January 10, 2007


Steven Augustine

I know what you mean...after catching Ms. K's shockingly supportive piece on House of Meetings, I was tempted to re-read it, as it couldn't have been as good as I first thought if she....and so on. At least Adam Kirsch was reassuringly wrong-headedly dismissive. The only quibble I have is how often Amis's wised-up Londoner sneers through the mask of his Russian gulag-survivor. Innit?


A longtime reader of Amis, I eventually grew tired of his repetitive, often alienating tone. "London Fields" and "The Information" might as well have been the same book (innit?). But "House of Meetings" did bring me back around. The narrator here is no Gulag-transposed London thug. He actually seems made of unique flesh & bone, and I found myself wondering how Mr. Amis had suddenly become so damn worldly and sensitive (writer bad-boy no more?). Frankly, even if his subsequent books don't live up to the new standard he's created for himself here, I think "House of Meetings" should be given proud shelf space. If Amis' politics bother you, plug your ears as you read and remember that it's not an autobiography.


I too have been mystified by the assaults on Martin Amis's fiction. Granted, I don't approve of his politics anymore than I approve of G.K. Chesterton's politics. But I do find it strange that Amis's political beliefs are being used as an excuse to ignore his fiction, or to presume that THE INFORMATION or MONEY had never been written.

Steven Augustine

The Information is a delight, isn't it? Amis trusts the reader to get it right...very little explaining goes on in that book...and that's him being Nabokov's star pupil: presumption of the reader's high intelligence is rule one (florid prose is merely an occasional side-effect).

What I meant by this, 'The only quibble I have is how often Amis's wised-up Londoner sneers through the mask of his Russian gulag-survivor. Innit?' is this (for example):

At some point near the end of House of Meetings the narrator mentions his first flirtation with arms dealing: 'To get your hands on materials of international standard, you had to do space or you had to do armaments. Space was over-subscribed, so I did armanents. Rotary launchers for nuclear weapons. That's right, my child: preparations for the third world war.' That's Keith Talent's (London Fields), or Steve Cousins's (The Information) bored avidity (the bored avidity of London face) leaking through the Russian narrator's elegiac mask. From the silt-settling grace of a Pushkin epic to...Michael Palin doing Luigi Vercotti in the Monty Python skit about the Piranha Brothers (Doug and Dinsdale). Amis, when he talks crime, owes quite a lot to Luigi Vercotti. Those are the little bits that throw me off in House of Meetings...the bits where I hear Luigi talking.

Michael O'D

Amis's best writing has always been his non-fiction. His book Experience is the best literary memoir I've read since Nabokov's Speak, Memory, and is a rare example in which his unquestionable stylistic power is put to use telling a moving and human story. Also, his collection of criticism, The War Against Cliche, is nothing less than a treasure trove.

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