Martin Amis
English novelist
Martin Amis
Martin Louis Amis FRSL is a British novelist, the author of many novels including Money (1984) and London Fields (1989). He was the Professor of Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, but stepped down at the end of the 2010/11 academic year. The Times named him in 2008 as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945.
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How to Write Both Fast and Well, Part 9: Why Clichés Are Evil
Huffington Post - about 1 year
Of all the threats to good writing, the worst -- and most insidious -- is cliché: the re-use of the over-used. As Martin Amis put it: All writing is a campaign against cliché. Not just clichés of the pen but clichés of the mind and clichés of the heart. When I dispraise [writing], I am usually quoting clichés. When I praise, I am usually quoting the opposed qualities of freshness, energy and reverberation of voice. ("The War Against Cliché," collected in the 2001 book of the same name.) Citing Amis, Christopher Hitchens called cliché "literary and intellectual death" (for example, here). Hitchens wasn't exaggerating. At best, cliché is boring. At worst, its mind-numbing effect has been a tool for totalitarians. Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton wrote about this in describing his research with Korean War POWs and refugees from Maoist China: The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of hum ...
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Huffington Post article
Alone on Valentine's Day? Meet Some of My Friends
Huffington Post - about 3 years
Last year, author Claire Messud scolded a reporter who commented that she wouldn't want to be friends with the narrator of Messud's most recent novel, The Woman Upstairs. The interviewer asked the author if she'd want the character for a friend. "For heaven's sake, what kind of question is that?" said Messud. "Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you're reading to find friends, you're in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn't 'is this a potential friend for me?' but 'is this character alive?'" I completely agree with Messud that one should never judge a novel by how much you'd like to have co ...
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Huffington Post article
Writing: A Family Profession
Huffington Post - about 3 years
Is it possible to be destined as a writer from birth? Most of the time, writing takes many years of hard work and dedication before anything of significant value is produced. You aren't born a writer, you become a writer. Some families have multiple doctors, lawyers, construction workers, teachers, etc. But how many families have multiple, successful writers? Creative pursuits are a tricky business, and one would think that writing talent is not passed through bloodlines, but tell that to the following writers whose close relatives are also writers. Besides the well-known Brontë sisters and the Mann family, here are five more modern families of writers. The King Family Perhaps the most prolific and largest of writerly families, the King family is an unprecedented anomaly. Stephen King has been a household name for over 40 years. With over eighty commercial releases, he is by far the most well known member of the King clan. His wife, Tabitha, has also published eight novels ...
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Huffington Post article
An Ode To Unaccelerated Reading
Huffington Post - about 3 years
My book-reading karma isn't excellent. I don't dog-ear pages, and I try to avoid bending a book's spine to the point of creasing it. I am, however, overcome with a shameful compulsion every time I set out to read a new story. When I buy a book, my first instinct is to flip straight to the end, assessing the page count and reading the last sentence first. This is not unlike guessing at the language of a breakup talk while splitting the bill on a second date. It's absurd. Knowing how long something will last, or exactly how it will end, tells you very little about the thing itself. To wit, a few lovely and wholly uninformative last sentences: From Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: “Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” From Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale: "Are there any questions?" If skipping ahead offers little in the way of easing a reader's suspense, why do it at all? I think my bad habit started around third grade, when our elementary school implemente ...
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Huffington Post article
Why I Love (and Teach) Author Fay Weldon
Huffington Post - about 3 years
With the tightening of budgets, faculty allocations, classroom space, and intellectual perspectives generally, it seems to me that there's more pressure to justify why we teach what we do -- especially for those of us who teach literature. This kind of self-justification takes place both officially and unofficially. One needs to "pitch" courses to convince department heads, deans, and curriculum overseers generally that the offerings will fit snugly enough into college requirements to draw a sufficient number of students. But there are also more informal pressures, as in casual conversations that might start, "I see that you include so-and-so on your reading list. Curious choice. Why do you teach her?" In 25 years of full-time faculty life, I don't remember hearing these questions as often as I've heard them in the past two or three years. More unnervingly, I've found myself asking colleagues questions like, "Seriously? You include the Twilight series on your reading list?" I feel as ...
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Huffington Post article
These Are The Books The Internet Says Every Man Should Read, And It's Pretty Disappointing
Huffington Post - over 3 years
Are you a man? Do you love to read? Well, you're in luck. The Internet really, really loves to tell you what you should be reading (we admit, we're guilty of doing this, too. But how can you blame us? We work for the Internet!). Countless websites have compiled lists of the books every man should read, and apparently, most of them are in broad agreement on what the manliest-of-the-manly books are (see here, here, here, and here). Apparently, the Internet has decided all by itself that men love the same things. There's enough overlap on these lists to make you wonder if the publications that put them together are all cribbing from some universal guy cheat-sheet. But what's more interesting is that the themes that underlie these book choices all make assumptions about men that, well, men themselves might not be comfortable with. It's not that these are bad books individually; many of them are classics and most of them are worth a look. It's just that, taken together and put in these lis ...
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Huffington Post article
Matt Adcock’s film review: Machete Kills is a bonkers badass blast, kick back and cut yourself a slice
The Bucks Herald - over 3 years
It opens with a funky spoof sci-fi trailer for Machete Kills Again…In Space! but the main event is the follow-up to 2010’s crazed slaughter-em-up Machete, which itself began life as a gimmick trailer in the Rodriguez/Tarantino flick Grindhouse. You have been warned... Blade-wielding hero Machete (Danny Trejo) is supported here by a beefed-up cast headed by Mel Gibson on top form as a devious villain and the lovely Amber Heard, who will soon lead the big screen adaptation of Martin Amis novel London Fields. The sequel packs a slicker, slightly more coherent plot than the original but is just as giddy in tearing up the screen with a wanton blast of over-the-top ultra-violence. If someone tells you that Machete Kills is a romantic comedy – as I may have said to my wife to see if she would accompany me to check it – take that with a very large spoonful of salt. But if you go in to this film expecting a hugely entertaining, sneeringly violent, action adventure comedy then you’ll come o ...
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The Bucks Herald article
20 Books That Will Make You Fall In Love With New York City All Over Again
Huffington Post - over 3 years
Joan Didion and, more recently, Ann Friedman, wrote about the complexity of the emotions they experienced when deciding to move away from New York City. Friedman wrote in an essay for New York Magazine, "New York is the prom king. He knows he's great, and he's gonna make it really, really hard on you if you decide you want to love him." Such a bold claim about the nexus of publishing may seem blasphemous to the city's hundreds of well-known writers, but it's not unprecedented -- even Brooklyn native Henry Miller scrammed once he discovered Big Sur. Although not always agreed-upon as an ideal place to live, New York City is home to writers such as Jonathan Franzen, Thomas Pynchon, Zadie Smith, and many, many more. Which is why, even if you're no native, you should pick up one of these quintessential books about New York City: "Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898" by Edwin G. Burrows New York City wasn't always a simultaneously dingy and glittering representation of The Ame ...
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Huffington Post article
Jack Vettriano: just the Tom Jones of 21st-century art?
Guardian (UK) - over 3 years
Vettriano is no modern Van Gogh. To me, he's more like the Welsh singer: bold, brassy and devoid of inner truth Jack Vettriano, that meticulous painter of racing cars and high heels, beaches and butlers, is clearly getting a bit overexcited about his retrospective that opens next week at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. He has even been found almost likening himself to Van Gogh. He told Radio 4 that if Van Gogh could have sold his art as postcards and prints to a mass audience, as Vettriano does, he'd have "jumped at the chance". That's true as far as it goes. Van Gogh likened the emotional effect he wanted from his painting La Berceuse to a "cheap chromo", a popular print. He thought his art had popular appeal, that it was for everyone – and history has proved him right. Van Gogh's Sunflowers are, dare I say it, even better known than The Singing Butler. But to focus on the comparison between Vettriano and Van Gogh is to see how lacking the Scottish artist is in almost all ...
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Guardian (UK) article
Ron Fried: Getting Inked With John Buffalo Mailer
Huffington Post - over 3 years
In his 2003 novel Yellow Dog, Martin Amis analyzes the style choices of young people. "The secret purpose of fashion on the street," he writes, "is to thwart the lust of your elders." That thought came to mind as I passed my middle-aged eyes over "Lord's Eye," my friend John Buffalo Mailer's deeply engaging 20,000-word account of the two-year-long process of getting tattooed by master tattoo artist Josh Lord. John Buffalo's piece is being serialized starting this month in Inked. Inked is a magazine and website devoted to "tattoo culture, style, and art." The website features long-form journalism, photos of astonishing tattoos, plus -- more provocatively -- "Inked Girls." And let me tell you, these women are really inked. The ratio of tattoos to skin on their rather voluptuous bodies approaches the ratio of frescos to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That said, I can report that -- true to Amis' thesis -- all that ink strikes me as anti-erotic. So the tattoos are doing ...
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Huffington Post article
Amis, Rushdie and McEwan appear together in NY
Yahoo News - over 3 years
NEW YORK (AP) — Put Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Ian McEwan on a stage and expect a night of high art and school boy humor, of reading, writing and Christopher Hitchens.
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Yahoo News article
Famous Creatives Share Their Advice For Sparking Ideas
Business Insider - over 3 years
What can we learn from the working habits of famous writers, artists, and composers? And how did they find time each day to do their work? After reading Mason Currey’s fantastic book, Daily Rituals, the answer is lots. But if you’re looking for some insight into what makes an ideal daily routine, you’re out of luck. One big insight to the book is that there is no one way to do things. What works for one, won’t work for another. However, whether you’re looking to be more productive or find better distractions, the book is full of useful advice. Stuck in a creative rut? Try these tips. Know when to stop. Kingsley Amis recommends you stop writing when you know what comes next. This, he argues, makes it easier to begin the next day. His son, Martin Amis, recommends you only work for two hours, commenting “I think most writers would be very happy with two hours of concentrated work. Meditation, Chocolate, and Coffee David Lynch recommends meditation. “I have never missed a medit ...
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Business Insider article
Oliver Cross: We’re all dressed for success with no room for eccentrics
Yorkshire Evening Post - over 3 years
Eccentricity has gone out of fashion since we learned about Jimmy Savile but I think it was doomed anyway; Britain has become a very conformist nation. Politicians, for example, even when not sharing the same policies, share the same tailor, watch supplier and hairstylist. When they go on holiday, they don’t pull out some old T-shirts and shorts from the bottom of a drawer. They search instead for a look which says both ‘relaxed’ and ‘ready for action’, which for the men usually means something in pressed blue denim as premiered in the toffs’ enclosure at Glastonbury. And it’s the same for the lower orders; I walk past offices where rows and rows of young men and women manning the switchboards are dressed in business suits they probably can’t afford and which their customers can’t see. It’s a bombastic demonstration of corporate power rather than an HR strategy. The other day I bumped into my old colleague Peter Lazenby, now working in semi-retirement for the communist newspaper, ...
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Yorkshire Evening Post article
Does Famous Author Hate Brooklyn Hipsters?
Huffington Post - almost 4 years
Martin Amis is a big name in literary circles. Shortlisted twice for the Booker Prize, his books London Fields, Time's Arrow and The Information have brought him cult and critical acclaim. Yet there is one thing the British author can't seem to stand: Brooklyn hipsters. According to London's Evening Standard newspaper, Amis "views the Brooklyn hipster scene as populated by conventional posers." The writer moved from London to the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn last year with his wife (a native New Yorker), living in what an AP report describes as "a quiet side street in Brooklyn, home to authors from Paula Fox to Jonathan Safran Foer." Amis described his move last year in The New Republic as "exclusively personal and familial, and... nothing to do with any supposed dissatisfaction with England or the English people." What do you think? Is Brooklyn filled with literary posers? Let us know in the comments!
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Huffington Post article
Michael Calderone: New York Times Names New Book Review Editor
Huffington Post - almost 4 years
The New York Times has named Pamela Paul the new editor of the Book Review section, as current editor Sam Tanenhaus takes on a new assignment as writer-at-large, according to a staff memo. The Times memo, written by executive editor Jill Abramson and managing editor Dean Baquet, is below: April 9, 2013 Two New Titles Sam Tanenhaus is taking on a new assignment as a writer at large. The new Book Review editor will be Pamela Paul. Read more in this note from Jill and Dean. Sam Tanenhaus wrote a brilliant and now famous memo that catapulted him into the job of editor of The New York Times Book Review back in 2004. It was a fiery, passionate blueprint that brought pages and pages of fresh ideas and new vision for what is now the last free-standing newspaper book review in the United States. From his first covers (on Bob Dylan and Henry James, to name two) Sam had readers watching, talking and arguing over his every move. Working alongside the section's many skilled ...
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Huffington Post article
Sorab Shroff: Margaret Thatcher: Our Britannia, Our Chief of Men
The Huffington Post - almost 4 years
Margaret Thatcher is despised by many left-leaning Britons. However, how many of our former prime ministers are loved? We British have a need to take down uppity people. Margaret Thatcher, however, was something special. "The eyes of Calligula, the mouth of Marilyn Monroe," said Francois Mitterand of her. Her presence across the eighties was infuriating to some, intoxicating to others. Mention the word Thatcher in an article, essay or blog and the howling and hysteria begins. She began a social revolution - in more ways than one. She was fresh blood in a Conservative party that was stuffed with upper class grandees. A Lincolnshire grocer's daughter led this country for 13 years. During her initial stint as party leader, some fellow Tory MPs openly referred to her as 'Hilda' - her middle name - to mock her lower-middle class background. Because Margaret Thatcher was the first Western woman prime minister, the sheer visual example of a woman leading a nation helped us psy ...
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The Huffington Post article
Dan Blank: Amazon Buys Goodreads: What Does It Mean for Authors and Readers?
Huffington Post - almost 4 years
In an age where authors increasingly own the connection to readers, does it matter that Amazon bought Goodreads? What exactly will change in the day to day life of writers and readers? Well, nothing. Amazon is about discoverability, and the ecommerce system tied to it. Buying Goodreads gives Amazon more data about reader behavior, authors, and books. For a site that sells pretty much all other goods (need a lawnmower or diapers?), I think it is actually good that Amazon continues to show books and reading as a priority. Writing and reading are inherently about creation: the author creating the work, and it sparking ideas and experiences for readers. It is interactive more than apps or videogames proclaim, but the interaction is less obvious: taking place in the minds, the actions, and across the lifetimes of readers. I don't think about some app I deleted 8 months ago, but I still think about Martin Amis' books. His stories still shape my perspective and to a degree, ...
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Huffington Post article
Viator: London's Most Literate Pubs
Huffington Post - almost 4 years
The 2000-year-old city that is London is a living, breathing history book. While Samuel Johnson was right, "There is in London all that life can afford," often what we locals like doing most is to haul up in a pub. Luckily, we need not choose between comfort and culture when looking for a watering hole around London town, because so many pubs are rich in historical and literary connotations. So get your pint and find a seat by the fire, underneath low beams on crooked floors, and get merry in the knowledge that Dickens may well have sat in the very same spot. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese One of many London pubs with a Charles Dickens connection, it's easy to see the author penning some of his gloomier stories at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. The atmosphere comes from the lack of windows, but take this as is part of the charm as you crawl through the many little rooms inside. There's been a pub in this spot since 1538, but the one there today was re-built after the Great Fire o ...
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Huffington Post article
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Martin Amis
  • 2015
    Age 65
    In October 2015, he attacked Jeremy Corbyn in an article for the Sunday Times describing him as "humourless" and "under-educated".
    More Details Hide Details Amis received criticism from other writers for this attack. Howard Jacobson, writing for The Independent described Amis' comments as "splenetic", "snobby" and "unashamedly ad hominem". In The Guardian Owen Jones was critical of "academic snobbery" and remarked that Amis was born into significant privilege, being the son of Sir Kingsley Amis. Also in The Independent, Terence Blacker criticised Amis' article as "snobbery" and "patronising" noting that Amis was born into social and cultural privilege. Blacker wrote that Amis' article was an "unintentionally hilarious piece" and a "diatribe" whilst also suggesting Amis would inadvertently convert many to supporting Corbyn instead. In 2006 Amis said that "agnostic is the only respectable position, simply because our ignorance of the universe is so vast" that atheism is "premature". Clearly, "there's not going to be any kind of anthropomorphic entity at all", but the universe is "so incredibly complicated", "so over our heads", that we cannot exclude the existence of "an intelligence" behind it.
  • 2014
    Age 64
    On writing, Amis said in 2014: "I think of writing as more mysterious as I get older, not less mysterious.
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    Amis's 2014 novel, The Zone of Interest, concerns the Holocaust, his second work of fiction to tackle the subject after Time's Arrow.
    More Details Hide Details In it, Amis tries to imagine the social and domestic lives of the Nazi officers who ran the death camps, and the effect their indifference to human suffering had on their general psychology.
  • 2012
    Age 62
    However, when briefly interviewed by the BBC during its coverage of the 2012 presidential election, Amis displayed a change in tone, stating that he was "depressed and frightened" by the US election, rather than excited.
    More Details Hide Details Blaming a "deep irrationality of the American people" for the apparent narrow gap between the candidates, Amis claimed that the Republicans had swung so far to the right that former President Reagan would be considered a "pariah" by the present party - and invited viewers to imagine a Conservative party in the UK which had moved to the right so much that it disowned Margaret Thatcher: "Tax cuts for the rich", he said, "there's not a democracy on earth where that would be mentioned!".
    In 2012, Amis wrote in The New Republic that he was "moving house" from Camden Town in London to Cobble Hill.
    More Details Hide Details Through the 1980s and 1990s, Amis was a strong critic of nuclear proliferation. His collection of five stories on this theme, Einstein's Monsters, began with a long essay entitled "Thinkability" in which he set out his views on the issue, writing: "Nuclear weapons repel all thought, perhaps because they can end all thought." He wrote in "Nuclear City" in Esquire of 1987 (re-published in Visiting Mrs Nabokov) that: "when nuclear weapons become real to you, when they stop buzzing around your ears and actually move into your head, hardly an hour passes without some throb or flash, some heavy pulse of imagined supercatastrophe".
    In 2012 Amis published Lionel Asbo: State of England.
    More Details Hide Details The novel is centered on the lives of Desmond Pepperdine and his uncle Lionel Asbo, a voracious yob and persistent convict. It is set against the fictional borough of Diston Town, a grotesque version of modern-day Britain under the reign of celebrity culture, and follows the dramatic events in the lives of both characters: Desmond's gradual erudition and maturing; and Lionel's fantastic lottery win of approximately 140 million pounds. Much to the interest of the press, Amis based the character of Lionel Asbo's eventual girlfriend, the ambitious glamour model and poet "Threnody" (quotation marks included), on the British celebrity Jordan. In an interview with Newsnights Jeremy Paxman, Amis said the novel was "not a frowning examination of England" but a comedy based on a "fairytale world", adding that Lionel Asbo: State of England was not an attack on the country, insisting he was "proud of being English" and viewed the nation with affection. Reviews, once again, were largely mixed.
  • 2011
    Age 61
    Amis was succeeded in this position by the Irish writer Colm Tóibín in September 2011.
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    In January 2011, it was announced that he would be stepping down from his university position at the end of the current academic year.
    More Details Hide Details Of his time teaching creative writing at Manchester University, Amis was quoted as saying, "teaching creative writing at Manchester has been a joy" and that he had "become very fond of my colleagues, especially John McAuliffe and Ian McGuire". He added that he "loved doing all the reading and the talking; and I very much took to the Mancunians. They are a witty and tolerant contingent".
    Amis served as the Professor of Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester until 2011.
    More Details Hide Details In 2008, The Times named him one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. Amis's work centres on the excesses of late-capitalist Western society, whose perceived absurdity he often satirises through grotesque caricature; he has been portrayed as a master of what the New York Times called "the new unpleasantness". Inspired by Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce, as well as by his father Kingsley Amis, Amis himself has gone on to influence many successful British novelists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, including Will Self and Zadie Smith. Amis was born in Swansea, Wales. His father, noted English novelist Sir Kingsley Amis, was the son of a mustard manufacturer's clerk from Clapham, London; his mother, Hilary "Hilly" Bardwell, was the daughter of a Ministry of Agriculture civil servant. He has an older brother, Philip; his younger sister, Sally, died in 2000. His parents divorced when he was twelve.
  • 2010
    Age 60
    In 2010 he said: "I'm an agnostic, which is the only rational position.
    More Details Hide Details It's not because I feel a God or think that anything resembling the banal God of religion will turn up. But I think that atheism sounds like a proof of something, and it's incredibly evident that we are nowhere near intelligent enough to understand the universe Writers are above all individualists, and above all writing is freedom, so they will go off in all sorts of directions. I think it does apply to the debate about religion, in that it's a crabbed novelist who pulls the shutters down and says, there's no other thing. Don't use the word God: but something more intelligent than us... If we can't understand it, then it's formidable. And we understand very little." In February 2007, Martin Amis was appointed as a Professor of Creative Writing at The Manchester Centre for New Writing in the University of Manchester, and started in September 2007. He ran postgraduate seminars, and participated in four public events each year, including a two-week summer school.
    In late 2010 Amis bought a property in the Cobble Hill area of Brooklyn, New York, although it is unclear whether he will be permanently moving to New York or just maintaining another "sock" there.
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    Despite a vast amount of coverage, some positive reviews, and a general expectation that Amis' time for recognition had come, the novel was overlooked for the 2010 Man Booker Prize long list (as were efforts by his contemporaries Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie).
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    In 2010, after a long period of writing, rewriting, editing and revision, Amis published his long-awaited new long novel, The Pregnant Widow, which is concerned with the sexual revolution.
    More Details Hide Details Originally set for release in 2008, the novel's publication was pushed back as further editing and alterations were being made, expanding it to some 480 pages. The title of the novel is based on a quote by Alexander Herzen: The death of the contemporary forms of social order ought to gladden rather than trouble the soul. Yet what is frightening is that what the departing world leaves behind it is not an heir but a pregnant widow. Between the death of the one and the birth of the other, much water will flow by, a long night of chaos and desolation will pass. The first public reading of the then just completed version of The Pregnant Widow occurred on 11 May 2009 as part of the Norwich and Norfolk festival. At this reading, according to the coverage of the event for the Norwich Writers' Centre by Katy Carr, "the writing shows a return to comic form, as the narrator muses on the indignities of facing the mirror as an ageing man, in a prelude to a story set in Italy in 1970, looking at the effect of the sexual revolution on personal relationships. The sexual revolution was the moment, as Amis sees it, that love became divorced from sex. He said he started to write the novel autobiographically, but then concluded that real life was too different from fiction, and difficult to drum into novel shape, so he had to rethink the form."
  • 2009
    Age 59
    His wife Isabel Fonseca released her debut novel Attachment in 2009 and two of Amis's children, his son Louis and his daughter Fernanda, have also been published in their own right in Standpoint magazine and The Guardian, respectively.
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  • 2008
    Age 58
    In June 2008 Amis endorsed the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, stating that "The reason I hope for Obama is that he alone has the chance to reposition America's image in the world".
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    Amis became a grandfather in 2008 when his daughter (by Lamorna Seale) Delilah gave birth to a son.
    More Details Hide Details He said, "Some strange things have happened, it seems to me, in my absence. I didn't feel like I was getting more rightwing when I was in Uruguay, but when I got back I felt that I had moved quite a distance to the right while staying in the same place." He reports that he is disquieted by what he sees as increasingly undisguised hostility towards Israel and the United States.
    The new novel took some considerable time to write and was not published before the end of the decade. Instead, Amis's last published work of the 2000s was the 2008 journalism collection The Second Plane, a collection which compiled Amis's many writings on the events of 9/11 and the subsequent major events and cultural issues resulting from the War on Terror.
    More Details Hide Details The reception to The Second Plane was decidedly mixed, with some reviewers finding its tone intelligent and well reasoned, while others believed it to be overly stylised and lacking in authoritative knowledge of key areas under consideration. The most common consensus was that the two short stories included were the weakest point of the collection. The collection sold relatively well and was widely discussed and debated.
  • 2007
    Age 57
    From October 2007 to July 2011, at Manchester University's Whitworth Hall or at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, Martin Amis regularly engaged in public discussions with other experts on literature and various topics (21st-century literature, terrorism, religion, Philip Larkin, science, Britishness, suicide, sex, ageing, his 2010 novel The Pregnant Widow, violence, film, the short story, and America).
    More Details Hide Details Sample works and articles Interviews Reviews Amis and "Islamism Media
    The Marxist critic Terry Eagleton, in the 2007 introduction to his work Ideology, singled out and attacked Amis for a particular quote (which Eagleton mistakenly attributed to one of Amis's essays), taken the day after the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot came to light, in an informal interview in The Times Magazine.
    More Details Hide Details Amis was quoted as saying: "What can we do to raise the price of them doing this? There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children It’s a huge dereliction on their part". Eagleton wrote that this view is "not the ramblings of a British National Party thug, but the reflections of Martin Amis, leading luminary of the English metropolitan literary world". In a highly critical article in the Guardian "The absurd world of Martin Amis" satirist Chris Morris likened Amis to the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza (who was jailed for inciting racial hatred in 2006), suggesting that both men employ "mock erudition, vitriol and decontextualised quotes from the Qu'ran" to incite hatred.
  • 2003
    Age 53
    The same article asserts that Amis had "recently abandoned a novella, The Unknown Known (the title was based on one of Donald Rumsfeld's characteristically strangulated linguistic formulations), in which Muslim terrorists unleash a horde of compulsive rapists on a town called Greeley, Colorado" and instead continued to work on a follow-up full novel that he had started working on in 2003:
    More Details Hide Details "The novel I'm working on is blindingly autobiographical, but with an Islamic theme. It's called A Pregnant Widow, because at the end of a revolution you don't have a newborn child, you have a pregnant widow. And the pregnant widow in this novel is feminism. Which is still in its second trimester. The child is nowhere in sight yet. And I think it has several more convulsions to undergo before we'll see the child."
    Yellow Dog "controversially made the 13-book longlist for the 2003 Booker Prize, despite some scathing reviews", but failed to win the award.
    More Details Hide Details Following the harsh reviews afforded to Yellow Dog, Amis relocated from London to Uruguay with his family for two years, during which time he worked on his next novel away from the glare and pressures of the London literary scene. In September 2006, upon his return from Uruguay, Amis published his eleventh novel. House of Meetings, a short work, continued the author's crusade against the crimes of Stalinism and also saw some consideration of the state of contemporary post-Soviet Russia. The novel centres on the relationship between two brothers incarcerated in a prototypical Siberian gulag who, prior to their deportation, had loved the same woman. House of Meetings saw some better critical notices than Yellow Dog had received three years before, but there were still some reviewers who felt that Amis's fiction work had considerably declined in quality while others felt that he was not suited to writing an ostensibly serious historical novel. Despite the praise for House of Meetings, once again Amis was overlooked for the Booker Prize longlist. According to a piece in The Independent, the novel "was originally to have been collected alongside two short stories — one, a disturbing account of the life of a body-double in the court of Saddam Hussein; the other, the imagined final moments of Muhammad Atta, the leader of 11 September attacks — but late in the process, Amis decided to jettison both from the book."
    In 2003 Yellow Dog, Amis's first novel in six years, was published.
    More Details Hide Details The novel drew mixed reviews, and was most notably denounced by the novelist Tibor Fischer: "Yellow Dog isn't bad as in not very good or slightly disappointing. It's not-knowing-where-to-look bad. I was reading my copy on the Tube and I was terrified someone would look over my shoulder… It's like your favourite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating." Elsewhere, the book received mixed reviews, with some critics proclaiming the novel a return to form, but most considered the book to be a great disappointment. Amis was unrepentant about the novel and its reaction, calling Yellow Dog "among my best three". He gave his own explanation for the novel's critical failure, "No one wants to read a difficult literary novel or deal with a prose style which reminds them how thick they are. There's a push towards egalitarianism, making writing more chummy and interactive, instead of a higher voice, and that's what I go to literature for."
  • 2002
    Age 52
    In 2002 Amis published Koba the Dread, a devastating history of the crimes of Lenin and Stalin, and their denial by many writers and academics in the West.
    More Details Hide Details The book precipitated a literary controversy for its approach to the material and for its attack on Amis's long-time friend Christopher Hitchens. Amis accuses Hitchens — who was once a committed leftist — of sympathy for Stalin and communism. Although Hitchens wrote a vituperative response to the book in The Atlantic, his friendship with Amis emerged unchanged: in response to a reporter's question, Amis responded, "We never needed to make up. We had an adult exchange of views, mostly in print, and that was that (or, more exactly, that goes on being that). My friendship with the Hitch has always been perfectly cloudless. It is a love whose month is ever May."
  • 2000
    Age 50
    In 2000 Amis published a memoir called Experience.
    More Details Hide Details Largely concerned with the strange relationship between the author and his father, the novelist Kingsley Amis, the autobiography nevertheless deals with many facets of Amis's life. Of particular note is Amis's reunion with his daughter, Delilah Seale, resulting from an affair in the 1970s, whom he did not see until she was 19. Amis also discusses, at some length, the murder of his cousin Lucy Partington by Fred West when she was 21. The book was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for biography.
  • 1997
    Age 47
    Amis's 1997 offering, the short novel Night Train, is narrated by the mannish American Detective Mike Hoolihan.
    More Details Hide Details The story revolves around the suicide of her boss's young, beautiful and seemingly happy daughter. Like most of Amis's work, Night Train is dark, bleak, and foreboding, arguably a reflection of the author's views on America. Amis's distinctively American vernacular in the narrative was criticized by, among others, John Updike, although the novel found defenders elsewhere, notably in Janis Bellow, wife of Amis's sometime mentor and friend Saul Bellow. The 2000s were Amis's least productive decade in terms of full-length fiction since starting in the 1970s (two novels in ten years), while his non-fiction work saw a dramatic uptick in volume (three published works including a memoir, a hybrid of semi-memoir and amateur political history, and another journalism collection).
  • 1991
    Age 41
    Amis's 1991 novel, the short Time's Arrow, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
    More Details Hide Details Notable for its backwards narrative - including dialogue in reverse - the novel is the autobiography of a Nazi concentration camp doctor. The reversal of time in the novel, a technique borrowed from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5 (1969) and Philip K. Dick's Counter-Clock World (1967), seemingly transforms Auschwitz - and the entire theatre of war - into a place of joy, healing, and resurrection. The Information (1995) was notable not so much for its critical success, but for the scandals surrounding its publication. The enormous advance (an alleged £500,000) demanded and subsequently obtained by Amis for the novel attracted what the author described as "an Eisteddfod of hostility" from writers and critics after he abandoned his long-serving agent, the late Pat Kavanagh, in order to be represented by the Harvard-educated Andrew "The Jackal" Wylie. The split was by no means amicable; it created a rift between Amis and his long-time friend, Julian Barnes, who was married to Kavanagh. According to Amis's autobiography Experience (2000), he and Barnes had not resolved their differences. The Information itself deals with the relationship between a pair of British writers of fiction. One, a spectacularly successful purveyor of "airport novels", is envied by his friend, an equally unsuccessful writer of philosophical and generally abstruse prose. The novel is written in the author's classic style: characters appearing as stereotyped caricatures, grotesque elaborations on the wickedness of middle age, and a general air of post-apocalyptic malaise.
  • 1989
    Age 39
    The book was controversially omitted from the Booker Prize shortlist in 1989, because two panel members, Maggie Gee and Helen McNeil, disliked Amis's treatment of his female characters. "It was an incredible row", Martyn Goff, the Booker's director, told The Independent. "Maggie and Helen felt that Amis treated women appallingly in the book.
    More Details Hide Details That is not to say they thought books which treated women badly couldn't be good, they simply felt that the author should make it clear he didn't favour or bless that sort of treatment. Really, there was only two of them and they should have been outnumbered as the other three were in agreement, but such was the sheer force of their argument and passion that they won.
  • 1965
    Age 15
    In 1965, at age 15, he played John Thornton in the film version of Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica.
    More Details Hide Details He read nothing but comic books until his stepmother, the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, introduced him to Jane Austen, whom he often names as his earliest influence. After teenage years spent in flowery shirts and a short spell at Westminster School while living in Hampstead, he graduated from Exeter College, Oxford, with a "Congratulatory" First in English — "the sort where you are called in for a viva and the examiners tell you how much they enjoyed reading your papers." After Oxford, he found an entry-level job at The Times Literary Supplement, and at age 27 became literary editor of the New Statesman, where he met Christopher Hitchens, then a feature writer for The Observer, who remained a close friend until Hitchens died, in 2011. At 5'6" tall he referred to himself as a 'short-arse' while a teenager. The bitterness in his books, as well as his much-publicised philandering, has been widely noted.
  • 1949
    Born on August 25, 1949.
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