want to.

5-0 out of 5 stars Smart, Sly, Sad
The Rachel Papers is something like Nabokov meets the teen sex film, but with depth and edge; perhaps this is the novel's greatest accomplishment.It simultaneously portrays sex as the farce it can truly be, but gives equal room to the gravity of this most intimate of human activities, which reveals more than it conceals about our nature.And this can be played out nowhere more aptly than in the battleground of late teen sex:that border zone where libido meets maturity in uncertain shades of gray.Amis hits the mark here in great stride; the novel is witty and biting and laugh out loud funny; it is both a portrait and caricature of the human being as sexual animal.

4-0 out of 5 stars Funny, cynical, uber-clever first novel
The Rachel Papers was Martin Amis's first novel, from 1973, written when he was about the age of the book's protagonist -- that is, on the cusp of 20. Charles Highway tells his story on the night before his 20th birthday, which in his view makes him an adult. He is cramming for entry to Oxford. He's the son of a successful man who he mostly loathes. He is living in London, with his elder sister and her rather disgusting husband.

The story tells in flashbacks the history of his relationship with a girl named Rachel. He meets her at a party he crashes with a friend -- it turns out she's the one throwing the party, though he has no idea of that. He is smitten, and despite the presence of an American boyfriend, he tries to get her to go out with him, and haltingly succeeds. And so the tale goes ... several months of a fairly sweet (in context) relationship between two not terribly well-matched people. Charles is ferociously cynical (if much of that is a pose) while Rachel is sweet enough, pretty, but perhaps a bit dim. They have terrific sex but that seems their main connection. There are amusing scenes with both families, and plenty of further comedic details of Charles's life, in particular his dealings with the bumbling tutors at his cramming school. He also deals with the infidelities of his father and his brother-in-law. And finally of course with his concerns about where his relationship with Rachel is headed.

It's a very fine first novel. Very funny, in what was soon enough known as Amis's standard cynical manner. (Though not nearly so overblown and vicious as for example Money.)

4-0 out of 5 stars Duffer
The Rachel Papers, by Martin Amis, is an interesting portrayal of the teenage years of Charles Highway. As Charles nears his twentieth birthday he reflects on the memories that were recorded in his journal. Jam packed with sex and drugs, this caricature of the 60's and 70's lifestyle is quite vulgar. Martin Amis details Charles Highway's frequent sexual encounters and even dabs into the health problems that occur as a result. Mr. Highway is an intellectual, upper class, lower class; well ... I guess you could say he is whatever he wants to be. Living his life is all about technique. His movements and speech depend on the situation. Throughout the whole book Charles struggles to find out who he really is. He jumps from woman to woman staging all of his encounters trying to adapt to their personality and mannerisms. Charles is highly self conscious and feels as though he has to put on a show of the "perfect" human for people to like him. As He meets Rachel he finds that, unknowingly, he is starting to act like himself. No more written scripts for telephone calls or leaving books around his room that will make people think he is smart. His relationship with Rachel thrived more than any other relationship he had ever had. She liked him for who he was. Imperfections make somebody unique and desirable. Charles really has a hard time making the relationship work. Before Rachel, the longest relationship that he had lasted only a night in bed with another girl.
I personally think this book was quite humorous because of the desperate and quite pathetic acts of Charles Highway. To watch the amount of time he puts into arranging his room and the topics of his conversation just to get a woman in bed is amusing. The sexual scenes however are quite explicit and may be offending to some. Over the course of the book I saw Charles expand as a person. Expand beyond this fake life he has been leading. He doesn't realize it at first but he finds himself not having to plan his days like he used to. While his relationship with Rachel becomes more than sex he starts to learn something that is most important, which is how to be himself. By the end of the book it seems to some as though he didn't learn a thing because Rachel is out of the picture. To me I saw a boy who grew up and even if he failed with Rachel he indeed learned many skills to help future relationships go further than the bed.
... Read more

15. Success
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 224 Pages (1991-04-03)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$5.85
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Asin: 0679734481
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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A sort of Jacobean revenge comedy, in which the antagonists are two mismatched foster brothers who, in Amis' hands, perform a merciless tango of class hatred, sexual rivalry and disappointed love. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (15)

4-0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read...even if it doesn't go anywhere.
Sure it has themes of incest-- and page after page of graphic depraved behavior...but Amis writes with such a witty prose, that it's a pleasure to read.It's a quick read too.And a damn funny one.It just lacks any sort of trajectory.

5-0 out of 5 stars Like skipper and crew each writing an account of the same trip
I'm certain that anyone would learn this literary technique if they attended Oxford, or if they read David Lodge's book 'Think'; but, for me, the first time I encountered two versions of the same story was reading an account of a crossing of the English Channel in a sixteen foot sailboat, England to Holland, the skipper and crew describing the same trip...it was almost as if they had taken separate trips: the skipper was optimistic, the crew thought the skipper was a madman.

Back to Success: I thought this story was a scream. I was impressed by Terry's description of the flat, how he was locked out of the loo whenever Gregory had a visitor.

No doubt the plot would be classified as a reversal of fortune. Of the Martin Amis books I've read, this one seems most adaptable to theatre; it's really a stage play. But obviously you don't read these books for the story, you read them for the writing, it's all about the poetry.

5-0 out of 5 stars an occasional masterpiece
Amis excells at playing nasty tricks on his readers, and "Success" is in many ways an emotional con game. As with all works of satire, the ultimate purpose of the novel is didactic. When "Success" works well (ie, when a reader is enough of a "sucker" to buy into Amis' conceit) it is a meditation on the ways we can be misled by pity, an audience-participation demonstration of the fallability of human sympathy. As such, it's a remarkably thought-provoking read.

That said, the success of "Success" is largely based on reader manipulation. There are a number of reasons why Amis' technique might not work for a particular reader - for instance, if they are easily offended, or if they don't find Amis' brand of humor funny, or (and this is absolutely vital) if they don't share the sympathy-for-the-underdog and corresponding lack-of-sympathy-for-the-overdog mentality upon which Amis' experiment depends. Without an emotional investment from the reader, "Success" reads as a heartlessly empty comedy, rife with cliche, riddled with needless sexism, racism, and homophobia, and featuring characters unique only in their dislikability. Once transformed by the gullability of the reader, however, "Success" becomes a fascinating and enlightening study of contemporary human nature.

5-0 out of 5 stars Terrific
In "Success", Martin Amis explores the lives of two foster brothers, giving voice to each over a January through December period in the 1980s. In the beginning, Gregory is a narcissistic and selfish aristocrat, a monster of a man but funny.Meanwhile, Terrence is a self-loathing and weak yob, a pathetic man who is funny in his futility. Then, these mirror image brothers brilliantly and persuasively assume each other's perspective, as Amis, over the 12 months of his narrative, probes beneath the face each brother presents to the world. As is usual with Martin Amis novels, "Success" is funny, bawdy, and entertaining, as well as weird. Like "The Information" and "Money", it is also brilliantly constructed and fully achieved. Hooray for Martin!

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential Amis
'Success' contains all the familiar elements of an Amis novel: insightful and witty social observation, lashings of frequently explicit sex, impeccable structure and countless sublime and delightful examples of his sparse and anarchic prose. The novel concerns two foster brothers, one the prodigal son of an established upper class family, the other an orphan with a nightmare past, adopted by the same family in an act of misguided charity. The novel works as a paradigm for the changing of social structure in England: the boundaries between classes becoming blured, along with the occupations and pursuits normal to the members of these classes becoming more permeable.
Despite the fact that the book is structured in a peculiar fashion, with each brother taking a turn at narrating the same events (along with all the contradictions and inconsistencies this would suggest), Amis injects a remarkable amount of comedy into the narrative, with much of the humour in fact springing from the books peculiar format. The descrpitions of the activities of Gregory Riding, all of his foppish aspects and our nagging intuition that he refrains from telling us the truth about his life are handled skillfully, while Terence Services character evokes sympathy and pity, but gradually disgust as the novel progresses and the roles are reversed, the effectiveness of the change reminding us of Amise's talent.
Although not for the squeamish, this is an intelligent and enjoyable comic novel, with hints of very dark humour, which just about leaves us in thought about societys structure and how we should live our lives, which all good novels should.
Reccommended. ... Read more

16. Night Train
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 176 Pages (1999-01-26)
list price: US$12.95 -- used & new: US$1.81
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Asin: 0375701141
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Detective Mike Hoolihan has seen it all. A fifteen-year veteran of the force, she's gone from walking a beat, to robbery, to homicide. But one case--this case--has gotten under her skin.

When Jennifer Rockwell, darling of the community and daughter of a respected career cop--now top brass--takes her own life, no one is prepared to believe it. Especially her father, Colonel Tom. Homicide Detective Mike Hoolihan, longtime colleague and friend of Colonel Tom, is ready to "put the case down." Suicide. Closed. Until Colonel Tom asks her to do the one thing any grieving father would ask: take a second look.

Not since his celebrated novel Money has Amis turned his focus on America to such remarkable effect. Fusing brilliant wordplay with all the elements of a classic whodunit, Amis exposes a world where surfaces are suspect (no matter how perfect), where paranoia is justified (no matter how pervasive), and where power and pride are brought low by the hidden recesses of our humanity.
Amazon.com Review
On a beautiful night in a second-tier American city, abeautiful astrophysicist with the clichéd everything to livefor shoots herself dead with a .22. Tough-talking detective MikeHoolihan, quickly summoned to the scene, has witnessed every sort ofvictim: "Jumpers, stumpers, dumpers, dunkers, bleeders, floaters,poppers, bursters." But this case is different. Mike has knownthe young woman for years--she's the daughter, it turns out, of Mike'smentor, Colonel Tom Rockwell. And the colonel is desperate to find aperp, despite massive evidence to the contrary.

In NightTrain, Martin Amis has fixed his sights on the Americanfemale--with a difference. Mike is in fact a woman--a hulking,chain-smoking, deep-voiced alcoholic who comes complete with a squalidfamily background and a none-too-happy foreground. She even lives in abuilding next to the proverbial night train and can't survive withouther tape with eight different versions of the R & B "hymn to thelow rent."

Did this novel begin as narrative flexing, yetanother test the hypertalented author--and number-one Elmore Leonardfan--wanted to pose to himself? If so, he has passed with flyingcolors. True, Mike's search occasionally pushes her up against pulppathos, but mostly the genre keeps Amis true. "Police are prettyblasé about ballistics. Remember the Kennedy assassinationand 'the magic bullet'? We know that every bullet is a magic bullet.Particularly the .22 roundnose. When a bullet enters a human being, ithas hysterics. As if it knows it shouldn't be there."

Mike spends her time weighing the evidence, wishing it would point tomurder, and letting us in on some current police realities. Whatevertelevision tells us, in real life (not to mention postmodern crimefiction), there's no neat solution. Even that old standard, the goodcop-bad cop approach, no longer works: "It's not just that JoePerp is on to it, having seen good cop-bad cop a million times onreruns of Hawaii Five-O. The only time bad cop was any good wasin the old days, when he used to come into the interrogation roomevery ten minutes and smash your suspect over the head with the yellowpages." With such discourses, Amis is stretching the rubber bandof his book's realism. But in the end, all his fancy footwork doesn'tstop us from admiring and pitying his heroine, and hoping she won'tboard the ultimate night train: suicide. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (94)

3-0 out of 5 stars "When the night is young and the land is dark...I won't be afraid...stand by me." Song lyrics
New York Detective Mike Hollihan is called to the scene of an apparent suicide.

Mike is a woman with a nicotine voice, dyed blond hair and is an alcoholic who had been abused by her father.

The victim is Jennifer Rockwell, who Mike had known since Jenn was a little girl. Jenn is the daughter of Mike's former boss, Col. Tom Rockwell, who is also a father image to Mike.

After viewing the body, Mike concludes that it is a suicide but when she tells Tom, he can't accept that his well adjusted daughter would commit suicide. He asks Mike to look again.

The medical report is that there were multiple bullets in Jenn. Could her finger have frozen while pulling the trigger? Why would this seemingly adjusted, beautiful girl commit suicide? Why isn't there a suicide note?Mike must answer these questions as the story continues.

The author gives the reader an appealing character in Mike Hollihan. Amis must have been in a mischievous mood when he was establishing her characteristics as a woman named Mike, formerly abused by her father and an alcoholic with a nicotine voice. What more could we ask for?

I was drawn into the story as it went along and found it delightful.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great read, perhaps a disappointing whodunit
This book was one many which I've read in the last few weeks, as part of my re-discovery of the mystery genre, including police procedurals.

Having gone through the reviews, it's clear to me that you can love it, hate it or even be ambivalent about it. Some reviewers seem to have problems with the kind of person Amis is, which is immaterial to me. On the other hand, I think it's a serious flaw that the idiom isn't American (I couldn't make that out myself, so it didn't affect me).

In my view, first of all, what stood out was the cleverness of the writing. It's extremely smart, and it was difficult to let go of the book once I started. I also liked the fact that it's a gripping story, but told very concisely - it's a pretty short novel.

The story seems to be heading towards a perfect "procedural", with some dots being there but the investigator only connecting them at the end. But finally it deceives readers to an extent. I thought this was a bit of a let down. IMHO, most authors don't seem to be able to write modern thrillers without throwing in an angle of child abuse. Amis does this as well, which is a pity (unless it was meant in a satirical way, I'm not sure).

On the whole I still think this is an excellent read. It does qualify as a police procedural, it has its quirky insights into police work, the characters make an impact. It doesn't have a neat ending in the usual way, and you need to assess how important that is to you.

4-0 out of 5 stars Spoiler
For me, this was a suspense novel, not a whodunit.

This is how I saw it: While Mike is trying desperately to get a hold of her life and find a reason to keep on going, a flawless beauty commits suicide out of sheer boredom with her perfect life. Then memories of the girl start to creep back into Mike's consciousness; she was contemptuous of Mike and all things imperfect. Faced with this, Mike makes a decision about her own fate, leaving this reader furious with the dead girl. So who murdered whom?

5-0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!
I thought this was the best book I have read in years---and I read plenty.A whodunnit wrapped in electrifyingly good writing and also absolutely hilarious at times. HERE COMES THE SPOILER.Never mind.I hate spoilers and will not bother.Suffice to say that Mike's idea that the crime is firs tof it's kind and the wave of the future I felt to be vital.Also, Mike's boyfriend's name and the last sentence.

3-0 out of 5 stars Exceptional composition; ends with a wimper, not a bang
I found Night Train to be a maddening contradiction.There is some damn brilliant prose in this book.There are a few really trenchant observations about American life.And then there are some really clumsy, hack handed passages that come across as mean spirited and off target.

But more than anything else is the ending that really isn't.The reader can take the last few paragraphs of the book and interpret it in a lot of ways, far more than most books.At the end of Night Train, the reader finds himself looking at himself through the reflection of a fogged fun house mirror.The image that the reader sees is not about the characters in the book, the very thin plot, or bromides about American culture.Rather, what we see are ourselves, our questions about what really happened, and our realization that often brilliant prose has led to unanswered questions and our own faces staring back at us.

I seldom write a review by reading other reader's comments, but I was so torn by this book that I wanted to see if I had just missed the point.

Two things stood out after reading a dozen or so reviews.First of all, the stratification of rankings is almost symmetric across 1-5 stars.That's really unique for Amazon rankings, where usually a book is either well liked or disliked. Secondly, the things the 1 star reviewers disliked vehemently were some of the same things the 5 star reviewers lauded.

I have NEVER seen that before in any Amazon review.

If you're a fan of detective novels or noir, I'd skip this book.The lack of definiteness at the end is going to drive you nuts, unless you're a closet deconstructionist in your philosophical nature.

If you want to read something different by an author who can deliver a half page of prose that glimmers in the mind far longer than most books, you may well like this.But don't get hooked on finding out what really happened.Amis expects you to come up with the answer(s) and to learn about yourself as you turn over each one in your mind.

Not one writer in one hundred today ends a book like this and the effect is jarring, to say the least. ... Read more

17. Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: And Other Excursions
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 288 Pages (1995-05-02)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$5.97
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679757937
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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From the author of Time's Arrow and London Fields comes a book that covers politics, literature, and sports while offering felicitous summations of Ronald Reagan, the murder of John Lennon, Madonna, and more. "Amis is . . .a force unto himself . . .There is, quite simply, no one else like him."--Washington Post Book World. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

2-0 out of 5 stars Style and themes have dated
I was looking forward to delving into this book, long time fan as I am of Amis's fiction, but aside from a few essays such as a magesterial, witty and humane portrait of Philip Larkin - a longime friend of Kingsley Amis, which perfectly captures the gallows humour of Larkin's life and lines: 'Give me your arm, old toad, Help me down Cemetery Road', I found this was a rather dated voice from the past.

Amis's prose style and voice is always highly ironic, archly intelligent. And though he tries to put on the swagger of the American hard-baller stylists he so admires, that annoying English middle classness keeps tripping him up (for example when he plays poker with David Mamet he admits to feeling intimidated, he is perturbed by the sight of topless sunbathing in Cannes) and his snooker sessions with fellow novelist Julian Barnes have more than the whiff of overgrown two little boys with two little toys about it as he describes their snooker cues, brought for them by their respective wives.

The problem with Amis's style is that the world has moved on since the 1980s, and Amis's voice has not proven timeless. I think it has something to do with the fact that then it was still just about possible to write about the baseness of many aspects of Western Culture with the ironists voice, knowing you were addressing a knowing and highly educated readership.

Now that luxury cannot be had by writers, and some contemporary journo/novelist combos such as Will Self have realised this (though many of them haven't). No longer can an accepted bed of cultural knowledge be assumed, nor can one assume that the individual conscience of the writer is particularly privileged (something to which Amis still holds fast, witness his recent collection of articles 'The Second Plane'). The way for this type of writer - the cultural commentator, rather than the diagnostician - to survive now, I reckon, is to make like Will Self and be a brisk hack like creature, with a clever knowing style that does not come across too manufactured with sillicone injected metaphors like Amis's style. The spoken word is vital too now, in order to rack up the book sales now, and even literary writers (especially literary writers?) have to busk their comedy to reach an audience, rather than painstakingly craft pieces of journalism which - like many in this collection -can easily end up beached when the tide goes out.

5-0 out of 5 stars neat
a neat rebuttal to the argument that journalism is prose that's only meant to be read once, this book demands frequent consultation. i spent a lot of it wondering how typical Amis is of his generation. by his late twenties, he's on amicable terms with sex, drugs and rock and roll, but is still mildly scandalised by naked sunbathing and 'too old' to enjoy a Rolling Stones concert (which is wittily trashed). in a postscript, we find that an older Amis isn't bothered by naked sunbathing, so something's changed there then. he's very worried about nuclear weapons and seems to spend a lot of time morbidly brooding over them. later generations barely give them a thought, i think - or maybe they are a constant presence in the subconscious mind, underpinning the pessimism of the age. he's in touch with his macho feelings - the flush of the poker victory and the snooker conquest - in touch with them enough to amusingly undermine them. for Amis, winning at sport matters, but not so much that he doesn't have time to acknowledge his own (relative) [awkwardness] at sport - check out some of those 'live at the Crucible' break totals. interviews with other writers always contain a refreshingly large concentration on the writer's work - in contrast to the spirit of the age, for Amis, it's the writer's work that matters, not his private life. overall, Amis's cool, observant voice drags journalism out of skim-reading terrain and into the realm of serious thought. anyone who enjoys intelligent, urbane, amusing conversation will enjoy this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Talent to Spare
If you are a young and struggling writer and you want to learn how to be "deep" without coming as pretentious (really the only challenge offered by postmodernism), read these charming, effortless and brilliantessays. Amis redefines the word "wit" for a tired era.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good Subway Reading
Moderately amusing collection of 33 articles culled from various magazines and newspapers. Many of these are interviews with authors like John Updike, Salman Rushdie, and other such literary luminaries. While these are likelyof interest to the well-read, I found the more entertaining essays to bethe non-interviews. In this vein are those railing on Republican politics,the darts scene, judging a short story competition, the Frankfurt BookFair, an English soccer team's tour of China, and playing pool with a goodfriend. The essays are all fairly short, so it's a good book to pick up andput down constantly. ... Read more

18. The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 208 Pages (1991-04-12)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$5.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140127194
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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With mixed feelings of wonder and trepidation, the brilliant British writer Martin Amis approaches America and introduces this sharp and thoroughly stimulating collection of "American" pieces. From Claus von Bulow to the New Evangelists, little escapes Amis' curiosity. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Celebration of the Genius of American Stupidity
Amis's father was a genius. Think about it for a minute and then consider what poor Martin has been up against. That said, Martin is a bit of a genius himself. One of the key signs if not proofs of genius is the talent to recognize one without shriveling up in jealousy. Amis here celebrates the genius of the great American writers, if not the genius of the great American people. Like many sensible Americans - John Adams, Mencken, Allen Bloom - Amis is not quite ready to embrace the moronic inferno (Saul Bellow's phrase), perhaps out of fear of being burned alive. He may be horrified, but he is amused. Amis's fiction is heavily influenced by American authors. His favorite, Saul Bellow, has had a profound influence on him. Amis here expresses his appreciation of Bellow, who became Amis's friend during the last years of his life, and of Updike, a very different sort of writer, but Amis can see genius and takes pleasure in it for its own sake. He is capable of an inexhaustible generosity when he recognizes a great mind at work. He reviews Mailer's flawed "Executioner's Song" - the Gary Gilmore "factional" novel, which Amis thinks is good for 300 pages and then sort of runs out of steam for another 700 pages.He writes, too, about other aspects of America, but he rarely says anything especially insightful, blah, blah, AIDS, blah, blah, blah. No, Amis has a good brain but, like many British authors, he thinks he is at his best being sardonic. The truth is that he writes better when he is in love. The appreciations of great writers are first class, the rest is filler.

5-0 out of 5 stars Codswallop

"The good bits are so fortuitous, indeed (mere reflexes of a large and callous talent), and the no-good bits so monolithic, that the critic's role is properly reduced to one of helpless quotation."
-Martin Amis in an essay on William Burroughs.

I'm a fan of a good essay, and Martin Amis is a worthy essayist.This collection of essays is somewhat artificial in its construct, as the author tells us in his apologetic introduction, "I should have worker harder, but was quite hard work getting all this stuff together."He also warns that these are journalistic articles.In other words, written to please editors and tailored to the audiences of specific journals, "the hack and the whore have much in common: late nights, venal gregariousness, social drinking, a desire to please, simulated liveliness, dissimulated exhaustion- you keep having to do it when you don't feel like it."

The theme uniting these essays is America, writings about Americans or about the culture or country itself, a place that we are told both frightens and excites the author.Although he conceded it is a hodgepodge of writings, an overall theme does emerge and unites the individual pieces.The author's overall prejudice is no secret, after all, the title of the book is "The Moronic Inferno."America, from the European perspective, seems to be extremist, raucous, juvenile and provincial.Too which I will refrain from replying with my loudest, most passive-aggressive: "Whatever."

His reviews of American authors are never without links between their individual styles and a greater American ethos.American writing, like American society, is characterized by "excess, solipsism, enmity, paranoia and ambition." American writing is influenced by the fame and fortunes of its authors, to an extent not seen in England "where the boundaries between success and its opposite are often hard to establish."

In a piece on Saul Bellow, he refers to "the American predilection for Big Novels as a vulgar neurosis- like the American predilection for big cars or big hamburgers."
He comments on what he sees as uniquely American feuds, like the one between Vidal and Capote, "hatreds which often extend to litigation." Norman Mailer is the "cosseted superbrat of American letters," another victim of the American "vacuum of success," "unembarrassable to the last."The Jack Abbott story, is framed as a tragedy but "it is a farce too, an American rodeo of inverted callousness and pretension.Could this happen anywhere else?The world looks on fascinated, rubbing its eyes."

His highest praise for an American writer goes to Gore Vidal, who he describes as "incorrigibly anti-American."He swoons "My, is Gore unpatriotic!" "I have never met an American so English in his Irony."But in the end, he takes Gore down as well for arguing that the family is an economic unit rather than a biological one, "the whole line sounds rather... American, does it not, tending to reduce argument to a babble of interested personalities, an exchange of stricture and veto, with money as the bottom line?"

Fat, late-period Elvis and Hugh Heffner are discussed as embodiments of American success (Michael Jackson could fit in here as well if he had written of him), people who operate in a universe in which all of their personal relationships are defined by a power differential, people surrounded by sycophants to the point where there are no external checks and balances with which to maintain a Super-Ego.There is a great line about Hugh Heffner, describing him living his whole life indoors in the Playboy mansion, "a man who never goes out, who rises at mid-afternoon, who wanders his draped mansion in slippers and robe (whose lifestyle, on paper, resembles nothing so much as a study in terminal depression)."

His descriptions of American locales are rich with continental condescension as well."American cities appear to have a habit of surrounding their seats of learning with slums."Indianapolis, Indiana, where Kurt Vonnegut grew up is "a cultural Nothingville."In Palm Beach, where the only activity is leisure, "people talk obsessively about real estate- partly, I suppose, because it is an informal way of talking obsessively about money.""Like all provincial elites, the Palm Beach beau monde is both baffling and uninteresting, an enigma that you don't particularly want to solve."He writes of El Paso, Texas, "This felt like Reagan Country all right, where everything is big and fat and fine.This is where you feel slightly homosexual and left-wing if you don't weigh twenty-five stone."(Great description of the jocular laughter from the press following Reagan's travels, "Their laughter, like so much American laughter, did not express high spirits or amusement but a willed raucousness.")Steven Spielberg's secret connection with his audience is ascribed in part to "the very blandness of his suburban origins," "I wondered if he had ever really left the chain-line ranch-style embryos of his youth."His essay on Joan Didion's style opens with the sentence "Joan Didion is the poet of the Great California Emptiness."A playmate from Nebraska is "Miss Nowhere," "from some dismal ex-prairie state."

You also get that British style of spelling, the extra letters, "an hilarious."Humor isn't funny without an extra `u,' "humour."Pajamas spelled "pyjamas."Just in case you wanted to forget for a moment that this is a Brit writing disdainfully of American culture.

So.As an American, am I offended?No, it's great.I read it not masochistically or as a self-loathing American, but it is great writing with some spot on observations.More than just a collection of good bits.He wrote of the Evangelical Right, back in 1980, worried about their growing political influence in a discerning way that demonstrates serious prescience.The insights with perhaps the greatest significance come in to chapters written during the eighties when America first struggled to make sense of the emerging AIDS epidemic.Although I'm not convinced this is uniquely American, he discusses a society that "actively resists enlightenment" about certain human themes.Themes such as homosexuality, sexual disease, and death, which had a forced public confluence with the emergence of AIDS.Some things we are more comfortable fearing than trying to understand.He talks about the distracted energy that goes into euphemisms, `sexual orientation' changes to `sexual preference,' for example, "It is a very American dishonesty- antiseptic spray from the verbal-sanitation department.Having named a painful reality (the belief seems to be), you also dispatch it; you get it off your desk."

So I'm not offended by the judgmental tone of writing when the writing also happens to be high quality, humorous and thought provoking.

And what's more- and here I'll borrow a phrase Amis wrote of Gloria Steinem's humor- "its satirical accuracy is enlivened by affection."Beneath it all, beneath the insults that decorate his observations about America and Americans, there is warmth and I sense even a touch of jealousy.There is that secret British desire to be on the inside of the hysterical circles of "willed raucousness. Underneath all the invective, I really sense envy of what he sees as the rambunctious chaos of America.A secret desire for the volatile and foul-mouthed freedom afforded by our pervasive and accepted cultural ignorance.

4-0 out of 5 stars Sharp journalism - and an insight into Amis's fiction
Martin Amis is well known for his admiration of American fiction, which has manifestly influenced his own literary style, and he frequently draws on aspects of US culture in his work.

Yet there are aspects of American society and culture that horrify this middle class English writer (to be fair, they horrify many other people as well). For example there is a chilling investigation into child murders in Atlanta, written in a weathered, hardboiled style that will be familiar to readers of Amis's short 1998 detective pastiche 'Night Train'.

Most of this collection is divided between pieces on writers and writings, and some of the more eccentric aspects of American society (particularly in the Midwest). There are knowing pieces on Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Philip Roth and a dying Truman Capote; the most laudatory being saved for two bookend essays on Saul Bellow - a longtime hero for Amis.

Then there are the savage satires on Republican politics, TV evangelists, the movies of Brian De Palma and Hugh Hefner. Yes, these provide sitting duck targets for the witty satirist, especially one of secular, liberal inclinations, but the pieces are in turns incisive, funny and frightening at the same time.

America: land of the free, where eccentrics and crackpots can become richer, more influential and more famous than anywhere else in the world. God bless this collection of essays.

5-0 out of 5 stars pressingly prescient
Amis's book, The Moronic Inferno and Other Visits to America, in which he contemplates the U.S. from a distance, has never been more contemporary. He anticipates the force with which the "New Evangelists" (written in 1980) take over American. Although he may never have imagined how the movement would completely hijack American politics.
His observations of Ronald Reagan (1979), echo ominously of Bush Jr. Reagan's lack of curiosity and general dullness seem to Amis mere aberrations, but much to America's detriment, they have recurred.
Many young Americans think they are witnessing history for the first time, but we are doomed to repeat our past (forgive mangled misquote).
This book of essays should be required reading for anyone thinking about what it means to be a citizen of the United States in the 21st century.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Rapier's Point
The best recommendation for this book is that it is simply good writing, very good writing.Amis may, in fact, be the premier writer of his time for this type of short, spare-not-the rapier witty style of journalistic writing so common in England:As opposed to America, this collection's ostensible subject, where there is no style, and it is discouraged as bravura.A brief example of this is Amis's crisp, droll assessment of a particular book:"The first thing to say about it is that it's bad: It's bad."- There are other things to say about it, of course, which Amis duly proceeds to do.But it's that stylistic, ironic nuance in the opening that captures the flavour of these pieces.Can anyone imagine an American reviewer or journalist getting away with displaying, heaven forbid, such personal style.

The only fault I find with this book is the one Amis apologizes for in the Introduction, that it is simply a compilation of essays and reviews previously written for English papers.Thus, what we have here is a collection of snapshots, crystal clear, of certain aspects of America and her writers.The "big picture," so to speak, is missing.--But, again, the big picture is not Amis's forte, and you will find yourself delightedly guffawing, in spite of yourself perhaps, at these brilliant flashes of the master of rapier wit. ... Read more

19. Einstein's Monsters
by Martin Amis
Paperback: 168 Pages (1990-03-17)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$6.87
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679729968
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A collection of stories about a frightening world inhabited by people dehumanized by the daily threat of nuclear war and postwar survivors deformed by its results. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (4)

3-0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Writing
This collection of short stories isn't the best collection of Martin Amis' work, but the book is worth the price purely for the introduction. The short stories are interesting reading, and provide some good discussion points, but the introduction.... The introduction is probably one of the best pieces of writing I have ever read. Period. Chilling, intelligent, and will make you think, and think a bit more.

2-0 out of 5 stars Excellent intro, boring stories
The introduction, which is nearly one third of the slim book, is excellent; the first two stories are compelling and interesting, "Bujak" and "Insight". The attempts at science fiction are embarassing at best and pretentious and patronizing at worst. I'm a fan of all fiction that references our nuclear predicament; just this weekend I visited an abandoned Nike missile base in New Jersey, that was meant to protect against intercontinental bomber attacks, but this book failed to grip me. At ... dollars it's practically an insult. If you must read it, get a used copy.

3-0 out of 5 stars Great Preface, Mediocre Stories
This is a well-meaning collection, crafted with all the earnest diligence of a passionate yet rather stolid social worker. I love the introduction, it articulates better than anything I've ever read the true issues anddangers posed by the arms race. Given its subject matter, eloquence, andemotional clout, it is one of the most important essays I've read inyears.

But after this exciting beginning, the stories are a wash-out.The writing is clever, but usually too clever; there never seems to be anyemotional investment in the characters or their conflicts. Because Amis'soverwhelming motive was didacticism, his plots are populated by vehiclesand symbols not human beings. The stories become thinly scratched fables,yet without even the insightful morals provided by Aesop. Often it isembarrassing to see all the work Amis puts into dressing up and"proving" a point to us, that is already a foregone conclusion.The science fiction settings and the variety of viewpoints (one speaker isan American expatriate Jew) are interesting, but I continually hear thatsober social worker's timbre droning in my ears....

I'm trying to thinkof who would enjoy this book. Science fiction fans will be disappointedby Amis's half-baked scenarios, fans of emotional fiction will be bored byhis shallowness, and fellow disarmament supporters will feel patronized.So--only for uncritical members of the Martin Amis cult, who consider hisevery jotting to be solid gold.

4-0 out of 5 stars Never More Important
The synopsis has it wrong - well, not wrong so much as not right.Amis delivers not a caveat, nor a sci-fi pomo romp, but a startlingly clear elucidation of his very justified fear of the end of the story of man.It couldn't be more inevitable, as Amis makes clear in the introductory essay, "Unthinkability."He has identified the source of his nausea for the last 50 years, and it is nuclear weapons.There is no turning back; there is no "winning"; and there is no fixing the mistakes.These burn indelible in his writing, and he makes these points neither to make us all lose sleep nor to educate us.Rather,Amis tells it like it is: there is no tomorrow after a nuclear war, and there is no way a nuclear war is able to be isolated to one bomb dropping.Once the accident happens, we are all screwed, and at this point we are on borrowed time.The stories, if you are unfamiliar with Amis's style, are charming and compelling, and in some cases only abstrusely about nuclear war.The one real notable exception is "The Little Puppy That Could," truly the most horrifying tale I have ever encountered.A slim read, a permanent addition to any bookshelf, Einstein's Monsters reminds us what it is that is catching in our throats nowadays - the very life-force of all human history. ... Read more

20. The Information 1ED
by Martin Amis
 Hardcover: Pages (1995)

Asin: B001KJ0WW6
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